In Ray Kurzweil’s 2001 essay, The Law of Accelerating Returns, he argued that technology grows at an exponential rate. Will that state of acceleration ever flatten? It certainly didn’t in the last decade, and if this year is any proof, technology won’t be slowing down during the 2020s either. With massive advances in medical tech, space exploration, digital data, and 5G, it seems like the world is rewiring itself every day.
Here are three of the most fascinating tech innovations of the year right now:
- CTRL-Kit by CTRL-Labs
This bulky wristband turns your thoughts into movement. The inside of the CTRL-kit is lined with tiny electrodes that measure electrical pulses running through the neurons within the wearer’s arm. This electromyography (EMG) technology has the potential to dramatically transform how physical paralysis, robotic limbs, and a million other medical conditions are tackled.While the technology is still a way away from government approved practical application, the advances have been staggering. In a recent trial, the team displayed a digital hand on a screen. The CTRL-kit user then opened and closed their hand repeatedly. The digital hand perfectly followed suit. That in and of itself isn’t anything new. What was an incredible step forward, was when the user closed their right hand and pressed it against their left palm. At that point, the person thought about unfurling their right hand, but the resistance prevented them from completing the action. The digitally displayed hand meanwhile, opened with no problem. Demonstrating that the CTRL-kit wristband is able to measure neural impulses even when the physical function is unable to occur. A very meaningful step in the realm of robotic limb replacements.The potential for CTRL-kit is thrilling. 2020 will be remembered as a crucial year for electromyography advancement.
Though 5G was officially released last year, 2020 has been when 5G became standard. With most US and European carriers bundling 5G in with 4G “unlimited” plans, a large segment of consumers are utilizing the technology without realizing it. That trend is going to rapidly expand by the winter months. Additionally, with government and private sector innovation, the hardware used to operate 5G is getting better and better. Bugs, inconsistencies, and other hiccups are being eradicated. Leaving 5G as the new standard for cellular networks.Users of 5G are enjoying wider digital ranges, faster speeds, and stronger connectivity. Faster download, upload, and latency times as well as the ability to connect one million devices in a square kilometer area lead to a whole new internet. The pace at which the world operates is accelerating and 5G is the next major step.
- Dragon 2 by SpaceX
Nine years after Atlantis lifted off for the final mission of the Space Shuttle program, the SpaceX Crew Dragon exceeded the Earth’s atmosphere and docked the International Space Station. This marked the first time an astronaut reached orbit after lifting off from United States’ soil since 2011. This is a big deal in the new space age.Outer space is one of the last great adventures that unites humanity. There is something mystical when looking up and seeing the Milky Way. This year, SpaceX and NASA have collaborated to make space just a bit more tangible.One of the most impressive aspects of the Crew Dragon mission was the pomp and circumstance surrounding it. SpaceX had a forty-eight-hour, live YouTube feed that showed the mission from beginning to end. The programming was all designed to feel like watching a sporting event. Live announcers and commentators provided play by play analysis as the astronauts ascended to the space station. This easily accessible programming, made the complicated science of space travel digestible. Plus, SpaceX strapped high quality cameras onto the rocket, making for a thrilling visual experience.Society has globalized faster than anyone could have anticipated. Occasionally, the acceleration of technology leaves people struggling to keep up. Social media and internet culture had their growing pains as they reached maturity in the 2010s. The 2020s are entirely fresh, still waiting to be created. In the first six months, they’ve held amazing opportunities for human achievement.
NASA’s current goal is to send humans to Mars by 2032. Meaning, that Ray Kurzweil is going to be correct a little while longer. Which leads to a couple final thoughts: if technology keeps exponentially growing, at what point will humans look back on the Crew Dragon mission, 5G, or CTRL-Kit, and think of them as outdated? Will they even make it through the decade?
Time will have to answer those questions. For now, they’re the coolest technological innovations of the year… so far.