Tyler Vendetti
May 21, 2014 10:58 am

Somewhere, deep, deep down in my heart, probably at the bottom under memories of unrequited love or unhealthy fat globules, lies an appreciation for science and all the frightening technology that comes with it. While that word, “technology,” can strike fear in the hearts of some, I tend to hold a more optimistic view of the future, at least when it comes to gizmos and gadgets. If you’re one of the skeptics, take a look at some of the life-changing technologies that have come out in recent years:

1) Intercontinental Railroad

Anyone that has even a fraction of the plane anxiety I have knows how difficult long-distance travel can be when “flying” is not a preferable option. Luckily, the Chinese have come up with a way to relieve us of our fears by proposing a transnational railroad, stretching from Bejing to the United States. The hypothetical train would pass through Alaska, Siberia, and Canada, among other places, and would take around 2 days to reach its final destination. That’s faster than an Amtrak trip from Massachusetts to Florida or the length of a celebrity wedding.

2) 3D Printers

Here I am, marveling over the clarity of my computer’s color printing, while a much more sophisticated creation is already making waves. Three-dimensional printing has gained popularity over the years, though not all of the developments have been positive. (The production of 3D printed guns is on the rise, as if we didn’t already have enough problems with gun regulation.) However, what can be used for evil can also be used for good. Just weeks ago, a 3D printer was used to construct a hip joint for a woman in need, meaning scientists essentially pulled a body part out of thin air.

3) Electronic Eyes

Or, for you scholarly folk, “artificial retinas.” Created by a California-based engineering company, Argus II functions as a helpful accessory for the visually impaired. Using a combination of antennas and electronics, Argus is able to restore the connection between damaged retinas and the brain, thus providing enhanced vision to those with damaged eyesight. Though the product itself looks a little like a video game console from the ’90s, the results are far more advanced.

4) Atlas “First Responder” Robots

Believe it or not, saving lives can be a very dangerous endeavor. Firefighters and police officers put themselves in harm’s way every day trying to rescue people from burning buildings and collapsing structures, sometimes losing their own lives in the process. Creators of the Atlas robot aim to solve this problem by creating a humanoid whose sole purpose is to enter rescue situations that are too risky for humans. There’s only one problem: a successful design of this robot must be able to operate semi-independently in order to assess situations in the field on its own. If I’ve learned anything from iRobot, it’s that “independent” robots are a force to be reckoned with.

5) Sockett Energy Ball

What if all those hours confined to the backyard against your will could be used to support your Netflix addiction? Well now they can! Originally created as part of a class assignment, the Sockett is a soccer ball that converts kinetic energy into electrical energy. Though such an idea can benefit us here at home (a few hours of soccer practice can easily charge an iPhone), it can also provide people in less developed countries with easier access to energy. Harvard graduates, changing the world and making everyone feel less intelligent since 1636.

6) Solar Powered Plane

As gas prices continue to rise and traveling becomes less economically feasible, I begin to wonder if the world will ever find a replacement for the gas-guzzling jet planes that carry us around. Two men have sought to explore those other options by inventing a solar-powered plane capable of soaring across entire countries. The two innovative pilots have announced their mission to fly their new toy around the world by 2015. Ambitious? Probably, but if successful, it could inspire others to seriously consider solar energy as a feasible traveling option.

7) Instant Chargers

In one swift move, an Israeli technology company will have eliminated humanity’s remaining ounce of patience with a new device that charges phones in under 30 seconds. That means no more long hours waiting for your iPhone to reach 100 percent so you can continue wasting your life away with Candy Crush records and Twitter newsfeeds. Simply plug your phone into this 30 dollar device and watch as the battery icon grows, along with your media addiction.

8) Space Tourism

When, in 2013, Justin Bieber announced that he had enrolled in Virgin Galactic’s “space tourism” program, I was appalled, partially because his 250,000 dollar down payment could be put to better use and partially because he purchased a round trip ticket instead of a one-way. While the prices for space travel may seem out of this world now, studies predict that the prices will drop as the program’s popularity increases, allowing tickets to be sold for just 10,000 dollars a piece. People with one million dollars to spare will eventually be able to stay in a hotel suite that orbits the earth and lets you get massages in mid-air. (The second part is only speculation. My speculation, to be exact.)

Featured image via ScopeCube.com.

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