Last night I attended the Pint of Science Technology lecture held in the Odeon’s Bourbon bar. The theme for last night’s talk was ‘Next Generation Hardware & Devices’ and the speakers varied from lectures to scientists.
Next generation hardware and devices are going to be part of our daily lives over the next five years as they impact on various parts of how we do things daily. Last night three areas mentioned that fascinated me were Virtual Reality headsets, 3D Printing and Drones.
Virtual Reality headsets have been around since the early 90’s and they used to be bulky systems with graphics that have lost their luster and no longer look cutting edge. It’s like comparing the Ford Model T to the current Ford Mondeo.
VR headsets are designed to immerse us in an environment that is very realistic. Companies like Facebook with their Oculus Rift headset, and Google with their Cardboard platform, will bring VR to the masses. The Oculus Rift will go on sale to the general public next year, while Google already have their Cardboard platform on sale.
VR headsets are already being used by military forces around the world to train their personnel and they are also being used to train people in the medical profession. Over the next few years we can expect news and media organisations to start using VR headsets as a medium to report their stories, and we will soon be able to see warzones in full 3D from the comfort of our homes.
Drones have been around since the late 1970’s as a military device but in the past 10 years they have slowly been adapted for civilian use. Drones are now being used by Amazon to deliver parcels and they are also being used by media organisations to transmit stories in situations that are too dangerous for a reporter to report from. They are also being used in the scientific field and with models now available with built in sensors you can get data which automatically gets processed by any hardware and software that you are using. A great example of where it can be used is in a nuclear power plant that has had a malfunction such as the one in Fukushima Japan. Drones can be sent into take radiation readings, thus reducing the need for humans to do this.
The last area mentioned is one that has been around for over thirty years but has only recently become affordable for the average person on the street. This area is 3D printing and it is already impacting on our lives in a positive way. Companies like Airbus and Lamborghini are already using 3D printers to make parts for some of their products, which will drastically cut down the cost of serving their airplanes and cars. Imagine you are at an airport and your flight has been delayed for a day as a spare part has to be flown in, with 3D printing you can print the spare part in one of the maintenance hangars of the airport and then install it onto the plane. You will still be delayed by a few hours but that is much better than being delayed until the next day.
Surgery is also being affected by the use of 3D printers as you can print of spare body parts such as knee joints and it will soon be possible to replace most parts of the body with a version built via a 3D printer. Jewellery products will also be made by 3D printers and can be customised to the nth degree by the designer or the consumer buying the product.
The main issue will be the IP of blueprints and how do you regulate them. This was first seen last year when the blueprints of a gun were available online before been quickly taken down. You could now have the scenario were you design a body part that in theory works for you but has not been fully tested, and if the blueprints are released online and used by someone with fatal consequences, how do you regulate blueprints to stop that happening.
The Pint of Science talks gave the attendees food for thought and also made us stop and think as every next generation hardware and device can be used positively and also negatively.