Throughout 2016, we have been keeping a close eye on some of our favourite technologies. Some have seen relatively small advances during the past twelve months, whilst others have taken a dramatic leap forward. Here is our round up of some of the ones to watch:
Fuelling the debate about whether AI is a match for the human brain, Google’s DeepMind AlphaGo program triumphed over the world champion Go player in a series of games in Seoul. The ancient Chinese board game, which is considered to be even more complex than chess, has over 200 possible moves and more positions than there are atoms in the universe! Speaking after his defeat, world champion Mr Lee said that AlphaGo’s strategy was ‘excellent’ and he was stunned by one unconventional move that a human never would have played.
With drone use rising rapidly, safety is an ever more pressing concern. Just last month, there was a near miss with an Airbus 320 with 165 passengers on board, as it flew near The Shard in London. A new drone, the Phantom 4 may lead the way in preventing collisions. It’s the first consumer drone to incorporate rear sensors and an obstacle avoidance system designed to stop it crashing – whether being flown by an operator or on autopilot.
Established companies and innovative start-ups have piled into 3D printing and it is becoming an increasingly established technology. As if to prove the point, half of the custom parts in HP’s new 3D printer have themselves been printed by a 3D printer! According to Stephen Nigro, the company’s head of 3D printing, this is not just a way of proving the capability of 3D technology, it actually made economic sense to print the parts rather than have them moulded.
Apple are a big player when it comes to wearable technology and they upped the ante with the launch of their Apple Watch Series 2. With a firm focus on fitness and health, the new model has built-in GPS and is water resistant up to 50 metres. It is also 50% faster thanks to a second generation S2 chip with a dual-core processor, twice as bright and delivers up to two times greater graphics performance. And to ensure we look after our minds too, it also incorporates their Breathe App to help us relax and de-stress.
Space exploration moved into exciting new territory when the SpaceX Falon 9 rocket booster made a successful landing on a floating platform somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. It was quite a feat for a rocket that is 12 stories tall but only the diameter of a family car. This game-changing advance means that rather than deploying a new rocket for each launch and then letting it crash land into the ocean on its return, models can now be re-used. To put that into financial context, it costs roughly $300,000 to fuel a rocket and $60 million to build a new one!
Google and Uber are rarely out of the news for their driverless car ambitions but it is Tesla that has stolen a march on them in 2016 with their recent autopilot software updates. With safety paramount, their latest software innovation ticks many of the boxes. Instead of relying solely on camera vision sensors, the new and improved Tesla version 8 software uses radar to detect any dense objects. This makes its object detection system far more effective, even in poor weather conditions.
Seen as the surfing capital of the world, Hawaii is now leading the way in wave energy technology, producing the first wave-produced electricity for the US. By harnessing the power of the waves through a buoy in the middle of the ocean, electricity is generated. It then travels through an undersea cable for a mile, ultimately feeding Oahu’s power grid. More trials are continuing and if wave power technology can be brought up to the levels currently seen with wind and solar power, it has the potential to provide a quarter of America’s energy needs!
After the demise of Concorde, plans have been unveiled for a smaller, supersonic passenger airliner. Designers claim that the new craft, which is currently at prototype stage, will be able to fly from London to New York in just 3.5 hours. Dubbed the ‘Baby Boom’, the XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator is the work of Denver-based US firm Boom Technology and will be able to reach speeds of 1,451 mph. It was announced in November 2016 that its first test flight will take place next year in Southern California, assisted by Virgin Galactic’s The Spaceship Company.
At ForrestBrown we work with innovative companies every day and see the exciting advances being made in these key areas of technology. Technology has advanced greatly this year and now we are looking forward to what 2017 will bring. Innovations don’t have to be as headline grabbing as these to qualify for R&D tax credits. So if you are working at the cutting-edge of your industry, give us a call to see if you can qualify for this valuable tax incentive.