Courtesy of Makerbot
The future is awesome and filled with fantastical, life-improving inventions. Except when it’s horrible and filled with evil, life-extinguishing aliens/mutants/robots. And even then it’s still kind of awesome.
That’s the impression we’ve gotten, anyway, having recently consumed a vast quantity of movies, books and magazines from the
paleolithic era early to mid-20th century. But whether awesome or horrible, the past’s future is funny to modern eyes.
These retro-futures are filled with nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners, roofed cities, “aerial cars” and flying locomotives. Force fields are everywhere, mind control is a daily menace and X-ray vision means it’s never safe to wear dirty undies. The future is hilarious. Ludicrous.
Or is it? Some crazy stuff is happening, right now. Like object replication, an idea popularized by Star Trek. The promise of this futuristic technology has been partly realized by 3D printing, but it still requires complex (and tedious) modeling.
MakerBot, a leader in the desktop 3D printing market, aims to reduce this complexity with its Digitizer 3D scanner (MakerBot.com). This is a work-in-progress – a prototype was just unveiled – but it’s exciting. The Digitizer automatically scans and models an item in 3D, significantly cutting the time and effort needed to print. MakerBot hasn’t talked pricing, but we expect the first production model to cost upwards of $2,000-3,000.
The prototype can only scan smallish objects, but who knows what the future holds. In a decade or so, office jokesters could be making 3D replicas of their buttocks, instead of photocopies.
Courtesy of google
Google, meanwhile, is busy fomenting its own technological revolution. Its Google Glass is part heads-up display, part reality augmentor and part camera (Google.com/glass). It’s a wearable computer and a thousand ethical dilemmas waiting to happen. And it’s probably going to hit the market this year.
Think of the applications: to drive and look at a map at the same time, without increased risk of pedestrian-smooshing. To say, with a straight face, “Yes Darling, let’s watch that romantic comedy,” but actually watch a kung-fu movie. To record your skeevy boss perving at the new junior accountant’s bosom and then blackmail him with the footage.
If Google gets it right – and there’s a lot of positive buzz suggesting it has – then Glass could be a game-changer on par with e-readers, mp3 players and coffee makers. As with MakerBot’s Digitizer, no price info is available, but $1,000+ is probably a good guess.
And here’s one more example of how the fantastical future is becoming the fantastical now: the personalization of medicine. Not only are new medical gadgets appearing, but smart, consumer-health-minded folks are thinking up novel uses for existing technologies, like smartphones.
Courtesy of Biosense Technologies
Biosense Technologies, an India-based biotech start-up, is a case in point. It is very close to selling a personal urinalysis tool called uChek (uChek.in).
Now, before anyone starts worrying, uChek doesn’t involve peeing on a smartphone. You use a cup. Preferably a clean cup belonging to someone you don’t like. You swish a dipstick about, wait a few seconds, pull it out and take a picture of it on a color mat. An app (iOS and Android) analyzes the color and clarity, and evaluates possible medical issues. Then, if necessary, you go see a real doctor.
The app will cost 99 cents, while a kit comprising five dipsticks and a color mat will run about $20. Also, remember to clean the camera lens first, else you may get a false diagnosis of smudgy bladder.
The future is now, friends. It’s awesome, but also has you taking pictures of urine, which is kind of horrible. Who among our ancestors could have foreseen it?
Ever used a photocopied buttock at work? Let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org
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