A Bold New Future

Imagine you are riding in your driverless, hydrogen-powered car en route home from the spaceport after taking a trip into space. Your car senses that you are nearing your home and sends a signal to set your thermostat so your home will be at just the temperature you want. You beam data from your wearable computer to the grocery store and a drone delivers needed fresh groceries to your doorstep. Your personal robot takes the groceries in and prepares dinner for you just before you arrive home.

Fantasy? No. All this and more once unimaginable futuristic, life-changing breakthroughs are making their way from the laboratory and drawing boards to your real-world life. Some breakthroughs are here, some are just around the corner, others may be decades away.

Google plans to extend its Android system into cars, homes and smartwatches.

Apple has unveiled its HealthKit and HomeKit.

Travelers at Germany’s Duesseldorf airport can now leave the task of parking their car to a robot valet that is booked from a smartphone app.

robot3In Japan, robots are serving department store shoppers and human-looking robots guide museum visitors.

An Arizona company, World View Enterprises, plans to offer balloon flights 20 miles into space at a cost of $75,000 per person beginning in 2016. A recent test flight took off from Roswell, New Mexico, and was labeled a huge success.

Virgin Galactic plans to launch its first space-tourism flights at a cost of $200,000 per person, perhaps by the end of this year, but the target date has been delayed several times already.

Toyota, the world’s largest car maker, has just unveiled its first mass-market hydrogen-powered fuel-cell car. The cars are expected to go on sale in Japan by the end of March next year. Honda projects its version of such cars also will be available next year. South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. and Germany’s Daimler AG also are producing fuel-cell vehicles. Such vehicles could virtually end the problem of automotive pollution.

droneDrones are being tested that can zoom in over a crime scene and send sharp images directly to the police while the crime is in progress. Drones also can be used to record evidence from a car crash, deliver packages to your home or business, check soil quality and the status of crops or even take aerial photos to be used in advertising homes for sale. Hydrogen vehicles can run five times longer than battery-operated electric cars, and their tanks can be filled in just a few minutes compared with recharging times from 30 minutes up to several hours for electric cars.

Time travel, long a seemingly impossible dream, may even become possible if the theories and tests being done by Australian physicists pan out.

If a time traveler went back in time and stopped their own grandparents from meeting, would they prevent their own birth? If so, the traveler would not exist and could not travel in time. That’s the crux of an infamous theory known as the “grandfather paradox'” which is often said to mean time travel is impossible – but some researchers think otherwise. Researchers at the University of Queensland have discovered that two photons traveling through time can interact. In the simulation a photon stuck in a closed time-like curve through a wormhole was found to be capable of interacting with one traveling through regular space-time, suggesting that, at the quantum level, the grandfather paradox could be resolved.

Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity suggests the possibility of traveling backwards in time by following a space-time path that returns to the starting point in space but at an earlier time – a closed time-like curve. This possibility has puzzled physicists and philosophers alike since it was discovered by Austrian-American scientist Kurt Gödel in 1949, as it seems to cause paradoxes in the classical world. These include the “grandparents paradox”, where a time traveler could stop their grandparents from meeting, thus preventing the time traveler’s birth. This would make it impossible for the time traveler to have set out in the first place.

But this new research suggests that such interactions might indeed be possible – albeit only on a quantum level.

Scientists in the Netherlands have managed to reliably teleport quantum data for the first time, bringing us one step closer to the possible wonders of teleportation. Teleporting people through space, like in the series “Star Trek,” is a physical impossibility, but teleporting data is another matter. The Dutch scientists showed for the first time that it’s possible to reliably teleport information between two quantum bits separated by three meters (10 feet). As described in the journal Science, this phenomenon could transport us to the next frontier of Star Trek-style teleportation.


Demand Grows for Big-Screen Phones

It’s not a return to the brick, but bigger is becoming better with smartphones. Worldwide shipments of smartphones with screens 5 inches or larger grew 369 percent in the first quarter compared to just a year earlier, according to the market research firm Canalys.

SamsungS5Big-screen smartphones comprised 34 percent of worldwide smartphone shipments in the first quarter. Samsung holds a 44 percent share of smartphones with displays of 5 inches or larger. The Samsung Galaxy S5, with a 5.1 inch screen, is pictured.

“The trend is unmistakably toward larger-screen handsets at the high end of the market,” Canalys analyst Jessica Kwee said. “Consumers now expect high-end devices to have large displays, and Apple’s absence in this market will clearly not last long. Apple plainly needs a larger-screen smartphone to remain competitive, and it will look to address this in the coming months.”

Overall, Android devices accounted for 81 percent of worldwide smartphone shipments in the first quarter, followed by iOS on 16 percent and Windows Phone on 3 percent.


Huge Changes Lie Ahead

Brick-and-mortar stores will go tech – and warehouses will go back to the drawing board. As consumers increasingly shop on their computers and phones, brick-and-mortar retailers will need to adopt the attitude ‘If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ in order to survive. Innovation will be key, making use of technology that integrates omnichannel shopping into the physical experience of being in a store and matching the logistical advantages of online merchants.

ApplestoreApple is one retailer already using this forward-thinking approach in its stores. Its sales floors feature products that people can touch and try on their own, spending as much time as they’d like. They can buy and take home merchandise if they choose, or they can go home, do further research and buy online – with free overnight shipping. This may be a model other retailers will emulate.

Shipping might become quicker, much quicker than overnight delivery is, when drone delivery touted by Amazon comes to pass in the next several years.

Efficient distribution will be key, and the increasing importance of logistics and automation will impact warehouses across the country, many of which are obsolete even now, lacking up-to-date technology and adequate clearance height and often too remote to accommodate same-day delivery. That will add up to a lot of activity in the industrial sector in coming years, with old warehouses being retrofitted or new ones being built.