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MIT TECH REVIEW: 10 BREAKTHROUGH TECHNOLOGIES 2015 (IN 3 PARTS)


Introduction: Not all breakthroughs are created equal. Some arrive more or less as usable things; others mainly set the stage for innovations that emerge later, and we have to estimate when that will be. But we’d bet that every one of the milestones on this list will be worth following in the coming years. -The Editors
PART ONE:
1.MAGIC LEAP 2. Nano-Architecture; 3.Car-to-Car Communication; PART TW0: 4. Project Loon; 5. Liquid Biopsy; 6. Megascale Desalination; 7. Apple Pay; PART THREE: 8. Brain Organoids; 9. Supercharged Photosynthesis; 10. Internet of DNA. PART ONE: 1.Magic Leap A startup is betting more than half a billion dollars that it will dazzle you with its approach to creating 3-D imagery. Availability: 1-3 years Breakthrough: A device that can make virtual objects appear in real life. Why It Matters: The technology ­ could open new opportunities for the film, gaming, travel, and telecommunications industries. Key Players: Magic Leap & Microsoft --Logically, I know there isn’t a hulking four-armed, twisty-horned blue monster clomping in circles in front of me, but it sure as hell looks like it. I’m sitting behind a workbench in a white-walled room in Dania Beach, Florida, in the office of a secretive startup called Magic Leap. I’m staring wide-eyed through a pair of lenses attached to what looks like metal scaffolding that towers over my head and contains a bunch of electronics and lenses. It’s an early prototype of the company’s so-called cinematic-­reality technology, which makes it possible for me to believe that the muscular beast with the gruff expression and two sets of swinging arms is actually in the room with me, hovering about seven feet in front of my face. He’s not just visible at a set distance. I’m holding a video-game controller that’s connected to the demo station, and at the press of a button I can make the monster smaller or larger, move him right or left, bring him closer, or push him farther away. Of course, I bring him as near as possible; I want to see how real he looks up close. Now he’s about 30 inches from my eyeballs and, though I’ve made him pocket-sized, looks about as authentic as a monster could—he seems to have rough skin, muscular limbs, and deep-set beady eyes. I extend my hand to give him a base to walk on, and I swear I feel a tingling in my palm in expectation of his little feet pressing into it. When, a split second later, my brain remembers that this is just an impressively convincing 3-D image displayed in the real space in front of me, all I can do is grin. CONTINUE READING...
1. MAGIC LEAP

PHOTO: You’ve probably never heard of Magic Leap, and that’s cool (we hadn’t either). You might be hearing a lot more from them in the near future, though. The startup just finished a venture capital funding round that garnered them a cool $542 million. Leading that funding round was Google, but not Google Ventures. The company proper is making the investment, which also puts Android and Chrome boss Sundar Pichai on Magic Leap’s board. After their tongue-in-cheek cardboard giveaway at Google I/O, it seems augmented and/or virtual reality is a serious game for Google.

ALSO: 2. Nano-Architecture - A Caltech scientist creates tiny lattices with enormous potential.


Fine-tuning materials’ architecture at the nanoscale yields distinctive patterns—and unusual properties.

ALSO: 3. Car-to-Car Communication - A simple wireless technology promises to make driving much safer.


Hariharan Krishnan hardly looks like a street racer. With thin-rimmed glasses and a neat mustache, he reminds me of a math teacher. And yet on a sunny day last September, he was speeding, seemingly recklessly, around the parking lot at General Motors’ research center in Warren, Michigan, in a Cadillac DTS.
I was in the passenger seat as Krishnan wheeled around a corner and hit the gas. A moment later a light flashed on the dashboard, there was a beeping sound, and our seats started buzzing furiously. Krishnan slammed on the brakes, and we lurched to a stop just as another car whizzed past from the left, its approach having been obscured by a large hedge. “You can see I was completely blinded,” he said calmly. The technology that warned of the impending collision will start appearing in cars in just a couple of years. Called car-to-car or vehicle-to-vehicle communication, it lets cars broadcast their position, speed, steering-wheel position, brake status, and other data to other vehicles within a few hundred meters. The other cars can use such information to build a detailed picture of what’s unfolding around them, revealing trouble that even the most careful and alert driver, or the best sensor system, would miss or fail to anticipate. Already many cars have instruments that use radar or ultrasound to detect obstacles or vehicles. But the range of these sensors is limited to a few car lengths, and they cannot see past the nearest obstruction. Car-to-car communication should also have a bigger impact than the advanced vehicle automation technologies that have been more widely heralded. Though self-driving cars could eventually improve safety, they remain imperfect and unproven, with sensors and software too easily bamboozled by poor weather, unexpected obstacles or circumstances, or complex city driving. Simply networking cars together wirelessly is likely to have a far bigger and more immediate effect on road safety. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS:

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2015

CYBERSPACE, JANUARY 4, 2016 (MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW) Introduction: Not all breakthroughs are created equal. Some arrive more or less as usable things; others mainly set the stage for innovations that emerge later, and we have to estimate when that will be. But we’d bet that every one of the milestones on this list will be worth following in the coming years. -The Editors

PART ONE: 1.MAGIC LEAP  Magic; 2.Leap Nano-Architecture; 3.Car-to-Car Communication;

PART TWO: 4.Project Loon; 5.Liquid Biopsy;  6.Megascale Desalination; 7. Apple Pay

PART THREE: 8. Brain Organoids; 9. Supercharged Photosynthesis; 10 Internet of DNA


PART ONE: 1. Magic Leap



A startup is betting more than half a billion dollars that it will dazzle you with its approach to creating 3-D imagery. Availability: 1-3 years

Breakthrough: A device that can make virtual objects appear in real life.

Why It Matters: The technology ­ could open new opportunities for the film, gaming, travel, and telecommunications industries.

Key Players: Magic Leap; Microsoft


Mysterious startup Magic Leap shows off augmented reality action game | Technology | The Guardian

Logically, I know there isn’t a hulking four-armed, twisty-horned blue monster clomping in circles in front of me, but it sure as hell looks like it.

I’m sitting behind a workbench in a white-walled room in Dania Beach, Florida, in the office of a secretive startup called Magic Leap.

I’m staring wide-eyed through a pair of lenses attached to what looks like metal scaffolding that towers over my head and contains a bunch of electronics and lenses.

It’s an early prototype of the company’s so-called cinematic-­reality technology, which makes it possible for me to believe that the muscular beast with the gruff expression and two sets of swinging arms is actually in the room with me, hovering about seven feet in front of my face.

He’s not just visible at a set distance. I’m holding a video-game controller that’s connected to the demo station, and at the press of a button I can make the monster smaller or larger, move him right or left, bring him closer, or push him farther away.

Of course, I bring him as near as possible; I want to see how real he looks up close. Now he’s about 30 inches from my eyeballs and, though I’ve made him pocket-sized, looks about as authentic as a monster could—he seems to have rough skin, muscular limbs, and deep-set beady eyes. I extend my hand to give him a base to walk on, and I swear I feel a tingling in my palm in expectation of his little feet pressing into it. When, a split second later, my brain remembers that this is just an impressively convincing 3-D image displayed in the real space in front of me, all I can do is grin.

READ MORE...


A video by the musician St. Vincent

A video by the musician St. Vincent floats on a virtual screen in a break area in Magic Leap’s headquarters.

Virtual- and augmented-reality technologies used in movies, smartphone apps, and gadgets tend to underdeliver on overhyped promises with images that look crappy.

Typically that’s because stereoscopic 3-D, the most commonly used method, is essentially tricking your eyes instead of working with the way you normally see things.

It produces a sense of depth by showing each eye a separate image of the same object at a different angle.

But since that forces you to look simultaneously at a flat screen in the distance and images that appear to be moving in front of you, it can make you dizzy and lead to headaches and nausea.

To be sure, stereoscopic 3-D has recently started getting better.

The best system you can currently buy comes from Oculus VR, which Facebook purchased last spring for $2 billion; the $199 Gear VR, which was built in collaboration with Samsung and is aimed at software developers, lets you slide a Samsung smartphone into a headset to play games and watch videos.


CEO of Magic Leap Rony Abovitz

Abovitz says he and his employees are trying to “blow away” their inner 11-year-olds.

But while Oculus wants to transport you to a virtual world for fun and games, Magic Leap wants to bring the fun and games to the world you’re already in. And in order for its fantasy monsters to appear on your desk alongside real pencils, Magic Leap had to come up with an alternative to stereoscopic 3-D—something that doesn’t disrupt the way you normally see things. Essentially, it has developed an itty-bitty projector that shines light into your eyes—light that blends in extremely well with the light you’re receiving from the real world.

As I see crisply rendered images of monsters, robots, and cadaver heads in Magic Leap’s offices, I can envision someday having a video chat with faraway family members who look as if they’re actually sitting in my living room while, on their end, I appear to be sitting in theirs.

Or walking around New York City with a virtual tour guide, the sides of buildings overlaid with images that reveal how the structures looked in the past.

Or watching movies where the characters appear to be right in front of me, letting me follow them around as the plot unfolds. But no one really knows what Magic Leap might be best for.

If the company can make its technology not only cool but comfortable and easy to use, people will surely dream up amazing applications.


Top: In a demonstration of a medical or educational application, a cadaver head can be dissected one slice at a time. Bottom: A fake robot appears to stand on a real hand.

That’s no doubt why Google took the lead in an astonishingly large $542 million investment round in Magic Leap last October.

Whatever it is cooking up has a good chance of being one of the next big things in computing, and Google would be crazy to risk missing out. The investment looked especially prescient in January, when Microsoft revealed plans to release a sleek-looking headset this year. HoloLens, which lets you interact with holograms, sounds as if it’s very similar to what Magic Leap is working on.

Behind the magic

Magic Leap won’t say when it will release a product or how much the thing will cost, beyond that the price will be within the range of today’s consumer mobile devices. When I press founder and CEO Rony Abovitz about such details, he’ll only smile and say, “It’s not far away.”

He’s sitting behind the desk in his office, which is just down the road from the Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood airport.

The shelves are lined with toys and View-Masters—the plastic gadgets that let you look at pictures in 3-D.

Abovitz, 44, is a bear of a guy with a kind smile, and when I meet him he’s dressed in black Nikes, a long-sleeved shirt, and slacks, his graying curly hair topped with a yarmulke. He’s thoughtful and composed, which I find somewhat surprising given that the only time I had seen him before was in a video of his talk at a TEDx event in 2012 in Sarasota, Florida.

It featured two people dressed as furry creatures called “Shaggles,” Abovitz walking on stage dressed as an astronaut, and unintelligible rock music. Though the talk, called “The Synthesis of Imagination,” came off as performance art (perhaps even a mockery of a TED talk), he swears there is a coherent message embedded in it; figure it out, he says, and he’ll give you a yo-yo.


Rony Abovitz is a Star Wars fan. How do we know? Because, as founder and CEO of Magic Leap, he’s making the holographic Princess Leia from A New Hope a reality.

By day, Abovitz is a technology entrepreneur with a background in biomedical engineering.

He previously founded Mako Surgical, a company in Fort Lauderdale that makes a robotic arm equipped with haptic technology, which imparts a sense of touch so that orthopedic surgeons have the sensation of actually working on bones as they trigger the robot’s actions.

Mako was sold to a medical technology company, Stryker, for nearly $1.7 billion in 2013. By night, Abovitz likes to rock out. He sings and plays guitar and bass in a pop-rock band called Sparkydog & Friends. And as he tells it, Magic Leap has its origins in both the robotic-surgery company and his life as a musician.

Combining virtual reality with the physical world appealed to Abovitz even at Mako.

Although the robotic-arm technology could give surgeons the sensation of touching their instruments to bones, Abovitz also wanted to let them see virtual bones as they went about this work. Over and over, he says, he tried out head-mounted displays made by different companies, but he was disappointed with them all. “They were all just complete crap,” he says. “You’d put it on and it would give you a headache and it was awful, and I was wondering, ‘Why is this so bad?’”

At the same time, Abovitz also wanted to take Sparkydog & Friends on a virtual tour. In U2’s 1987 video for “Where the Streets Have No Name,” the group, in a nod to an earlier move by the Beatles, plays an impromptu show on the roof of a Los Angeles liquor store. Abovitz yearned for his band to be able to do that, but virtually, and on a thousand rooftops at once.

About four years ago, he started mulling the problem over with John Graham Macnamara, a high school friend who had dropped out of Caltech’s theoretical physics program.

They became captivated by the idea of displaying moving holograms like the one in Star Wars. Holograms—3-D images that can be viewed from many angles—are made by accurately re-creating light fields, the patterns made when light rays bounce off an object.

But Abovitz figured it would cost a lot and take lots of time to project even low-resolution holographic images. At one point, he remembers muttering, “There is no display that can actually work.”

The next morning, though, he awoke with an idea: why bother with the painstaking steps needed to send a hologram out into a room for multiple people to see at once? Why not, instead, essentially make a hologram that only you see, doing it in a way that is natural for the eyes and brain to perceive, unlike stereoscopic 3-D? “We’re spending half a billion dollars–plus to effectively make nothing happen to you, physiologically,” Abovitz says.

The solution he and Macnamara and the rest of Magic Leap’s team have come up with is still largely under wraps, and on the record they avoid discussing how the technology works except in vague terms, citing concerns about competition. But it’s safe to say Magic Leap has a tiny projector that shines light onto a transparent lens, which deflects the light onto the retina. That pattern of light blends in so well with the light you’re receiving from the real world that to your visual cortex, artificial objects are nearly indistinguishable from actual objects.

If the company can get this to work in a head-mounted display, showing images near the eyes and consistently refocusing them to keep everything looking sharp, it will make 3-D images much more comfortable to view, says Gordon ­Wetzstein, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Stanford who researches computational imaging and displays. “If they do what people suspect they do,” Wetzstein says, “it will be amazing.”

From virtual to reality

Magic Leap is working feverishly to get to that point. Since building its first prototype in 2011, the company has continued to shrink its technology down.

Already it works on something smaller than the unwieldy scaffolding I used. In another demonstration, using hardware on a cart, I can poke at a tiny flying steampunk robot, a character from a first-person-shooter game called Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders that Magic Leap is making with Weta Workshop, which created many of the special effects in the Hobbit movies. The robot can follow my finger around with surprising accuracy, right between the cubicles in Magic Leap’s office.

To judge from a look I get at a design prototype—a realistic-looking piece of hardware that’s completely nonfunctional—the company appears to be aiming to fit its technology into a chunky pair of sports sunglasses wired to a square pack that fits into your pocket.

A somewhat similar image in a patent application Magic Leap filed in January suggests as much, too. The company won’t say for sure, though; Abovitz confirms that the headset will be a glasses-like wearable device, but I have to twist his arm to get him to agree to use even that hazy phrasing on the record.

Abovitz was enigmatic in his brief appearance on a TEDx stage in 2012. “A few awkward steps for me; a magic leap for mankind,” he said from inside his spacesuit.


Abovitz in his brief appearance on a TEDx stage in 2012.

It’s clear that getting the technology into that small form will be very hard.

The smallest demo hardware I’ve seen at Magic Leap can’t yet match the experience of the bigger demo units. It includes a projector, built into a black wire, that’s smaller than a grain of rice and channels light toward a single see-through lens.

Peering through the lens, I spy a crude green version of the same four-armed monster that earlier seemed to stomp around on my palm. In addition to improving the resolution of smaller units, Magic Leap will have to cram in sensors and software that will track your eyes and fingers, so you can control and interact with its virtual creatures—which themselves will have to incorporate real-life objects into whatever they appear to be doing.

That’s where last year’s half-billion dollars of investment come in. Magic Leap is hiring like crazy. It’s looking for software engineers for everything from eye tracking and iris recognition to the branch of artificial intelligence known as deep learning. It needs optical engineers, game designers, and other people who will dream up virtual objects to display. To give you a sense of where their minds might go, I saw ray guns and magic wands lying around the office.

As its chief futurist, Magic Leap has hired the science fiction author Neal Stephenson, whose 1992 novel Snow Crash imagined a virtual world called the Metaverse.


Neal Stephenson predicted an Internet-like experience called "The Metaverse" that's the center of his 1992 novel Snow Crash. Of course, he wrote it before the Internet became the point-and-click funzone we know and love today, so he guessed it would be avatar-based (as in "virtual representation of you," not "last airbender" or "blue cat-people"). Instead of browsing the Internet with Chrome, Snow Crash characters would browse the Metaverse with CHROME (my ideal personal Metaverse avatar that looks like Robert Patrick's character from T2: Judgment Day), controlled by virtual reality goggles. Today, Stephenson says it's like getting an entire Internet experience by hanging out with your WoW Clan. And what makes the Metaverse so awesomely WoW-ish? Virtual samurai swordfights with any Metaverse user, something our stupid real life games have only fumblingly begun to imitate.

The excitement of such quick growth is palpable at Magic Leap’s brightly decorated headquarters, where staid office trappings are punctuated by red high-backed love seats and yellow chairs. Employees energetically describe the games, sensors, and ray guns they’re working on.

With the massive investment last year, interest in the company has intensified. Abovitz says, “We went from ‘Does anyone care about this?’ to ‘Okay, people do care.’” Now he and the team are feeling the weight of these expectations. He says, “The inner 11-year-old—we want to blow that away.” —Rachel Metz

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Credit: Illustration by Josh Cochran, photos courtesy of Magic Leap and TEDx
Tagged: Computing, Business, Mobile, EmTech Digital 2015 News, Magic Leap, EmTech2015 Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor


2. NANO-ARCHITECTURE

Nano-Architecture A Caltech scientist creates tiny lattices with enormous potential.


Fine-tuning materials’ architecture at the nanoscale yields distinctive patterns—and unusual properties.

Availability: 3-5 years; Breakthrough: Materials whose structures can be precisely tailored so they are strong yet flexible and extremely light; Why It Matters: Lighter structural materials would be more energy-efficient and versatile;  Key Players: Julia Greer, Caltech William Carter, HRL Laboratories Nicholas Fang, MIT Christopher Spadaccini, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

To visit the lab of Caltech materials ­scientist Julia Greer is to enter a realm where the ordinary rules of physical stuff don’t seem to apply. Greer designs and builds nanomaterials that behave in ways surprising to those of us who spend our days in a world where strong materials like ceramic and steel tend to be heavy, while lightweight ones are weak. When Greer controls architecture at the nanoscale, the rules change.


Greer in her Caltech lab, holding a model of the atomic structure of a metal. Greer in her Caltech lab, holding a model of the atomic structure of a metal.

Conventional ceramics are strong, heavy, and (as anyone who has dropped a plate knows) brittle, prone to shattering. But last year Greer created a ceramic that is one of the strongest and lightest substances ever made. It’s also not brittle.

In a video Greer made, a cube of the material shudders a bit as a lab apparatus presses down hard on it, then collapses.

When the pressure is removed, it rises back up “like a wounded soldier,” she says. “It’s unreal, isn’t it?” Greer often rushes to meetings around campus on Rollerblades and talks so fast that she demands focused listening. Peering into this beautiful, otherworldly nanolattice on her computer screen, she slows down for a while.

If materials like Greer’s could be produced in large quantities, they could replace composites and other materials used in a wide range of applications, because they’d be just as strong at a fraction of the weight.

Another possibility is to greatly increase the energy density of batteries—the amount of power they can hold at a given size. To do that, researchers have been trying to develop electrodes that are lighter than the ones used in today’s batteries but can store more energy.


amazingcarousel.com

However, promising electrode materials such as silicon are prone to cracking under strain. An electrode made by coating a metal nanolattice with silicon could have crack-resistant toughness in its very structure.

The key to creating such wondrous materials is an arsenal of specialized machines—some of which Greer has rebuilt to suit her purposes—that make it possible to precisely control structure at the nanoscale over relatively large areas.

Greer jogs down two floors of stairs to the basement lab where she keeps these precision instruments to isolate them from vibrations.

One machine, found behind two heavy black curtains, is a sort of 3-D printer that uses flashes of laser light to very slowly build intricate polymer scaffolds. A student of Greer’s coats the polymer with metals, ceramics, or other materials and then shaves off the sides, making it possible to etch away the polymer inside. The result is a little block of material made up of nanoscale trusses crisscrossed like the struts in the Eiffel Tower—but each strut’s walls are only about 10 nanometers thick.

Without Greer’s method, building something like this is impossible. She shows me a sample that came about from an earlier collaboration with researchers at HRL Laboratories in Malibu, California, who are producing materials with larger, microscale trusses. It’s made out of nickel and looks somewhat like a metal scouring sponge. When she lets it drift onto my palm, I can barely feel it touch down, and the subversion of expectations is confusing. This metal is, literally, lighter than a feather. It could make for ultralight thermal insulation—an application her HRL colleagues are pursuing.

The featherweight nickel shows the promise of architectural control in making new materials with weird properties. But it’s also a reminder of how far Greer has to go in scaling up her methods: so far, she can’t make enough of the nanostructured materials to cover your palm.

Greer is determined to use her nanofabrication methods for a variety of materials, and a long list of collaborators are interested in their unusual properties. She can space the nanoscale walls in light-emitting materials or thermal insulation to precisely control the flow of light or heat. She’s working with two battery makers to use her nanostructures to study electrochemistry. And she is teaming with biologists to see whether the nanostructured ceramic could serve as a scaffold for growing bones—such as the tiny ones in the ear whose degeneration is one cause of deafness.

In hopes of making such applications feasible, she is working to speed up the high-resolution laser-printing process. Greer has a six-millimeter-square fleck of the nanostructured ceramic she made last year. It is about as thick as a sheet of paper but took about a week to make. “For us to do scientific experiments, we don’t need a large amount,” she says. “The question now is: how do you scale this?” —Katherine Bourzac

 
The key focus of the Greer group is on creating and studying advanced materials that utilize combination of 3-dimensional hierarchical architectures and nanoscale material size effects


3. Car-to-Car Communicatio: n A simple wireless technology promises to make driving much safer.

Availability: 1-2 years; Breakthrough: Cars that can talk to each other to avoid crashes; Why It Matters: More than a ­million people are killed on roads worldwide every yearKey Players: General Motors, University of Michigan, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Hariharan Krishnan hardly looks like a street racer. With thin-rimmed glasses and a neat mustache, he reminds me of a math teacher. And yet on a sunny day last September, he was speeding, seemingly recklessly, around the parking lot at General Motors’ research center in Warren, Michigan, in a Cadillac DTS.

I was in the passenger seat as Krishnan wheeled around a corner and hit the gas. A moment later a light flashed on the dashboard, there was a beeping sound, and our seats started buzzing furiously. Krishnan slammed on the brakes, and we lurched to a stop just as another car whizzed past from the left, its approach having been obscured by a large hedge. “You can see I was completely blinded,” he said calmly.

The technology that warned of the impending collision will start appearing in cars in just a couple of years. Called car-to-car or vehicle-to-vehicle communication, it lets cars broadcast their position, speed, steering-wheel position, brake status, and other data to other vehicles within a few hundred meters. The other cars can use such information to build a detailed picture of what’s unfolding around them, revealing trouble that even the most careful and alert driver, or the best sensor system, would miss or fail to anticipate.

Already many cars have instruments that use radar or ultrasound to detect obstacles or vehicles. But the range of these sensors is limited to a few car lengths, and they cannot see past the nearest obstruction.

Car-to-car communication should also have a bigger impact than the advanced vehicle automation technologies that have been more widely heralded. Though self-driving cars could eventually improve safety, they remain imperfect and unproven, with sensors and software too easily bamboozled by poor weather, unexpected obstacles or circumstances, or complex city driving. Simply networking cars together wirelessly is likely to have a far bigger and more immediate effect on road safety.

READ MORE...

Creating a car-to-car network is still a complex challenge. The computers aboard each car process the various readings being broadcast by other vehicles 10 times every second, each time calculating the chance of an impending collision. Transmitters use a dedicated portion of wireless spectrum as well as a new wireless standard, 802.11p, to authenticate each message.


Car-To-Car Communication. A Simple Wireless Technology Promises To Make Driving Much Safer. TREND, AUTOS ON 9 NOVEMBER, 2015 BY YATZU  Cars that can talk to each other to avoid crashes. Availability: 1-2 years. MIT

Krishnan took me through several other car-to-car safety scenarios in the company’s parking lot. When he started slowly pulling into a parking spot occupied by another car, a simple alert sounded. When he attempted a risky overtaking maneuver, a warning light flashed and a voice announced: “Oncoming vehicle!”

More than five million crashes occur on U.S. roads alone every year, and more than 30,000 of those are fatal. The prospect of preventing many such accidents will provide significant impetus for networking technology.

Just an hour’s drive west of Warren, the town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has done much to show how valuable car-to-car communication could be. There, between 2012 and 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the University of Michigan equipped nearly 3,000 cars with experimental transmitters. After studying communication records for those vehicles, NHTSA researchers concluded that the technology could prevent more than half a million accidents and more than a thousand fatalities in the United States every year. The technology stands to revolutionize the way we drive, says John Maddox, a program director at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.

Shortly after the Ann Arbor trial ended, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it would start drafting rules that could eventually mandate the use of car-to-car communication in new cars. The technology is also being tested in Europe and Japan.

There will, of course, also be a few obstacles to navigate. GM has committed to using car-to-car communication in a 2017-model Cadillac. Those first Cadillacs will have few cars to talk to, and that will limit the value of the technology. It could still be more than a decade before vehicles that talk to each other are commonplace. —Will Knight

NEXT WEEK PART TWO: PART TW0: 4. Project Loon; 5. Liquid Biopsy; 6. Megascale Desalination; 7. Apple Pay;:


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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