2011 was a great year for technology. Leaps and bounds were made in every field, from medicine to mobile computing. With so many changes in technology, even the simplest of tasks such as purchasing auto insurance are being changed forever. These are the 10 most important technological advances for 2011.
3D Displays Without Glasses
Even though 3D television sets have been available for mass consumption for a couple years, their widespread adoption hasn’t been as rapid as the industry might have hoped. One of the forces slowing the technology’s penetration is the glasses required for most displays. 2011 saw Toshiba showing off a large HDTV that requires no glasses, as well as Nintendo and a handful of cell phone manufacturers building similar displays for mobile. Soon 3D may require no glasses at all, and the technology will finally be accessible to all.
Mobile Wallets and NFC
Google Wallet debuted right around the beginning of 2011, and other competitors such as PayPal got into the mix during the year. With mobile wallet services, debit and credit cards can be left at home and replaced with the smartphone. The technology that is at the backbone of this movement is NFC, short for Near-Field Communication. It has the potential to permanently enhance the way consumers purchase goods, along with several other uses such as unlocking doors or starting cars.
The first Long Term Evolution networks were actually conceived years prior to 2011. However, 2011 is the first year that they were actually deployed for public use. With the potential to be faster than traditional home internet connections, the widespread availability of LTE in 2011 might be the first step in permanently changing how we access the internet.
Around the beginning of 2011, it came out that Google had a fleet of self-driving cars. The rest of the year saw progress in this field by other companies, and Google has continued to develop the cars in silence. So far, Google’s fleet of cars has only had one accident – and that was when a human driver was controlling the vehicle. Clearly, the technology in these cars has the potential to make commuting simpler and safer than ever before. In addition, with a car that drives itself, time is freed up for the driver to accomplish other tasks. Self-driving cars could add hours of productivity to peoples’ lives.
Mobile Quad-Core Processors
As smartphone ownership continues to grow at an exponential rate, so does the technology inside of them. 2011 saw the first quad-core processor, the Tegra 3, released in the Asus Transformer Prime. Moving into 2012, the processors will become more commonplace. With so much more being done with smartphones on a daily basis, quad-core processors will assist in continuing to usher in this new era of computing.
The cloud has been hyped for several years as the future of computing. Thanks in large part to Apple, 2011 was the year that cloud services finally broke through to the mainstream. With Apple’s iCloud and Google’s music service leading the way, the cloud was finally readily available to anyone who wanted to use it. 2011 was just the beginning in cloud computing. Expect to see even more cloud-driven services become available as we head into 2012.
Nanorobotics has existed for some time as a wonderful idea that seemed like it was decades off. In 2011, we saw several leaps in the technology and the nanobots can now be controlled inside a living body. We’re now closer than ever to being able to administer highly-targeted medications to patients. The result will be more effective treatments with fewer side effects.
With smartphones being so popular, it was only a matter of time before TVs followed suit. Until the past couple of years, TVs were essentially unintelligent boxes that displayed whatever was plugged into them. With the mass release of smart TVs by several manufacturers, 2011 saw the TV finally evolve into a sophisticated device capable of more than just showing pictures.
Companies finally got behind 3D printing in 2011 as costs came down. Several companies now offer 3D printing at the consumer level, allowing virtually anything and everything to be printed in 3D at a fraction of the cost of manufacturing. We might soon see 3D printing replace simple labor, reducing production costs and making goods more affordable for all.
While Watson is less of a new technology than it is a fusion of several different technologies, the Jeopardy-playing computer represented a huge advancement. For the first time, a computer was able to parse natural human language dealing with varied topics and then respond fluidly with a high degree of accuracy. Watson showed that computers can communicate like humans, and as the project grows, everything from teaching to child raising could be altered.
Overall, 2011 was a terrific year for technology. We are in an age where technology seems to jump forward every day. With so many new developments in so many fields, it was an exciting time for people and consumers in many fields. The awe of 2011 is only trumped by the fact that 2012 will almost surely see even more advancements made.