We are at the threshold of the new year, and the time is now to sum up the results of innovation year. Innovation House compiled the list of 37 main technological innovations and scientific breakthroughs of the outgoing year 2017.
- After 60 consecutive wins over alive contestants Google revealed that a mysterious player of Go, named “Master”, was actually the new version of its AI-based program. Six months later, DeepMind AlphaGo program defeated a world champion of Go in three out of three matches. Thus, for the first time ever, computer has defeated person in a game, where creativity is used, rather than calculation of millions of combinations.
- Taking cue from Google, the University of Alberta has announced about the creation of artificial intelligence able to beat professional human players at poker. This game is yet another example of situation, when you shall be skillful in both determining the probability of one or another outcome, and in creativity and intuition as well. It is interesting to note that creators of this AI system do not know how it “thinks” when it wins victories over its contestants.
- Artificial intelligence system, created by the researchers at Northwestern University, has passed the standard visual intelligence test. The model performs in the 75th percentile for American adults.
Gadgets and commercial technological novelties
- Nest Secure, innovative home security ecosystem, is the security system, where access restriction is performed via app, or breloque that may set time range, when door may be opened by the particular breloque. Moreover, the ecosystem includes Nest Cam IQ cameras that will send notification to your smartphone in case of home invasion – Nest Aware software has facial recognition tools and will warn you that stranger is inside your property. Like the Nest Hello doorbell, it has feedback communication: you may remotely talk to someone, who stands near the camera or near the door. What is more, you may prepare several answers in advance for different people.
- Jibo robot, created with the participation of Lviv city software engineering company Waverley Software, is much more advanced solution compared to previously released Amazon Echo and Google Home “personal assistants”. This is not just a speaker responding to voice or answering the questions, this is autonomous device integrated into “smart home” system and having a set of communicative capabilities. Robot may move, show emotions via the gestures or mimic images on the screen; it recognizes the family members by their faces, able to make photos and establish videoconferencing, and more.
- eSight 3 glasses that afford an opportunity for legally blind persons to see, have built-in cameras, video processor and two eyepieces. Eyewear show processed streaming video, recorded by front cameras, two bright displays, located in front of the eyes. Visually challenged persons are now able to enjoy the world around us and may even read.
IT and communications
- Creation of full scale quantum computer will help us to make good progress in solution of such applied problems as weather forecasting, chemical reactions simulation, financial markets assessment, and other tasks that are unsolvable by existing computers and algorithms. This year was remarkable for breakthroughs in this field. Thus, IBM has created quantum computer having 50 qubits. Moreover, company is going to manufacture commercial universal quantum computing systems as a part of IBM Q initiative.
- An entire range of devices, rather than only processing unit itself, are needed for the computer to work in an efficient way. Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have created the quantum memory microprocessing unit: its qubits may store the date in the form of light. Moreover, experts at the University of Vienna have created world’s first quantum router. This network based device can receive and transmit entangled photons, and at a later stage solutions of this type will constitute the basis for quantum internet creation.
- Researcher team around Professor Andrea Morello have invented a new type of quantum computing design they called flip-flop qubits. New design will help to integrate quantum computing systems with electronic circuits, which opens up the possibilities of large-scale quantum computations.
- Researchers from Oxford, Münster and Exeter Universities have created photonic computer chips, that use light and imitate the way human brain’s synapses operate.
- Entangled photons were successfully transmitted between the Chinese orbiting satellite, Micius, and the laboratory on Earth. The peculiarity of data transmission using the entangled photons is that information transmitted in this fashion cannot be intercepted, hacked and deciphered by third parties.
There were also significant breakthroughs in the world of “traditional” computations and telecommunications.
- Researchers have managed to simulate the virtual universe, consisting of 25 billion galaxies generated from 2 trillion digital particles. This this the largest virtual universe ever created by the human. Maybe it is close to “Matrix”, who knows?
- China is currently creating world’s first exascale supercomputer (having capacity of no less than 1 exaFLOPS – 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 floating point operations per second). This is about 10 times more than the most powerful supercomputer may deliver today. China is in severe competition with the USA in this field, and takes the first two places.
- Researchers at Brown University have reported the transmission of data through a terahertz multiplexer at 50 gigabits per second, which could lead to a new generation of ultra-fast Wi-Fi.
- Qualcomm company has announced 5G mobile connection (with portable mobile device) at a speed of 1 Gbps. This company was also famous for the creation of first turnkey solution – Snapdragon X50 NR modem. This is up to 20 times faster than the possibilities of the Ukrainian mobile 3G networks, but prime advantage of 5G is not the data transmission rate, but the very low delay time while transmitting the data. Commercial products (smartphones), equipped with this router, will appear in the first half of 2019.
- Manufacturers of hard disc drives do not lag behind too: magnetic recording technology may outstep in terms of data storage density increase – researchers at the University of Manchester have confirmed that magnetic hysteresis may occur in some molecules exposed to ultra-low temperatures. This proves that storing data with single-molecule magnets may theoretically give 100 times higher density than current technologies.
- Researchers at the Institute for Basic Science have published details of a single atom memory storage system. But this is still a matter for the future.
Biology and medicine
When it comes to medical and biological achievements in 2017, we may proudly proclaim that it was the year of 3D printing, gene editing, and remedies against diseases that did not respond to treatment before.
- Remedy for melanoma – one of the most insidious and most frequent skin cancers, – was unveiled by the researchers at Michigan State University. New drug may potentially stop the spread of melanoma by 90%.
- Researchers at Harvard have developed a customizable “soft robot” that fits around a heart and helps it beat. This may be a new way to save lives of patients with heart failure.
- Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute are creating the semisynthetic organism using the synthetic DNA. This may hold unlimited number of synthetic bases, called X and Y, to create entirely new life forms. This research may result in breakthrough for various applications in medicine, biology, and other fields.
- Scientists have got wise to grow the sensitive hair of inner ear, which were earlier considered to be unrecoverable. Inner ear progenitor cells convert into sensitive hair cells and may potentially recover hearing for those, who have lost it forever.
- Artificial retina of human eye was created in the University of Oxford. Even the fatal damage of retina is no longer the irrevocable problem.
- Human blood stem cells are now grown in the laboratory of Boston Children’s Hospital. Thus, this technology gives us the broadest application possibilities in cases where researchers, doctors, and scientists need stem cells.
- Yet another cancer treatment method was discovered: artificial viruses that can now be created by the Swiss researchers, are able to alert the immune system and cause it to send killer cells to help fight the tumor. In other words, remedy is given not to suppress tumor progression, but to improve the ability of human immunity to fight it.
- Vaccine that lowers the cholesterol level may create immunity against cardiovascular diseases. Thus far, the European Society of Cardiology has conducted its study in mice, but the results let us be of the opinion that technology can be successful for humans as well.
Famous scientist Eugene Koonin have played a pivotal role in understanding the role of CRISPR in nature. In his interview to Innovation House he has told not just about CRISPR, but also about lots of interesting things related to evolution, viruses, origin of life on Earth, and much more. CRISPR technology was one of the most discussed topics of the year 2017 – considerable number of breakthroughs in medicine and biology were related to it.
- Scientists at Harvard have edited the gene using the CRISPR technology and entered digital data in it – they recorded and afterwards read out digital animated image in GIF format. Needless to say that this is no more than a child’s play, but this play demonstrates the perspectivity of gene editing technologies that are used today.
- Scientists have used CRISPR in human embryos to remove faulty DNA responsible for a hereditary heart condition. Unique procedure was conducted by the team of researchers from the USA and South Korea. When it comes to human genes editing, lots of philosophical and ethical moments arise, but removal of “information” about the heritable disease from the DNA – is the breakthrough, which is very important for all mankind. This technology may potentially “clean” genes of all the people from heritable diseases. What this may lead to? That’s a good question for scientists of the future, who will have the courage to conduct “big wash”.
- This year researchers at University College London have achieved unprecedented breakthrough too (without gene editing). They have corrected the birth defect causing Huntington’s disease (also known as Huntington’s chorea). Doctors say that there is a hope to reach full recovery from fatal neurodegenerative disease affecting the brain.
- Bionic skin was developed by the researchers at the University of Minnesota. This material opens such fantastic horizons as creation of robots able to feel the touch, or for instance, creation of electronic components, printed on the human skin.
- And finally, yet another step towards the immortality of physical body of the human: UK scientists managed to “defeat the aging process”. They used applied resveratrol analogues to senescent cells, which made the cells look and behave “younger” and enlarged their telomeres.
Robots and space
- Robotic drone bee able to pollinate flowers was demonstrated by Researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. Problem with death and extinction of the bees may also be solved in such a way.
- SpaceX company has conducted the world’s first reflight of an orbital class rocket. According to creators of this rocket, this may significantly cut costs of space flights. Elon Musk made people dream again of making flights to space – for the first time since 1970s, when it seemed that the Moon was already “in the pocket”, and we will soon start establishing cities on Mars. However, development of space tourism programs, colonization of planets – all what the daydreamers were dreaming about, – hit a snag.
And now, in 2017 Elon Musk reported that in the future humankind will be the “interplanetary species” – the first human settlements are expected to be on the Moon and Mars.
Physics and chemistry
- This is hardly imaginable, but in 2017 a new phase of matter, dubbed a “time crystal”, was discovered. Unique material was created by the scientists at the University of Texas: atoms of this matter move in a pattern that repeats in time rather than in space.
- Researchers at Washington State University have demonstrated a fluid with negative mass. Push it, and unlike every physical object in the world we know, it doesn’t accelerate in the direction it was pushed. It accelerates backwards.
- Researchers at Large Hadron Collider have reported the detection of new particle Xi-сс⁺⁺, the existence of which was previously theoretically predicted. By studying the composite particle, containing two charm quarks and one up quark, researchers hope to get better understanding of the nature of some fundamental physical forces.
- The scientists managed to break the record for coldest temperature of molecules. It is almost as low as the absolute zero – the temperature obtained was only 1/50,000,000 degree warmer. It is logical enough to ask “how?”. But there is the answer: vibrations and rotations of molecules – is one of the forms of heat generation, lasers and magnetic fields were used to trap and slow the molecules. This method works for certain types of molecules only, but the main thing is that researchers have managed to do this.
- Researchers at Harvard have reported that for the first time ever the metallic hydrogen was synthesized. This matter may be found in the internal parts of such gas giants as Jupiter, for instance. Its existence was predicted as early as in 1935, but the team of researchers said that only in the beginning of the year 2017 gas was squeezed to the state when it got the properties of metal. Its peculiarity is that scientists did not “show” hydrogen to anyone, and then said that “hydrogen has disappeared somewhere”. Therefore, this is sort of weird achievement, which is unconfirmed now, and may be called “total scientific meltdown of the year”.