Technology is almost indistinguishable from magic these days and there are so many mind-blowing innovations out there. The emerging technologies in 2021 will be even more impressive. Here are some of the most exciting technological developments, cited in the Lux Research‘s Foresight 2021: Top Emerging Technologies to Watch that could send shockwaves around the world this year:
The Lux report lists advancements in autonomous vehicles at the top of their list for emerging technologies in 2021, citing trends in AI, analytics and data, combined with workforce automation which leads to “increasing levels of vehicle automation, eventually resulting in removing the need for drivers in consumer and commercial vehicles.”
“Improvements in safety and efficiency are happening at all levels of vehicle automation, benefiting both consumer vehicles and commercial applications. Further out, level 4 and 5 autonomous vehicles will open new mobility and logistics possibilities by removing the need for a driver in a vehicle,” writes Lux‘s Lewie Roberts.
There are now 600 self-driving cars in Waymo‘s fleet, and some of these vehicles are already being used for self-driving taxi rides in limited, geofenced areas.
Natural Language Processing
“Powering devices like voice assistants, machine translation, and chatbots, natural language processing (NLP) patents have had a 44% Compound Annual Growth Rate over the past five years, now reaching more than 3,000 publications annually.”
NLP is the technology that uses artificial intelligence to manage the interaction between computers and human language. The challenges here involve speech recognition, natural language understanding, and natural-language generation and if you’re impressed by Siri or Alexa, you ain’t seen nothing yet… soon enough, computers will be able to interact with us seamlessly as we do with other people.
Lux say that there were 155 start-ups founded in the last decade that are addressing plastic waste, according to the company’s database. There have been countless “innovations that can convert plastic waste into a variety of valuable products, enabling a circular economy and avoiding pollution.”
Concerns over plastic waste among both consumers and regulators continue to grow and several major companies have committed to increasing their recycle rates and use of recycled materials. The innovations would convert waste into high value products.
“Recent advancements in machine learning capabilities enable developers and operators to extract more value out of sensors; this is an opportunity to create new products and improve internal processes by generating deeper insights off existing hardware,” says Cole McCollum.
Now sensors of all kinds can provide impactful insights when coupled with AI and machine learning. This will make all kinds of changes to robotics in general and the way that machines are able to analyse the world around them.
My personal favourite on the list, although only 8th on Lux‘s list, has got to be the emergence of alternative proteins. Not only has demand for plant-based food increased significantly over the last decade, but they also provide an alternative to the “resource-intensive traditional meat industry”. This could be a great solution to one of the leading causes of climate change and also would put an end to the immoral meat industry, while allowing people to enjoy the same taste as and get the same protein from meat.
The explosive growth in the industry is evident in the 112% rise of the Beyond Meat stock prices in 2020.
“Meeting the growing global demand for protein supply sustainably is an urgent concern. Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are showing that there is a massive opportunity to cater to sustainability-minded consumers and to the demand for protein choice in general,” Lux‘s report says.
So 2021 looks like it’s going to be an epic year, and I personally can’t wait to see how each of these innovations make their ways into our lives over time. And, particularly due to the increased focus on tackling the challenge of climate change, it gives me some hope that emerging technologies have the potential to make the world a better place – that is, until these amazing AI machines we’re building turn on us!