Days of future present

The future is here and it’s slightly terrifying. We present some soon-to-be-released technologies straight out of science fiction.

Swallowable sensors
Whatever the future holds, we’re going to be seeing a lot more sensors; sensors in clothes, sensors in flower-beds and even swallowable sensors, which US company Proteus Digital Health is preparing to trial in the UK. Its tablet sensor helps patients monitor their drug taking in real time by sending a signal to a skin-patch after reaching the stomach. The sensor also communicates information about the efficacy of treatment to doctors, potentially saving lives and money.

Self-driving cars
Google has been banging the drum for its driverless cars for so long they already seem a little old hat. Its automatons look a little bit like the toy cars you pedalled around as a kid, complete with foam bumpers and flexi-windows. The fully electric cars “drive” using laser sensors, radar and camera data, and finished versions will feature a single “stop/go” button. The initial wave of cars will be limited to 25mph and will have plug-in controls to allow drivers to over-ride the self-driving mechanism. Google reckons they may be ready in as little as a year, although they may have to get rid of the goofy face on the front to win over many customers.

Holidays to the Moon
The last person walked on the moon in 1972 but ordinary citizens may be able to go there on holiday from 2017. Space Adventures, a commercial space agency aiming to launch ordinary citizens into the great beyond using Russian spacecraft, is currently working on circumlunar spaceflights. For around £150m a ticket, this historic trip is set to take two thrillseekers and a cosmonaut on a free return trajectory around the far side of the moon. They’ll come within 100km of its surface, losing all contact with mankind. Then they’ll witness the breath-taking sight of the earth rising up above the moon.

Robot friends (or lovers)
The best artificial intelligence out there today is roughly at the level of a nursery school child. It scores brilliantly in maths and vocabulary, but less well in common sense and comprehension. But the technology is progressing at one hell of a rate. Experts generally agree the point of singularity – where artificial intelligence overtakes human intelligence – is around 20 years away, at which point sentient computers may become fully functioning members of society. Until then we have creations like Bina48, a robot programmed to display human characteristics, mannerisms and hold basic conversations. She’s not the most eloquent wordsmith but her flashes of apparent lucidity are quite extraordinary.

The flying car
Many see it as a failure of modernity that we’re well into the 21st century and yet to be buzzing around in flying cars. However, that day could finally be upon us with the SkyRunner. Part all-terrain adventure car, part light aircraft, it has excellent handling on land and perfectly smooth flight in the air thanks to reflex paraglider wing technology. With a parachute and motor, it can reach altitudes of up to 15,000ft.

Amazon drone delivery
Amazon won the prize for best marketing stunt in the lead up to Christmas with the announcement it may one day make deliveries using unmanned “drones”. The Amazon-bots would essentially be load-bearing versions of the Parrot quad-blade drones currently on sale. If you have a small item that absolutely must be delivered in a matter of minutes, the drones sound handy, although their use opens up all kinds of questions about over-crowded airspace and public safety. Still, the idea of drones whizzing overhead on Christmas eve, delivering presents like little mechanical elves, is a vision of the future I can buy into.

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