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Will seaplanes take flight?

This week's Question: As global air traffic increases and airports expand, researchers from Imperial College London's Department of Aeronautics have developed a design concept for a medium to long-range seaplane. The proposed design, the Imperial College team says, may reduce the pressure on inland airports, lower noise pollution, and the halt the need for extensive infrastructure. The design has a V-shape hull, inspired by the flying boat aircraft the 1940s. The hull provides buoyancy and navigability as the plane lands and take off from the water. The team says their concept seaplane design would have the capacity to carry up to 2000 passengers at a time. In an interview with CNN, Dr. Errikos Levis, a researcher in the Department of Aeronautics at Imperial College London, said he doesn't believe seaplanes would replace land planes or match their current fuel efficiency, and it would take a decade for the design to become a reality. What do you think? Will seaplanes take flight?

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Would you implant a technology under your skin?

This week's Question: During a speech at last week's Sensors Expo in Long Beach, California, keynote speaker and NewDealDesign technology designer Gadi Amit explained a new concept that he believes could be the next step in wearable technology. The idea, Project Underskin, is an implantable device that places a display within your palm. Powered by the body's electro-chemical energy, the proposed technology would enable the control of your various wearable devices. Specific quadrants of the device, for example, could act as a glucose sensor, a door opener, a payment confirmation, a data transfer, or a display of your emotional state. Amit imagines that the concept is five to ten years away from reality. What do you think? Would you implant a technology under your skin?

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Will robots hurt the job market?

This week's Question: In a cover article in this month's issue of The Harvard Business Review, two researchers suggest strategies for remaining gainfully employed in an age of robotics and smarter machines. Although the authors concede the advance of automation, editor at large Julia Kirby and Babson College professor Thomas H. Davenport write that machines will increase possibilities for employment and that “the threat of automation” could be reframed as an “opportunity for augmentation." The authors provide examples of opportunities for humans to collaborate with machines, including big-data drug discovery, precision agriculture, design work, and elder care. Machines and computers, however, already perform tasks formerly done by humans, including factory sorting, manufacturing, and even journalism. What do you think? Will robots hurt the job market?

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Will Hyperloops replace trains?

According to the Navigant Research firm, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies has made a deal with central California landowners to build the world's first Hyperloop. The 5-mile test track will be built along California's Interstate 5. The Hyperloop, brought up in 2014 by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, would hypothetically enable passengers to travel in suspended pods through low-pressure tubes at more than 750 miles per hour. Supporters say the Hyperloop has the potential to be a faster, cheaper, and more energy-efficient form of travel than planes, trains, or buses. It is not yet known, however, if the technology is feasible or safe. What do you think? Will Hyperloops replace trains?

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Will iris detection become a mainstream smartphone feature?

This week's Question: The Fujitsu Arrows NX F-04G, a new smartphone set for release in Japan, comes with a built-in retinal scanner that can be used for a variety of different functions, including unlocking the device, accessing apps, and making mobile payments. A front-facing infrared camera and an infrared LED light illuminate the user's eyes, verifying his or her unique iris pattern. Although the technology is currently only available in Japan, bigger companies like Samsung are also working on iris-detecting smartphones. What do you think? Will iris detection become a mainstream smartphone feature?

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Will robo-pets catch on?

This week's Question: In a study in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, Australian researcher Jean-Loup Raul predicts that robotic and virtual-reality pets will grow in popularity as urban populations expand. “It might sound surreal for us to have robotic or virtual pets, but it could be totally normal for the next generation,” Dr. Jean-Loup Rault said in a written statement. “It’s not a question of centuries from now. If 10 billion human beings live on the planet in 2050 as predicted, it’s likely to occur sooner than we think." What do you think? Will robo-pets catch on?

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Will "smart city" lighting efforts pay off?

This week's Question: At this year's Mobile World Congress in Spain, Sierra Wireless and Philips CityTouch demonstrated "smart city" lighting capabilities. The companies' systems connect a city's individual street lights to the Internet via 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. The "smart" technology allows authorities to create customized lighting patterns and adjust the lamps for specific weather conditions or neighborhood needs. With "smart city" designs, users will potentially gain a clearer picture of a city’s lighting infrastructure, access real-time data on energy consumption, and receive automatic failure notifications, ultimately reducing costs in both energy and maintenance. To achieve this type of connected city, however, a common set of standards must enable interoperability so that every application can communicate and share data. Security levels, too, must be maintained. What do you think? Will "smart city" lighting efforts pay off?

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