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Will these holographic tools, and similar technologies, catch on?

This week's INSIDER story demonstrated a Star Trek-like, human-scale 3D videoconferencing pod  that allows people in different locations to video conference as if they are standing in front of each other.

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Will asteroid-mining missions pay off?

Last week, a space startup called Planetary Resources announced its plan for the future: asteroid mining. With diminishing resources on Earth, the company's founders believe that space offers the next logical frontier. They will use small satellites to scan near-Earth asteroids for rare materials, perhaps gold, platinum, other earth minerals, and even water. A demo mission could fly within two years.

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By 2020, will the majority of consumers use mobile phones instead of cash?

Consumers can currently pay for products with mobile apps, and many tools are available to turn smartphones into mobile cash registers. Sixty-five percent of respondents to a Pew Internet & American Life Project survey say that by 2020 most people will have fully adopted the "mobile wallet."

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Will augmented-reality technology catch on?

On Wednesday, Google previewed an initiative called Project Glass. The company created wrap-around glasses with a clear display that sits above the eye. The wearable-computing technology streams information to the lenses and allows the wearer to send and receive messages through voice commands. A built-in camera can take pictures and record video. A video released weeks ago by the search giant showed a man using the “Google Glasses”: moving through New York City, communicating with friends, navigating with maps, and snapping pictures.

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Will 'swap shops' boost electric vehicle ownership?

Some electric car companies have begun to change their ownership models. The French automaker Renault, for example, has reduced its prices under a model that has drivers buy the car, but rent the battery separately. The idea of renting out an electric battery separately has inspired an Israeli company, called Better Place, to start building battery swap stations. Although it will cost consumers more per year, the drivers are guaranteed a good battery all the time. They can automatically get a replacement and avoid the need to recharge, in about the same time it takes to fill up with a tank of gas. The company is building a network of such stations in Israel, Denmark, and later this year in Australia.

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In the near future, will we see a widespread commercial use of autonomous vehicles?

Last week, Google released a video that demonstrated the potential of its self-driving car. The video showed a legally blind man, who after taking the driver seat of one of Google's robotic cars, maneuvered from his home, through neighborhoods, and into a commercial center (including a local Taco Bell!). The car, which features radar, lasers, and cameras, allowed the man to take a ride without touching the steering wheel or pedals.

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Would you enjoy a 'digital detox?'

 A recent event called the "Day of Unplugging" kicked off last week, challenging people to go without their cell phones and technology for 24 hours. The "digital detox" idea encourages everyone to step away from their computers and smartphones. Some people are opposed to the idea and see no need to unplug from anything, while others find the event to be a good way to go outside, nurture one's health, and appreciate the silence.

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