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Will Robots Make Good Caregivers?

An EU-funded program, called the GiraffPlus Project, uses robotics to help elderly people who want to remain at home. The GiraffPlus robot is part of a system that includes environmental and physiological sensors, which feed back information about the inhabitants' movements and health. A recent Pew Research poll revealed that 65% of respondents thought it would be a change for the worse if lifelike robots become the primary caregivers for the elderly and people in poor health.

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Will Self-Driven Cars Improve Road Safety?

Using autonomous technology, Google has also been testing its self-driven robotic cars near the company's Silicon Valley headquarters. The vehicles are equipped with navigation software, like Google Maps, and other sensors to avoid obstacles and unexpected events. The cars' technology also features a laser radar system and a laser-based range finder that enables detailed 3D maps of surroundings.

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Will 'Lab Food' Change The Way We Eat?

In an effort to alleviate food shortages and leave a lighter footprint, some biotechnology startups have begun developing alternative food products. Hampton Creek Foods, for example, has received $30 million in funding to create a plant-based substitute for eggs. Beyond Meat, another biotech food producer, heats, cools, and pressures plant protein from soy and peas so that it resembles meat tissue. In 2013, similarly, a hamburger was made from cow muscle grown in a lab — at a cost of $325,000.

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Will ‘Contact-Lens Computing’ Become Mainstream Within Five Years?

A recent report from Skyscanner, a UK-based metasearch site, predicts that ”Wearable technology will evolve from the recently launched Google Glass to a mobile device so small that it will fit onto a contact lens and can provide immediate translations, breaking down language barriers.” Dr. Ian Yeoman, associate professor of Tourism Futures at Victoria University of Wellington, similarly said: “Within five years, everything that Google Glass can do now will be available on a contact lens.”

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Will Jetpacks Take Flight?

The New Zealand-based Martin Aircraft Company has developed a commercially viable jetpack. The Martin Jetpack contains two cylinders with propulsion fans attached to a carbon-fiber frame. A strapped-in pilot uses two joysticks to control the wingless pack. The company aims to have the jetpack available for commercial flight sometime in 2014 if manned flight testing produces favorable results. Although the cost ($150,000) may be expensive for a personal vehicle, the Martin Jetpack could also be useful to emergency response and search-and-rescue teams.

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Will "Flying Cars" Become a Reality?

A Boston-based aerospace company Terrafugia announced last year that it began work on its TF-6, a four-seat hybrid electric car that can do vertical take-offs and landings. The vehicle has foldable wings, cruises at 100 miles per hour, fits inside a single-car garage, and drives at highway speeds. With the new prototype, Terrafugia believes that users can learn to operate the TF-X in just five hours. Users will have to learn how to interface with the vehicle; how to determine if it's safe to take off and land; and when to activate the vehicle's parachute system in the event of an emergency.

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In The Near Future, Will 3D Printers Be Used To Create Human Organs?

3D printers, an emerging technology, use computer-created digital models to produce a variety of objects, including toys, mechanical components, and even food. There is hope now, too, that 3D printers could someday create much-needed organs for transplants. Printing human organs is still years away, but many medical professionals are optimistic and see great promise with the technology. A major challenge will be the ability to create the material, which is biological in nature.

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