Fourth Industrial Revolution

7 technologies turning science fiction into fact

Alice Hazelton
Programme Lead, Science and Society, World Economic Forum Geneva
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Fourth Industrial Revolution

1. Scientists have recently developed an acoustic hologram, which uses ultrasound to move objects around – drawing comparisons to the “tractor beam” from Star Wars. Rather than sucking in space ships, the technology could one day be used to operate microsurgical instruments and to directly target drugs to damaged tissues, without having to venture inside the body.

2. Invisibility cloaks are no longer just for Harry Potter. By manipulating certain wavelengths of light, scientists have shown how objects can be rendered invisible. Here, scientist Che Ting Chanshows how to make objects disappear at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions.

3. Printable body organs sound like far-fetched science fiction. Yet as 3D printing becomes faster, easier to use and able to handle multiple materials, its applications are mounting. The first 3D printed drug was approved by the FDA this year and researchers are continuing to experiment with printing complex living materials, such as liver tissue.

4. What if we could defy gravity? A flying frog, or levitating frog to be precise, was the last thing that Professor Sir Andre Geim’s colleagues expected to see in his lab, but an experiment revealed the unexpected power of water’s magnetism. Geim, who jointly won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for the co-discovery of graphene, was the first to show magnetic levitation of a living organism and the first to hold both a Nobel Prize and Ig Nobel prize (for  experiments that “first make people laugh, and then make them think.”)

5. Bringing back the dead is not just the aim of twisted scientists in Jurassic Park. Since the genome of the woolly mammoth (which has been extinct for about 10,000 years) was decoded, scientists have been exploring the possibility of using genetic information to recreate extinct animals. No need to worry about a rampaging T-Rex, though. In plant biology, researchers are looking to resurrect plants to rethink approaches to global food security in the face of drought.

6. Vampires remain immortal by drinking blood. It might sound ghoulish, but scientists are investigating how giving old people infusions of young blood could halt the ageing process. Here, Saul Villeda from the University of California San Francisco explains how this breakthrough works.

7. Talking holograms need no longer be confined to Star Trek. Here, Microsoft unveils its Hololens headset, turning advanced virtual reality into reality.

Author: Alice Hazelton, Programme Specialist, Science, World Economic Forum

Image: The Microsoft HoloLens

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Fourth Industrial RevolutionEmerging Technologies
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