This is it, you guys. We are in the future. And while we might not have hoverboards (thanks for getting our hopes up, Tony Hawk, you jerk) there is a lot to be excited about. These are the concepts that keep us believing.
1. High speed travel
Saying the Hyperloop is a bold concept is just a little bit of an understatement. Once upon a time (2010, to be exact), Elon Musk (PayPal, Telsa, SpaceX, SolarCity, possibly even Skynet — watch this space) was thoroughly disappointed by California's High Speed rail announcement.
"How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL – doing incredible things like indexing all the world’s knowledge and putting rovers on Mars – would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world?" he lamented.
So like all eccentric comic characters with a background in science and a firm grasp on reality, he set about building a concept for a high speed transportation system that would be the next best thing to teleportation. Hyperloop is designed to meet a number of requirements outlined by Musk — namely safety, speed, affordability, convenience, immunity to adverse weather conditions, self powering via solar energy, non disruptive and earthquake impact proof.
With a theoretical top speed of just over 1,200km per hour, in Musk's future we will be travelling in capsules, through a tube system — on a cushion of supersonic air. Kind of like an old-school mail tube, with some electromagnets to relieve friction, but hopefully more comfortable.
One of the most beautiful and exciting things about this at-a-glace ridiculous concept is that it is actually entirely possible. And while it'll be another ten years at an approximate cost of $6 billion (at least — this is Musk's own estimates we are working with here) until Hyperloop is in operation, a test may be on the horizon.
Will be building a Hyperloop test track for companies and student teams to test out their pods. Most likely in Texas.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 15, 2015
You know what else is awesome and a bit closer to becoming a reality for commuters? Oh, just the the Maglev Bullet Train, nothing much.
So how does it do it? The clue is in the name.
The Maglev is another concept that was born in 2010 (was there something in the air?) that has now not only made it to test stage, but is shattering world records. Speeds of 581km/h were recorded in April, making it already faster than the world’s fastest conventional wheeled train (which reached a top speed of 571km/h back in 2007).
Passengers won't get to travel that fast, though. The company behind this feat, Central Japan Railway Co, say once the service is operational the speed will be capped at 505km/h. That's still a casual 440km/h faster than the average interstate train speed here in Australia. One day! *shakes fist at sky*
2. Self Driving Cars
This concept is firmly in the "THE FUTURE IS HERE, NOW" category.
That Elon Musk is at it again, with a recent announcement Tesla's self driving cars will be on roads in a matter of months. This comes on the back of news from Google that there have been only 11 accidents in 6 years of testing, and "Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident". That should make insurance companies relax a little, right?
The real exciting advancements here are revealed when you look a little closer. NVIDIA's Drive PX is a computer described as "designed to slip the power of deep neural networks into real-world cars". Yep.
It's being shipped off to manufacturers of self driving cars to give them the ability to train the on-board computers to actually understand the environment detected by sensors, and react accordingly. This process is continually updated.
Basically this means your self-driving car has the ability to learn. Now, remember, this is exciting, not terrifying. EXCITING. (we need to whisper it can probably hear us)
What's not to love about supermaterials? Seriously, liquid metal man is a thing and he is real.
Okay, maybe we are not quite there yet but we do have materials that can heal themselves via a kind of clotting vascular system similar enough to our own to be supremely creepy, right now, existing on the same planet as us. Whilst still in the ludicrously expensive stage of development, applications from medical to structural are being looked at.
A car that can repair itself after some tool in a car park "accidentally" smashes into it? Sign me up.
Other developments include Aerogels, gels that can blasted with a blowtorch and metamaterials that retract light making things invisible. And that's not even mentioning the advancements that have been made with renewable energy.
4. Renewable energy
We've had world records for solar cell efficiency sitting at 46% for some time now, 22% of energy is created through renewables, and yet affordability has been holding us back.
For a while there the golden age of solar in Australian homes was at its peak. Decent rates for excess power generated by rooftop solar fed back into the electricity grid were being offered, which reduced the total payback period of a system significantly, but these were gradually reduced and limits were put in place for the size of the system you could install.
Cells themselves are expensive to produce, although they are becoming cheaper and this may change rather drastically with the help of another of our favourite supermaterials, perovskites.
Tesla is tackling the problem of affordability from another angle — by increasing the storage capacity of generated energy through the creation of Powerwall. Capable of storing 10 kilowatt hours of energy, this means a reduction in both wasted energy and the size of the solar power system required.
Oh, and let's not forget that we have planes in the air thanks to solar right as we speak.
5. Infotainment systems
Now if all of this seems a little heavy, let's take a look at how we'll be relaxing in the future. In our cars, that is.
We've come a long way from the days of letting this guy push up our insurance premiums with excessive DVD players.
Apple CarPlay is already here, allowing us to use our iOS devices on the move (without taking our eyes off the road) for everything from scoping out pit stops on a long road trip, finding accommodation, navigating through national parks as well the usual answering calls, playing music and responding to messages.
In terms of excitement for the future on in-car infotainment, Android Auto is firmly on our radar.
Able to be controlled by your steering wheel, it uses the simplified "cards" system for minimal distraction.
As these two go head to head in this field it's only good news for us. The future of voice automated around-the-clock connected systems syncing across multiple devices monitoring every aspect of our lives will soon mean we don't even have to think for ourselves anymore.
Which means we can have room to ponder the future. And why we don't have teleportation yet.