Top Tech of 2012

Released: 22-Dec-2011 3:40 PM EST
Source Newsroom: IEEE Spectrum Magazine
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Newswise — Retinal Prostheses: Implantable chips will apply a grid of photosensors to the optic nerve, giving blind people a form of vision.

LED Lighting: Super-efficient, affordable bulbs based on the Philips L Prize winner and other designs will replace incandescents and, in many cases, compact fluorescent lamps.

Windows 8: Microsoft has so far been sidelined by the industry-wide move to mobile platforms, such as smart phones and tablets. This new operating system is the Redmond, Wash., company's last, best hope to turn things around.

Chinese Supercomputers: For the first time China is building world-class supercomputers based on home-grown processor chips, and experts say this could be the beginning of that country's push into the highest-tech regions of high tech.

3-D Printing: This idea, which began as a tool for designers and evolved into a toy for hobbyists, is now maturing into a new, one-off kind of fabrication, one that will find its way into routine manufacturing as well as the production of spare parts.

Plug-ins Proliferate: This will be the year in which plug-in gas-electric hybrid cars go from curiosity to mainstay, as the number of manufacturers offering models rises and the market for their wares matures.

EV Charging Stations: A fast-charging infrastructure, partly based on super-powerful direct current, will begin to service pure-electric vehicles, thus allaying drivers' "range anxiety."

3-D Chips: A long-anticipated foray into the third dimension will turn flat chips into thick cubes, increasing the density of elements in integrated circuits in an entirely new way and thus giving Moore's Law a new lease on life.

Extreme UV Lithography: This is the year of decision for an expensive chip-fabrication technology that uses hard-to-handle extreme ultraviolet light to draw finer-than-ever features on silicon chips. Whether EUV lithography succeeds or fails, the result will be of critical importance to the industry.

Private Spacecraft: Millionaires are doing what government cannot--they are creating companies that will take people and cargo into space at a fraction of the cost of NASA launches.
Exoskeletons for Paraplegics: People who have suffered from spinal-cord injuries will for the first time strap themselves into robotic exoskeletons. Initially, these machines will help rehabilitate patients; later, the exoskeletons will take them where their own legs cannot.

4G Networks: Smart phones and other mobile platforms will carry real-time video and do other network duties with a zip never before seen, thanks to this new and very capacious wireless standard.

Grid-level Batteries: As the electric power distribution system--the grid--comes to depend on variable sources of energy, such as the wind and the sun, it will increasingly smooth out the power by using enormous battery stations.

Another Earth: New telescopes and instrumentation will guide astronomers to hundreds of planets orbiting foreign stars and will reveal candidate planets of a size, composition, and temperature suitable for life as we know it.


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