10 techs for '17
The 10 breakthrough technologies of 2017? Well, they will affect the economy and politics, improve medicine, or influence culture. Some of them are happening right now, while others may take a decade or even longer to develop. But the MIT Technology Review thinks we should know about all of them immediately. So, look out for paying with your face, those hot solar cells and a touch of reinforcement learning.
Face recognition technology is expanding quickly in China. Start-up Face++ has built a solution which has already been deployed in a number of apps. It's possible to transfer money through mobile payment platform Alipay using just your face as credentials. Leading ride-hailing outfit Didi has deployed Face++ software to confirm to riders that the person behind the wheel is a legit driver. And Face++ help users of dating site Jiayuan.com find faces they like the look of to improve matching rates.
And there are hot solar cells. MIT scientists have been working on turning sunlight into heat and converting it back into light focused within the spectrum cells can use. And the resultant device is the first to absorb more energy than its photovoltaic cell alone. And because heat is easier to store than electricity, it should be possible to divert excess amounts generated by the gear to a thermal storage system to produce electricity even when the sun don’t shine.
Plus something called reinforcement learning may be able to inject greater intelligence into all manner of items. That means self-driving cars can get much better at driving by practising (and not by getting an algorithm upgrade), while a robot will be able to grasp objects it has never even seen before. The technology is how AlphaGo, developed by DeepMind, mastered the complex board game Go and last year beat one of the world’s top players.