Getty
Show Hide image

The best new technologies (probably) arriving in 2017

Spoiler alert.

In 1956, during the General Motors Motorama exhibit, a short film aired suggesting that the world would have driverless cars by 1976. Inexplicably, everyone also sings. Those of us who are still waiting to get our hands on these hands off cars might scoff at the video, which teaches us all about the dangers of making unfounded predictions about the future.

But, hey, let’s do it anyway! Here are the best technologies that maybe/possibly/hopefully will be arriving in 2017.

Robot chefs

If we ignore the part about robots dooming us all by forcing us into unemployment, the idea of a robot kitchen assistant is a dream come true. A year and a half ago, Moley Robotics said their robot hands would launch in 2017, claiming they would be able to cook 2000 meals at the push of a button. Whilst the undoubtedly expensive equipment won’t be one for all of us next year, the robot hands pave the way for a future where you might never have to stir your boyfriend’s beans again.

Google’s modular phone

Project Ara is Google’s attempt to stop us all buying a new iPhone every six months. The modular phone will allow users to slot in and out different parts of the device (such as cameras and speakers), meaning when phone technology improves you can simply swap in a new module rather than buy a whole new phone. The Ara phone has been delayed before, but Google hope it will be on the market in 2017.

Virtual touch

Electrovibration technology is seen as the way forward in allowing us to really “touch” the stuff on our touch screens. The tech will hopefully allow us to feel different textures, which could potentially help amputees and the blind, whilst also improving everything from gaming to online shopping.

Instant charging

The technology to improve batteries has been around for a while, with StoreDot unveiling their prototype fast-charging battery way back in 2014. Whilst battery life has been threatened by ever-slimming phones, there’s no reason that instantly-chargeable batteries shouldn’t be on the market soon. Get the hint, yeah, Apple?

The male “pill”

Research into male contraception is still ongoing 55 years after the pill was introduced in the UK (for the reason why, see: patriarchy). Nonetheless, there have been significant breakthroughs in the last few years, with RISUG and Vasalgel – both contraceptive injections – currently undergoing clinical trials.

The Moon Express

Whilst commercial trips to the moon may be another few years off, the first private company has permission to land on the moon in 2017. The Moon Express will launch its lunar landing next year, with permission from the US Government.

Fully waterproof iPhones

Though the iPhone 7 is partially waterproof (and for that we sacrificed our beloved headphone jack), fully waterproof iPhones are not yet widely available. With both the technology and the consumer demand available, 2017 will hopefully become the year that you can start keeping your phone in your back pocket again. (Bonus: Samsung also might release a phone you can fold.)

The e-shower

Speaking of water, the Hamwell’s e-shower could potentially help alleviate the world’s water crisis. The shower will recycle the water you’re using in real time, meaning you use a much smaller amount, and is commercially available next year. The water is caught in a tray, filtered with UV light, and then poured back over your head. Trust us, your great grandchildren will thank you.

Fake news detectors

With “fake news” being the hottest two words of the moment, it seems unlikely that the furore around the stuff won’t lead to practical solutions. Facebook are already said to be developing solutions, whilst various organisations are attempting to roll out real-time fact-checking. Could we live in a future where it’s impossible for politicians to lie? Well, no, but at least we'll get better at telling when they're doing it.

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The internet dictionary: what is astroturfing?

Yes, like the fake grass.

Thanks to the internet, there are a lot of new words. You’re most likely up to speed with your LOLs and OMGs, which became Oxford English Dictionary-worthy in 2011 (LOL OMG if you’re not). But words emerge constantly, and it can be hard to keep track of them. This is what this column is for. Every week, I’ll define a word that is crucial to understanding the internet, starting with “astroturfing” – like the fake grass.

To astroturf is to mask the author of a message to make it appear to have come from the grass roots. Messages created by brands, politicians and even the military are disguised as comments made by the public. The practice existed before the web – the term is thought to have been coined in 1985 by a US senator who received a “mountain” of letters from insurance companies posing as the public – but the internet has propelled it to new, disturbing heights.

“GIRLS U NEED TO READ THIS,” reads a tweet by a handsome teenage boy named Ashton, who tweets the same words day after day, followed by crying and heart emojis. Ashton lives to promote the book of a 19-year-old self-published author from Sheffield – or, at least, he would, if he lived at all. Ashton is fake, a profile designed to make the book seem popular. Many teenage girls have been duped by this. One told me: “I felt very cheated out of my money and my time.”

It has been estimated that a third of all consumer reviews online are fake. But it doesn’t end with bad books. In China, the “50 Cent Army” are astroturfers who are allegedly paid a small fee for each positive post they write about the Chinese Communist Party. And in 2011, it emerged that the US military was developing an “online persona management service” to spread pro-American messages, allowing one person to manage multiple online identities.

We would be foolish to assume that our own democracy is immune. Much was written about how the Tories used targeted social media adverts at the last election, and it is easy to see how astroturfing could transform our political landscape for ever. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 10 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, France’s new Napoleon