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The best new technologies (probably) arriving in 2016

We sort the fluff from the futuristic. 

Predicting successful new technologies is a risky business - for every iPad or lightbulb, there's also a portable travel hammock or an Apple Newton. With that caveat in mind, we've collected together a list of the technologies that we think will make a splash next year, and even, in a few cases, change the way we live. 

Solar panel phone screens

I've been predicting that these will be A Big Deal for over a year, and have partly included them because I just think they're really cool. But as with many new technologies, several sets of researchers are currently working to make transparent solar panels better and cheaper, which means that next year could be the year consumers finally get hold of them. Once on the market, they could invisibly collect solar power on phone and computer screens, and even on windows. 

A robot to schedule your meetings

Artificial Intelligence still can't have a totally convincing chat with us, but it's now sophisticated enough to carry out online customer service, and, as it turns out, be your personal assistant. New app x.ai lets you email "Amy" about a meeting you want to set up, and she liases with you and the other person to find a time that works. 

Control your computer using gestures 

Earlier this year, Apple patented a motion-sensor technology that would let you control your computer by just moving your hands in the air. The technology has been around for a while - HP's Leap Motion laptop was launched in 2012 - but as we spend more and more time in front of computers, it's growing ever more appealling. RIP RSI. 

A hotel in space 

Russian company Orbital Technologies reckons it'll be sending tourists into space as early as next year. Guests would zoom up to the Commercial Space Station on a rocket, then spend their time in one of the station's four cabins enjoying zero gravity and watching earth through the ship's giant portholes. And this is only the beginning: Mashable has totted up nine commercial companies planning to send normal people into space over the next decade or so. 

Self-driving cars

Google's self-driving car. Image: Getty.

Yes, they've been around for ages, but now we have on-the-road testing and the beginnings of a legislative framework for the cars, they could soon be an everyday reality. Google has announced it's teaming up with Ford to build self-driving vehicles, hinting at large-scale commercial production in the near future. 

...and cars that make you better at driving 

Audi's Q7 SUV. Image: Audi.

While self-driving cars are grabbing the headlines, ordinary cars are also stepping up their game. Tesla's latest in-car software offers a hands-free autopilot mode, while Audi's Q7 SUV will also brake on behalf of the driver and nudge you back into the correct lane. This type of gradual automation may make fully self-driving cars an easier sell in the long run. 

The suncream pill 

Fish and coral both excrete a compound that protects them from the sun, and for the past five years or so scientists have been working to use these substances in a pill which, when consumed by humans, would offer the same protection. If it works, it could cut rates of sunburn and skin cancer, and spare you from endless bouts of greasy reapplication. 

An end to language barriers

Messaging and voice call service Skype recently released a live translation tool, Japan is trialling a live translation megaphone to use during the 2020 Olympics, and Google's Translate app translates street signs and real-time conversations. It looks like technology may finally be breaking down the final barrier in worldwide communication. 

Zero-carbon fuel made of carbon dioxide 

Improbable as it sounds, a few different companies have developed working prototypes which turn carbon dioxide into a fuel. All rely on sucking CO2 out of the air, then converting it into a diesel fuel, which, amazingly, emits no carbon when burned.

Barbara Speed is comment editor at the i, and was technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman, and a staff writer at CityMetric.

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Job opportunity at the New Statesman: Tech and digital culture writer

The New Statesman is looking for a new staff writer for its award-winning website.

The New Statesman is looking for a digital culture and technology writer to join its team.

This is a full-time paid job based in our office in London, with a salary to be determined depending on experience.

This junior role would suit someone near the start of their career, who is comfortable with both news and features writing. Experience in online journalism, and demonstrable passion for digital culture and technology, are essential - as is the ability to work as part of a small, expanding team, often independently.

The ideal candidate will:

  • Have a flair for writing in a way that both entertains and brings out the wider significance of new cultural and technological trends
  • Have the ability to find and report unusual and interesting stories, and get to the heart of the big themes in how we live our lives online
  • Demonstrate the ability to assimilate new, unfamiliar topics at speed
  • Be immersed in internet culture
  • Be familiar with different ways to make your stories appeal to audiences on a variety of platforms, from social media to the New Statesman homepage.
  • Be familiar with how to use a web content management system
  • Be able to use image editing software like Photoshop (though this is not essential)

Please send an application with a CV and a covering letter to India.Bourke@newstatesman.co.uk by 5pm on the 29 March 2018, with the subject line “NS job application”. Interviews will be held in early April.

As part of your covering letter, please include a short article of between 500 and 900 words that either reveals an aspect of digital culture we won’t have heard of, or astonishes us with a fresh take on something we thought we understood.

NB Applications which do not follow this outline will not be considered.