2008 In Technology

2008 was a year packed with new technologies, innovations and discoveries – from a new billion-color display to advanced electric cars making their first appearance on the market. In this summary, we have gathered some of the most unique stories covered by TFOT this year in computing, robotics, nanotechnology, renewable energy, defense, transportation and personal electronics.

Computing

SuperSpeed USB 3.0
SuperSpeed USB 3.0

2008 brought with it numerous advances in computer technology, including a new speed record for magnetic memories set by German researchers, a new switch that could allow the internet to become 60 times faster than current networks, developed by scientists at the University of Sydney, and a high speed, close proximity wireless transfer technology called TransferJet currently under development by computing giants such as Sony, Canon, Kodak, Nikon, Pioneer, Toshiba, Samsung and many others.

TFOT followed the development of the new USB 3.0 standard, which will be about 10 times faster than USB 2.0 and is expected to reach the market in 2010. TFOT also covered several display technology related stories including a 6 MegaPixels display developed by the Belgian firm, Barco, a one billion-color display developed by HP, and a 6-D display technology developed at MIT.
 Plastic Logic’s E-Newspaper
Plastic Logic’s E-Newspaper

Storage has also evolved considerably since 2007and we have continued to follow the development of solid state drives including Toshiba’s new 256GB SSD, ioSAN’s superfast (and super expensive) SSD, as well as a look into the future of the SSD market. In addition to the SSD market, TFOT covered several other storage related technologies including the development of new laser hard drives, a new 32GB NAND flash memory developed by Toshiba, and a special SDHC storage card developed by the Taiwanese company A-DATA for Eee-PCs.

Since our extensive look at the future of electronic paper in 2007, TFOT has continued to follow the development of this remarkable technology and in 2008 we looked at several advances in this area including a carbon nano-tube color A4 e-paper developed by Samsung Electronics and Unidym, Plastic Logic’s E-Newspaper concept, and our comprehensive review of the French company Bookeen e-reader – the Cybook Gen3 e-Book.

Gadgets

HTC Touch HD
HTC Touch HD

In 2008 TFOT looked at countless gadgets from across the world. We covered several advanced cell phones (and Pocket PC Phones), such as the HTC S-740 smartphone, the HTC touch diamond, and the more recent HTC Touch HD. We also covered the Samsung Haptic SPH-W4200, the more advanced and finally the Sony Ericsson C905 Cyber-Shot with an 8.1 Megapixel camera. On a lighter note, we also covered a German technology that allows cellular phone users to send and receive scents.

Samsung’s i900 Omnia
Samsung’s i900 Omnia

The micro projector is a gadget that made its first commercial market appearance in late 2008. TFOT previously covered a prototype pocket projector in 2007, developed by the Israeli company Explay. Although Explay’s projector has yet to reach the market, several other pocket projectors are already available including Optoma’s pocket projector and Aiptek’s iPhone sized pocket projector.

Among some of the other gadgets covered by TFOT in 2008 you can find Pandora’s gaming console, Nike+ Sportband, Casio EX-F1 – 60fps Camera and the world’s largest digital picture frame.

Robots

Air-Ray Ballonet
Air-Ray Ballonet

Robots have always had a special place in TFOT and 2008 was no different. We looked at a grasshopper inspired jumping robot developed at the University of Bath in the U.K., a multi-agent autonomous rotorcraft developed at Stanford University and self learning helicopters developed by a team from MIT. TFOT also covered several robotic rovers developed for a variety of tasks including Scarab, the autonomous lunar rover developed at Carnegie Mellon, the iRobot Negotiator developed by the iRobot Corporation, and SnowMote – the robotic arctic explorer developed by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

 Self Learning Helicopters
Self Learning Helicopters

TFOT covered several aquatic robots in 2008. Among these you can find the Seaglider Explorer developed at the University of Washington, the Odyssey IV, hovering underwater robot developed by researchers from MIT and capable of hovering in one place like a helicopter, and the GhostSwimmer spy vehicle developed at the Boston Engineering Corporation. A different type of aquatic robot is the amphibious snake-like robot developed at the Hirose-Fukushima Robotics Lab in Japan, which moves in the water just like a real, flesh and blood snake.

In 2007 TFOT covered a unique robotic arm and an advanced robotic air-ray ballonet, both developed by the (highly innovative) German company Festo. In 2008 TFOT covered two new robotic creations from Festo – the robotic flying jellyfish and the Airacuda – artificial fish, both demonstrating magnificent animal-like movement in water.

Nanotechnology

Super Strong Antimicrobial Coatings
Super Strong Antimicrobial Coatings

In 2008 TFOT covered many nanotech and advanced materials stories. We looked at the development of super strong antimicrobial coatings by a team from the Auburn University in Alabama, which could have a range of applications in home appliances, medicine, aerospace, and national defense. Another super material we covered is a new ‘super paper‘, said to be stronger than cast iron, which was developed by a group of researchers in Sweden and Japan.

More recently we looked at a Chinese flexible, transparent nanotube-based loudspeakers technology that could have interesting applications in the display market and potentially reduce the size of speakers in mobile devices in the future. Another nanotube related story published by TFOT in July introduced a chemical detector made out of carbon naotubes, developed by researchers from the Rice University.

Green Technology

 Giant Rubber Snakes
Giant Rubber Snakes

The energy crisis led to renewed interest in green technologies. During 2008 we covered many advanced solar cell technologies including a flexible nanoantenna which can capture abundant solar energy, developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory, as well as a new way to improve solar cells by adding imperfections which could allow for reduced cost and better power conversion. We also looked at a new type of bendy solar cells developed by researchers at the A*STAR Institute of Microelectronics in Singapore, a new method which could double the efficiency of solar cells, developed at the University of Washington, and more recently better plastic solar cells under development at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, in Switzerland.

We also covered several other renewable energy technologies in 2008 including “giant rubber snakes” that could harness the power of waves, developed by researchers at the University of Southampton and dubbed “Anaconda”. In October, we looked at hydrogen-producing bacteria which could provide a clean energy source and is currently under development at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and North Carolina State University (NC State). We also looked at an improved way for creating hydrogen using a special cobalt phosphate catalyst developed by researchers at MIT. A further advancement in the field of hydrogen production was achieved by researchers at Argonne National Laboratory in the US and Kingston Process Metallurgy (KPM) in Canada, who developed a new process for Extracting hydrogen from unrefined oil.
 Honda Insight
Honda Insight

In 2008, we also looked at many green cars, including the futuristic fuel cell based Honda FC sport and the more “conventional” hybrid Honda Insight. Many other companies have also unveiled future green models including General Motors’ Chevrolet Volt, which is scheduled to be launched in 2010, and Chrysler’s hybrid Jeep Renegade concept.

Many fully electric vehicles were also covered by TFOT in 2008 including Milner Motors’ ElectriCar, the Norwegian TH!NK Ox and the U.S. super electric sports car – the Tesla Roadster, which apparently still needs some work.

Transportation

 GEN H-4 – Personal Helicopter
GEN H-4 – Personal Helicopter

Aside from green cars we also covered several other advanced vehicles and transportation technologies in 2008. Among other topics, we looked at the fastest bullet train in Japan, a new Hyper-Sub Powerboat and the Triton 1000 Personal Sub.

We also covered some innovative flying vehicles including the GEN H-4 – Personal Helicopter, the Individual Lifting Vehicle, the L15 –Autonomous Airship, and the Velocity Aircraft, developed by a Florida based company as a DIY personal aircraft.
We covered several safety related topics in 2008 including Ford’s blind spot mirror, Audi’s new supercomputer being used to improve the safety of the company’s future cars, Nissan’s upcoming Collision Free technology, and finally the European Commission’s decision to dedicate a frequency for smart vehicle communications systems developed to reduce car accidents.

Defense and Security

Hummingbird UAV
Hummingbird UAV

Although 2008 didn’t make the world a safer place to live in, some defense and security related technologies covered by TFOT this year might. We looked at a new camera under development in the U.K., which can literally ‘see’ under clothes, as well as a portable plastic explosives detector developed by the Maryland based company RedXDefense of Rockville. Another surveillance related technology covered by TFOT is SpyFinder, which was developed by C&C Technology as a personal gadget used to detect and locate possible hidden cameras.

 Airborne Laser
Airborne Laser

We examined many unmanned vehicles including the Stingray Project developed by the US Army Tank-Automotive Research, and the Yamaha’s Terrascout autonomous vehicle. In 2008 we covered over half a dozen different unmanned flying vehicles including the Voyeur – autonomous UAV developed by Lite Machines Corp, the Excalibur – armed UAV project, the U.S. Coast Guard upcoming new UAVs and the United States Special Operations Command’s new Hummingbird UAVs.

We also covered some advanced defense and military related technologies including DARPA’s future super scope, the latest Airborne Laser Fire Control Test conducted by Lockheed Martin at the Edwards Air Force Base in California, as well as the destruction of the rouge satellite by a missile fired from the U.S. Navy AEGIS warship in February.
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About the author

Iddo Genuth

Iddo has a B.A. in Philosophy and Cognitive Science and an M.A. in Philosophy of Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is currently writing his Ph.D. thesis on the relationship between the scientific community and industry. Iddo was awarded the 2006 Bar Hillel philosophy of science prize for his work on the relationship between science and technology. He is a member of the board of the lifeboat foundation and was the editor of several high-profile science and technology websites since 1999.

View all articles by Iddo Genuth