There was a day, in the not-too-distant past, when we needed an envelope and stamp to mail a letter, a theatre to watch movies, and a television to watch the news. We even needed, pray-tell, a wrist watch to tell time, and a camera to take pictures. Those days are gone.
Since the advent of the iPhone in 2007, apps have transformed almost every aspect of our lives, from the way we manage our finances and relationships, to the foods we eat every day. Who would have thought, a decade ago, that the control centers of our lives would be held in the palms of our hands? Not me.
So what’s next? What technologies are set to transform our lives?
The list of candidates is long, from self-driving cars to augmented reality to robotics. However, the merging of science and technology isn’t just transforming society; it may very well transform how well we age.
Since our desire to live longer and better is rising at a feverish pitch, we are increasingly looking to technology to help improve our function, independence and quality of life.
Below are three visionary product categories that may change our lives:
1. The Skin-Tight Robotic Suit
Exoskeletons (think RoboCop) are currently being used to help lift heavy objects in workplaces and on battlefields. They are also utilized as rehabilitation tools for therapy.
People who have been unable to stand for years — whether due to paralysis, stroke or frailty — can now stand without human assistance, aided by the robotic suit. Those who thought they would never walk again, are walking.
This technology is set to transform lives in more ways than we realize. In the not-too-distant future, these bulky bionic skeletons will become skin-tight robotic suits. Many of us will use them to regain our function and independence, while others will use them to improve performance.
These suits are expected to have an immense impact on society, from people with neurological issues to those in uniform. We can expect to see these tools become standard wear in the next 10 years.
2. Wearable Technology
What if you’re not into skin-tight robotic suits? Then wearable technologies are the way to go. From the Apple Watch to the FitBit, wearable technologies are all the rage, and quickly finding their way into our clothing.
De rigueur for professional athletes and personal trainers, wearable technologies are used to monitor performance and vitals, from heart rate to hydration.
Smart shirts, pants and underwear are set to become the healthcare platform of the future, monitoring heart rate, oxygen levels, stability, dehydration, fatigue, perspiration rate and memory. These advanced technologies will also enable your physician, trainer or therapist to provide real-time diagnosis and responses for issues like diabetes or high blood pressure.
Your physicians can also be alerted if your vitals show you may at immediate risk of having a heart attack. The shirt will be your first responder: dialing 911 when needed, then sending an ambulance to you, using a GPS for directions.
What does this mean to you? Better health, greater function and independence, and better quality of life due to real-time personalized care. Maybe the biggest thing for some will be peace of mind.
3. The Smart Pill
Do you remember the 1966 movie, Fantastic Voyage? Based on a story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby, the film is about a submarine crew who were shrunk to a microscopic size, then ventured into the body of an injured scientist to repair the damage to his brain.
Fast forward to 2012. The first e-pill, also know as an ingestible sensor or smart pill, is ingested, reacting with our digestive system to send a message to a skin patch that relays information to a physician in real time.
Currently this technology is focused on two primary functions: wireless patient monitoring and diagnostic imaging. However, this technology will become really exciting when it moves beyond where it is today, allowing physicians to view and respond to what is occurring throughout our body, in real time.
An example of this is the work being done by Scripps Health. They are currently developing nano-sensors to travel in our bloodstream and send messages to a smartphone, alerting us of signs of infection, an impending heart attack or other cardiovascular issues.
Will all of this compress morbidity? Only the future will tell. But you can be assured we are all in for a fantastic voyage over the next few years.
In our youth, few of us would have envisioned transporting documents, videos, pictures and audio files around the world in seconds. Yet, someone did, and since then the world has never been the same.
The visionaries driving change dare to think beyond today. Will wearable technology become the new health platform that may one day save your life? Will the e-pill enable physicians and allied health professions to offer highly precise medical advice and treatment?
Only the future will tell.