[Editor's Note: This column appeared in Michael A. Robinson's Era of Radical Change newsletter last week. For more insights into the latest tech innovations, click here and let Michael introduce you to the Era of Radical Change. Enjoy.]
Over the last several months, I've written about a number of new technology trends reshaping the world around us, with an eye toward how to profit from them.
As it turns out, I've barely scratched the surface…
You see, almost every day in the Era of Radical Change, we get some exciting breakthroughs with huge potential. Each week, I learn about dozens of new advances, personally. Sometimes that leaves me frustrated, because I just don't have the time and space to get them all in print to you. But I hate to see these great ideas and incredible developments go above notice.
That's why today I'm launching a new feature I think you'll find intriguing…
Called Fascinations of the Month, this recurring column will arrive at the end of each month and cover several shorter items in less depth. I believe they will expand your knowledge of cutting-edge high tech and give you something fascinating to tell your neighbors about.
And you just never know; you may pick up an investment idea or two along the way.
Here are our first Fascinations of the Month…
Voyager 1 is About to Leave Solar System
Many of you recall that the Voyager 1 is a robotic space probe traveling through the solar system. NASA says the little probe was built to last.
It left earth 35 years ago, sent back the first detailed pictures of Jupiter and Saturn, and has now traveled more than 11 billion miles from earth. That's the farthest any of man-made space craft has ever gone.
Voyager 1 is tasked with locating and studying the boundaries of the Solar System. But the fact is, the probe is about to leave our solar system. No one knows precisely when that will occur, but it could be a matter of only a few days. This means the human race will soon enter uncharted territory.
No human or man-built craft has ever entered deep space. Voyager 1 really is on an "interstellar mission," as NASA likes to say.
But there's more. Its sibling, Voyager 2, is only a couple of billion miles behind. It, too, will continue to chart space and send data back to earth.
Oh, and just in case one (or both) of the ships come across extraterrestrial life while in orbit, they contain greetings for other life forms. On board is a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk that contains sounds and images picked to portray a wide range of life and culture on Earth.
And it turns out that isn't the only big trend involving unmanned space travel…
Air Force Tests Secret Robotic Space Craft
The U.S. Air Force just gave a big boost to the future of unmanned space flight.
I have written in the past about what I've termed the New Space Race. I have focused on private firms that have plans to marry low-priced rockets to advanced robots.
But, federal budget concerns aside, there's no reason the U.S. government shouldn't jump in as well. In fact, it can play a vital role in giving the sector some boosts along the way.
Turns out the Air Force is a big believer in the future of robotic space craft.
On June 16, after 15 months in orbit, the Air Force's unmanned X-37 B landed safely back on earth. That marked the second such flight. A third is planned for later this year.
This most recent mission is shrouded in secrecy, but it has caused quite a buzz on the Web. It has also lead to all sorts of speculation about just what the secrecy is all about.
Having grown up in a military household, I know firsthand how much the Pentagon likes to keep things under wraps.
At this point, I don't think it's useful to guess about the range of tests the Air Force went through while the X-37 B was in orbit. The fact that we can send robotic space craft into orbit and have them land safely back on Earth is the news.
It's also proof that in the Era of Radical Change we will see profound breakthroughs in space travel. These will no doubt rely on unmanned space craft as well as "robonauts" – the term NASA uses to describe robotic astronauts.
These Smart Glasses "See" Your Mood
In early May, I told you about a set of Web-connected eye glasses by Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) that are the wave of the future. They give you access to your phone and e-mail, take photos, send texts, play music, provide walking directions, and much more.
Now, a startup has made spectacles that can sense your mood.
2AI Labs just created the O2Amp glasses. Wear them, and you can read someone's body language based on simple biology. The glasses contain a device that figures out how people will act based on their blood-oxygen levels.
A lens in the glasses magnifies differences in how much oxygen is in the blood just beneath the skin, making veins more visible for the viewer. That enhances the wearer's ability to read the emotions of the people nearby by the color of their skin. The firm says the glasses could be used in gaming, security, and, of course, medicine.
This Online Encyclopedia Writes Its Own Articles
Machine intelligence will be a big growth field for years to come.
With the advent of digital tech, we are swimming in far, far more data than humans can process.
So how do we keep up?
A research arm of the Pentagon has an idea: computers that can write articles that resemble concise Wikipedia profiles. The DoD wants to build machines that can follow global news events and provide analysts with useful summaries in close to real time.
The system gathers information from 40 news sites written in English, Chinese, and Arabic. Later, it will cover hundreds of news sites in all major languages. After that, it'll be linked with an existing TV broadcast monitoring network.
The feds hope to receive a prototype later this year.
Robots That Can Charge Your Devices (and Outsmart You)
A small flying robot will soon be able to charge your cell phone.
So say researchers from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
They invented an airborne wireless robot that hovers over an object so the device's coil can resonate with a magnetic field. The process can send 5.5 watts of power with 35% efficiency.
That's enough juice to power a light bulb with some charge still left. I see real-world uses in the future for charging remote devices likes those placed under water or in space.
Meantime, don't ever agree to play rock, paper, scissors with a new Japanese robotic hand. It will win every single time.
The bot is the brainchild of the Ishikawa Oku Lab at the University of Toyko, and it seems to read your mind.
Armed with high-speed optics, the robot can "see" the shape of your hand in a fraction of a second. And just as quickly it can make the shape that trumps your choice. It all happens so fast you can't tell the robot is waiting for you to commit before it makes the winning move.
You can see a video of it at work here.
For more information on new technology trends, stay tuned for what July brings us.
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About the Author
Michael A. Robinson is a 36-year Silicon Valley veteran and one of the top technology financial analysts working today. That's because, as a consultant, senior adviser, and board member for Silicon Valley venture capital firms, Michael enjoys privileged access to pioneering CEOs, scientists, and high-profile players. And he brings this entire world of Silicon Valley "insiders" right to you...
- He was one of five people involved in early meetings for the $160 billion "cloud" computing phenomenon.
- He was there as Lee Iacocca and Roger Smith, the CEOs of Chrysler and GM, led the robotics revolution that saved the U.S. automotive industry.
- As cyber-security was becoming a focus of national security, Michael was with Dave DeWalt, the CEO of McAfee, right before Intel acquired his company for $7.8 billion.
This all means the entire world is constantly seeking Michael's insight.
In addition to being a regular guest and panelist on CNBC and Fox Business, he is also a Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer and reporter. His first book Overdrawn: The Bailout of American Savings warned people about the coming financial collapse - years before the word "bailout" became a household word.
Silicon Valley defense publications vie for his analysis. He's worked for Defense Media Network and Signal Magazine, as well as The New York Times, American Enterprise, and The Wall Street Journal.
Michael is 100% independent and receives absolutely no compensation from companies he writes about. His ideas are completely his own.
So, it probably goes without saying that you won't ever be left in the dark about breaking innovations, ahead-of-their-time technologies, and breakout companies on the cusp of changing the world once you join this world.