Best Technology of 2017

10. Solar tiles

Solar roofing times that look like shingles? Powering your house without the help of the electric company? Infinite tile warranty? How does it get any better?!? Well, being more readily available might help, and a tad more affordable, but otherwise this could be a real game changer for helping the world go green as well as affordable expansion around the world.

9. DND while driving

Early in 2017 Apple released an update for the iPhone that should have happened much sooner, the option to put your phone on “do not disturb” while driving. Better yet, your phone can sense when you are driving and prompts you to activate the option. Sure, that means you would have to look at your phone while driving, but it’s the thought that counts, right? As we are, of course, a safety-first group here at Unprofessional Engineering, we fully support the enforced application of DND while driving on all phones. Let’s see if it happens!

8. 3d printing metal

Remember the first time you heard about 3d printing and the endless ideas that popped into your mind about things you’d be able to create? Then remember when you 3d printed something for the first time and the only thing that you could really create is a plastic Yoda head, and that took 3 tries to get right? With the advancements of 3d printing over the years, printing parts out of metal has become a reality, as well as a much more affordable approach to product design and even custom part production. Now for robots to start printing parts to make more robots and take over the world…

7. Generative design

Look how far design optimization has come. Thanks to generative design, you barely have to go to school to make parts lighter than ever before, while still maintaining the necessary strength to get the job done. Simply put, if you know your loading conditions and materials (you can always test a few virtually), your software will do the rest! Even better, with the above mentioned 3d printing of metal, those crazy organic shapes are now able to be manufactured relatively easily.

6. Tesla Model 3

By now you all know that we love us some Elon. He’s like the gift that keeps on giving, whether it is proving power to the destroyed islands of the Caribbean, sending us to Mars or in this case, providing affordable electric cars to the masses! Note, we use the word “masses” pretty loosely, as not a whole lot of the Model 3 are being produced yet. Still, a car starting at $35,000 that can drive more than 200 miles per charge is really impressive. Rumor has it that that Telsa is receiving upwards of 1,800 orders each day, so if you want on the list you better get on it soon!

5. IoT (Internet of Things)

Was the internet of things new to 2017? Nah. Has it become extremely useful? Nope. But is has continued to make strides that are going to be the foundation of huge things to come. Take the Google Assistant, released in April of 2017, as an example. It became the first virtual persona with the ability to differentiate people—as many as six—based on their voices. Imagine the implications this could have in the workplace, for security, and for the impending robot takeover.

4. Kymriah (cells that cure cancer)

We hate cancer. Everyone does. And it seems like finding a cure is taking forever, and that is because cancer cells are tricky. To survive, the cells bypass our immune systems by retaining similarities to healthy cells. But they also have differences. Over the past decade, researchers have targeted these unique traits to re-enlist the body’s department of defense. Immunotherapies train our own systems to detect those distinct variances. This year, that effort took a huge leap: The FDA approved Kymriah, the first human gene-­edited therapy for cancer.

The treatment modifies a patient’s T cells (specialized white blood cells) to add a receptor that locates the malignant ones so the killer T’s can attack them. In trials, 83 percent of patients were in remission after three months. Is it perfect? No, but it is getting us a lot closer. If that doesn’t make you feel good about 2017, I don’t know what will.

3. Robot takeover

We’ve already referenced this a few times, and it’s going to happen. Robots are already building clones of themselves to make it happen. OK, in theory it is supposed to help mankind, but Panda the self-replicating robot arm is a little spooky. Given the right parts, it can piece them together to make more Panda clones. Fortunately for us, it plays well with humans. A collision detection system can tell when a stray arm or finger enters the bot’s workspace, and will promptly stop working when we fragile humans get in the way, reducing workplace disasters. Automation at its finest!

2. NASA Mars Insight

The train to Mars pulls out only once every two years. That’s how often Earth and its neighbor move into alignment for the quickest possible journey from one planet to the other. NASA plans to make good use of the 2018 window, with the planned launch in May of the Mars InSight lander, which, as its name suggests, will give scientists their best look ever at the interior of the Red Planet. (The InSight was initially slated to launch in ’16, but glitches in its seismograph system led to delays.) Unlike Curiosity and other Mars rovers, this craft will stay in one place. But with good reason: it will hammer a probe more than 16 ft. into the Martian surface to study the planet’s thermal history—in effect, taking its geological temperature. Meanwhile, the seismometers will study Mars’ composition, an X-ray radio link will analyze wobble (the way Mars spins on its axis and is gravitationally tugged by other bodies in the solar system), and cameras will return panoramic and 3-D pictures. The space- craft should operate for 728 Earth days (708 Martian sols)—or until just about the time the 2020 flight is ready to go.

1. SpaceX Falcon Heavy

With 28 engines firing ­together in a coordinated, cacophonous symphony of rocket fuel, the Falcon Heavy lifts off with 5 million pounds of force—more than any ship since the retired ’70s-era Saturn V—and twice the payload weight of any other modern spacecraft. Those thrusters equate to three space-cargo-hauling Falcon 9 rockets and will tote tens of thousands of pounds of satellites, a solar sailing spacecraft, and eventually two lunar tourists. The side boosters burn first and land back on Earth, while the center engine makes the final push out of the atmosphere. The more hardware SpaceX can recover, including that last stage, the cheaper (and cheaper) the flights become. Success in these early missions will prove that this is the ship with the horsepower, reliability, and price point to shuttle humans to Mars.

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