Bugs to bionics: designs shaping the future

The Index Project

What will the world look like in 2050? Take a peek at some of the strange technologies and traditions you could be embracing.

Ethereum context - prism, From the collection of: The Index Project
Ethereum
Internet 2.0: A new platform to give the power back to the people
Ethereum context - world, From the collection of: The Index Project

In the 90s, it was difficult to imagine the Internet’s life-changing potential - what it promised seemed almost impossible, but it revolutionised society. But despite unprecedented technology growth since, few developments have offered the same kind of shift. That is, until Ethereum arrived.

Vitalik Buterin INDEX: Award 2017 Winner's Talk, From the collection of: The Index Project

Developed by programmer Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum is set to be the new global platform for the peer-to-peer exchange of money, content, property, or anything of value. Only these transactions will be safer, more efficient, and without the need for central entities or middlemen.

Ethereum context - phone, From the collection of: The Index Project

Using blockchain technology, the Ethereum platform allows developers to build decentralised applications that will put you back in control of, essentially, everything. For example, you could buy a house directly from the seller – without agents or banks. And of course, without the large fees.

Right now, compensating financial intermediaries accounts for over 9% of America’s total GDP. Imagine what those funds could be used for if they didn’t go into the pockets of banks.

Transparent and corruption-free elections, safe yet uncensored social networks, and policy change based on real votes rather than political agendas. All of these things could be made possible with Ethereum.

LEPSIS, From the collection of: The Index Project
Lepsis
Grow your own herd of edible bugs
Lepsis yield, From the collection of: The Index Project

Whether you think eating bugs is primitive or just plain gross, creepy crawlies could soon be a part of our daily diets. They’re already are a staple food for over two billion people worldwide, and have even found their way onto the menus of some of the world’s best restaurants.

Lepsis context - farm, From the collection of: The Index Project

After spending the first 16 years of his life in Togo, where food scarcity was a daily struggle, designer Mansour Ourasanah set his sights on finding a healthy and plentiful food source. Not only to address hunger, but to curb the damaging global effects of conventional meat production.

Lepsis context - grasshopper, From the collection of: The Index Project

He eventually settled on grasshoppers – a healthy, protein-rich food, which would be a perfect alternative. They reach maturity in about 1.5 months, lay plenty of eggs, and don’t need much room or resources. But, how would Ourasanah sell the idea to vastly different cultures?

Lespsis unassembled, From the collection of: The Index Project

After moving to New York, Ourasanah teamed up with KitchenAid to design the Lepsis – a futuristic appliance for breeding and humanely harvesting grasshoppers. Launched in 2012, the Lepsis was one of the first DIY bug farms, and has since stimulated a big boost in the insect industry.

Lepsis opening, From the collection of: The Index Project

Today, bugs have rightfully earned the 'superfood' stamp, and are popping up in everything from juices to chocolate bars. They’re not only an incredibly sustainable protein alternative, but could be the key to establishing true global food security.

"I never understood that my actions, as an American, actually contributed to the nutritional challenges my siblings and I faced as children in a third-world country - today I know better," says Ourasanah.

YuMi®, From the collection of: The Index Project
YuMi®
Man's new robotic best friend
YuMi context - workers, From the collection of: The Index Project

Automation and robotics are often depicted as a threat to jobs. And let’s face it; in the past they have put millions of people out of work. Combined with the rapid growth of artificial intelligence, these bionic creations are painting an even more uncertain future for global employment.

YuMi user interaction, From the collection of: The Index Project

But, what if the future didn’t look so bleak?

YuMi® is the world’s first truly collaborative robot, able to work side-by-side with humans on the same projects. Capable of handling delicate tasks with needle-threading accuracy, YuMi® is set to radically change the production industry.

YuMi in use, From the collection of: The Index Project

Just like a human, YuMi® can be taught a process by being physically guided through it, eliminating the need for code-based instruction. It can also rapidly detect changes in its environment, such as a collision, and can pause motion within milliseconds.

YuMi® connects to the ‘Internet of things’, utilising data-driven analytics to improve the performance, reliability and lifetime of hardware and processes. It has the potential to unlock the vast automation potential in big industries globally.

Labster, From the collection of: The Index Project
Labster
The future of scientific education
Labster user with VR, From the collection of: The Index Project

In recent years, virtual and augmented reality have developed in leaps and bounds, offering an entirely new way to experience the world. The technologies are changing the way we learn, work, play, and have even proven to be incredibly useful for real-world challenges.

Labster in use - at the lab, From the collection of: The Index Project

Experience of working in a laboratory is essential for scientific education. But, a fully equipped lab is a luxury that few can afford. Labster is a VR lab providing high-quality immersive lessons, giving the full experience of a professional lab lesson, without actually being there.

Labster offers consistent quality, lower costs and doesn’t need maintenance. Right now, students can be guided through 64 different simulations with a virtual mentor, covering a broad range of scientific fields including biology, chemistry, engineering, general sciences, medicine, and physics.

Labster in use - conversation, From the collection of: The Index Project

Labster is currently used at Stanford University (USA) and The University of Copenhagen (Denmark). The simulations have also been endorsed by over 150 institutions globally, including Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

By providing the next generation of young scientists with the most effective tools to learn, Labster believes they will be able to help solve future challenges such as global warming, water shortage, disease, and much, much more.

Rebeam satellite panel view, From the collection of: The Index Project
ReBeam
A sky-high idea to solve the world's energy crisis
Rebeam context - earth, From the collection of: The Index Project

Every hour, our planet is hit with enough sunlight to sustain the entire world economy for a whole year. But, not all of this energy makes it to the surface, and of course, we all experience hours of darkness every night.

Rebeam for Drones, From the collection of: The Index Project

To secure solar energy around the clock, the conventional approach would be to improve ground-based infrastructure. But a company that emerged from California thinktank Singularity University has proposed an ambitious space-based solution.

Rebeam satellite view, From the collection of: The Index Project

ReBeam is a moonshot concept to wirelessly transport large amounts of energy across the globe. Using mirrors mounted on satellites, solar waves are reflected from one spot to another. This means you could beam energy from a desert in Australia to a research station in Antarctica.

Right now, the concept is being tested using drones, and if established, the solution could be the ultimate low-cost energy transmission solution.

SCiO at use, From the collection of: The Index Project
SCiO
Point, scan and know exactly what you're eating
SCiO context - phone, From the collection of: The Index Project

In recent years, millions of apps have been able to instantly tell us almost anything we need to know. Yet it is often still a mystery what exactly is entering our bodies through the ingredients in foods, drinks and medicines.

SCiO unit, From the collection of: The Index Project

The lighter-sized SCiO device can tell you the chemical makeup of almost anything you come into contact with. The device works by using a tiny optical sensor called a spectrometer – a high-tech matter analysis tool previously limited to labs due to its size and hefty price tag.

Scio, From the collection of: The Index Project

Just point and scan with the SCiO and the data is analysed and sent to an app on your phone. Want to know if your food is really pesticide-free? Or how many calories really are in that dish? SCiO has the answer.

Like many apps, the more you scan, the more data the SCiO cloud collects. This means all users can contribute to building the world’s first database of matter. SCiO is opening the door for millions of applications in education, medicine, and environmental research.

Smart Contact Lenses, From the collection of: The Index Project
Smart Contact Lenses
No more blood and sweat, just tears!
Smart Contact Lenses Illustration - running, From the collection of: The Index Project

Initially limited to the field of sportswear, wearable tech has vastly matured to improve the lives of millions. Using innovative ways to track, store, and analyse valuable data about our bodies, these technologies have shown great potential to help us manage and boost our health.

Smart Contact Lenses Illustration - diabetes, From the collection of: The Index Project

There are 425 million people in the world with diabetes, according to Diabetes Atlas. And unfortunately, that number is rising. Currently, those with diabetes must prick their skin throughout the day to check their blood glucose levels – a task that can be painful and time-consuming.

Smart Contact Lenses views, From the collection of: The Index Project

With Smart Contact Lenses, however, glucose levels are easily monitored through the fluid in your eyes. The lens is equipped with a glitter-sized chip to send information to the user’s phone via an antenna thinner than a human hair.

Smart Contact Lenses descriptions, From the collection of: The Index Project

The lenses are one of the most high-tech wearables ever designed to aid diabetics.

Smart Contact Lenses interaction, From the collection of: The Index Project

Though they’re yet to be manufactured, the contact lenses represent the next generation of wearables: tiny, yet incredibly beneficial devices that fit almost seamlessly with the human body.

Credits: Story

Ethereum, Lepsis, ABB Robotics, Labster, ReBeam Space Inc, Consumer Physics, Google, and INDEX: Design to Improve Life®

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
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