Zero emission cars fuelled by hydrogen and computer chips that mimic the human brain are among the technological breakthroughs recognized as the Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2015, a list compiled by the World Economic Forum's Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies.
The council compiles the list each year to help raise attention for those technologies its members believe possess the greatest potential for addressing chronic global challenges. The purpose is also to initiate a debate on any human, societal, economic or environmental risks the technologies pose, with the aim of addressing any concerns before adoption becomes widespread.
This year's list offers a glimpse of the power of innovation to improve lives, transform industries and safeguard the planet:
1. Fuel cell vehicles – Zero-emission cars that run off hydrogen
2. Next generation robotics – Web-enabled, mobile and capable of tasks ranging from farming to healthcare
3. Recyclable thermoset plastics – A new kind of plastic that cuts landfill waste
4. Precise genetic engineering techniques – A breakthrough offering better crops with less controversy
5. Additive manufacturing – The future of making things, from printable organs to intelligent clothes
6. Emergent artificial intelligence – What happens when a computer can learn on the job?
7. Distributed manufacturing – The factory of the future is online – and on your doorstep
8. “Sense and avoid” drones – Flying robots that check power lines or deliver emergency aid
9. Neuromorphic technology – Computer chips that mimic the connections in the human brain
10. Digital genome – Healthcare in an age when one's genetic code can be accessed on a USB stick
“Technology is the greatest change agent in our world today, but maximizing its positive impact will require investment, sound regulation and an informed public. We hope this year's list focuses the attention of stakeholders so that the world can reap the full benefits of these technologies and mitigate any downside that their adoption may incur," said Martina Larkin, Senior Director, Head of Global Knowledge Networks, World Economic Forum.
To compile the Top 10 list, the World Economic Forum's Meta-Council on Emerging Technologiesdrew on the collective expertise of the Forum's communities to identify the most important recent technological trends. By doing so, the meta-council aims to raise awareness of their potential and contribute to closing gaps in investment, regulation and public understanding that so often thwart progress.