10 Engineering Feats That Could Change Everything

From 3D computers that can print body parts to in-flight Shower Spas on two-story aircrafts, we are already living in the future. If you want to fly like you’re in the future, Emirates’ A380s will take you there. Keep reading to see what other amazing innovations will be changing our world.

1. The “skin cell gun” could quickly and easily heal severe, disfiguring burns.

National Geographic / Via youtube.com

The innovation:
While the technology to regrow human skin in a lab has existed for some time, “mesh grafting” is slow, painful, and presents a high risk of infection. Enter Jörg C. Gerlach and his colleagues, whose skin cell gun (think of an airbrush loaded with healthy adult stem cells) can regrow near-flawless human skin in a matter of days.

How it could change the game:
Once this becomes widely available it will change the lives of burn victims in almost immeasurable ways. Watch this video to learn more… WARNING: There is somewhat disturbing footage of burn victims, but it’s also kind of mind-blowing.

2. De-extinction could roll back climate change.

Thinkstock

The innovation:
Another sign we are living in the future: The raging debate has switched from “Can we bring a wooly mammoth back to life” to “Should we bring a wooly mammoth back to life?” And while genome-based cloning still gives a lot of people the willies, those who can look past the Jurassic Park-ness of it all see a way to heal the planet’s complex, fracturing ecosystem.

How it could change the game:
Don’t think in terms of one sad, caged mammoth living in a theme park somewhere; think about herds of elephant-ancestors roaming the Tundra in their old natural habitat and battling global warming by restoring ecological symbiosis. As Harvard professor George Church wrote in the September 2013 issue of Scientific American, the mammoths’ ancient habitat is rapidly thawing, potentially producing as much greenhouse gas as if all the world’s forests burned to the ground:

Mammoths could keep the region colder by: (a) eating dead grass, thus enabling the sun to reach spring grass, whose deep roots prevent erosion; (b) increasing reflected light by felling trees, which absorb sunlight; and © punching through insulating snow so that freezing air penetrates the soil.

3. 3D printers can now manufacture tiny synthetic body parts.

Mark Stahl / AP

The innovation:
3D printing is impressive enough when it’s used to create pop-culture nonsense, but the technology has come so far that engineers can basically make body parts.

How it could change the game:
Just ask Kaiba Gionfriddo (well don’t ask him ask him — he’s a baby), who was born with a life-threatening birth defect that made it hard to breathe. Doctors used a 3D printer to create a dissolvable tracheal splint that allows him to breathe normally and which won’t need to be surgically removed. It might not be long before engineers can print heart valves, replacement eyes, you name it.

4. Lab-grown, cruelty-free meat could end world hunger.

Toby Melville / Reuters

The innovation:
In vitro meat (AKA schmeat AKA tubesteak AKA food in desperate need of rebranding) is an animal product that has never been part of a living animal. In the works for years, the first lab-grown burger was cooked and served by Dutch scientists in August 2013. Despite the cost hurdles and ick-factor, how many meat burgers have the full support of PETA? And while the phrase “test-tube-grown meat” doesn’t sound appealing, when you get down to it, the phrase “eating animal carcasses” isn’t much better.

Why it could change the game:
Has the potential to end world hunger and genuinely slam the brakes on climate change.

5. Synthetic shark skin could radically curb bacterial infection.

Thinkstock

The innovation:
Researchers have observed for years that shark skin is insanely bacterially resistant, and now University of Florida researcher Anthony Brennan — who started studying shark skin for the U.S. Navy in an attempt to improve submarines — has figured out a way to apply it to hospital technology.

How it could change the game:
E. coli and similar bacteria account for 1.7 million hospital-acquired infections every year in the U.S. alone. Sharklet, as the new material is called, has already been shown to decrease the spread of E. coli by up to 80%. There is enormous potential not just to save lives by reducing infection, but to save lives indirectly by drastically reducing health care costs and saving medical resources.

6. Cars no longer need drivers.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The innovation:
Long the staple of science fiction, self-driving cars are close to being a reality. Google, who is pioneering this technology (surprise surprise), has found itself unable to find a domestic automotive partner to build the cars, so guess what? They’ve decided to build them on their own. Word around the campfire is that Google is planning on introducing driverless taxis, as well.

How it could change the game:
Well, for one, we would all finally be free to text and drive. And I guess it could also put a dent in the 35,000-plus annual traffic fatalities in the U.S. alone. Or you could eat ice cream while you drive. Oh man. Sky’s the limit.

7. The Hyperloop could revolutionize ground travel.

Handout / Reuters

The innovation:
Dreamed up by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk (the guy behind SpaceX and the electric car) and described as “a cross between a Concorde, a rail gun, and an air-hockey table,” the Hyperloop would be a solar-powered, safe, eco-friendly mode of transportation capable of shooting passengers through a tube at hundreds of miles per hour.

How it could change the game:
Though billions of dollars and several years away from being a reality, an actualized Hyperloop (which engineers agree is technically possible) would allow someone to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco, for example, in half an hour — with virtually no carbon footprint.

8. Self-aware robots already exist. So… think about that. (Before they do.)

Interscope Records / Via gifbin.com

The innovation:
Yale grad student Justin Hart has developed a robot that looks like it’s going to cross a long-sought-after artificial intelligence threshold: the ability to recognize itself changing in a mirror. This is a very, very big deal. Most animals can’t do this (congratulations elephants, chimps, magpies, and bottlenose dolphins) and Lord knows no machine can. Also worth noting: It bears a jarring similarity to Johnny Five from Short Circuit.

How it could change the game:
In theory a robot like this could recognize damage and repair itself without being told to do so. Or, you know, laugh at a joke, rebel against its human overlords, and teach a cold-hearted scientist to love. And if true artificial intelligence is ever going to become a reality, self-awareness of this sort is an absolute prerequisite. All hail our new robot overlords.

9. Advances in laser technology could allow us to change the weather.

The innovation:
Weather experts have been testing out how intense pulses of light can produce artificial cloud formations in laboratories and have recently begun taking their experiments out into the real world.

How it could change the game:
Scientists hope that this innovation will allow them not only to divert lightning from buildings during intense storms, but to trigger rain clouds in certain areas as well.

10. Researchers have implanted false memories in mice.

Thinkstock

The innovation:
Scientists have successfully implanted false memories in mice that they cannot distinguish from real memories. Again: Scientists can now erase and implant memories, and the subject will never know. The technical term for this is optogenetics, but the scientists responsible have been calling it “incepting” as a nod to the Christopher Nolan film.

How it could change the game:
The potential for amazing mouse pranks is now officially limitless. Oh, and NBD, but scientists are also one massive step closer to understanding how memory works and unlocking the full potential of the human brain.

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