Photo courtesy of Flickr user kakissel.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user kakissel.

Another apocalypse and another set of holiday hangovers have passed Earth. A new year means new trials, new relationships, new opportunities and many, many more scandals. The best way for these scandals to propagate to every salacious magazine and every hashtag-obsessed teenager is through technology; a new year means another year of technological evolution and innovation.

Virtual Reality – The recent demo of Oculus Rift prompted me to write this article. As some of my longtime readers (hey, mom!) may already know, I’m a big fan of videogames and the industry surrounding it. This relatively new medium has immense potential and I think Oculus Rift is a step in the right direction. The demos that I’ve read and seen showed how completely immersed people were as soon as they put on the virtual reality goggles. One person jumped back in his seat because an in-game townsperson walked by, another tried grabbing the in-game snow in real life and another just said “holy s&^*” then couldn’t think of anything else to say. Suddenly, the next Xbox, the next Virtual Boy or the next Playstation doesn’t seem so exciting.

Virtual Overlay – Google Glasses allow a person to live in the real world while seamlessly integrating the digital world. The kitschy concept video, released last year, spread around the social networks faster than most infections and diseases on campus. The video showed off a few of the possibilities with Project Glass: step-by-step directions to a specific location like the vampire section at your local bookstore, receive and create texts, alarms, event notifications or capture a picture and upload it to the Internet. Thankfully, my fear at the end of the ad that video chatting with your girlfriend on top of the roof of a tall building as a new form of suicide was unfounded.

Driverless Cars – The momentum for driverless cars seems to only get bigger. Google was one of the pioneers in proving that these autonomous cars were viable. Now, various companies in the auto industry like Audi, Lexus and Toyota are developing and testing their own. A car is possibly the scariest and deadliest mode of transportation, yet its usefulness outweighs its dangers for many. Vulnerable bags of flesh (you) are trapped inside pieces of metal glued together (car) along with dozens of other similar vehicles (others) while traveling incredibly fast speeds on hot concrete (you + others + car = bad time). Think about the months and years that most humans (lots of Americans) spend driving cars. Imagine getting dropped off while your car parks itself somewhere, regardless of distance – a valet service anywhere and anytime.

3D Printing – Let’s play an exercise: think of a trinket. What if you could print it out at home? What about a gun? Medicine? Buildings? The perfect girlfriend? Progress is being made all over the world; companies and enthusiasts are quickly advancing what a 3D printer can print and slowly bringing it out of garages. Websites like shapeways and sculpteo allow users to upload 3D designs to be printed. Just a few years ago, these websites only contained simple gray objects; nowadays, intricate and multi-colored objects fill the website.

One of the weirder ideas (and there are plenty of ideas, weird and not) for 3D printing is printing itself. According to the folks behind RepRap, “humanity’s first general-purpose self-replicating manufacturing machine,” are hard at work on pushing the idea of a 3D printer being able to multiply and evolve using itself, printing out new parts or a completely new printer. 3D printing, when it inevitably takes off, will become the quintessential disruptive innovation.