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A Vintage Year?

December 19th 2014

The 14 Exciting Tech Launches listed for 2015 contain a variety of gadgets, solutions and technologies.  There are many of the usual suspects, mobiles like the Galaxy S6 (like the S5 but faster), the HTC One (like the old HTC One but better) and One Plus (a Chinese version of the S5).  Microsoft gets 2 mentions with Windows 10 (Windows on any device via their Continuum layer) and Office 10 (with more functions you won’t use).  Watches will be in vogue, with the Applewatch and Samsung Smartwatch both trying to catch up with the latest from Pebble.  Apple also has the iPad Pro (normal iPad but bigger) and Beats/iTunes integration.  In addition, Samsung will start production bendable displays, which could perhaps have some mildly interesting applications. 

Slightly more stimulating and top spots go to Sony’s Morpheus, a virtual reality headset that looks particularly cool and Oculus Rift, a full 3D augmented reality solution that Mark Zuckerberg bought for $2bn.  Whilst these are currently aimed at gaming enthusiasts, the predicted arrival of glasses-free 3D TV together with motion sensing technology such as Microsoft Kinect may signal a new era in immersive entertainment and wider uses.

But how life changing and genuinely stirring are any of these?  By comparison, the 6 Most Important Technical Events of 2014 look positively compelling.  First off, this year saw the landing of the Rosetta/Philae probe on a comet – the most audacious piece of remote robotics mankind has ever seen.  We’ve also detected the oldest light in the universe, uncovered evidence of the largest ever dinosaur and discovered another new fundamental particle to go alongside the Higgs boson.

What’s more we’ve started to work out how we can alter our own genes.  By studying a group of bacterial enzymes, scientists found that each gene had a short template inside that could attach to a specific string of letters in viral DNA. Scientists considered whether they could modify the template to recognize any DNA sequence, including those found in humans.  This led to the invention of CRISPR/Cas9, which is not just able to recognize a human DNA sequence – it can modify it, too.

And top of the list is a cure for incurable cancer.  In May, researchers at the Mayo clinic in America managed to cure a woman of what was, up to that point, considered to be an incurable form of blood cancer.  How? By giving her a huge dose of measles viral vaccine - so high that it could be used to protect ten million people from measles.   Soon afterwards, doctors found that her body was completely free of the cancer that had seemed like it would end her life prematurely.  So, if one virus-based vaccine can cure one type of cancer, it's likely that there's much more in store for this revolutionary therapy.

Curing cancer, conquering the universe and altering our genes – things don’t get bigger, more exciting or life changing than that.  Here’s to 2015.

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