Our favorite movies show how we troubleshoot and invent.

The new film, Ford v Ferrari, has us thinking about other movies where engineers get their due for problem-solving and invention. These aren’t space operas or faster-than-light theories, but real problems solved by methodical processes.

Apollo 13. Engineers on the ground scramble to save astronauts from an accident in space.


There are technologies that exist today that aren’t far off from what you’ve seen in superhero movies and comic books.

  • The Avengers may have had their endgame. But the superhero craze isn’t slowing down. As implausible as a lot of superhero technologies and abilities are, you might be surprised to know that a lot of the gadgets seen in comic books and movies aren’t dissimilar to real technologies being developed today. While it’s definitely not a good idea to don a mask and fight crime, there are innovations around today that could make your life as a crime fighter easier (or at least much cooler).

    Check out the slideshow to see some of today’s most promising superhero-related technologies.

    (Image source:  Fathromi Ramdlon from Pixabay )

  • Body Armor

    Every hero needs protection. Black Panther has a special armor that absorbs and redistributes kinetic energy. And while nothing on par with that actually exists today, the real world isn’t far off from it. Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed an armor made of composite metal foam that weighs half as much as metal armor but can stop armor-piercing .50-caliber rounds just as effectively.

    (Image source: North Carolina State University)

  • Exoskeleton

    If your dream is to become the next Iron Man you’ll be happy to know the US military as well as several private groups are developing exosuits capable of augmenting human strength and physical performance. Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering is looking to improve on the typically bulky design of exosuits by using soft textiles to create an exoskeleton comfortable enough to be worn like clothing (shown above). Harvard recently released a study on the effectiveness of its exosuits in making walking and running less taxing.

    But exosuits are already out there in the real world as well. In 2018 Ford Motor Company launched a project with Ekso Bionics to outfit its plant workers with exosuits to help them with heavy lifting and repetitive assembly tasks.

    (Image source: Harvard University Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering)

  • Flying Car

    Every superhero needs a cool ride. So why not have a flying car? There’s a small, but growing, ecosystem of companies getting into the “urban aerial mobility” market and bringing flying cars to consumers. One of the most notable companies is Kitty Hawk, founded by serial entrepreneur and former Google researcher, Sebastian Thrun. The company is actively testing its flying vehicles and has made partnerships with major aerospace companies like Boeing to further develop them as personal vehicles and as autonomous flying taxis for the general public.

    (Image source: Kitty Hawk)

  • Gecko Gloves

    Want to scale walls like Spider-Man? DARPA’s Z-Man project has you covered. Inspired by geckos’ ability to cling to walls, researchers from the University of Massachusetts have developed Geckskin, a synthetic adhesive that allows for climbing of smooth surfaces like glass walls. During initial testing, an operator climbed 25 feet vertically on a glass surface using no climbing equipment except a pair of handheld paddles covered with the material.

    It’ll be up to you to figure out how to handle the swinging and jumping after you climb that high though.

    (Image source: DARPA)

  • Giant Robot

    If you prefer Japanese anime and manga over American comics, you may want to look into a giant robot. Japan’s Suidobashi Heavy Industry manufacturers a 13-foot, 4-ton robot called Kuratas that a single person can pilot via the cockpit or a smartphone interface. In 2017 Kuratas went head to head in a live-streamed battle against MegaBot – a two-pilot giant robot manufactured by US startup MegaBots Inc.

    (Image source: Suidobashi Heavy Industry)

  • Homing Bullets

    If you ask antiheroes like the Punisher they’ll tell you that sometimes justice calls for a more extreme approach. In 2015 DARPA started a project to give snipers an extra leg up with its Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO), a modified .50 caliber round that can be directed toward a target after firing – like a miniature guided missile. Computer simulations done on a similar guided bullet technology by Sandia National Laboratories showed much greater accuracy for self-guided bullets over their standard counterparts.

    (Image source: DARPA)

  • Mind-Controlled Electronics

    Why use your hands when you can use your mind? More and more advances in brain-computer interfaces are taking thought-controlled devices outside of the realm of science fiction. In 2015 DARPA researchers were able give a quadriplegic woman neural implants that allowed her to control a flight simulator with her mind.

    Companies like Neurable and CTRL Labs (shown) have been developing novel technologies to allow consumers to interact with and control electronic devices using external sensors – eliminating the need for the type of surgery that would lead to a great superhero origin story.

    And if you think no one is serious about this technology, consider that CTRL Labs was purchased by Facebook to the tune $1 billion.

    (Image source: CTRL Labs)

  • Patrol Robot

    A hero can’t be everywhere at once. Or maybe you’re just the type of crimefighter who prefers not to get their hands dirty. Robotics company Knightscope is giving law enforcement a hand with the K5. The robot is equipped with various sensors that allow it to patrol areas and report crimes in progress and even instances where it suspects a crime may be about to happen. The robot is already deployed in a few major cities. Knightscope recently announced it is developing new sensor technology for the K5 that will allow it to detect weapons.

    (Image source: Knightscope)

  • bionic eye

    Restored Vision for the Blind

    Blind superhero Daredevil can “see” thanks to years of martial arts training and a special radar sense (mostly the radar sense). But thanks to the latest advances in medical science we won’t need freak accidents to restore sight to the blind.

    In 2018 University of Minnesota researchers created a fully 3D-printed array of light receptors on a hemispherical surface – the first step toward what they say could be a bionic eye (shown). Researchers led by Laboratory of Organic Electronics at Linköping University in Sweden are also currently developing artificial retinas made from photoactive films that use organic pigments that could successfully repair certain types of blindness.

    There’s no word on anyone developing an easier way to train martial arts and gymnastics however.

    (Image source: University of Minnesota, McAlpine Group)

  • e-bandage

    Super Healing Technologies

    While human beings can’t heal as fast as Wolverine or Deadpool, there are medical technologies out there that can speed up the process. Engineers at the University of Wisconsin (UW)–Madison have developed a wound dressing that uses electrical pulses to speed up healing (shown above). For more serious injuries, Wake Forest University’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine has created a mobile skin bioprinting system that can print skin directly onto a wound. Combine this with innovations such as work done by Rice University and the University of Maryland to 3D-print materials that mimic bone and cartilage and you could be in for a quick and effective patch up from some very serious injuries someday.

    (Image source: UW/Sam Million-Weaver)

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at   Design News  covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.


If you have a budding young engineer at home and are searching for a good read with a strong message, the books on this list fit that bill.

  • If you have a budding young engineer at home and are searching for a good read with a strong message, the books on this list fit that bill. Many of them feature female protagonists, but all of them will leave an impact on your burgeoning engineer – male or female.

  • Dear Girl

    by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal

    This is the book I needed to read in my childhood. If I could write letters to my younger self and compile them into a book, this would be the result. In this #1 New York Times Bestseller, author Amy Krouse Rosenthal and her daughter, Paris, deliver a powerful message about confidence in a world that is increasingly jagged, unforgiving, and unstable. Sub-themes include resiliency and self-acceptance while staying curious and adaptable.

    (Image source: HarperCollins)

  • Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site

    by Sherri Duskey Rinker

    The story of a group of construction vehicles winding down from their day and getting ready for bed is a book you buy – not borrow or check out. It deserves a permanent spot on any personal bookshelf for its treatment of work-life balance and the underlying message: There’s a time to play/work and a time to rest – and we need them both to be successful.

    (Image source: Chronicle Books)

  • How to Code A Sandcastle

    by Josh Funk

    A “Girls Who Code” book, this read is a fun and effective way to introduce coding to kids. Pearl is determined to make a sandcastle but keeps running into obstacles. She and her robot friend, Pascal, decide they’ll code their way through the obstacles, breaking down a big problem into small steps, while learning about sequences, loops, and more. If you’re wondering how coding can possibly intersect with the world of sand, get your hands on this book and see how author Josh Funk brings coding to life. It might even inspire a trip to the beach.

    (Image source: Viking / Penguin)

  • I am Amelia Earhart

    by Brad Meltzer

    This book is a part of the Ordinary People Change the World series, and once you read this one, you’ll want to read them all. These books are biographies tailored for kids (omitting details related to tragedy or sadness) in a picture book format, and all of them are highly-rated. The story begins with a 7-year-old Amelia portrayed as an ordinary, curious child and unfolds into bigger adventures. Amelia is just a regular relatable person, determined and confident in doing the impossible.

    (Image source: Penguin Young Readers Group)

  • Interstellar Cinderella

    by Deborah Underwood

    Unlike the traditional Cinderella, this book is less about what to wear to the ball and more about problem solving. You might call it a Cinderella remix. Delve into these pages and find a Cinderella story you didn’t know existed – one peppered with themes of space, robots, and rockets. Even breaking from tradition, author Deborah Underwood does a good job of staying true to a Cinderella-like storyline while delivering an ending with a surprising twist.

    (Image source: Chronicle Books)

  • The Most Magnificent Thing

    by Ashley Spires

    The book’s protagonist, who is highly focused and works independently (well, mostly, except for her dog), has an idea and she’s ready to bring it to life. While the book delivers a strong impact for kids, it will also remind adults of the excitement of innovation and the frustration and disappointment of failure. The message is one that every engineer can relate to: Success isn’t possible without failure.

    (Image source: Kids Can Press)

  • Tool School

    by Joan Holub

    This whimsical story of some basic tools and their functions is upbeat and purposeful. Each tool has its own personality and personal project. Soon, however, they each realize that they could be much more effective working as a team than individually. Read this book to your youngster and teach them that teamwork really can get the job done faster and more efficiently.

    (Image source: Scholastic Press)

  • What’s My Superpower?

    by Aviaq Johnston

    As adults, many of us spent much of our lives wondering what our true calling is. This book is about a little girl who wonders the same thing–what makes her special? She sees so much talent around her and feels she has nothing to offer. There’s no superlative to attach to her name—she’s not the fastest or the best at anything. She doesn’t have “a thing.” The powerful message in this book is that the concrete foundation for anything STEM-related is instilling the belief in children that they can do anything and always have something to offer.

    (Image source: Inhabit Media)

  • When I Build With Blocks

    by Niki Alling

    This short read is sure to stimulate some creative block building, as well as requests to read it over and over again. And, you’ll want to because the book offers just the right amount of inspiration for your child to dust off their neglected wooden blocks and build something new. In addition to being inspiring, the message is timeless: We are limited only by our imagination.

    (Image source: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)

Amee Meghani is a mechanical engineer graduate from The University of Texas at Austin and engineering manager at GoEngineer. Her industry experience is in material handling and consumer products, focusing on product development.

The Midwest’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event!

Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis connects you with top industry experts, including design and manufacturing suppliers, and industry leaders in plastics manufacturing, packaging, automation, robotics, medical technology, and more. This is the place where exhibitors, engineers, executives, and thought leaders can learn, contribute, and create solutions to move the industry forward.  Register today!


From left: Researchers Christopher Graves, Michal Bajdich and Michael Machala work on the development of a new method for converting carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide for carbon-neutral fuels. (Image source: Mark Golden)

While researchers have experimented with using alternative fuels for large modes of transport such as airplanes, so far they haven’t found a truly viable option.

That could change thanks to new research from scientists at Stanford University and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), who have developed a new method for turning carbon dioxide into energy-rich carbon monoxide.

This crucial conversion is the first step to transforming carbon monoxide into nearly any liquid “carbon-neutral” fuel and even synthetic gas and plastics. The researchers believe their method could lead to cost-effective ways to more broadly convert larger quantities of carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide for the production of carbon-neutral fuels. Lowering costs and other barriers could lead to viable fuels for even heavy modes of transportation, which require energy-dense fuels.

The latest breakthrough was led by William Chueh, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford, and Christopher Graves, associate professor in DTU’s Energy Conversion & Storage Department. Theis Skafte, a DTU doctoral candidate at the time, also participated in the work, which took place at Stanford. The team published a recent study on their work in the journal Nature Energy.

Chueh and Graves had been separately working on high-temperature electrolysis of carbon dioxide for years, but the breakthrough came only when the teams put their heads together, said Skafte, now a postdoctoral researcher at DTU.

“We achieved something we couldn’t have separately – both a fundamental understanding and practical demonstration of a more robust material,” he said in a press statement.

Removing Key Barriers

The Stanford/DTU research team used electricity and an Earth-abundant catalyst, cerium oxide (also known as ceria), to convert carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide. Unlike other catalysts used in this process, cerium oxide is much more resistant to breaking down.

Plants transform carbon dioxide to carbon-rich sugars naturally, but scientists still have yet to find a commercially viable artificial electrochemical route to turn this gas into carbon monoxide. Current devices developed to do this use too much electricity, convert a low percentage of carbon dioxide molecules, or produce pure carbon that destroys the device, according to the researchers.

For their approach, the Stanford-DTU team built two cells for carbon dioxide conversion testing – one with cerium oxide and the other with conventional nickel-based catalysts. What they found is that the ceria electrode remained stable, while carbon deposits damaged the nickel electrode, which substantially shortened the catalyst’s lifetime.

“This remarkable capability of ceria has major implications for the practical lifetime of CO2 electrolyzer devices,” Graves said in a press statement. “Replacing the current nickel electrode with our new ceria electrode in the next-generation electrolyzer would improve device lifetime.”

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

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Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis connects you with top industry experts, including esign and manufacturing suppliers, and industry leaders in plastics manufacturing, packaging, automation, robotics, medical technology, and more. This is the place where exhibitors, engineers, executives, and thought leaders can learn, contribute, and create solutions to move the industry forward. Register today!

(Image source: NASA)

October 5 marks the 10th-annual International Observe the Moon Night – a night in which scientists, engineers, and enthusiasts all over the world gather to celebrate lunar science.

Sponsored by NASA, the event occurs in September or October, when NASA says viewing conditions for the Moon are ideal because it is in its first quarter. Coincidentally, this also marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

To help get you into the lunar spirit, we’re sharing some of our favorite coverage around the Moon, including a brand-new e-book chronicling the journey of Apollo 11.

Space Week: 50 Years Ago (Free E-Book!)

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, Design News is taking you back in time with expertly curated articles and photos detailing the event.

8 Technologies We Owe to the Apollo Space Program

The innovations of the Apollo program didn’t stop at the Moon. Many technologies were created, or innovated into what they are today, thanks to the space program.

5 Engineering Facts About the Apollo Guidance Computer

It was one of the first modern embedded systems. But here are some more details about the Apollo Guidance Computer you may not have known.

Artemis – Apollo’s Twin Sister – Aims for the Moon

NASA’s Artemis million plans to return men and women to the moon over the next few years, concluding with a continuous human presence in lunar orbit.

Beyond the Right Stuff: Why the First Man on the Moon Had to Be an Engineer

Much like the astronauts who preceded him, Neil Armstrong was as much an engineer as a test pilot.

No Choice But to Be a Pioneer: The Story of Margaret Hamilton

You may be familiar with the famous image of Margaret Hamilton standing next to the Apollo Guidance Computer source code. What you may not know is her true importance to the Apollo program and the field of software engineering in general.

Private Companies Will Lead the Next Wave of Space Travel

Even NASA will incorporate a significant group of private space companies to launch and land spacecraft as we send humans back to the moon in the next few years.

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.

The Midwest’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event!

Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis connects you with top industry experts, including esign and manufacturing suppliers, and industry leaders in plastics manufacturing, packaging, automation, robotics, medical technology, and more. This is the place where exhibitors, engineers, executives, and thought leaders can learn, contribute, and create solutions to move the industry forward. Register today!

A conceptual rendering of hyperloops deployed for cargo shipping. (Image source: Virgin Hyperloop One)

Virgin Hyperloop One (VHO) believes it is sitting on the world’s most efficient mode of transportation. The prediction came as the Los Angeles-based company also announced it is joining the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s CE [Circular Economy] 100 Network. The charity organization is dedicated to bringing public and private groups together in the name of accelerating innovations that will facilitate a circular economy – meaning one in which sustainability, recycling, and reduced waste are the norm.

In a press statement, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson said that innovations like the hyperloop are going to be necessary to drive toward a more sustainable fufure while still meeting increasing demands for transportation. “The only way to address this mounting crisis is head-on,” Branson said. “We need big ideas like hyperloop to reach zero-emission transport while rapidly connecting people and goods.”

“As the world’s population grows, especially our urban populations, global demands for rapid, seamless travel, and more efficient deliveries will continue to rise. We must meet demand in a way that is efficient, clean, and protects the future of our planet,” Jay Walder, CEO of VHO, added. “Hyperloop technology can be that radical solution, setting the bar for the fastest, most energy-efficient, and sustainable form of travel ever created.”

VHO says its hyperloop technology, which uses magnetic levitation to propel a capsule-like vehicle through a depressurized tube, can transport humans and goods at nearly 700 miles per hour. “It will be able to carry more people than a subway, at airline speeds and with zero direct emissions,” the company said. “By combining an ultra-efficient electric motor, magnetic levitation, and a low-drag environment, the VHO system will be five to 10 times more energy-efficient than an airplane and faster than high-speed rail using less energy.” Further, the company proposes that solar panels can be integrated into the hyperloop’s infrastructure to provide for its energy needs.

VHO is currently on a tour across America. The Hyperloop Progress & American Roadshow has been touring major cities across the US to introduce the public to hyperloop technology, specifically the company’s XP-1 vehicle. The company also has several hyperloop projects underway across the country. The Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Transportation Council and The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission are conducting active feasibility studies into the environmental impact of the hyperloop and the viability of building hyperloop routes in the Fort Worth area and the Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh corridor respectively. VHO also maintains a working test site in Nevada called DevLoop.

Internationally, the company is currently working with the Indian government of Maharashtra on developing a hyperloop route between Pune and Mumbai. “The implementation of a regional VHO system could reduce local greenhouse gas emissions by up to 150,000 tons (300 million pounds) annually while creating 1.8 million new jobs and $36 billion in economic impact across the region,” according to VHO.

An Open-Source Transportation Innovation

The idea of the hyperloop was first proposed by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, circa 2012. Musk’s vision was for a new form of transportation that would be immune to weather changes, consume very little energy, never have collisions, store enough energy to operate 24/7, and travel at high speeds (able to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes).

The concept was to place pods inside of a tube that contained an array of fans. The fans would create a partial vacuum within the tube, allowing the pods to be propelled (via wheels, air pressure, electromagnetic propulsion, or some other means) through the tube at high speeds. Enthusiasts believe the hyperloop could one day obtain supersonic speeds.

VHO’s XP-1 at the company’s DevLoop test track in Nevada. (Image source: Virgin Hyperloop One)

In 2013 engineers at Tesla and SpaceX released a 57-page white paper detailing an early design concept. That same year Musk announced he was open-sourcing the concept so that other companies and institutions could iterate on the idea and speed its development. This has led to a small ecosystem of hyperloop companies like VHO, Los Angeles-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, and Canadian company Transpod to emerge.

There have also been competitions challenging students and startups to develop their own hyperloop solutions. Design News chronicled the journey of one of those teams – Team rLoop. that created its own hyperloop system entirely via social media collaboration.

The Long Loop Ahead

All of this is not to say that hyperloop technology has a smooth road (or tube) ahead. There have yet to be any tests or deployments on the scale comparable to even a short commercial flight. And there are a lot of questions around the logistics necessary to implement a large-scale hyperloop infrastructure.

A 2019 report, “Global Hyper loop Technology Market Research Report- Forecast 2023” published by Market Research Future predicted that transportation demands point to potential growth in the hyperloop market but also that the technology faces major obstacles.

The “possibility of technical glitches and the shortage of power restrain the market growth,” the report said. “Other restraints could be that terrain and other natural disasters will act as a major restraint for this market. In addition to this, it is seen that the online services connected with hyperloop will require connection to the pods which might affect the magnetic field within the tube further forming a major obstacle for the implementation process.”

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.

The Midwest’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event!

Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis connects you with top industry experts, including esign and manufacturing suppliers, and industry leaders in plastics manufacturing, packaging, automation, robotics, medical technology, and more. This is the place where exhibitors, engineers, executives, and thought leaders can learn, contribute, and create solutions to move the industry forward. Register today!


If you aren’t thinking about how to gain competitive advantage through the application of new design and manufacturing strategies, management practices, and savvy investments, you can be sure your competition is. The race is afoot to reduce product development cycle times and costs. Chief areas of focus to scale back cycle times and costs include ramping up professional labor productivity and expediting prototype development. 

Sapience Snalytics, optimization of human capital, people analytics
A new type of analytics platform which promises to spur the next wave of productivity and new levels of human potential: people analytics. (image source: Sapience Analytics)

Many design engineers are familiar with the concept of the product realization process, which is divided into three planes: 1) the physical plane, which consists of tools, infrastructure and physical processes and products, 2) the information plane, and 3) the human plane which lies in between the physical and data planes. It is in the human plane where people provide the cognition, ignition and inspiration to develop products that meet design requirements in the information plane, leveraging resources from the physical plane.  

Over the past few decades, various technologies and innovations have been introduced into both the physical and information planes of the product realization process, but to date, little technology has been applied to amplify human potential in the human plane. This is surprising, considering success hinges on intellectual capability and productivity.  

This is changing thanks to a new type of analytics platform which promises to spur the next wave of productivity and new levels of human potential.   

People Analytics: Giving the Human Plane of Product Realization a Leg Up

For engineering-driven organizations, the workforce can comprise up to 85% of total expenses. Engineers are the core drivers of value, as the engineering effectively is the product. To this end, organizations must be able to objectively evaluate performance on the human plane, to understand where productivity drains exist so they can make necessary changes. Improving productivity by 5, 10 or even 20% can shrink costly prototype and design cycles significantly.   

What’s more, firms must also look to improve employee engagement, which has been shown to translate into greater productivity, improved corporate performance, and greater workforce retention. Engagement is also especially vital to align with the changing nature of the engineering workforce. Today, the default is a heterogenous workforce with “remote gig” workers, and companies are struggling to manage this evolving workplace. 

People analytics offers a valuable tool to find the sources of productivity loss to inform and guide strategies to close this gap, while providing the means to improve engagement – all the while bringing employees under a common performance management platform key to operational visibility.   

Today’s knowledge workers’ tools of the trade are computers – workstations, PCs and mobile devices – and business systems, such as CAD/CAM systems, as well as Microsoft Office applications. Via people analytics, individual’s and work group’s digital output is measured and analyzed to understand productivity trends and traps. Sophisticated software automates the collection of the digital signals that an employee emits and combines them with powerful analytics that equip senior executives with reporting and analysis needed to make better decisions about their workforce (the human plane). 

Employee effort is automatically captured to comprise a 360-degree view on how work happens and the overall utilization and engagement of teams and individual employees.  

The Productivity Imperative: Millions to Be Lost or Gained

Today, most companies are only realizing 60% productivity of workforce capacity. When employee effort is spent on non-value added and non-productive efforts, companies can lose millions in lost productivity.  

There’s a lot at stake, and a lot to be gained by solving this problem. In fact, I would argue there’s a productivity imperative. One extra hour of productive time per user per day can equate to over 25 million more productive labor hours for a large engineering-driven organization. With 25 million labor hours you could build 600 F-35s, 3.5 Empire State buildings, and 60% of an aircraft carrier. What’s more, productivity savings can help organizations be more competitive while balancing rising material costs, price reduction pressures and increasing labor costs. As global competition intensifies, organizations must hone the human plane of product realization, and with people analytics they can. 

Tyler Craig provides expert consultancy at the intersection of business management and technology execution – particularly for companies in the aerospace, travel, manufacturing, and industrial design sectors. Tyler is VP of sales for Sapience Analytics, a company that aims to revolutionize how companies manage their most important asset – their human capital. 

The Midwest’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event!

Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis connects you with top industry experts, including esign and manufacturing suppliers, and industry leaders in plastics manufacturing, packaging, automation, robotics, medical technology, and more. This is the place where exhibitors, engineers, executives, and thought leaders can learn, contribute, and create solutions to move the industry forward. Register today!

  • Flying vehicles are poised for innovation while disillusionment is setting in on autonomous cars. The 2019 Gartner Hype Cycle has identified 29 technologies set to have a major impact on society, business, and culture in the next decade. Sensing and mobility technologies dominated the trends this year as did AI and its related technologies.

    We’re taking a look at 10 of the most hyped technologies of 2019. Some are just gaining momentum as of this year while others are moving into disillusionment. For some there’s the promise of practical, real world use cases. But others may fade out before they get there.

    Here’s a breakdown of the five stages of the Gartner Hype Cycle:

    Innovation Trigger: A new technology has started gaining attention outside of academic and research circles but has yet to find a commercial footing.

    Peak of Inflated Expectations: Essentially the peak of hype and excitement. This is when early adopters jump on board as the first success stories around a technology emerge.

    Trough of Disillusionment: The honeymoon phase is over. Failed use cases emerge and risk-adverse companies begin to steer clear of a technology.

    Slope of Enlightenment: Now that disillusionment has set in, a technology starts to find its real footing. There are fewer novel applications of a technology and more iterations on proven use cases.

    Plateau of Productivity: The technology goes mainstream and its value and relevance to the market is clear and taking off.

  • 3D Sensing Cameras

    (Sliding into the Trough)

    3D sensing cameras are already allowing smartphone owners to turn themselves into 3D emojis or animated characters. But its make or break time to determine if the technology will have a major impact in areas such as automotive, facial recognition, or gesture sensing or be a passing novelty for the Snapchat and TikTok crowd.

    There is still hope however. Tractica is predicting the market for 3D imaging sensors and hardware subsystems to grow to $57.9 billion by 2025, driven primarily by automotive and mobile applications.

    The market has also seen products emerge for a wider array of applications. The BELICE (shown above) from 3D sensor company ams AG has been targeted at IoT and robotics applications in addition to mobile.

    (Image source: ams AG)

  • 5G

    (At the Peak)

    In 2018 we saw the first deployments of 5G for home and commercial use. Major telecomm and device companies have been preparing for inevitable full rollout of 5G and have been releasing and planning products around it. This is the time, according to Gartner, when early adopters will jump onto the 5G hype train. It remains to be seen however where 5G will find itself having the biggest impact. Companies like AR glasses maker ThirdEye Gen are implementing 5G-ready processors into their products. The University of Warwick in Europe also announced it is now conducting formal research into 5G applications for autonomous and connected vehicles.

    (Image source: WMG at the University of Warwick)

  • AR Cloud

    (On the Rise)

    The Augmented Reality Cloud (AR Cloud) is predicted to gather momentum in the next five to 10 years. The term, coined by AR entrepreneur and investor Ori Inbar, refers to “a persistent 3D digital copy of the real world to enable sharing of AR experiences across multiple users and devices.” The concept essentially envisions a near future where everything around us from roads, to storefronts, and perhaps even other people will have some sort of AR functionality that will allow us to gather information in the real world as easily as we can gather information online with search engines. There is already a healthy ecosystem of augmented reality hardware and software tools for developers such as Apple’s ARKit (shown above).

    (Image source: Apple)

  • Edge AI

    (At the Peak)

    Edge AI has built up a lot of momentum in 2019 as more chipmakers unveiled new and faster hardware aimed at enabling AI computing to be done directly on devices rather than via the cloud. The iPhone 11 boasts what Apple is calling its most powerful smartphone chip ever for AI processing. Google and Qualcomm both announced purpose-built chips for AI inferencing this year. And more and more companies are looking at edge-based AI to play a major role in the expansion of the IoT. The maker community has even found its first edge AI solution thanks to the Jetson Nano (shown above) released by Nvidia this year.

    (Image source: Nvidia)

  • Emotion AI

    (On the Rise)

    Artificial intelligence that can exhibit real emotion is still the stuff of science fiction, but AI that can recognize emotion is already here. Companies like Affectiva are developing emotion AI for a number of applications ranging from retail and entertainment to automotive. In the next five to 10 years we may be seeing cars on the roads capable of recognizing how their driver and passengers are feeling and responding accordingly.

    (Image source: Affectiva)

  • Flying Autonomous Vehicles

    (On the Rise)

    Science fiction promised us we’d be living in a future of flying cars by now. So why shouldn’t we develop flying cars along side autonomous ones? Though Gartner predicts any true innovative break in flying cars is still over a decade away, companie such as Kitty Hawk are already actively working to bring flying autonomous vehicles to customers for both public and private use.

    (Image source: Kitty Hawk)

  • Level 4 Autonomous Vehicles

    (Sliding Into the Trough)

    While Level 5 autonomous cars are just beginning to gather hype, the honeymoon is ending for Level 4 (no human intervention needed, but a steering wheel is still present). Level 4 autonomy hasn’t reached any large scale commercial deployment, but Gartner says the technology has reached the point where failed use cases will begin to emerge. The silver lining however is that this means the technology is approaching its “Slope of Enlightenment,” where iterations on established use cases will emerge. This year TuSimple, a maker of technology for creating autonomous trucks, announced partnerships with UPS and the USPS to test autonomous trucks for shipping and hauling mail freight in the US.

    (Image source: TuSimple)

  • Level 5 Autonomous Vehicles

    (At the Peak)

    The march toward full autonomous vehicles is continuing, albeit at a slower pace than companies and analysts once predicted. While we may be decades out from seeing Level 5 vehicles (no steering wheel and no human intervention required) deployed widely on the road, such vehicles are being developed on testing tracks and facilities. We may not get there as soon as some have hoped, but continued advances in sensors, simulation, and safety technologies are keeping things on track.

    (Image source: Julien Tromeur from Pixabay)

  • Light Cargo Delivery Drones

    (On the Rise)

    New sensor technologies and tracking technologies such as SLAM are making wheeled and flying drones better able to navigate obstacles and environments all of the time. Amazon is perhaps the most notable company experimenting with drone delivery. The company claims it is only months away from launching pilot programs for drone delivery.

    (Image source: Amazon)

  • Nanoscale 3D Printing

    (On the Rise)

    Though more than out 10 years from reaching its plateau of productivity, 3D printing at the nanoscale promises to create not only stronger structures, but also to potentially facilitate the development of new and interesting materials. Institutions such as ORNL and LLNL have been actively conducting research into new methods for 3D printing at the nanoscale.

    (Image source: ORNL)

The X2 Glasses from ThirdEye Gen are 5G-enabled and, according to the company, are the lightest glasses ever released for mixed reality. (Image source: ThirdEye Gen)

The latest mixed reality (MR) glasses from ThirdEye Gen are 5G-enabled. The company’s X2 Glasses, which first debuted at CES 2019, are now widely available and feature 5G mobile edge computing capability. The X2 Glasses are the culmination of a partnership between ThirdEye Gen and Verizon, under which ThirdEye Gen was allowed to develop the X2’s 5G capability on Verizon’s expanding 5G network.

As an enterprise-focused product, the increased bandwidth and reduced latency of 5G connectivity holds promise in enhancing the glasses’ functionality in manufacturing and design spaces – where large amounts of information often need to be transferred very quickly. Of course right now there have been no wide-scale deployments of 5G outside of test markets. So ThirdEye is likely looking to take advantage of early adopters who are conducting their own 5G implementations and to position itself as a leader once 5G reaches a wider rollout across industries.

In addition to connectivity, ThirdEye Gen is also tackling one of the biggest complaints in MR and augmented reality with the X2 Glasses – weight. At 6 ounces, ThirdEye says the X2 Glasses are “the world’s smallest MR glasses.” The lighter weight should go a long way in improving comfort as well as mobility in wearing the glasses. Warehouse workers can wear them for longer periods and avoid muscle strain, for example, and in repair and installation applications technicians can enjoy more comfort and the freedom of having both hands available.

The X2 is an all-in-one (no wires or tethering pack) platform running on the Android OS – meaning it can support a healthy ecosystem of third-party apps. The X2 Glasses feature a 42-degree field of view; sensors for thermal, ambient light, and flashlight; two grey-scale cameras; a 13-megapixel HD RBG camera; and 3-axis gyroscope, accelerometer, and compasses. The MR glasses run on a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1, the same processor behind the Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2.

ThirdEye Gen has also implemented a proprietary simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) system, called VisionEye SLAM, into the glasses for tracking the wearer’s position. SLAM technology is the same technology used by autonomous cars for positioning and can enable MR glasses to perform advanced features such as position-based modeling and overlay in CAD applications. The company says VisionEye SLAM is an all-in-one solution with dynamic occlusion, visual odometry tracking, and environment meshing-domination plane detection – meaning the glasses can provide six degree of freedom (6DoF) tracking in both indoor and outdoor environments.

“Our goal is to become the most recognizable smart glasses in the AR and MR industry, and so far we’ve created the widest field of view in the smallest form factor possible,” Nick Cherukuri, Founder of ThirdEye Gen, said in a press statement. “…We are giving workers all across the enterprise the opportunity to really elevate their level of work.”

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.


Is Back to the Future Part II  still a sci-fi movie or is it a piece of historical fiction? We certainly don’t have a lot of the technologies it promised us – most namely flying cars. Many of us grew up hoping we’d be living in a world that looked like The Jetsons by now (that show was set in the year 2062, so there’s still time).

But, strangely, a future of flavored coffee options, streaming TV, electronic cigarettes, and K-pop music hasn’t satisfied our longing for personalized flying vehicles. And what better place to vent our collective frustrations than social media?

The hashtag #InsteadofFlyingCarsWeHave exploded on Twitter this week as people took to social media to bemoan all of the things we have instead of flying cars.

Click through the slideshow to see some of our favorite tweets.

What would you gladly trade for a flying car?

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at   Design News  covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics