Change for good: 5 bits of tech that are going to make the world a better place

From translation to teleportation

Skype Translator

It goes without saying that we at TechRadar are a forward-thinking bunch. But while we spend much of our time gazing into the crystal ball, not everything that manifests is worth telling grandma about. Sure, we'll tell you that Apple is probably going to improve the camera on the iPhone 7, or that we'll be seeing more than a few 4K TVs at CES this year, but every so often we get to tell you about something that's going to change lives in a meaningful way.

Because sometimes you read about something and you know, almost instantly, that it's going to make the world a better place. There's a lot of exciting high-impact tech on the horizon, but we've picked out the five (well OK, maybe six) most imminent bits of technology that we believe are going to make the world a better place, and we should see them making waves this year.

1. Skype Translator

Skype Translator

You'd have to be a stone-cold luddite to not be impressed with Skype Translator. What Microsoft has pulled off is nothing short of a marvel, letting people of different languages converse in their native tongue in real time - all thanks to some clever tech that audibly translates every sentence to the other party. The implications will be huge: language learning for education; connecting with distant relatives; international business relationships. Heck, it could make for some interesting cyber dates...

The software is still in its early preview stage, but expect to see it roll out in full glory in 2015 with a number of compatible languages - and more to come down the line.

2. Electric cars gain momentum

Electric cars

The electric car has had a slow and uncertain rise, but thanks to big players like Tesla we really feel like the electric vehicle's time has come. We don't need to tell you the environmental reasons why they're important, but why have they not gained more momentum thus far? The main drawback has been distance but that's starting to change. The Tesla Roadster is being upgraded to extend its range to 400 miles, and in four months time you'll be able to drive across the UK for no cost at all in a Tesla S. Tesla also wants you to know that it takes less time to swap the battery on your Tesla S than it does to fill a tank of gas.

3. As will driverless cars

Driverless car

The driverless cars are coming and no one can stop them. Unless you've been living in a cave for the past three years you'll know that Google has been leading the charge in this area. It's just revealed the next evolution of its autonomous vehicle - now ready for the roads - but as with most things Google it won't be building the final product itself, but will enlist the help of established names in the field instead.

2015 will be the year that driverless cars take a big leap forward, and will see the UK playing a significant role: four British locations will be host to driverless car trials starting this month, with the aim of teaching us how autonomous vehicles can be assimilated into our daily lives. That includes driverless buses.

4. Cheap internet for the masses

Elon Musk

We at TechRadar are big fans of Elon Musk, but it's his work on internet accessibility that we're probably most impressed by right now. Musk wants to offer unfettered, low cost internet to the masses via a fleet of micro-satellites. And by gosh he's going to do it.

In November Musk promised an announcement "in 2 to 3 months" and calendar fans will know that puts us at code red. Expect to hear more any day now.

But Musk isn't the only one. Google and Facebook are also working to bring widespread internet connectivity to the third world, and we can expect to see more developments in 2015.

5. Health

Jawbone

Health is an area of technology that's so multi-faceted right now it can often feel too fragmented. But we believe that we're approaching a point where wearable, fitness-focused technology will become mainstream, health will be gamified, and suddenly everybody will care about their wellbeing. There's no guarantee that the smartwatch will stick around, but wearable technology is here to stay.

The key is to make the data meaningful - Jawbone is a great example of someone who's doing it right - rather than just telling us that we've walked 60 more steps than we did yesterday. Yes, gamifying it will help more people to take interest, but that information must then be turned into something that can make us fitter, healthier, more productive...

Bonus number 6: teleportation

OK, this one might be a bit of a stretch but that doesn't make it entirely impossible. If there was one takeaway point from the discovery of the Higgs Boson it should have been that travelling at the speed of light may now be possible. Some thinkers on the Higgs Boson believe that by "shutting off" a person's Higgs field, they might be able to travel at this speed and potentially teleport from one place to another.

One response to this is that, to do so, you'd probably have to heat that person up by billions of degrees, which doesn't sound like much fun to us. But who knows - we may see teleportation one day become a reality after all. Just don't expect much to happen this year.

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