From the world’s largest underground hotel to Star Wars-style holographic communication, the coming year is set to unveil an array of incredible advances in science and technology.
The growth in video communication has been exponential. Skype now boasts 300 million users, and a 2012 Ipsos/Reuters poll revealed one in five people worldwide now frequently “telecommuted” to work. But Star Trek fans will be happy to hear that incoming technology will add a further dimension to international conference calls.
Full 3D holographic communication is not far behind – in the shape of the Polish company Leia. Named after the Star Wars princess, its Leia Display XL uses laser projectors to beam images onto a cloud of water vapour. The result is a walk-in holographic room, in which 3D objects can be viewed and manipulated from every angle.
An IBM survey of 3,000 researchers recently named holographic video calls as one technology they expected to see in place in the next year or so.
Formula E will see drivers racing around city-centre circuits – including London – in battery-powered electric cars. The new championship, which is backed by the FIA, motor racing’s governing body, promises cars as sexy as those driven by Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel et al, but with lithium-ion batteries and electric motors instead of fuel tanks and pistons. And, while their top speed is expected to be 155mph, slower than Formula 1, the event will compensate with exciting street circuits and brightly-lit night events. The pit stops will be different too: with the batteries running out of juice after 20 minutes, drivers won’t just change their tires, they’ll jump into new cars. The season is scheduled to start on September 13 in Beijing, with further races in the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Berlin and Los Angeles amongst others, before the final event in the centre of London on June 27 2015.
Faster online deliveries
In this age of instant gratification, waiting days for internet purchases to arrive suddenly seems very 2013. So, from next year, behemoths like Amazon and eBay will be stepping up their efforts to deliver goods on the same day they’re bought, even if that day’s a Sunday. Eventually, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos envisions unmanned drones bringing products to our doors within half-an-hour. In the meantime, he’s increasing his number of warehouses and overhauling his partnerships with couriers to get us what we want as quickly as possible. It’s another nail in the coffin of traditional bricks-and-mortar stores.
Despite delays in testing – the first flights were promised by 2011 – Sir Richard Branson’s dream of making money in space is nearing reality. A test flight was completed in April, and it was announced in November that television network NBC has agreed to televise the first ever public flight from New Mexico “sometime in 2014”.
China’s underground hotel
In an abandoned quarry at the base of China’s Tianmenshan Mountain, 30 miles outside Shanghai, an extraordinary hotel is taking shape. At a cost of £345 million, the InterContinental Hotels Group is building a five-star resort that will boast two floors above the top of the 330ft rock face and another 17 storeys below ground level, two of which will be underwater. If construction goes to plan, the first guests at “the world’s lowest hotel” will check-in by the end of 2014.
Report and photos: Telegraph