The Future We Saw Coming Is Now

Technologies we've been following for years will be huge in 2024

3 min read
A photo of a smiling man in glasses and a collared shirt.

Senior Editor Samuel K. Moore had an embarrassment of riches to choose from as he curated this issue.

Jean Kumagai

As IEEE Spectrum editors, we pride ourselves on spotting promising technologies and following them from the research phase through development and ultimately deployment. In every January issue, we focus on the technologies that are now poised to achieve significant milestones in the new year.

This issue was curated by Senior Editor Samuel K. Moore, our in-house expert on semiconductors. So it’s no surprise that he included a story on Intel’s plan to roll out two momentous chip technologies in the next few months.

For “Intel Hopes to Leapfrog Its Competitors,” Moore directed our editorial intern, Gwendolyn Rak, to report on the risk the chip giant is taking by introducing two technologies at once. We began tracking the first technology, nanosheet transistors, in 2017. By the time we gave all the details in a 2019 feature article, it was clear that this device was destined to be the successor to the FinFET. Moore first spotted the second technology, back-side power delivery, at the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting in 2019. Less than two years later, Intel publicly committed to incorporating the tech in 2024.

Speaking of commitment, the U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has played an enormous part in bankrolling some of the fundamental advances that appear in these pages. Many of our readers will be familiar with the robots that Senior Editor Evan Ackerman covered during DARPA’s humanoid challenge almost 10 years ago. Those robots were essentially research projects, but as Ackerman reports in “Year of the Humanoid,” a few companies will start up pilot projects in 2024 to see if this generation of humanoids is ready to roll up its metaphorical sleeves and get down to business.

More recently, fully homomorphic encryption (FHE) has burst onto the scene. Moore, who’s been covering the Cambrian explosion in chip architectures for AI and other alternative computing modalities since the mid-teens, notes that, like the robotics challenge, DARPA was the initial driver.

“You’d expect the three companies DARPA funded to come up with a chip, though there was no guarantee they’d commercialize it,” says Moore, who wrote “Chips to Compute With Encrypted Data Are Coming.” “But what you wouldn’t expect is three more startups, independently of DARPA, to come out with their own FHE chips at the same time.”

Senior Editor Tekla S. Perry’s story about phosphorescent OLEDs, “A Behind-the-Screens Change for OLED,” is actually a deep cut for us. One of the first feature articles Moore edited at Spectrum way back in 2000 was Stephen Forrest’s article on organic electronics. His lab developed the first phosphorescent OLED materials, which are hugely more efficient than the fluorescent ones. Forrest’s research led to the founding of Universal Display Corp., which, after more than two decades, is finally about to commercialize the last of its trio of phosphorescent colors—blue.

Then there’s our cover story about deepfakes and their potential impact on dozens of national elections later this year. We’ve been tracking the rise of deepfakes since mid-2018, when we ran a story about AI researchers betting on whether or not a deepfake video about a political candidate would receive more than 2 million views during the U.S. midterm elections that year. As Senior Editor Eliza Strickland reports in “This Election Year, Look for Content Credentials,” several companies and industry groups are working hard to ensure that deepfakes don’t take down democracy.

Best wishes for a healthy and prosperous new year, and enjoy this year’s technology forecast. It’s been years in the making.

This article appears in the January 2024 print issue.

This post was corrected on 2 January. Stephen Forrest was involved in the creation of Universal Display, but he was not a cofounder.

The Conversation (1)
Nicolas DUJARRIER02 Jan, 2024

One technology I wish to see implemented in really High Volume Manufacturing (HVM) would be spintronic related technologies (like MRAM, p-bit, Intel MESO, Spintec FESO,…) : it is a technology that is developed for more than 2 decades… and yet, for example, as 2024, MRAM is still not implemented in any smartphone application processor in the world…