Top Tech 2022: A Special Report

Preview two dozen exciting technical developments that are in the pipeline for the coming year

1 min read
Photo of the lower part of a rocket in an engineering bay.

NASA’s Space Launch System will carry Orion to the moon.

Frank Michaux/NASA

At the start of each year, IEEE Spectrum attempts to predict the future. It can be tricky, but we do our best, filling the January issue with a couple of dozen reports, short and long, about developments the editors expect to make news in the coming year.

This isn’t hard to do when the project has been in the works for a long time and is progressing on schedule—the coming first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, for example. For other stories, we must go farther out on a limb. A case in point: the description of a hardware wallet for Bitcoin that the company formerly known as Square (which recently changed its name to Block) is developing but won’t officially comment on. One thing we can predict with confidence, though, is that Spectrum readers, familiar with the vicissitudes of technical development work, will understand if some of these projects don’t, in fact, pan out. That’s still okay.

Engineering, like life, is as much about the journey as the destination.

See all stories from our Top Tech 2022 Special Report


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Tickle Pill Bug Toes With These Haptic Microfingers

Balloon actuators and liquid metal sensors enable tactile human-insect interactions

4 min read
A gif showing a live pill bug on its back wiggling its body and feet as a very small robot hand touches it

All things considered, we humans are kind of big, which is very limiting to how we can comfortably interact with the world. The practical effect of this is that we tend to prioritize things that we can see and touch and otherwise directly experience, even if those things are only a small part of the world in which we live. A recent study conservatively estimates that there are 2.5 million ants for every one human on Earth. And that’s just ants. There are probably something like 7 million different species of terrestrial insects, and humans have only even noticed like 10 percent of them. The result of this disconnect is that when (for example) insect populations around the world start to crater, it takes us much longer to first notice, care, and act.

To give the small scale the attention that it deserves, we need a way of interacting with it. In a paper recently published in Scientific Reports, roboticists from Ritsumeikan University in Japan demonstrate a haptic teleoperation system that connects a human hand on one end with microfingers on the other, letting the user feel what it’s like to give a pill bug a tummy rub.

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IEEE SIGHT Founder Amarnath Raja Dies at 65

The humanitarian program leverages technology for sustainable development

4 min read
Photo of a man in a blue "IEEE SIGHT" jacket in front of a flowering tree.

Amarnath Raja, an IEEE senior member, founded the IEEE Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology in 2011.

Jaya Krishnan

Amarnath Raja

Founder of IEEE Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology

Senior member, 65; died 5 September

Raja founded the IEEE Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology (SIGHT) in 2011. The global network partners with underserved communities and local organizations to leverage technology for sustainable development.

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FAST Labs’ Cutting-Edge R&D Gets Ideas to the Field Faster

BAE Systems’ FAST Labs engineers turn breakthrough innovations into real-life impact

1 min read

FAST Labs is an R&D organization where research teams can invent and see their work come to life.

BAE Systems

This is a sponsored article brought to you by BAE Systems.

No one sets out to put together half a puzzle. Similarly, researchers and engineers in the defense industry want to see the whole picture – seeing their innovations make it into the hands of warfighters and commercial customers.

That desire is fueling growth at BAE Systems’ FAST Labs research and development (R&D) organization.

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