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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Breakthrough Tech Has Hi-Ed Implications

MIT’s Technology Review has released its annual 10 Breakthrough Technologies list, with at least three having the potential to impact higher education.

One technology, microscale 3-D printing, has already received a great deal of attention in the news media. It might ultimately be used in a variety of design courses, but may show up first in campus retail stores to create custom products.

The concept of mobile collaboration, another technology cited on the list, isn’t really new. However, the Technology Review noted the rise of new apps that enable people to work more effectively on group projects through their smartphones and tablets. More college and university courses require students to work together, yet students are more comfortable with text-messaging than word-processing.

“By incorporating streams of messages about the work being created, these apps reflect the fact that many communications are now brief, informal, and rapid,” the article said.

The third technology, Oculus Rift, sounds like a character from a science-fiction tale. It’s actually a new type of virtual-reality headset for ultra-immersive video games. According to the Technology Review, the Rift not only provides a much more realistic experience, the Oculus company plans to price it within the means of the average consumer.

“While video games are where this improved virtual-reality technology is likely to take off first, it could also have applications in telepresence, architecture, computer-aided design, emergency response training, and phobia therapy,” according to the article. Older versions of this technology are already used in simulations for medical surgery and industrial design.

The seven other breakthroughs on the list are agricultural drones, ultraprivate smartphones, brain mapping, neuromorphic chips, genome editing, agile robots, and smart wind and solar power.

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