Jun 9, 2016 | By Alec

Due to the immense speed at which technology is developing, it is becoming almost impossible to see where we are collectively heading. From the complete integration of the world into the digital realm to lab-grown organs made from our own cells, many specialists are expecting the world to fundamentally change over the next decade or so.

But if you would like a more detailed glimpse of what can be expected, it might be a good idea to see where Google’s parent company Alphabet – one of the biggest tech incubators in the world – is focusing on. And during a shareholder’s meeting, the company’s CEO Eric Schmidt highlighted what they believed are the main innovations that will drive change over the coming years. Among them: the adoption of 3D printing by the construction sector.

Schmidt listed these potent innovations during Alphabet’s annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday, in response to a shareholder question. The meeting is traditionally sparsely attended; even Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin failed to attend. Schmidt therefore probably wasn’t planning to give a speech outlining the company’s ambitions for the coming years, but was happy to answer the question nonetheless. In doing so, he partially repeated statements made during the Milken Global Conference in May, but stressed that Alphabet wasn’t necessarily working on all these innovations.

But all of these potent technologies, the CEO stressed, can have a huge impact within the next five to ten years. The most profound of them, and the one where Alphabet has been focusing on, is a new information system that suggests the right information for users at the right time. To enable this, Google is already working on an AI system called The Assistant, that will talk to users through a new Allo messaging service and from home devices in users’ living rooms. The technology will also be integrated into research services to help scientists push studies even further. “This will be transformative for our company,” Schmidt said.

But among the other innovations, Schmidt also listed construction-based 3D printing. While 3D printing itself is seen as a potent tool that can change numerous industries, Schmidt argued that the biggest impact can be felt in the construction industry (which makes up five percent of the economy). He believes such innovations can make that entire sector cheaper, more efficient and superior, while retaining the ability to realize dynamic designs.

Right now, the construction industry is time-consuming, energy-intensive, wasteful and costly. But 3D printing could dramatically speed up production and cut costs, the CEO argued. Not only would waste be reduced significantly, construction could even take place on site to reduce transportation costs. “Imagine if we can get the cost of those buildings down by a factor of 3 or 4 or 5 using new materials and allow you to remodel them very quickly and things like that,” he told shareholders. “There are people working on this.”

World's first 3D printed villa and tallest 3D printed apartment building, by Chinese company Winsun.

But of course this is just one innovation that will enable change. Among others, Schmidt also highlighted lab-grown meat as a significant change, calling it “nerds over cattle.” Virtual and Augmented Reality – something Alphabet is also involved in – will also change the tech market completely, the CEO argued. “[It could generate] a very large future revenue stream from entertainment, sports and gaming,” Schmidt said.

Other impactful innovations that can be expected in the near future are largely tied to smart technology and AI. This will be seen in the medical sector in the near future, where smartphones and wearables can be used to continually track people’s health. Schmidt further expects autonomous cars to hit the roads within a matter of years, rather than decades, while educational AI could also find its way into classrooms. 3D printing-based construction thus seems like a remarkable innovation to list among these smart technologies, but clearly should not be underestimated.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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