High-Tech Wonders: Technology That Improves Life

Just as Velcro ended up on shoes, a lot of innovative technology finds it ways into our daily lives

It’s easy to take technology for granted, but consider that 100 years ago, only 35 percent of homes in the United States had telephones. Cellphones, which now are found in the hands of pretty much everyone, were relatively rare as recently as 30 years ago, with only an estimated 11 million in use in the United States at the time. As another example of how quickly technology improves, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon a mere 66 years after the Wright brothers’ historic flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

 3-D printer
Can’t find the part you need? Use a 3-D printer to create it in minutes. (Courtesy of Formlabs)

The spread of the internet and more focused efforts have streamlined the creation of technology that improves lives, although it sometimes takes a while for an idea to become reality. Though 3-D printers existed as a concept in 1945, with methodology developed in the 1970s, it wasn’t until 1987 that the first commercial unit was created by 3D Systems Corporation. Initially mostly found in aerospace applications and soon thereafter adopted for use by dentists and physicians, 3-D printers such as the Formlabs Form 3+ are now in everyday use by hobbyists creating jewelry or fabricating hard-to-find parts for antique cars or furniture. As long as a drawing can be made of the object desired, it can be created, using a computer linked to a 3-D printer, loaded with software readily available online.

If the pup is home alone, a PetCube Bites 2 lets you talk to him and give him treats. (Courtesy of Petcube)

As noted earlier, the internet has greatly increased the speed of the development and introduction of new technology, much of which trickles down to everyday applications. With an estimated 70 percent of U.S. households owning pets, many of which are dogs, it was only a matter of time until a way was found to interact with them remotely. With a Petcube Bites 2, you can talk to your dog while you are away from home. A high-definition 1080p camera provides real-time video, while two-way audio allows you to talk to them and hear their happy barks. To get their tail wagging, it can dispense treats as snacks or rewards for good behavior. You can even check in on them quietly, using the wide-angle camera with night vision capability.

Google Nest Doorbell
With a Google video doorbell, you can see who is at the front door whether you’re home or many miles away. (Courtesy of Google)

And, of course, the internet also allows us to see who’s at our front door, even if we happen to be on the other side of the planet. In addition to confirming when deliveries are made, a two-way system such as Google’s video doorbell lets you see and talk to whoever may be at your front door. Easily installed, this high-tech version of a door peephole can be hard-wired or powered by batteries; this system has both practical and security aspects.

On a related note, most of us have left home only to wonder, when we are a few blocks or many miles away, if we locked the door. While it is likely the door is locked, the nagging doubt can prompt a trip back home or a call to a friend to check it for you. A Yale Smart Lock lets you use a smartphone app to check the status of the door remotely and to lock it if you forgot to do so. The system also allows to you provide remote access to family or trusted neighbors or friends to check on pets or otherwise enter the home.

Fuji Instamax Mini Printer
Wouldn’t it be great if you could print all those photos on your phone? With an Instax Mini Link printer, you can. (Courtesy of Fujifilm Instax)

Sometimes technology goes back and reinvents itself. The first Polaroid camera went on sale in 1948, over time becoming an iconic item for its ability to produce a snapshot on the spot. In 1943, Edwin Land, a pioneer in the science of polarizing lenses and sunglasses, was inspired when his 3-year-old daughter asked why she couldn’t see vacation photos right away. The result was the Land Camera, which ejected a photo that could be viewed in 60 seconds. The popularity of these cameras waned in the 1980s, but now Fujifilm has developed a way to create instant photos taken on smartphones in the form of the Instax Mini Link printer. Now you can once again take a photo or video and immediately print a color photograph.

Apple AirTag 2
An Apple AirTag makes lost keys a thing of the past. It also lets you keep track of luggage, purses, portable electronics, and even pets. (Courtesy of Apple)
An AirTag allows you to use an iPhone to immediately locate any tagged item. (Srdjan Randjelovic/Shutterstock)

Technology has also provided a solution to the all-too-common question: “Where did I leave my keys?” The Apple AirTag can be attached to keychains to make locating them a simple matter of checking your iPhone. These little items also come in handy for keeping track of laptops, camera bags, bicycles, and more. No app is required to activate them, in a process that’s as simple as activating Bluetooth. You can attach them to luggage, pet collars, and just about any other item that may become misplaced. The only downside is that you’d need another phone in order to use them to locate the phone you keep misplacing.

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