#1: A student educated solely through free online university courses will take the LSAT or MCAD and receive a test score high enough to be accepted by a major law school or medical program. The student will, however, be denied entrance because she doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year institution. The student will sue. The case will be closely monitored by open-source advocates as well as the guardians of the traditional four-year college. The case will be the opening salvo in the battle to define the future of education.
#2: An armed military ground robot will successfully identify and terminate a top Taliban leader deep inside a cave somewhere in the mountains of Afghanistan. In response, a U.S. military robot will be hijacked and used against U.S. forces in a deadly attack. Both events will spur high-level discussions–and much hand-wringing–about the ethical uses of robots in warfare but they will also fuel increased expenditures on military robots by other foreign governments.
#3: Interactive billboards will be coming to a store near you in 2011– and they will target you. Employing the latest facial recognition technology and utilizing sophisticated algorithms, these billboards will detect your age and gender and then, using the time of day and your location, deliver an advertisement designed for you. Privacy advocates will decry the event but since the technology only uses generic information (the technology does not recognize individual faces), most major retailers will be comfortable employing the technology.
#4: Due to advances in 3-D manufacturing, a leading U.S. automotive company will announce it is terminating a relationship with a Chinese supply part manufacturer and instead begin printing those parts at an assembly plant in Ohio.
#5: Nike and Apple will announce a new partnership to incorporate Apple’s iPod technology directly into certain Nike apparel, including hoodies and running jackets. In an unrelated event, Nike will also begin exploring partnerships with leading healthcare companies to explore how medical sensors embedded in their products can be used to monitor a person’s health condition.
#6: Continued advances in GPS and social networking technology will force a growing number of major car rental businesses into partnerships with car-sharing companies, such as Zipcar, in order to make car rentals available in more convenient locations and for shorter lengths of time.
#7: Stem cell researchers will announce a spinal cord patient has regained partial use of her limbs due to a new treatment involving embryonic stem cells. There will be only minimal opposition from conservative organizations regarding this innovative treatment.
#8: Citizens in Tokyo, Silicon Valley and Boston will begin spotting early tech trend-setters wearing “augmented reality” glasses to navigate their way around those cities. Meanwhile, the rest of the world will simply become more used to seeing people hold up their phones next to restaurants, buildings and advertisements to gather more information about their external surroundings.
#9: Due to the aging demographics of nurses in the healthcare industry, a major hospital will experiment with an exoskeleton to help nurses lift and “turn” patients. The device will allow a 120-pound nurse to flip a 300-pound man without breaking a sweat—or her back.
#10: A private genomics company will announce the development of a genetic test to better detect heart disease. The event will trigger a land rush among major pharmaceutical companies to acquire leading genetic testing companies. Elsewhere in the field of genomics, Monsanto, Bayer Science and others will announce the creation of new versions of gentically-modified drought-resistant varieties of corn, wheat, cotton and barley.