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Emerging technologies 2019: how can these benefit us all and the effects they will have in the future of wellness and sports

2019 begins with good intentions and forecasts supported by reports full of data that can tell a lot about the world of emerging technologies.

Lux Searching has published on its blog an interesting analysis that identifies five emerging technologies, explaining the reasons that qualify them as the most relevant of the current landscape. Looking at the trends, there is great interdependence between them.

Connectivity between our devices and smart objects

From Sci-Fi to our present: Emerging technologies on Machine learning and artificial intelligence

It seems a century has passed since we first saw the melancholic androids of Blade Runner. Meanwhile, artificial intelligence has become a reality and progress in the field has been dizzying. Despite the increasing talk of AI and machine learning, both remain quite smoky topics, especially to those not in the business.
AI is no longer the stuff of movies
To bring people closer to machine learning, Google has made available Teachable Machine, a concrete example of how this type of emerging technologies works, an effective tool to understand how machines "train" and how they learn to perform activities in a natural way, without having been previously programmed.

What is machine learning?

Machine learning is a branch of artificial intelligence, the branch of information technology that designs and produces hardware and software that can equip machines with characteristics considered specifically human, such as visual recognition, and that go beyond the simple ability to calculate.

Founded in 1956 thanks to John McCarthy, its purpose is the resolution of complex problems through reasoning similar to the human one. The best-known example of artificial intelligence is Deep Blue, the machine made by IBM that was tested in a chess challenge by Gary Kasparov: initially, the Russian champion prevailed; however, game after game, refining its game through learning, Deep Blue won.

Kasparov vs. Deep Blue: checkmate
Today AI uses neural networks and complex algorithms embedded in intelligent systems to ensure that the machine is able to make decisions, as in the case of driverless cars, emerging technologies currently being tested.

According to Lux Searching data, in 2018, more than 10,000 AI patents were registered and the application of these emerging technologies now involves sectors such as retail, logistics, transport, medicine and much more.

Artificial Intelligence will make our daily processes faster
In the sports sector, we are already seeing the use of emerging technologies that can handle a huge amount of data and process them to develop effective gaming strategies, or to suggest possible ways to improve performance. These are the so-called coaching 4.0 tools.

Today AI has also entered the world of motor racing with the use, in Formula 1, of Amazon Web Services tools, which process race data in real time and help teams to make decisions, such as when to make a pit stop for the change of tires, or to assess driver’s performance.

US NFL is using AI to calculate team statistics - visible on the NG platform - offering fans the opportunity to approach the sports event much more in-depth.

Tennis is but one of the sports adopting AI
As you can see in Hudl, all team sports can use AI to better overall sports performance. Moreover, the same can be said for individual disciplines, such as tennis. For example, in 2018 Wimbledon officially introduced Watson, the IT infrastructure system that provides AI of the tournament. Watson is able to offer numerous automatic features, including applications for users of Facebook Messenger, and aims to implement augmented reality content during 2019.

Not to mention the ability to offer the public a richer and more personalized sports experience, thanks to the offer of content so far unimaginable.

Enhance your body: Emerging technologies on wearables

From the first wearable devices to haptic suits, the field of wearable emerging technologies has recently expanded to the Internet of Things (which from 2020 should consolidate thanks to the spread of the 5G network), human augmentation, smart materials, prosthetics, 3D printing and much more.

Emerging technologies most in vogue among wearables

Among the most popular wearable technologies, we mention:

  • Smart glasses: they are completely similar to eyeglasses, but the frame contains a micro projector that reproduces images in the peripheral area of the view or in the centre of the field of view. After a weak debut, large technology companies are once again investing to launch more functional and aesthetically pleasing smart glasses on the market. Smart contact lenses are also being tested, but these emerging technologies are still at a very embryonic phase.
  • Fitness tracker: also called fit band, it is a bracelet that can monitor a series of parameters, including sleep patterns, number of steps, heartbeats and sports performance.
  • Smart watch: This device offers a series of digital functions that allow the operation of third-party apps. There are many different types, which differ in the type of screen, RAM, operating system and, of course, performance. Smart watches usually offer instruments such as GPS, pedometer and heart rate measurement, and they can be a multi-functional, albeit more expensive, alternative to fitness trackers.

The future of wearable emerging technologies

Due to their specific nature, today we can consider wearables as an active link between the body and the environment that surrounds it. Such emerging technologies are able to collect data and perform different functions, ranging from the detection of vital parameters (the ECG, for example) to telemedicine, from e-payments to the measurement of sports performance, to bone prostheses and support for people with disabilities.

This last aspect is particularly interesting: changing paradigm, rereading as a wearable technology what until now we have considered mobility devices (such as a wheelchair), opens up new scenarios, as Disruptive Disability explains in its manifesto.

Payments are now possible just by tapping your smartwatch
Between exoskeletons, bracelets like Embrace, which foresees convulsive crises, and tactile devices to enhance communication in deafblind people, these emerging technologies promise to revolutionize both people's daily lives and the world of sports. In this environment, wearable emerging technologies are getting evermore present both at professional and amateur level, essential for the construction of a state-of-the-art training activity, as told in a dedicated panel at CES 2019 in Las Vegas.

Smart fabrics

In 2019, a further leap forward is expected, which will cover specific emerging technologies such as the use of increasingly advanced materials – like the so-called "smart fabrics", which include, for example, the integration of sensors and/or nanofibers - the development of increasingly sophisticated and less invasive embedded chips and sensors.

Making your ideas reality: Emerging technologies on 3D printing

A few years ago, the debut of 3D printing caused an imminent new industrial revolution to cry out. The initial enthusiasm had to contend with a less widespread diffusion of printers than expected, although there was still a significant expansion of the sector.

Today we are talking about a new turning point for these emerging technologies, thanks to the expansion of the range of printable materials, including metals, and the improvement of production systems.

Forecasts predict that sales of printers, printable materials and services will be worth $2.7 billion in 2019 and $3 billion in 2020.

Among the applications of 3D printing, the sports sector is in the foreground: starting from prototypes, this technology offers the possibility to create a large number of models at reduced costs, simultaneously printing pieces with a high number of variants in a shorter time than by traditional sports production.

3 printing will make ad hoc item creation cheap and fast
In addition, it is possible to produce spare parts in real time, an application that is of interest to the sports sector, where, for example, it will be possible to produce the missing part of a broken bicycle on site, as required.

Today, creating custom made pieces means using reverse engineering and additive printing techniques: this is the case for the production of helmets, which can be perfected to the millimetre, but also of shoes, insoles, suits and any other accessory, guaranteeing a level of customisation deemed unthinkable until recently.

The world of sports is massively integrating this technology into production processes
The same precision and customization can be applied to mechanical parts such as brake callipers, tennis rackets handles or any other piece of sports equipment.

Among the most interesting emerging technologies taking shape, the so-called 4D printing stands out: the printing of materials that change over time, such as the so-called " shape memory metals".

Also called smart metals, these are metal compounds that, once deformed, tend to get back to the original shape as a result of a simple heating.

This property of shape memory also belongs to special polymers that have the ability to recover the less definitive shape of metals, but a greater variety of activation possibilities and versatility.

These are emerging technologies whose experimentation primarily involve wellness medicine (for example, think of a drug against fever that, instead of being taken orally, is released once the change in body temperature is detected) but whose applications, once again, open up opportunities yet to be considered.

And man created man: emerging technologies on Genomic editing

Imagine a software that can locate any element of a huge file and replace it: CRISPR genomic editing works just like that.

This technique is revolutionizing the medical sector with enormous economic and effective potential. As explained in an interview by the researcher Anna Meldolesi, author of “E l'uomo creò l'uomo. CRISPR e la rivoluzione dell’editing genomico” (And the man created the man. CRISPR and the revolution of genomic editing):

We can imagine CRISPR as a molecular machine, consisting of a protein that is programmable, to which we can give instructions and direct to those specific points of the DNA we are interested in modifying. It is a protein capable of cutting DNA, coming from the microbial world: bacteria use this system to cut the DNA of viruses that attack them.

The potential applications are many and range from the correction of genetic mutations to the modification of plants, animals and humans, for food, therapeutic or research purposes.

The first biotechnological foods are ready and are being evaluated by governments, waiting to debut on the market. However, they should not be confused with GMOs, whose DNA has been mixed with that of another species in order to develop a precise character: the best-known GMO example is the so-called BT maize, created to resist herbicides and attacks by insect larvae. Genomic editing works on food DNA like a scalpel, for example activating or "turning off" a gene that regulates the production of gluten or saturated fat.

CRISPR in its essence
The rules of the market are still to be written, taking into account, first of all, the safety of modified foods and the response of consumers who, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Arkansas and published by Global Food Security, seem to perceive in a substantially similar way GMOs and CRISPR foods.

It goes without saying that emerging technologies like CRISPR and genomic editing are of great interest for the food market, as well as for the pharmaceutical market. The direct impact on the world of wellness and sports is obvious, with the possibility of creating "tailor-made" foods indicated for needs related to specific activities, as well as the hypothesis of customizing pharmacological therapies and medical preparations for sports.

Diets can be built with even greater precision than today, depending on the needs of the athlete and the various phases of sporting activity.

See the word with new eyes: Emerging technologies Augmented and Virtual Reality

Change a car tire following a tutorial that is reproduced by a pair of smart glasses; frame a work of art through the camera of your smartphone while reading its description; walk through a city and receive useful information on what you are seeing, on hot spots and on the best roads; play in an immersive way (remember Pokémon Go?).

The real and the virtual plan mix: we love augmented reality and the demand for apps that provide this type of emerging technologies is constantly growing; at the same time, virtual reality continues to entice the public, in search of immersive experiences that are more and more convincing.

The healthiest Pokémon you'll ever catch
Nielsen estimates a turnover for these two emerging technologies combined that by 2019 could reach almost 7 billion dollars, thanks to hardware improvements, which see the entry into the market of stand-alone viewers that do not need the support of PCs, smartphones and wires, and graphic improvements, which are solving the feeling of nausea experienced by some VR users.

According to Superdata's estimates, however, AR is destined to prevail over VR, with a definitive overtaking in 2021, thanks to the investment in terms of apps of major technology players.

3D Virtual Reality can take you to new worlds
What we have seen in recent years is that these emerging technologies have a close relationship with the sports and wellness worlds: leaving aside the e-games, augmented reality allows greater fans involvement in the sports experience.

The offer of richer and richer contents allows living a deeper and more involving sports experience, which extends well beyond the "live" event of the match or of the race.

For both technologies, there is a very significant use in the world of training, both for apps - often integrated with wearable tools - that offer the possibility to build training programs at a high technological level, and for VR with simulators.

These emerging technologies are establishing themselves in the field of indoor training and allow you to evoke the sensations produced by sports that are naturally impossible to practice indoors, such as diving or parachuting, or to live your training session in a more engaging way, using the principle of gamification to diversify and make more enjoyable the training experience.

The applications of Virtual and Augmented realities are limitless
Currently, the obstacles to overcome for the spread of virtual reality remain the cost and inconvenience of hardware devices. Only by making them less invasive, can they really spread and become an essential component of indoor sports.

The path seems clear, as we are waiting for the surprises that these emerging technologies will make us in the coming months.

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