Tech

City life in 2030: Here's what to expect

Updated 1129 GMT (1929 HKT) December 17, 2014
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Roombas with a personality

The robotic revolution has already started, but the ultimate dream of robot makers worldwide is to fill the planet with anthropomorphic robots -- the stuff of science fiction movies.

They will take on the role of personal assistants, both at home -- to help with chores, for example -- and in public spaces, to offer guidance to tourists or lend a hand with your shopping.

Pictured above is the REEM robot, built by Spain's PAL Robotics. It is already available, and it can give an idea of what's to come in the more distant future.

It has a touch screen to display information and can sustain basic conversations, responding to inquiries in spaces such as shopping malls, museums, and airports.

by Meera Senthilingam, for CNN
Pal Robotics
No need to leave the bedroom

The future will see a new relationship with your bed. In fact, one so improved you may never leave it.

The Hi-Can (High Fidelity Canopy) bed is the brainchild of Italian designer Edoardo Carlino. The lair has automatic black-out shades, a built-in PC and HD projector at the foot of the bed, and full wireless capacity to control other devices in your home. You can adjust lighting and sounds throughout the house without moving an inch.

The company states the design comes due to today's "need to have everything close to you, in absolute comfort, after excessive stress, anxiety and worries accumulate during the day," on their website.

Perhaps not the best option for your physique, but this technology is about to rise in conjunction with the use of virtual reality headsets such as Oculus Rift, which Facebook recently bought for about $2 billion.
Hi-Can.com
Buildings that live and breathe

Over the next 40 years, buildings could be biologically programmed to extract carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere. This artist's impression shows the potential for London's "living skyline" as envisaged by award-winning architect Richard Hyams.

Synthetic biology techniques are being used by Rachel Armstrong at the University of Greenwich to engineer "protocells" which undergo simple chemical reactions when they come into contact with CO2, therefore absorbing the gas and preventing it from rising up into the atmosphere. They could one day be incorporated into regular paint: one possible reaction could be to produce limestone, which could in turn heal fractures in a wall or add insulation.

Other urban designs such as the Bo02 project in Malmo (Sweden) incorporate vegetation into walls and rooftops to reduce surface water. And architect Carlo Ratti from MIT is developing canopies of algae, known an algaetecture, for use in buildings to both absorb CO2 and produce biomass for use as food.
Courtesy Astudio
A vertical city

An entire city could be housed inside a single building according to SURE Architects, the masterminds behind the "Endless Cities" proposal.

Their concept for a city in a tower proposes a skyscraper up to 300 meters high, which would be housed in the city of London and provide places to live, work and relax.

The building would have two continuous ramps which would run its entire length and act as streets with shops, apartments, museums and even parks along them. There are also a series of plazas suggested and the tower will offer views of London throughout.
Courtesy: SURE Architecture
Houses to order

This artist's impression reveals a future where homes will not to be built, but instead printed.

The Dutch company DUS Architects are currently in the process of building what will be one of the world's first 3D printed houses. Their "Kamermaker" machine prints a series of large black blocks which interlock to build rooms and eventually a 13-room Dutch canal house.

The material currently used in their printing is bioplastic, made from 80 percent plant oil, but no need to worry about your home melting as that would require temperatures of 170 degrees Celsius.

The company state the allure of printing your own home to be the creativity and customization that comes with it. "It will no longer be more expensive or more labor intensive to add details to for example your façade," they say on their website. The technology is unlikely to replace conventional home building methods, but looks set to add some ingenuity to our future homes.
Courtesy DUS Architects
A life afloat?

As the population grows and land space becomes scarce, we could have the option to take to the seas.

The floating city project, led by the Seasteading institute, is already underway to build small cities floating on the territorial waters of a country. There were once grand ambitions to create new nations far out at sea, but the reality we would all prefer would be to be within easy reach of another city and on the calmer waves of shallow water.

The feasibility of such a goal has been demonstrated in a recent report by the institute, who are now exploring designs, locations and even potential customers. How well would you take to water?
Courtesy the Seasteading Institute
Moving at the speed of sound

Could we be traveling between cities at close to the speed of sound? According to entrepreneur Elon Musk, the mastermind behind Tesla automobiles and the SpaceX project (now a NASA contractor), we could.

The elevated Hyperloop transportation system envisioned by Musk could shoot passengers the 350 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 35 minutes

Musk proposes that tubes could be built high above ground and use magnetic levitation technologies to travel at great speed, without friction or wind resistance, to cities up to 900 miles apart. "In order to go fast, you need to be at high altitude where the air density drops exponentially," says Musk on the Tesla company website blo

The capsules would be traveling at speeds of 750 mph, which is faster than most commercial aircraft. This cutaway illustration shows how passengers would be seated inside a proposed Hyperloop capsule.
Tesla Motors
One car, no drivers

A future with cars but no drivers is somewhat inevitable, especially if Google have anything to say about it.

Google have long presented technologies for driverless cars, but in May this year revealed a prototype of an early version of their self-driving car. The car lacks a steering wheel or pedals and instead lets sensors and software do all the work. It can detect objects in all directions and up to 200 yards away. When something gets in its way, the car slows down, turns and puts on the brakes.

With prototypes already in play today, a driving license could soon become redundant, with plenty of autonomous chauffeurs offering to take you wherever you need to go.
Google
Speed with saltwater

Could future cars run on... saltwater?

Well, not only does one already exist, but it has recently been declared street legal in European countries. It's the Quant e-sportlimousine, and it uses "redox flow cell batteries", in which saltwater is pumped from tanks within the car through the cells to enable a reaction which generates electricity.

Motors attached to each wheel are then powered to move the supercar at great speed. According to Nanoflowcell, the car has a driving range of 600 kilometers, but current designs are protoypes.

As with Tesla, the more well-known electric supercar of today, the likely cost of the e-sportslimousine means not all of us will be driving it down our future streets, but as the technology advances and becomes more common the power of saltwater may be getting more of us on the road.
Nanoflowcell
One skypod to go, please

The line between private public transport is set to blur in the future city, with autonomous vehicles taking us to our destinations.

The Skytran transport system will consist of 2-person pods traversing a network in the skies using magnetic levitation. The campus of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) on the outskirts of Tel Aviv is the current demonstration site of the pilot personal rapid transit (PRT) transportation system designed by SkyTran.

A series of stations and tracks high up in a city's skies will host these unidirectional pods for swift traveling with a view.
The company's CEO Jerry Sanders envisions a future where your smartphone orders you a personal sky car, which arrives at a location of your choice and levitates you 20 feet above the ground to reach your destination. With no commuters or traffic in your path.
Skytran
Drones, drones everywhere!

From pizza deliveries to search and rescue operations, flying drones are set to rule the future skies.

There are several doubts on how to regulate the use of these machines, with privacy among the main concerns, but several interesting projects are already underway.

Both Google and Facebook are planning to use solar-powered drones to bring internet connectivity to remote areas, and the billions of people who currently don't have it.

These pilotless aircraft will fly uninterrupted for months, at altitudes far higher than those of commercial planes, between 60,000 and 90,000 feet.
Facebook
Smart drinks with a twist of tech

Bar-hopping is set to change as we embrace even more technology and social media into our lives. The use of a smartphone to further manage your lifestyle will continue with robotic bartending systems creating your own personalized cocktail recipes.

An early example already exists: it's called Makr Shakr and it has been developed by inventor and architect Carlo Ratti. It involves a series of robotic arms that mimic the actions of a bartender. The company state "the system explores the new dynamics of social creation and consumption -- 'design, make and enjoy'."

But won't we miss the witty banter of a human bartender? Instead of removing human interaction, the objective is to increase social interaction as users share connections, recipes and photos as they drink.
Courtesy of Carlo Ratti Associati
Your new, shape-shifting home

How about having the equivalent of a 3,000 square feet house in just 1,000 square feet of actual space? That's one of the goals of the Hyperbody group at the University of Delft.

Their "Pop-up Apartments" will transform cramped urban living to one of space and comfort by creating shape-shifting flats which transform from living to eating space, and more, at the click of a button -- or from your phone.

The walls and furnishings will be built upon a series of automated tracks to enable reconfiguration based on your needs. "By 2030 the house will go beyond this idea of being a shelter and be more in tune with what goes on in your mind to respond to your needs," says Dr Nimish Biloria, the project's design instructor.
Hyperbody/University of Delft
Power without wires

A future without wires is certainly on the cards. We already have wireless chargers, and wireless internet is standard almost throughout the world. So next on the agenda is a wireless means of electricity -- 'WiTricity', currently being developed by a start-up of the same name.

The technology is likely to use magnetic resonance, which uses a magnetic field to transfer power between a source and a target device without wires.

The company have already shown this is possible with laptops, cellphones and televisions and they envision a future where smartphones charge in your pocket, electric cars charge as they're parked in the driveway, and household appliances run smoothly, with no wires to trip over.
witricity
Jellyfish-powered streetlights

If the Genetic Barcelona Project goes to plan, we could see real trees light up our paths at night.

The Genetic Architectures team at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya plans to inject the bioluminescent genes found in jellyfish, which enable them to glow, into the genome of trees. Their aim is to create a sustainable alternative to streetlights, which today require electricity to guide us home as the skies darken.

Ornamental plants have been made to date and if the technology progresses, there could be a glowing future.
Courtesy Alberto T. Estevez
Old Icons, new energy

Old landmarks around the globe are being upgraded to incorporate new green technologies for better energy performance and a more sustainable future.

The Eiffel tower went green in 2012, with renovations on its first floor platform to incorporate solar energy for heating, wind energy, hydraulic energy, rainwater recovery, and LED lighting.

The iconic tower is now lowering its carbon footprint, with other landmarks including the Taj Mahal following suit. The Vatican set the trend by embracing solar energy back in 2008, proving old buildings can learn new tricks.
ALEXANDER KLEIN-AFP-Getty Images