Most important tech innovations of 2018: From cancer detection to 3D metal printing

It’s that time of year where readers everywhere are inundated with year-in-review roundups. Whether that’s Spotify Wrapped or Google’s Year in Search, the listicles are coming in thick and fast.

The lightening-speed world of tech is no exception, and while best tech roundups are all well and good, we’ve done a deep dive into the tech products and services truly making a difference.

Read on for our 2018 highlights of the most important innovations in tech. We’ll be updating this list regularly with more additions, so be sure to check back in for more #upliftingnews about the changes tech is making.

Most important tech 2018: Liquid gold cancer detection

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When it comes to making a difference, the medical field is replete with foresight, endeavour and innovation, and this latest invention is the ultimate testament to that zeal. Researchers at the University of Queensland this year developed a cancer-detecting liquid; the substance, which contains tiny gold nanoparticles, could one day be used to decipher whether a patient has cancer or not in just ten minutes.

This marks a huge step forward; current practice sees patients undergo invasive treatment to extract suspect bits of tissue. Saving potential cancer sufferers such an arduous and traumatic process is a big win, not to mention the added bonus of fast and early detection, which could curb the spread of the disease and maximise life expectancy.

With a 90% success rate in its trial period, this nascent test looks set to career from triumph to triumph. Liquid gold. Literally.

Most important tech 2018: Alzheimer’s-spotting AI

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In a similar, debilitating disease-apprehending ilk, 2018 saw the successful development of an AI able to detect early signs of Alzheimer’s Disease. The AI was trained by Californian-based researchers, and wields the formidable capacity to diagnose Alzheimer’s an average of six years before human physicians are able to do so. That’s average. Not maximum. Average.

The neural networks scans images of the patient’s brain, before analysing it for warning signs. The technique is based off the human one that preceded it; F-FDG PET (that’s fluorine 18 (18F) fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography, to those in the know) sees a radioactive glucose dye passed through the brain and then photographed. Images, previously examined at length and subject to human error by the naked eye, will now undergo analysis from the neural networks.

It also was better able to identify patients who would go on to have Alzheimer’s than clinicians, as well as those who would not develop the disease. Remarkable.

Most important tech 2018: 3D Metal printing

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While 3D printing is hardly the brainchild of the year 2018 – it’s long been the pursuit of choice for amateur scientists’ – we did see 3D metal printing become increasingly mainstream this year.

Up until now, 3D printing any material that isn’t plastic has been costly and slow. But metal printing is increasingly breaking down this barrier, with potentially enormous consequences. Manufacturers would be freed up to print requisite parts or objects, unburdening them from the practice of maintaining expansive inventories.

The very texture of the manufacturing industry could change; long gone would be the days of large factories producing a small array of products. Rather, 3D metal printing would likely the see the rise of small factories making a wider variety of products, better able to adapt to the demands of the market and customers’ needs. Changing the working lives of millions of people? Not to mention routinely, irrevocably better meeting the demands of their customers? Now that’s innovation.

Least important tech 2018: That robot that turned out to be a real-life human 

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Naturally, we had to temper all these world-class feats of engineering with a little bit of inanity. Because, hey, it’s still 2018. This year, the accolade for least important technological innovation has to go to the advanced Russian robot that turned out to be anything but.

December’s Proyektoria Technology Forum saw one of the world’s most advanced robots to date grace the stage, before the high-tech machine revealed itself to be nothing more than a bloke in a robot costume. And he would have fooled us all, if it weren’t for you meddling kids. By which, of course, I mean the legions of eagle-eyed bloggers, who noticed the robot’s dance moves were a little too human-like (oh, the irony). Not to mention its abject lack of external sensors.

What a stunt, though.

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