Breakthrough Technologies for Humanity in 2021

We’ve collated notable technological advancements made solely to cater to the needs of a better future, for humanity. Be it uplifting the environment, a push towards sustainability from giant corporations, or developing AI to combat suicide, 2021 saw commendable technologies that you need to know.

Here’s a rundown of some of 2021’s most important breakthrough technologies created for the betterment of humankind!

1) Scientists Transform Plastic Waste Into Vanilla Flavoring

Scientists have found a way to convert plastic bottles into vanilla flavoring using genetically engineered bacteria that brew a valuable chemical from waste plastic for the first time. Recent research showed bottles are the second most common type of plastic pollution in the oceans, after plastic bags, and in 2018, scientists accidentally created a mutant enzyme. This enzyme breaks down plastic bottles, and subsequent work produces a super-enzyme that eats plastic bottles even faster.

Researchers have already developed mutant enzymes to break down the polyethylene terephthalate polymer used for drinks bottles into its basic units terephthalic acid (TA) and Scientists have now used bugs to convert TA into vanillin -the primary component of vanilla bean extract. The team did this by mixing a broth that contained the engineered E. coli and TA at a temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) for a day, as published in the research reports of the Guardian. The mixture converted seventy-nine percent of the TA into vanillin and because both chemical compounds are similar, the microbes could easily transform the acid into vanillin. 

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2) Korea Set To Use AI To Prevent Suicide Attempts On Bridges

The South Korean Seoul Metropolitan Government’s latest project will address a large number of suicides on bridges that are taking place on the Han River – the fourth longest river on the Korean peninsula. Their researchers and emergency services are working on an AI (artificial intelligence) to help detect and reduce suicide attempts on bridges. It stems from how difficult it can be for human surveillance teams to tell whether someone is admiring the view off the bridge or if they have something much more painful on their minds.

The AI system will be paired with a new CCTV camera control hub. It has been using deep learning patterns of behavior to identify the “patterns” of people in crisis by analyzing data from cameras, sensors, and the dispatch records of rescue services since April last year.

“This system allows rapid responses to suicide attempts—both before or after an incident—and minimizes surveillance loopholes. Not only that, but it can also dramatically reduce warning errors thanks to AI’s ability to reflect environmental factors. As data accumulates, the accuracy of the system will increase further,” an official release stated.

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3) Drug-Free Psychedelic Experience: Lumenate

A new smartphone app lets its users experience a psychedelic trip very similar to that of LSD. The app called Lumenate uses flickering flashlight on your phone to alter the users ‘state of consciousness’ and helps them explore their ‘subconscious thoughts and gain valuable insights.’ It is on a ‘start-up on a mission to make impactful subconscious exploration more accessible than ever before.’ They explored various forms of ‘meditation, breathwork, lucid dreaming tech, sensory deprivation and hypnagogia aids’ to explore the perfect brain state of subconscious exploration until finally opting for sensory entrainment.

Lumenate was aimed to create better inclusivity, accessibility, and better opportunity amid the pandemic. The founders focused ‘on the idea of inspiring change in people’s lives through subconscious exploration’ and spent years researching and interviewing people across the world thereby inventing the Lumenate App. 

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4) IKEA Launches ‘The Trash Collection’ For Sustainability

The Swedish furniture mogul IKEA curated a reclaimed furniture line of their discarded products under ‘The Trash Collection 2021’. Launched in an attempt to push sustainability, Ikea will display the upscaled products at a more economical price in their second-hand store. Ikea aims to propagate how ‘one person’s trash can be another’s treasure’ with this campaign. 

An estimated three million pieces of furniture are discarded in Norway alone each year. Many of those are from Ikea itself. This initiative is the brand’s response to cut down its waste cycle. Along with upscaling and reselling of their products, Ikea now offers spare parts of their goods to increase its longevity. They also introduced “IKEA Buys Back” wherein they purchase customers’ old Ikea furniture, restore and resell it at their second-hand store with catalog treatment.

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5) Scientists Potty-Train Cows To Combat Pollution

A group of researchers from Germany potty trained cows, and it worked! In an attempt to combat pollution caused due to cow urine, researchers trained cows to use latrines built specifically for this purpose instead of letting them urinate in the open. 

Research finds that cattle urine is one of the largest causes of ammonia emission in the agricultural industry, a potent greenhouse gas. The urea in the urine contains a nitrogen-rich compound which, when mixed with cow’s feces and other fertilizers in the soil, emits harmful nitrous oxide. It can tremendously pollute the land and water it comes in contact with. 

Not only do potty-training cows reduce the ammonia emissions in half, but it also helps diminish ‘contamination of the living areas, the cleanliness, hygiene, and welfare of livestock can be improved whilst simultaneously reducing environmental pollution’.

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