It’s the year 2018. The first iPhone was released ten years ago. 3D printing has existed since the 1980s—I even have my own 3D printer.
You’d think I’d be used to technology by now.
And yet yesterday, I was watching the SpaceX Falcon launch in complete awe, as if it hasn’t been 50 years since we put a man on the moon.
Even though I’m constantly surrounded by groundbreaking technology, I am still amazed by it. When I flew to Florida last week, I couldn’t get over the fact that I could check into my flight from my house and download my boarding pass to my phone.
I feel like I should be used to it by now. When my neighbor showed me his Vive VR headset, I should have remembered that the Virtual Boy came out twenty-three years ago. When my cousin showed me his drone quadcopter, I should have remembered the remote control helicopter I had (and crashed) as a kid, right?
And I really should be used to owning my own 3D printer. I shouldn’t stare, slackjawed, as it lays down layer after layer onto the printer bed. Right?
But I can’t get over the gnawing voice inside my head that these are just the tips of those icebergs. Playing video games or taking arial photos of my house or printing Dungeons and Dragons figures aren’t the endgame of any of these technologies.
What really impresses me are the implications of these techs. The doors they open.
Because an HD-capable VR headset doesn’t just mean immersive gameplay. It means that scientists can send a probe to another planet to map the landscape, then they can explore that landscape. It means that a doctor can perform microscopic surgeries at full size. They might even be able to map a patient’s body and enter the body Magic School Bus style to easily make diagnoses.
Drones are making arial photography and dolly-style video shots more accessible. They’ve already changed the way we wage war (and controversially so). Drones are also posed to change the shipping industry.
But the usefulness of drones stretches far beyond video, military, and delivery. Drones have become an indelible tool in search-and-rescue missions. After Hurricane Harvey, utility companies sent drones out into flooded areas to survey damage—without risking human lives.
Drones are even being outfitted with seed depositors to help fight deforestation.
But what really wets my whistle is how 3D printing is shaping up to change things.
Already, 3D printing has made prosthetics more affordable—and a hell of a lot more fun. But by using different filaments, we’ll soon be able to do even more. 3D printers can help doctors create cheap bone replacements. And soon, they’ll probably even be able to print organs using a patient’s own stem cells as the filament. Waiting lists would disappear. Rejection rates would fall to zero.
The possibilities of these technologies are limitless. And as they become more accessible, we’ll continue to see the genesis of more and more applications.
So if you ever catch me with my jaw on the floor as I watch my 3D printer move back and forth on the bed, just know that I’m not in awe of the Darth Vader figure I’m making. My mind is racing with the unlimited potential of the machine on my desk.