Intelligent Machines

The 9 Best Technology GIFs of 2016

It’s time to recognize the trusty sidekicks to this year’s important stories, without which, technology news would be a whole lot less mesmerizing.

2016 was a big year for technology—virtual reality got more hands-on, robots got a lot smarter, and researchers learned how to study individual human cells with unparalleled precision. How best to visualize some of these wonders? With mesmerizing GIFs. Here are the best ones used in MIT Technology Review articles this year.

1. The Robot You Want Most Is Far from Reality

The good news: work on housecleaning robots is underway. The bad news: it’s slow going.

A researcher demonstrates a cleaning technique for the robot.
The robot learns on its own how to use that cleaning technique with new tools and new messes.

2. Mark Zuckerberg Is Funding a Facebook for Human Cells

The billionaire is the first major donor to back the idea of creating an atlas of all human cells.

Individual cells can be studied by capturing them in micro-droplets, such as inside this microfluidic channel.

3. GE’s Bridge Over the “Valley of Death” for Innovation

The manufacturing giant put a $73 million R&D facility next to a 48-year-old turbine factory. The goal is better, faster innovation through processes like additive manufacturing.

GE demonstrates its additive manufacturing process.

4. Oculus Finally Delivers the Missing Piece for VR

New hand controllers make virtual reality much more compelling.

Touch controllers bring your hands into virtual reality.

5. Why Google Is Selling Off Some of the Coolest Robots Ever Built

By putting Boston Dynamics up for sale, the search giant may be acknowledging how hard it is to turn impressive humanoid robots into a viable product. 

6. A Robot That Sews Could Take the Sweat Out of Sweatshops

A big part of the garment-making process is still done by hand. Now some clothing makers hope to end that.

7. Freeze-Dried Molecules Can Be Used to Whip Up Medicines Anywhere

Just add water. That’s the appeal of a new freeze-dry method that turns DNA and other molecules into small reaction pellets needed to make a wide range of pharmaceuticals.

8. Innovator Under 35: Adam Bry, 27

Adam Bry's company, Skydio, is "building a drone for consumers that understands the physical world, reacts to you intelligently, and can use that information to make decisions."

9. Japanese Robotics Giant Gives Its Arms Some Brains

Fanuc, a company that produces robot arms for factories, is trying to get them to learn on the job.

BONUS

If Apple Builds Smart Glasses, They’d Better Be Spectacular

The company could be gearing up to focus on augmented reality.

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