In IEEE Spectrum’s ‘Top Tech 2021: The Year Ahead,’ learn about deep learning at the speed of light, how to vaccinate the world, Apple’s AR glasses, robot trucks, engineering milestones for 2021, and more.

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Peering Into the Pandemic End Game

Spoiler alert: We won’t get what we want in 2021. A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we can expect to remain in a kind of limbo for months yet, stuck in an uncomfortable place between health and illness, economic

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Look Out for Apple’s AR Glasses

Apple didn’t invent the portable music player, although I challenge you to name one of the approximately 50 digital-music gadgets that preceded the iPod. Apple didn’t invent the smartphone either—it just produced

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Deep Learning at the Speed of Light

In 2011, Marc Andreessen, general partner of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, wrote an influential article in The Wall Street Journal titled, “Why Software Is Eating the World.” A decade later now

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Where No One Has Seen Before

Back in 1990, after significant cost overruns and delays, the Hubble Space Telescope was finally carried into orbit aboard the space shuttle. Astronomers rejoiced, but within a few weeks, elation turned

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This Is How to Vaccinate The World

In a triumph of science, the first two large-scale trials to report the effectiveness of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2—the deadly, highly contagious virus that causes COVID-19—were both great successes right out of the...

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The Ups and Downs of Gravity Energy Storage

Cranes are a familiar fixture of practically any city skyline, but one in the Swiss City of Ticino, near the Italian border, would stand out anywhere: It has six arms. This 110-meter-high starfish of the skyline isn’t intended

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Supersonic Travel Returns

The Concorde, the world’s first supersonic airliner, landed for the last time 17 years ago. It was a beautiful feat of engineering, but it never turned a profit. So why should we believe that Boom Supersonic can do better now

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Robot Trucks Overtake Robot Cars

Companies like Tesla, Uber, Cruise, and Waymo promise a future where cars are essentially mobile robots that can take us anywhere with a few taps on a smartphone. But a new category of vehicles is about to overtake

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Three Ways to the Moon

In March 2019, Vice President Mike Pence instructed NASA to do something rarely seen in space projects: move up a schedule. Speaking at a meeting of the National Space Council, Pence noted that NASA’s plans

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The Carbon-Sucking Fans of West Texas

West Texas is a hydrocarbon hot spot, with thousands of wells pumping millions of barrels of oil and billions of cubic feet of natural gas from the Permian Basin. When burned, all that oil and gas will release vast

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A Small Island Waits On Big Data Rates

Since 1989, the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic has relied on a single 7.6-meter satellite dish to connect the island’s residents to the rest of the world. While the download and upload speeds have increased over

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Momentum Builds for Lithium-ion Battery Recycling

Later this year, the Canadian firm Li-Cycle will begin constructing a US $175 million plant in Rochester, N.Y., on the grounds of what used to be the Eastman Kodak complex. When completed, it will be the largest

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