2018: When technology took a quantum leap to future

Finding ways to hide information in text, unveiling state-sponsored trolls, a plane with no moving parts, wood as strong as titanium and even efforts to go beyond the corporeal to life beyond death... there was seemingly no end to tech innovations in 2018.

It was a year that saw technology take a quantum leap to touch virtually every aspect of our lives, and even beyond it maybe, from terrestrial to the skies above.

In a first, a plane with no moving parts -- no turbines, propellers or even fans -- took flight in November.

Developed by researchers at US' Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the small prototype was powered by "ionic wind" -- the flow of ions produced by the plane that generates enough thrust to push it through the air for a sustained, steady flight.

This is the first-ever sustained flight of a plane with no moving parts in the propulsion system," Steven Barrett, associate professor at MIT, said in a statement.

Another development likely to benefit the aviation industry is an autonomous flying drone that can safely herd birds away from airports.

A team of engineers at US' California Institute of Technology were inspired by the 2009 "Miracle on the Hudson", when a plane was forced to land on the Hudson River after losing all its engines to a bird strike just after takeoff.

In February, engineers at the University of Maryland announced they have found a way to make wood as strong as titanium alloys.

"Soft woods like pine or balsa, which grow fast and are more environmentally friendly, could replace slower-growing but denser woods like teak in furniture or buildings," said Liangbing Hu from the University of Maryland.

Technology also found its way into the written word.

A new font, called Sans Forgetica, can help people better remember what they read.

Developed by a team at Australia's Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), the font consists of individual letters that have omitted segments, forcing the reader to pay more attention.

Another team at Columbia University in the US found a way to hide information in plain text.

Their FontCode allowed for embedding hidden information in ordinary text by ever-so-slightly changing the shape of characters in a font. The receiver could then decipher the code by noting the font perturbations.

The field of artificial intelligence (AI) has been constantly evolving in the last few years, making its presence felt in all fields.

A group at Shree Devi Institute of Technology in Karnataka explored the idea of using AI to digitally resurrect the consciousness of people, allowing one to conduct virtual communications with departed loved ones.

At a more tangible level, researchers at Google developed an AI application that can predict heart disease by analysing pictures of the retina.

It focuses on retinal blood vessels that might offer hints of a cardiovascular episode. Researchers reported that the app is 70 per cent accurate in tests, roughly equivalent to blood tests.

Another machine learning platform was developed by a team at the University of California - Davis in the U.S which can verify multimedia rumours online.

(Agencies)