Ten Breakthrough Technologies for 2014

By: Amaris Rivera

Technology news is full of incremental developments, but few of them are true milestones. Here we’re citing 10 that are. These advances from the past year all solve thorny problems or create powerful new ways of using technology. They are breakthroughs that will matter for years to come.

-The Editors

Neuromorphic Chips

Microprocessors configured more like brains than traditional chips could soon make computers far more astute about what’s going on around them. The chips are called Neuromorphic Chips because  they are modeled on biological brains.

Breakthrough: An alternative design for computer chips that will enhance ­artificial intelligence.

Why It Matters: Traditional chips are reaching fundamental performance limits.

Key Players

  • Qualcomm
  • IBM
  • HRL Laboratories
  • Human Brain Project


A robot named Pioneer faces a Captain America action figure. The robot pauses, evaluating the situation. Then corrals the figure with a snowplow-like implemented, turns around and pushes it toward the toy bins. A engineer sweeps both his hands where the toy should be. Pioneer receives the gesture with its camera and complies. it rolls back and sees a Spider Man figure. Pioneer beelines for the toy, ignoring a chessboard nearby, and delivers it to the same pillar with no human guidance.Watch this video to see a sample of an experiment .

The Future

This demonstration looks modest, but it’s a glimpse of the future of computing. The robot is performing tasks that have typically needed powerful, specially programmed computers that use far more electricity. Powered by only a smartphone chip with specialized software, Pioneer can recognize objects it hasn’t seen before, sort them by their similarity to related objects, and navigate the room to deliver them to the right location—not because of laborious programming but merely by being shown once where they should go. The robot can do all that because it is simulating, in a very limited fashion, the way a brain works.


Qualcomm could add a "neural processing unit" to mobile phone to handle sensory data and tasks such as image recognition.

The chip is not as fast as the brain but is much faster than computers at processing sensory data and learning from it.

Qualcomm is interested in the possibility that neuromorphic chips could transform smartphones and other mobile devices into cognitive.


Zeroth Law ~ Isaac Asimov

"A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm."

“It’s not too early for hardware companies to do research,” -Dileep George

“The commercial products could take a while.” Qualcomm executives don’t disagree. But they’re betting that the technology they expect to launch this year will bring those products a lot closer to reality.

Robert D. Hof


Neuromorphic Chip

*What they do well: Detect and predict patterns complex data using relatively little electricity.

*What there good for: Applications that are rich in visual or auditory data and adjust its behavior as it interacts with the world.

Traditional Chips (Von Neumann Architecture)

*What they do well: reliably make precise calculations.

*What there good for: anything that can be reduced to a numerical problem, although more complex problems require substantial amounts of power.


This item is more than a breakthrough. It is an idea that can benefit generations on generations. This could make technology become easier. Having the Neuromorphic chip working faster than a computer could be the benefit schools, jobs and students. Having it as a resource that can make you process new objects, and images and discovering what it is. “Even with this digital representation, we can reproduce a huge range of behaviors we see in biology.” M. Anthony Lewis, the project engineer for Zeroth.

Comment Stream

3 years ago

Nice job! Interesting technology, isn't it?