The 21st Century has spurred a number of technologies that are revolutionizing our society. Today, we celebrate some of this century’s most groundbreaking technologies and the people who invented them. 


Blockchain is an increasingly popular technology that allows electronic records to be exchanged across many systems while protecting those records from being compromised along the chain. You can think of it as an ever-evolving list of records known as “blocks.” These blocks are linked together through cryptography, a technique that uses math to protect information through complex codes. 

Blockchain was originally developed in 2008 to secure a public transaction ledger (“blocks” that contain details about financial transactions) for Bitcoin, a popular cryptocurrency. Who invented it? No one knows, though it’s thought to have been invented by a person or group of people under the mystery name “Satoshi Nakamoto.”

Applications for blockchain span the spectrum, from banking, to healthcare, cryptocurrency, smart contracts, property records, supply chains, and even voting.


LiDAR is a technology that uses light detection to scan an environment in 3D. Cars that drive themselves, commonly known as “autonomous vehicles,” can use this technology to “see” the road. Solid-State LiDAR, in which LiDAR is built onto a single small, silicon chip, is thought to potentially revolutionize the ever-evolving autonomous vehicles industry. That’s because these tiny chips are relatively inexpensive for manufacturers and take up very little space in a car. 

Dave Hall invented LiDAR in 2005, after competing in the DARPA Grand Challenge, so he could equip autonomous vehicles with real-time 360-degree vision. He is the founder of Velodyne Lidar.

Applications for LiDAR technology go beyond autonomous vehicles. It can also be used to improve land surveying, power line inspection and maintenance, forestry, farming, and mining.

3D Printing

3D printing is a revolutionary technology that prints physical objects using a technology called computer-aided design, or CAD. CAD sends details about a product, including it’s materials and dimensions, in 2- or 3-dimensions to a printer, which then prints the object in layers. 

Chuck Hull invented 3D printing in the early 1980s, when he used UV light to make tabletop coatings hard. The founder of 3D Systems, Hull was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.

The applications for 3D printing run the gamut from prototyping and manufacturing, medicine, construction, art, and even education.

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality is a technology that overlays computer graphics onto the real world, usually through a headset that covers a person’s eyes.

While many people have contributed to the development of modern augmented reality over the years, former NASA researcher Louis Rosenberg is thought to have invented the first true augmented reality system in 1992. Rosenberg’s invention, dubbed “Virtual Fixtures,” had to rely on complicated robotics at the time, because 3D graphics were not yet sophisticated enough.

Applications for virtual reality are numerous, from medical training to complex equipment repair, to education, interior design modeling, tourism, and more.

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