The Next Frontier | Glass Age | Corning

The Glass Age: The Next Frontier

It's here. It's real. And it's breathtaking.

Throughout history, materials have transformed society and culture. There was the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. This is the Glass Age.

Man-made glass dates back to at least 3,000 B.C. And, since its discovery, glass has made its mark on the world, spurring numerous revolutions -- from telescopes that expanded our understanding of the universe, to microscopes that led to the discovery of bacteria and viruses, to communications technologies that have transformed the way we interact with information and each other. But that’s just the beginning of glass’s story.

Corning’s Chairman and CEO, Wendell Weeks, recently spoke at the 45th annual Glass Art Society Conference, and explained why he believes we are currently living in the Glass Age.

1.) Glass plays a central role in our day-to-day lives

“We interact with glass screens on our computers and smart phones; take pictures through glass lenses; transmit and receive information via glass fibers; protect materials in glass covers and containers; and incorporate decorative glass elements into our homes,” said Weeks.

In fact, glass is so ubiquitous that you may not even realize how much you interact with it throughout your day.  But if you take a closer look, you’ll realize the vital role that glass plays in enabling key activities, from checking messages on your phone, to driving your car, to streaming your favorite TV shows in high-definition.   

2.) Glass innovation is moving at an ever-accelerating pace

“In the past ten years alone, glass scientists have unleashed capabilities that we couldn’t have imagined a short time ago,” Weeks said.

He noted the extreme toughness of Corning® Gorilla® Glass and the ultra-flexibility of Corning® Willow® Glass as remarkable capabilities that Corning introduced within the past decade. He also acknowledged the exciting work being done by other glass innovators, including MoSci Corporation, which has developed bioactive glasses that stimulate the body’s natural defenses to help heal flesh wounds. 

3.) Glass is inspiring people from all walks of life to unleash new applications

Weeks cited the overwhelming response that Corning received to its video, A Day Made of Glass, which has been viewed by more than 25 million people.

“Even more remarkable was the number of people from all kinds of industries who contacted us about helping make those technologies a reality – or using glass to solve problems that we hadn’t even conceived of,” said Weeks.

And in the five years since the video’s release, Corning and other innovators have made tremendous progress bringing that world to life. People had a chance to experience several next-generation glass-enabled technologies at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, including infotainment walls that dissolve the boundaries between the real and virtual, interactive retail windows that bridge the gap between physical and digital shopping, smart hubs that connect you inside and outside your home, and connected cars that enhance the driving and riding experience.

No question, we are living in the Glass Age. So what’s ahead?  You can count on Corning and other innovators from fields as diverse as consumer electronics, healthcare, automotive, energy, architecture, and more to continue leveraging the functional capabilities of glass to unleash new products that improve our lives. But we won’t realize the true potential of the Glass Age through a technology movement alone.

Weeks invited the audience of 700 glass artists and craftspeople to help address the next great challenge of the Glass Age:  “How can we take this technological moment that’s applying the functional capabilities of glass to solve problems, and create a human moment that helps make the world a more stirring place?” said Weeks. In other words, how can we create the same feeling that great glass art gives us?

The ultimate promise of The Glass Age?  Products that not only bring exciting new functionality to life but also stir in us a sense of wonder, beauty, and connectedness.

Corning is excited to be on this journey, and we hope you’ll join us.