Oil contains thousands of useful compounds, called hydrocarbons, which can be used to help drive innovation and make technological advancements.

One product derived from oil is naptha, which is the crucial ingredient in making plastic. It also goes into making thousands of common products, like band-aids, seatbelts and cosmetics. Hydrocarbons have already made many technological advances possible. Your cell phone, for example, wouldn’t be lightweight enough to carry in your pocket without the sturdy plastic cover made from oil derivatives. And, oil and natural gas continues to drive innovation.

Hydrocarbons are also currently being used in advancements in health and technology. Here are examples of how products made from oil and natural gas will change how we live in the future.

1.Virtual reality

We already mentioned that your mobile phone is made with products derived from oil and gas. Now oil and gas products are allowing people to use their phones to enter the virtual world. Plastics and synthetic rubber made from hydrocarbons are what allow products like Speck’s Pocket-VR to be lightweight enough to carry in your pocket and inexpensive enough for many of us to buy. This means everyone can experience VR’s benefits. Those benefits aren’t just about having fun—they also include treating depression.

2. Robots

They’re here. Robotic technology is already invading homes in the form of Roomba, a robotic vacuum that relies on oil and gas products from its plastic casing to its synthetic rubber bumpers to its fibrous sweeping brush. Expect to have more robots in your life in the future. Some, like this robosurgical system, will be lifesaving.

3. 3-D printing

In a few years, we’ll be able to print plastic dishes and plates on demand using a 3-D printer. But this technology holds even more promise to improve the lives of those with disabilities. An 11-year-old named Torrae is already using the technology to print plastic prosthetic hands for children and adults who need them. Producing shaped-to-order, lightweight hands would not be possible without oil and gas.

4. Life-saving wearables

Contact lenses are one of the products that would not exist without oil and gas. Now Google is pushing that technology even further. The company’s health-research unit is working with European pharmaceutical company Sanofi SA to develop a contact lens that can help treat diabetes. The contact lens will be equipped with sensors to read a patient’s blood glucose level and alert them when lifesaving interventions are needed.