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Funeral technology of the future

A rocket launching into space for a space burial

Although funerals have been around since the beginning of human civilization, the way we lie loved ones to rest and remember their lives has been constantly evolving. Here are some cutting-edge funeral technologies that could change the face of funerals in the future.

DNA preservation

Strands of preserved DNA

DNA preservation isn’t just a legacy gift, it could save the lives of your descendants.

Found in every cell in your body, DNA contains all the information about your physical self. It’s a huge part of what makes you who you are. Doctors are just beginning to discover how that information can be used to save lives, and now you can keep your DNA safe for future generations.

Special DNA storage companies such as DNA Memorial are able to extract and seal DNA within a special vial so that it can be preserved indefinitely, with no need for refrigeration. This can be done by taking a cheek swab or sample of hair when you are alive, or shortly after you die.

Apart from the bereaved having a memorial that contains the very essence of the person they love, DNA preservation could save lives. As genetic diagnosis improves, future generations could send the sample for testing to discover if they have any hereditary health problems, or are more likely to get certain types of cancer and illness. The information contained in the DNA could even help doctors of the future find a suitable treatment or cure.

Space burials

A rocket launching into space

This is one funeral option that probably won’t be widely affordable for a few more generations – but it’s definitely intriguing for those of us that have always dreamed about boldly going where no one has gone before.

For a price, you can have cremation ashes launched into space for the ultimate futuristic funeral. The cost all depends on how far you want to journey. Being launched into earth orbit costs around $5,000, while heading into lunar orbit and deep space comes in at over $12,000.

Companies that offer space burials often allow the family to view the launch of the rocket and can provide video footage of the event as a memorial. This certainly is a farewell no one will forget.

Cryogenics

Cryogenic preservation tanks

Cryogenics, sometimes called cryonics, is the practice of freezing someone after they die. It’s a controversial procedure, though, with no guarantee of success.

Though it sounds like futuristic tech, cryopreservation has actually been around for decades. The oldest preserved body is that of Dr. James Bedford, placed in full cryogenic suspension on 12 January 1967.

Most commonly cryonics is chosen by people who know they will die of an incurable disease, in the hope that in the future scientists will be able to successfully unfreeze and cure them.

The process itself is complex and must be started as soon as possible to prevent the death of brain cells. The person who has died is cooled and their blood replaced with cryo-protectant fluids, before being stored in a cryogenic tank at 320 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.

The problem with cryogenics is that there is no guarantee that people can be unfrozen in the future. The technology that would reverse the process doesn’t exist yet, and there are plenty of ethical objections to the idea, so this is one piece of funeral technology that may not ever become a mainstream option.

Eco-friendly funerals

Beautiful natural burial meadow

The future won’t just be about the latest gadgets and computers. With every year that passes, saving the environment becomes a more pressing issue that scientists are working hard to resolve. One small part of that ongoing battle is the rise of eco-funerals, or green funerals. These funerals let nature-lovers depart this world in a way that causes the least possible harm to the planet.

Natural burials, sometimes called green burials, take place in designated woodland or meadows. The person who has died is not embalmed and is buried in a biodegradable coffin. This means they will rejoin the earth quicker than if they had a traditional casket burial.

The burial site is usually unmarked, or sometimes marked with a special tree, but rarely a tombstone or memorial. This allows the burial site to remain as natural-looking as possible.

Resomation

Water cremation

Resomation, sometimes called aquamation or water cremation, is an alternative to cremation that is starting to become more popular. It uses a process called ‘alkaline hydrolysis’ to speed up the natural process of decomposing in water.

People are choosing resomation because it produces only 5 to 10 per cent of the pollution that cremation causes. Although currently only a few companies offer aquamation in the U.S., the method is getting more attention as people become more environmentally conscious. Bereaved families are also choosing resomation as a more ‘gentle’ alternative to traditional cremation.

After the process a pure white ‘ash’ is left behind. These fine particles of sterile bone can be kept in an urn, similar to cremation ashes. Like traditional cremation, families can choose to keep these ashes in a special urn at home, inter them in a burial ground, or scatter them in a meaningful place.

Interactive tombstones

A rose on a tombstone

This year, a company in Slovenia unveiled the world’s first interactive digital headstone. The high-tech grave, which costs 3,000 euros, roughly $3,360, lights up when someone stands in front of it.

It’s located in Pobrezje Cemetery, just outside the city of Maribor. The prototype has a 48-inch screen which can display text, pictures and video. There are also plans to integrate the futuristic memorial with a smartphone app, so that visitors can listen to music through headphones.

Bioenergija, the company behind the digital memorial, says that the technology allows the bereaved to include as much information as they want on their loved one’s grave. When visitors walk past the interactive tomb, they won’t just see a name and a date, but a whole slideshow of media telling the story of the person buried there.