G'day Mate

Continuing with the 2021 series of international startup forums, friend-of-TTI/Vanguard Mark Bregman will host a virtual visit to New Zealand on Tuesday, Feb 9. This event will cover a broad array of application areas. We’ll hear from

  • Aider, a digital assistant for SMEs that communicates through natural language (with a Kiwi accent?) and integrates information across dozens of business apps.
  • The founder of agritech firm BioLumic will then explain how the company exploits ultraviolet photomorphogenesis to accelerate the growth rate of seedlings and improve agricultural yields.
  • Dawn Aerospace is setting its sights high by building space planes to take off and land at conventional airports, transporting payloads to and from near-Earth orbit.
  • Mint Innovation, which relies on microbes to extract metals like copper, iron, tin, and gold from electronic waste—a win–win.

The event will allow plenty of time for Q&A, so bring your curiosity. Register here.

The 3-D printing of concrete that we heard about from Behrokh Khoshnevis (Detroit, May 2015) is well suited to testing out biomimetically inspired alternatives for strengthening the familiar building material. In particular, Australian researchers are intrigued by the thin, yet multilayered, nature of lobster shells and how a similar architecture could add robustness to buildings.

In other building news, researchers in Singapore have made important headway on two distinct problems with a single replacement window. The so-called acoustic-friendly ventilation window reduces the perceived penetration of outdoor noise fourfold while also improving indoor–outdoor air turnover—so important in protection against airborne pathogens—to a similar extent, all without the use of energy-intensive air conditioning.

Dominc Suciu (Seattle, Mar 2020, virtual conference, Sep 2020) recaps his initial experience with us, including a little inside baseball on how he did some last-minute pinch hitting when, in the final moments of the Before Times, he stepped in to speak about the brewing pandemic. Here, he offers “a thankfully brief and yet unavoidably confusing introduction to immunology designed to teach you how the Moderna vaccine really works and how you can make some yourself [at] home,” which, of course, is what George Church did (virtual conference, Dec 2020; regional meeting, Boston, Jun 2015).It is definitely worth a read.

Meanwhile, a Harvard Medical School postdoc used CRISPR to implement a pair of reverse-engineered mutations in zebrafish DNA to cause the pectoral fins to take the initial step toward becoming arms. The two mutated genes stimulated the activity of Hox11 proteins—proteins that are normally suppressed in fish, but with stimulation not only led to forearm-like bone formation, but also to the blood vessels, joints, and muscles to render them functional. (Doug Emlen, Washington, D.C., Sep 2016; Richard Lenski, Miami, Jul 2005; David Hillis, Madrid, Jul 2003)

So, you like to play around with data? And you also have a penchant for democracy and data visualization? Then you might wish to spend time at Dave’s Redistricting where you can mock up the makeup of U.S. congressional and state legislative boundaries to maximize fairness or, if so inclined, to gerrymander for partisan optimization. (Rich DeMillo, Seattle, Mar 2020; Tom Kalil, San Francisco, Dec 2017)

Both Google and Apple will soon be offering high-tech solutions for low-tech problems. Using a phone’s cameras, Google’s fitness app will assess respiratory rate when focused on a person’s head and chest, or heart rate when evaluating subtle color change in a fingertip. But couldn’t a person simply count one’s own breaths or time their wrist-based pulse? And, granted that the mixed-reality headset that Apple intends to launch in 2022 for $3K will have many other capabilities, it will pipe in video of the surroundings when in augmented-reality mode since it will otherwise block out all ambient visuals.

And both Google and Apple are in the automotive news: Ford will use Google for cloud services for future fleets of connected vehicles and the Android operating system for its vehicles’ touchscreens (field trip to the Ford Rouge Factory, Detroit, May 2015). Meanwhile, the word on the street is that Apple and Hyundai are partnering for future driverless (and steering wheel-less) cars, which will definitely be on the roads in 2025 … or 2028 … or sometime, maybe (John Suh, Pittsburgh, Jun 2019).

Scott Ross’s (Seattle, Mar 2020) holograms brought well-loved musicians back to life, if not with smoke and mirrors, then with laser projectors, screens, and mirrors. A recent Microsoft patent appears ready to do likewise—in conversational-chatbot form—with anyone’s loved one, using AI and drawing on social media posts. Check out the Black Mirror episode “Be Right Back” from 2013 if you think there’s no possibility for overconnection with the unreal undead.

Come to the woods, for here is rest--John Muir