Happy New Year! Newsletter

Dear Robin,

Happy New Year! One of our resolutions is to produce an outstanding virtual March meeting for our members. Do you have a story to share on how 2020 changed your workflow for good: What tools/tech/innovation proved invaluable? How relationships between employees and organizations will look going forward? How have networks changed? If you have a suggestion for a topic, we are all ears.

In the meantime, we have much to look forward to. Israel, New Zealand, and Germany will be the first stops on a global start-up series kicking off this month. Register today!

Israel Startup Forum: Tuesday, January 26, 2021, 1:00 PM–3:30 PM EST
New Zealand Startup Forum: Tuesday, February 9, 2021, 1:00 PM–3:30 PM EST
Germany Startup Forum: Tuesday, February 23, 2021, 1:00 PM–3:30 PM EST

With vaccines for COVID-19 beginning to roll out, the question becomes the order in which people will gain the opportunity to receive the jab (or pair of jabs) and, then, who will avail themselves of that opportunity. A pair of Canadian researchers apply game theory to the latter problem. (Alexandre Bayen, Los Angeles, Mar 2018; Benjamin Kuipers, Brooklyn, Jun 2018)

Congratulations to Xiangkun (Elvis) Cao, who has been selected by UNICEF as one of the eight WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) Young Changemakers of 2020, based on reapplying the renewable energy research he shared with TTI/V in Berkeley in March 2019 to manufacturing alcohol-based hand sanitizer from carbon dioxide using solar energy input. His startup C2X reimagines waste CO2 as a public health resource.

University of Buffalo researchers report that memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease could be ameliorated both by reversing the downregulation of genes beneficial to cognitive function and by inhibiting the abnormal expression of adverse genes. (James Gimzewski, Boston, Apr 2014)

The act of collecting Martian samples to return to Earth for analysis by NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover will be no easy feat, but the project’s astrobiology mission is making the effort. JPL’s preparation entails extreme cleanliness, exacting physical tolerances, and robotic precision. This article describes the three robots of the Sample Caching System; this one focuses more closely on the sample tubes themselves.

Researchers at the University of Maryland (field trip, Sep 2019) have developed a novel 3-D printing nozzle capable of laying down fibers within fiber-filled composites in specified orientations to enhance material properties, such as strength or electrical conductivity. (Jennifer Lewis, Miami, Dec 2011) 

2020 was a year like no other for the use of masks, gowns, and other life-saving items of personal protective equipment. But the downside of wide-scale polypropylene-based PPE use has been the mountains of discarded waste. An Indian environmental activist has been recycling masks and gowns into a synthetic resin that he forms into bricks for use as a building material. (Heidi Kujawa, San Francisco, Dec 2016) 

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems in Dresden have developed a robust MEMS-based microscanner mirror to serve as a key LiDAR component, steering the laser as it creates a 3-D scan of its surroundings. While the technology is also applicable to uses including head-mounted displays and industrial robotics, the firm AEye is already using such mirrors in its LiDAR systems for autonomous vehicles. (Simon Tong, Brooklyn, Jun 2018; George Hotz, Berkeley, Berkeley, Mar 2019; Ian Oppermann, Paris, Jul 2011; NYU Tandon School of Engineering, Field Trip, Brooklyn, Jun 2018)

The vertical farms of startup Plenty have attracted the attention—and investment—of Eric Schmidt, Jeff Bezos, and SoftBank. These dense, indoor grow operations optimize lighting, temperature, and water application with the help of AI-controlled robots. Food output per acre outpaces conventional farms 400-fold. (Gene Giacomelli, St. Louis, Sep 2008)

Gary Marcus (Brooklyn, Jul 2018, San Diego, Feb 2015; Boston, Apr 2014) was among the computer scientists virtually gathered by Montreal.AI to debate how best to move AI forward. Marcus advocated for a hybrid approach that combines deep learning with rules, while others focused variously on explainability (David Gunning, Brooklyn, Jun 2018), the importance of perception (Larry Zitnick, Philadelphia, Jul 2015), reinforcement learning (e.g., Karen Liu, Boston, Apr 2017), causal inference (Elias Barenboim, Brooklyn, Jun 2018), and common sense (Doug Lenat). It sounds like the scenario of several blind people evaluating an elephant, but most likely there was significant crossover among their viewpoints. www.venturebeat.com/2021/01/02/leading-computer-scientists-debate-the-next-steps-for-ai-in-2021/

There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning. - Louis L'Amour