What if we learned today that an asteroid had a 1–10% chance of hitting the Earth in 2027? What would our next steps be? In a simulation study more thrilling than most sci-fi novels, NASA hopes to find out. (Dan Durda, Washington, D.C., May 2007)
Transport for transplant: Member firm University of Maryland conducted the first-ever drone delivery of a kidney. Meanwhile, Alphabet's drone delivery unit, Wing Aviation, has been certified as an airline by the FAA.
Marriott and Airbnb aren’t merging. But their business models are bleeding into one another’s. (Arun Sundararajan, Boston, Apr 2017; Robin Chase, Atlanta, Feb 2014)
We can type with our eyes at a rate of eight to ten words per minute. We speak at 120 to 150 words per minute. There’s a clear need to generate speech from the minds of stroke victims, those with ALS, and other disorders. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have taken what might be a big step—they can generate unspoken sentences from people without difficulty speaking and hope next to do the same for people with difficulty. (Michael Callahan, Santa Monica, Dec 2007)
TTI/V advisory board member Ellen Levy has an identical twin sister, Dr. Laura A. Jana. Longtime members will be amazed at how similarly they walk, talk, and gesture. And everyone will be enlightened by her TEDx talk, “Skills Every Child Will Need to Succeed in 21st century.”
Guy Hoffman (Brooklyn, Jun 2018, and London, Jul 2014) writes eloquently on the lessons-learned from the failures of three social robot ventures (Jibo, Kuri, and now Anki). He compares them to the Apple Newton, which pointed the way to the promised land of smartphones, without ever getting there itself.
Nynke van den Akker was aiming to someday hit a cost of $66/kg—down from about $100,000—when we heard about in-vitro meat six years ago (Vienna, Jul 2013). Meanwhile, plant-based Beyond Meat’s IPO wildly exceeded expectations in its first few hours of trading this week. As Steve Jurvetson (San Francisco, Dec 2018) noted to us last year, exploding populations, limited resources in water and agriculture, and health concerns continue to propel demand for non-animal protein.
NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge seemed tailor-made (pun intended) for Behrokh Khoshnevis (Detroit, May 2015) and his print-an-entire-building-at-once 3-D printers. But he’s not one of the two finalists to be facing off May 2–4 in Peoria, Ill. (If you get this newsletter early enough, you can catch the last of the livestream.)
Remember Kris Pister’s smart dust (Chicago, Apr 2005; Miami, Sep 2002; San Francisco, Jul 1998)? The dream is being realized by a group at the University of Pennsylvania who are layering platinum and titanium on a silicon wafer and then powering the microbots with lasers shined on tiny solar panels. (Also Andrew Hessell, San Diego, Feb 2015; Shani Keysar, Vienna, Jul 2013; Ray Kurzweil, Atlanta, Nov 2000)
Slack (Bill Macaitis, Washington, D.C., Sep 2015) may be all too well-named—making us less productive instead of more.
Forbes is reporting that “U.S. Airports Will Use AI To Scan 97% Of Passengers' Faces Within 4 Years.” Currently the system is intended to catch people who overstay their visas but why stop there? As we’ve previously noted, Chinese authorities are using facial recognition to match Muslims in Xinjiang against a variety of “dangerous” “person types.”
(Andrew Bud, Washington, D.C., Sep 2017; Michael Miller, Atlanta, Feb 2008; Maurice Gifford, Versailles, May 1998)
Polymers are lightweight, flexible, and corrosion-resistant. They would be ideal for a number of applications, such as heat-dissipation, but for the fact that they’re insulators and not conductors. Until now—MIT engineers have made polymers that “conduct heat better than many metals, including steel.” (Jennifer Lalli, Atlanta, Dec 2004)
Member firm Hyundai now lets its electric car motorists customize seven performance features (maximum torque, ignition, acceleration/deceleration abilities, regenerative braking capacity, maximum speed, responsiveness, and energy use on climate control). It’s also adding blockchain to its security measures.
Researchers at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin have produced inorganic thin films at moderate temperatures, making it much easier to produce thin-film solar cells. For one thing, high- temperature post-tempering is unnecessary. (Karsten Held, Vienna, Jul 2013; Alyssa Newman, Jersey City, Oct 2009; Steven Novack, St. Louis, Sep 2008)
As more households cut the cable TV cord, and as more content providers create standalone services available outside a cable TV package, the cable companies’ businesses shift toward being Internet service providers. But what if that cord can be cut as well? Huawei is apparently ready to introduce a 5G television—and it might even be capable of 8K video. (Bob Lucky, Chicago, Apr 2005; Richard Green, Denver, May 2003; Jonathan Taplin, Pasadena, Feb 2002; Nicholas Negroponte, Ed Horowitz, Rob Lucky, Cambridge, Sep 1993)
"I myself eschew all stimulants. I also practically abstain from meat"