Friday, May 1, 2015

We are excited to see so many of you in Detroit next week for Making Stuff.  If you (or a colleague) cannot join us, then please do tune in for our sessions live on WebEx.  The links for joining are at the bottom this newsletter. 

In the wake of the heartbreaking Nepalese earthquake, Patrick Meier’s MicroMappers (San Francisco, Dec 2014; Paris, Jul 2011) are once again wading through wreckage virtually. Volunteer “clickers” evaluate thousands of images, tweets, and—soon—the aerial video of the Humanitarian UAV Network to evaluate damage and inform response. Want to help? Go to and from there to the tagging tools.

Google may have temporarily given up on augmented reality, but two TTI/Vanguard members haven’t. Qualcomm and MINI, which is part of BMW Group, have teamed up to create an augmented reality experience for specially equipped MINIs.

Well, that was quick. Just two months after Ryan Phelan told us about her de-extinction project for the woolly mammoth (San Diego, Feb 2015), the sequencing of the uber-herbivore’s genome is complete.

The scientific community studying the Ebola virus continues to make progress with its tortoise-and-hare strategy, as described by Erica Ollmann Saphire (San Diego, Feb 2015). Using an alternative strategy to that of ZMapp, researchers have successfully—and quickly—tuned a treatment to the specific strain of the virus that is currently active.

Remember the flash crash that took place May 6, 2010? It was during the first afternoon of our conference on CyberInsecurity in Washington, D.C. The market plunged nearly 1000 points in 15 minutes. At our next meeting (London, Jul 2010), Dave Cliff summed it up: “This was more than two months ago, and still nobody knows why this occurred, because there is no one list of all of the transactions that occurred with accurate timestamps because trading is now fragmented across multiple sources of liquidity.” Steven Rubinow also weighed in with a discussion of real-time automated transactions a year later (Paris, Jul 2011). Well, there is now enough evidence to charge Navinder Singh Sarao with wire fraud and market manipulation.   

Have any patents lying around? You could offer them up to the patent trolls but perhaps you agree with Roy Weinstein (Washington, D.C., Oct 2011), who noted the damaging role trolls play in the U.S. patent system (even if Nathan Myhrvold danced around the issue with aplomb, Seattle, Dec 2012). Or, you could offer them to Google. In a weirdly brief two-week experiment that begins May 8, the company is evaluating U.S. patents from all comers, with an eye toward purchasing them.

Here’s a chance—or second chance, if you were with us last year—to learn about the Antikythera mechanism from the amazing reconstructionist Michael Wright (London, Jul 2014). Joining him will be TTI/Vanguard’s Mike Hawley, marine archeologist Brendan Foley describing the 2014 expedition to the original site of the circa 600 BCE shipwreck, and expert on ancient Greece, Nicolaos Alexopoulos. This event will take place at the Computer History Museum, where we celebrated our 20th anniversary in grand style. Leading up to that Feb 2012 event, Gordon Bell described how he, Gwen Bell, and Len Shustek transitioned the History Museum from a closet at Digital Equipment’s Maynard, Massachusetts, facility to its beautiful current instantiation in San Jose. If you are near San Jose on May 13, do you really have anywhere better you need to be?

Two little self-powered lights recently caught our eye. We’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about energy these days—and have for quite some time.  Back in Salt Lake City in 2009, Peter Girguis introduced us to the mud bucket light with his talk on Microbial Fuel Cells.  We learned about the sustainability efforts in by Indian youth from Kartikeya Singh in Singapore of that same year.  And who could forget the solar-powered charging station that Damon Millar brought to Vienna in July 2013?  and  

It seems that we are not the only people impressed with Scanadu’s mission to bring medical grade diagnostics to smart phones (Walter De Brouwer, San Francisco Dec 2013).  The company has just closed its B round of funding and is currently filling several thousand orders generated from a $1.6 million Indiegogo campaign.

In last week’s newsletter, we mentioned that robots have finally learned to mow the lawn. We should have known that very little is new under the sun that can’t be traced back to the heyday of Bell Labs. Advisory Board Member Len Kleinrock wrote us with this gem of a story: When, in the summer of 1958, I first met Claude Shannon at his home in Winchester, Mass. (originally occupied by Thomas Jefferson's great granddaughter), among other amazing devices, he had a robot mowing his lawn; what he had done was to bury wires in the grass and then had the lawn mower designed to follow the wires back and forth as it mowed the lawn. The pattern was East to West for a long run, then South for a short run, then West to East for a long run, etc.  This surely pre-dated this generation's lawn-mowing robots, but how could you know?

And how could we know that the father of information theory was also half a century ahead of the maker movement? If a newsletter item inspires any amazing stories of your own, we’d love to hear them.

 "Information is the resolution of uncertainty.” —Claude Shannon

The TTI/Vanguard Team

Author: Steven Cherry

Director of TTI/Vanguard, “a unique forum for senior-level executives that links strategic technology planning to business success. In private conferences that are part classroom, part think-tank, and part laboratory, its members—corporate and government leaders, entrepreneurs, researchers, and academics—explore emerging and potentially disruptive technologies.”

Twenty years experience as a technology journalist and editor, at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). Founded the award-winning podcast series, Techwise Conversations covering tech news, tech careers and education, and the engineering lifestyle. Teaches an intensive writing class as an adjunct instructor at NYU. Previously taught essay writing and creative writing at The College of New Rochelle.