Newsletter: Bats, Birds & Bias - November 13, 2020

[next] kicked off onTuesday with a knock-out round of speakers. And the hits will keep coming this Tuesday with Jerry Kaplan, Nick Melosh,Noemi Bonessio, Manu Prakash, Jeanette Garcia, and  Monica Lam. We emphasized transportation on the 10th and you’ll see some extra doses of material sciences on the 17th - but we’ve carefully worked each session to have something for everyone.

Stay tuned for our first batch of videos and Highlights in the archives and please see our agenda and registration.

Researchers at TTI/V member Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a tool they dub ThermalTracker-3D, which streams data from a stereo array of thermal cameras to monitor bird and bat behavior in the vicinity of offshore wind turbines to assess the environmental impact of this renewable energy resource. (Bill Parrish, San Francisco, Dec 2013; Feargal Brennan, Salt Lake City, Dec 2009)

Kristina Lerman at USC’s Information Sciences Institute (field trip, Mar 2018) has built a tool suggested by member firm Boston Consulting Group’s Mickey McManus (Berkeley, Mar 2019): an algorithmic “news bias nutritional label.”

CRYLOGGER, an open-source tool developed by Columbia University researchers, can detect whether Android apps properly use cryptography, without requiring access to the apps’ code. Instead of analyzing code, CRYLOGGER runs each app and dynamically analyzes the parameters it uses when interacting via APIs with cryptographic libraries to determine if the crypto is properly implemented. The assessment of 1780 popular apps from the Play Store revealed nearly universal substandard adherence to security standards, most likely due to  app developers’ naive understanding of encryption. (National Cybersecurity Center for Excellence, Workshop and Lab Visit, MITRE, Rockville, Sep 2016) 

Jon Schull (Detroit, May 2015; San Francisco, Dec 2014) has shared how 3-D-printed hands can change a disabled child’s life by providing dexterity and personal agency. Now, the University of Chicago’s HandMorph project reminds adults of the frustrations even an able-bodied child might encounter when living in an adult-sized environment. The adult dons a glove with protruding undersized digits that the wearer actuates through normal finger motion, providing a sense of how an object that is easy to grasp with a grownup hand is difficult for a young child to manipulate. This is but the latest prototype from this lab that encourages people to adjust their perception to fit another’s experience.

Multinozzle 3-D printers make it easy to create multicolored objects. With a bit of patience and preplanning, the same is possible with even the most rudimentary printer (Bre Pettis, Salt Lake City, Dec 2009) by first printing a single multicolor strand of filament and then printing the end product with it.

Orlando is building a 56K-square-foot vertiport, expected to be completed in 2025, just in time to accept the Heaviside personal electric flying car that Sebastian Thrun’s Kitty Hawk is building. (virtual [next] conference, Nov 2020)

Whether or not it ever serves as an actual mode of transportation, a new milestone has been reached for the Hyperloop concept: Two passengers strapped in and enjoyed the first vacuum tube joyride in Virgin’s 500-m test installation in the Nevada desert.

Chalk it up to 2020 … weird stuff happens. (David Hillis, Madrid, Jul 2003)

Remember when Brian Chan showed TTI/V “how to fold anything”—including an actual ukulele and a paper origami badger (Miami, Dec 2011)? Well, Japanese researchers have developed an inkjet-printing approach for constructing functional mechatronic devices that self-fold. Each ink cartridge contains a calibrated concentration of aqueous lithium chloride solution, causing the paper to fold along each printed line at a rate corresponding to the solute’s concentration. Actuation of the mechatronics will require the incorporation of printed electrical wiring. (Daniela Rus, Boston, Apr 2014)

Nothing is set in stone. A bird can be refolded into a boat, a fish, a kimono, or any other extravagant vision. At other times it aches to return to its original folds. The paper begins to fray. It tires, rebels.—Tor Udall