TTI/Vanguard: Hyundai goes holiday shopping for robots - Newsletter Dec 11, 2020

Note from Lisa Yao: I've been looking for the silver linings of 2020 and, amidst plenty of tragic news, they do exist. One of the best was TTI/V’s virtual [next] conference which concluded on Tuesday. Thank you to legendary tech reporters John Markoff and Gregg Zachary for programming the meeting. Thank you to our speakers for inspirational talks. Thank you to our Advisory Board and members for fascinating questions. And thank you to our team—Kelly Baughman, Robin Lockett, and Nancy Kleinrock—who made [next] and everything else in 2020 better by their commitment to this community. [next] Highlights, videos, and available presentations are now posted in our archive.

Looking ahead, mark your calendars! Our 2021 schedule is here:

In the meantime, here’s more detail on the glaucoma-related age-reversal epigenetic reprogramming that George Church discussed during this week’s [next] event and New York City’s take on wastewater analysis for SARS-CoV-2 that Rolf Halden shared during last week’s installment.

The robots march—and roll—onward, with TTI/V member Hyundai’s purchase of Boston Dynamics. (John Suh, Pittsburgh, Jun 2019; Marc Raibert, Brooklyn, Jul 2016). Congratulations!

Someone is thinking outside of the box. Specifically, the Amazon boxes that overwhelm recycling centers and clog landfills. An intrepid researcher at the Clean Energy Research Center of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology bred a new yeast that feasts on cardboard, and in the process produces the combustible fats used in biodiesel. (Reshma Shetty, San Diego, Feb 2015; Peter Girguis, Salt Lake City, Dec 2009).,from%20fermenting%20corn%20into%20ethanol

In Seattle this past March (yes, it feels like a lifetime ago), Ethan Zukerman outlined his case for taxpayer-funded digital public infrastructure and digital social spaces for civic discourse. Here, he further fleshes out those ideas.

DARPA’s hypersonic air-breathing weapons concept (HAWC) intercontinental ballistic missile prototype can be launched from an aircraft and travel five times the speed of sound. Designed for nuclear warheads, this platform can be repurposed to carry sensors, surveillance equipment, or communications equipment.

The venture world is tuning in to what TTI/Vanguard has been hearing about since 2012, when Larry Smarr (San Jose, Feb 2012), Jonathan Eisen (San Jose, Feb 2012), and Jessica Richman (Austin, Feb 2016) spilled their guts … er, discussed the importance of the gut microbiome to wellbeing. This article provides background material and views by the founders of several recent startups.

TTI/V enjoyed Valentine’s Day in Tokyo when Advisory Board member Ellen Levy hosted a regional event in February of 2018. Love is in the air yet again as the Japanese government is investing in machine learning-powered matchmaking services to combat declining birth rates.

And machine learning is finding its way into other endeavors, including the design of architectural glass. An international research team trained a deep neural net on a million simulated curved-glass shapes represented in conventional CAD format. When presented with a building’s structural facade, the trained model suggests a handful of viable geometries for each panel—all of them structurally sound and manufacturable—leaving it to the architect to select among them.

Content delivery network providers like Cloudflare (Ryan Lackey, Philadelphia, Jul 2015) and Akamai (Tom Leighton, Philadelphia, Apr 2006) are among those on a new task force within MANRS (Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security) to harden border gateway protocol for cloud implementations with necessary filters and cryptographic checks.

We are heartened by the many people working hard on the Herculean task of combating misinformation. Some of the most illustrious ones—Renée DiResta, Roger McNamee, Adam Kucharski, Judith Estrin, etc.—have been kind enough to speak to our community. And here is yet another piece in the puzzle: Media literacy decreases a person’s susceptibility to fake news.

Since we can’t get together to celebrate with loved ones this year, at least we can bake cutout holiday cookies and send along a care package to them. But how to get the greatest number of cookies from rolled-out dough and arrange them to optimally fill a tin? It turns out that these geometrically equivalent (two-dimensional) problems are not only unsolved, they can’t even be solved combinatorially or algorithmically for an arbitrary number of cookies, due to the continuous geometric nature of cookie arrangement. We love mathematical optimization, but in this case, the best thing to do is just wing it (and nibble any leftover bits yourself).

“Home is where the heart is. Heart is where the cookie is. Math is clear: Home is cookie.” — Cookie Monster

The TTI/Vanguard Team