Friday, December 18, 2015

It's a week before the big holiday, and we have visions of resilient nanostructured trusses dancing in our heads, illuminated by white laser light and powered by a combination of fusion, microbatteries, and self-tracking high-power microwave antenna arrays. It's gotta be a cricket-eating, yeast-grown opioid-induced dream—or [next]. If you weren’t there, or you want to relive the experience, be sure to check out the conference highlights and session presentations on the TTI/V app, or go to the archive, where audio and videos are also available.
Giving or getting a drone for Christmas? Don't forget to register it! Any drone, whether it's a Nixie wrist model (Jelena Jovanovic and Christoph Kohstall, San Francisco, Dec 2014) or a DJI Inspire (Eric Cheng, ditto), or a 55-kg behemoth,  will need a certificate and a registration number to satisfy a new FAA rule that goes into effect December 21.
Google says its quantum computer is more than 100 million times faster than a regular computer chip, according to VentureBeat. But as a New Scientist article makes clear, experts doubt Google's claim about its quantum computer's speed. (Rodney Van Meter, San Francisco, Dec 2014; Carl Williams, Santa Monica, Dec 2007)
A new set of draft regulations by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which would ban autonomous cars that don't allow for a human driver (such as Google’s), won't affect Ford's plan to begin testing autonomous vehicles in California in 2016. Less clear is whether such regulations would affect Ford's long-term plan to develop new Uber-like ride-hailing services, which presumably will someday go autonomous. (K. Venkatesh Prasad, Detroit, May 2015; Tim Landgraf, Washington, D.C., Sep 2015; Benedict Evans, San Francisco, Dec 2015)
It's also not clear whether the California regulations would cover brain-powered cars, such as the ones being developed in China. We know a lot of brains that can't be trusted behind the steering wheel, let alone in cars that have no steering wheels. But we would trust most brains to play video games (Rajesh Rao, San Francisco, Dec 2013).
If you liked Ben Wellington's street-smart view of New York City data, you'll love Todd Schneider's obsessive analysis of the complete data sets of NYC yellow taxi, green taxi, and Uber use.
The Paris accords embraced a view of climate change that's as urgent as the one laid out a year ago by Noah Diffenbaugh and Michael D. Mastrandrea (San Francisco, Dec 2014).
The current issue of Communications of the ACM argues that "Reproducibility of code is increasingly crucial to verifying scientific claims," a thesis that Jake VanderPlas made a compelling case for fifteen months earlier (Washington, D.C., Sep 2014).
When it comes to batteries, it's clear that novel chemistries are few and far between. (Paul Braun's microbatteries (San Francisco, Dec 2015) was a refreshing exception.) Similarly, the efficiency of photovoltaics improves, but slowly. (For integration of PV and chips, see Shani Keysar, Vienna, Jul 2013.) Research out of Stanford introduces improvements across both domains with a layered solar panel that resists corrosion in (fresh) water while operating as a reverse battery and using electricity to spur the combination of water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and methane; the natural gas produced would be captured as fuel.
Even as LinkedIn (Ellen Levy, Washington D.C., Sep 2015) creates new services for job seekers, it faces new competition, such as Jobspotting GmbH.
There are quite a few talks in the archive that invoke the fundamental equivalence between electricity and magnetism, most notably Carver Mead's extraordinary "The Universe and Us: An Integrated Theory of Electromagnetics and Gravitation" (San Diego, Feb 2015). But it all goes back to 30 November 1865. Belated happy 150th birthday, Maxwell's Equations!
Comcast and T-Mobile are privileging Netflix traffic on their networks. Does that violate the FCC's view of network neutrality? We’ll have to wait and see. But Netflix (Adrian Cockcroft and Frank Fitzek, Los Angeles, Feb 2013) isn't resting on its laurels; it recently re-encoded its entire library to "maximize quality and save a ton of bandwidth."
7 in 10 Americans think technology has become too distracting and is creating a lazy society. And surprisingly, when it comes to productivity, millennials (Jolijt Tamanaha, Washington D.C., Sep 2015) are more likely to say technology has had a negative effect.
NYU psychology professor and former TTI/Vanguard speaker Gary Marcus (Boston, Apr 2014, San Diego, Feb 2015) has a new startup, Geometric Intelligence, devoted to creating AI algorithms by looking at the way children learn (Nolan Bushnell, Jersey City, Oct 2013).
In other alumni news, former member and speaker K Waterman (Atlanta, Feb 2014) joined Ranieri Strategies LLC as managing partner and CTO. And former member and speaker Micheline Casey (Philadelphia, July 2015) joined the advisory board of ClearStory Data.
Amazon's plans to deliver packages via drone, so easily mocked a year ago, are starting to sport a who's-laughing-now look.
Whether or not you've been on the edge of your seat for the past decade waiting for Star Wars VII, you surely want a BB-8 for Christmas. It's just the latest in a line of endearing robots from the sci-fi series, whose emotional appeal Don Norman explained in the era of Star Wars II. (San Jose, Feb 2003). 

"Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present."
— Bil Keane

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.