Category: Hello Future

The Thiel Foundation has made a six-figure grant to a series of biotechnology startups, including a company that wants to 3-D-print meat.

Modern Meadow is a Missouri-based startup that believes 3-D printing could help to take some of the environmental cost out of producing a hamburger. He said: “If you look at the resource intensity of everything that goes into a hamburger, it is an environmental train wreck.”

The company claims that by carefully layering mixtures of cells of different types in a specific structure, in-vitro meat production becomes feasible. It’s set a short-term goal of printing a sliver of meat around two centimeters by one centimeter, and less than half a millimeter thick, which is edible.

The company explains in a submission to the United States Department of Agriculture: “The technology has several advantages in comparison to earlier attempts to engineer meat in vitro. The bio-ink particles can be reproducibly prepared with mixtures of cells of different type. Printing ensures consistent shape, while post-printing structure formation and maturation in the bioreactor facilitates conditioning.”

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London to New York in Less than an hour: The X-51A Waverider is designed to ride on its own shockwave, accelerating to about Mach 6

Perhaps Han Solo said it best in Star Wars when, describing his hyper-fast smuggling spaceship the Millennium Falcon, he said, “It may not look like much, but it’s got it where it counts.”

While the Air Force might take exception to being likened to the Falcon, in reality the platypus-nosed X-51A Waverider hypersonic flight test vehicle really doesn’t look like much. But it definitely has it where it counts.

On Tuesday, the unmanned 25-foot-long vehicle will be dropped off of the wing of a converted B-52 bomber off the California coast and try to fly for 300 seconds at science fiction-like speeds of Mach 6, over 4,500 mph – fast enough to fly from New York to London in less than an hour.

It is the Pentagon’s latest test as it studies the possibilities of hypersonic flight, defined as moving at speeds of Mach 5 (about 3,400 mph) and above without leaving the atmosphere. The technology could eventually bring missiles or airplanes to the other side of the planet in minutes instead of hours.

The Air Force and the Pentagon are not saying much about Tuesday’s test, but the military could use such technology for reconnaissance aircraft, cruise missile-like weapons or vehicles that could carry people or cargo so fast adversaries would not have time to react, according to military analysts.

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A University of Florida scientist has created a living “brain” of cultured rat cells that now controls an F-22 fighter jet flight simulator.

Scientists say the research could lead to tiny, brain-controlled prosthetic devices and unmanned airplanes flown by living computers.

And if scientists can decipher the ground rules of how such neural networks function, the research also may result in novel computing systems that could tackle dangerous search-and-rescue jobs and perform bomb damage assessment without endangering humans.

Additionally, the interaction of the cells within the lab-assembled brain also may allow scientists to better understand how the human brain works. The data may one day enable researchers to determine causes and possible non-invasive cures for neural disorders, such as epilepsy.

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Researchers in the Department of Biological Engineering at MIT will receive up to $32 million over the next five years from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop a technology platform that will mimic human physiological systems in the laboratory, using an array of integrated, interchangeable engineered human tissue constructs.

A cooperative agreement between MIT and DARPA worth up to $26.3 million will be used to establish a new program titled “Barrier-Immune-Organ: MIcrophysiology, Microenvironment Engineered TIssue Construct Systems” (BIO-MIMETICS) at MIT, in collaboration with researchers at the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, MatTek Corp. and Zyoxel Ltd. The BIO-MIMETICS proposal was one of two award winners selected as part of the Microphysiological Systems (MPS) program at DARPA, and will be led by MIT professor Linda Griffith in collaboration with MIT professors Steven Tannenbaum, Darrell Irvine, Paula Hammond, Eric Alm and Douglas Lauffenburger. Jeffrey Borenstein and Shankar Sundaram will lead the work at Draper Laboratory, Patrick Hayden will lead the work at MatTek, and David Hughes will lead the work at Zyoxel.

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A Russian mogul wants to achieve cybernetic immortality for humans within the next 33 years. He’s pulled together a team intent on creating fully functional holographic human avatars that house our artificial brains. Now he’s asking billionaires to help fund the advancements needed along the way.

The man behind the 2045 Initiative, described as a nonprofit organization, is a Russian named Dmitry Itskov. The ambitious timeline he’s laid out involves creating different avatars. First a robotic copy that’s controlled remotely through a brain interface. Then one in which a human brain can be transplanted at the end of life. The next could house an artificial human brain, and finally we’d have holographic avatars containing our intelligence much like the movie “Surrogates.”

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Gun enthusiast “HaveBlue” has documented the process of what appears to be the first test firing of a firearm made with a 3D printer.

Before you go about locking yourself in your closet, you should know that the only printed part of the gun was the lower receiver. But, according to the American Gun Control Act, the receiver is what counts as the firearm.

HaveBlue reportedly used a Stratasys 3D printer to craft the part, assembled it as a .22 pistol and fired more than 200 rounds with it.

The tester then attempted to assemble a rifle with the part and a .223 upper receiver but had “feed and extraction issues.” The problem may not in fact be with the 3D-printed part, though, as the issues remained when a standard aluminum lower was used.

3D printer gun designs have been floating around the Internet for some time now, but HaveBlue seems to be the first to take it to the next level.

The art of humorous storytelling in Japan, known as rakugo, isn’t as popular as it once was. But now an android has joined the ranks of comics who kneel on cushions while spinning out jokes. The narrative droid is a copy of Beicho Katsura III, an 86-year-old rakugo comic recognized by the government as a Living National Treasure. The Beicho Android, as it’s known, is the work of Osaka University professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, creator of the Geminoid series of lifelike androids, and makeup artist Shinya Endo. Powered by air servos, the droid has all the idiosyncratic moves of Beicho performing rakugo, an art in which performers wear kimono and use only a kerchief and hand fan as props.

As seen in the vid below, it waves its arms, bows its head, and speaks in a gravelly voice like the master while narrating tales. Its mouth isn’t all that expressive but from far away, it’s hard to notice. The robot cracked up a few journalists at a press conference. It took two months to build and cost some $1 million, according to Sankei News. It was unveiled as part of an exhibition that combines a retrospective on Beicho’s career with exhibits on cutting edge tech in Osaka. It’s on from August 1 to 9 at Sankei Hall Breeze, where the droid is slated to do hourly impersonations of the elderly artist.

predictive policing algorithms

Columbo would have hated the latest trend in crime-fighting. And it definitely would have made Dirty Harry even more unhinged.

But Sherlock Holmes, now he would have been impressed. The logic, the science, the compilation of data–all the stuff of Holmesian detective work.

I’m talking about something known as predictive policing–gathering loads of data and applying algorithms to deduce where and when crimes are most likely to occur. Late last month, the Los Angeles Police Department announced that it will be expanding its use of software created by a California startup named PredPol.

For the past six months, police in that city’s Foothill precinct have been following the advice of a computer and the result, according the the LAPD, is a 25 percent drop in reported burglaries in the neighborhoods to which they were directed. Now the LAPD has started using algorithm-driven policing in five more precincts covering more than 1 million people.

PredPol’s software, which previously had been tested in Santa Cruz–burglaries there dropped by 19 percent–actually evolved from a program used to predict earthquakes. Now it crunches years of crime data, particularly location and time, and refines it with what’s known about criminal behavior, such as the tendency of burglars to work the neighborhoods they know best.

Before each shift, officers are given maps marked with red boxes of likely hot spots for property crimes, in some cases zeroing in on areas as small as 500 feet wide. They’re told that whenever they’re not on calls, they should spend time in one of the boxes, preferably at least 15 minutes of every two hours. The focus is less on solving crimes, and more on preventing them by establishing a high profile in crime zones the computer has targeted.

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Millions of people suffering from multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injuries or amputees could soon interact with their computers and surroundings using just their eyes, thanks to a new device that costs less than £40. Composed from off-the-shelf materials, the new device can work out exactly where a person is looking by tracking their eye movements, allowing them to control a cursor on a screen just like a normal computer mouse.

The technology comprises an eye-tracking device and “smart” software that have been presented July 13, in IOP Publishing’s Journal of Neural Engineering. Researchers from Imperial College London demonstrated its functionality by getting a group of people to play the classic computer game Pong without any kind of handset. In addition users were able to browse the web and write emails “hands-off.”

The GT3D device is made up of two fast video game console cameras, costing less than £20 each, that are attached, outside of the line of vision, to a pair of glasses that cost just £3. The cameras constantly take pictures of the eye, working out where the pupil is pointing, and from this the researchers can use a set of calibrations to work out exactly where a person is looking on the screen.

Even more impressively, the researchers are also able to use more detailed calibrations to work out the 3D gaze of the subjects — in other words, how far into the distance they were looking. It is believed that this could allow people to control an electronic wheelchair simply by looking where they want to go or control a robotic prosthetic arm.

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Within the next year or two, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will instantly know everything about your body, clothes, and luggage with a new laser-based molecular scanner fired from 164 feet (50 meters) away. From traces of drugs or gun powder on your clothes to what you had for breakfast to the adrenaline level in your body—agents will be able to get any information they want without even touching you.

And without you knowing it.

The technology is so incredibly effective that, in November 2011, its inventors were subcontracted by In-Q-Tel to work with the US Department of Homeland Security. In-Q-Tel is a company founded “in February 1999 by a group of private citizens at the request of the Director of the CIA and with the support of the U.S. Congress.” According to In-Q-Tel, they are the bridge between the Agency and new technology companies.

Their plan is to install this molecular-level scanning in airports and border crossings all across the United States. The official, stated goal of this arrangement is to be able to quickly identify explosives, dangerous chemicals, or bioweapons at a distance.

The machine is ten million times faster—and one million times more sensitive—than any currently available system. That means that it can be used systematically on everyone passing through airport security, not just suspect or randomly sampled people.

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Biological systems depend on membrane receptors to communicate, while technology relies on electric fields and currents to transmit data—but scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have created a transistor modelled on living cells that it might allow electronic devices to be hooked directly to the nervous system. The transistor consists of two metal electrodes connected by a carbon nanotube, which acts as a semiconductor. The nanotube is layered with both an insulating polymer and a lipid bi-layer that mimics the structure around cell membranes, and the transistor is then powered by adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—the energy currency of living cells. When exposed to ATP, a protein in the lipid bi-layer acts as an ion pump, shuttling sodium and potassium ions across the membrane—so when both a voltage and an ATP solution (including the ions) are applied to the device, a current flows through the electrodes. The transistor is the first example of an integrated bioelectric system; a hybrid, half-man half-machine. The technology could be used to construct seamless bioelectronic interfaces, and even help human consciousness merge with technology—imagine being mentally linked to your laptop!

Leap represents an entirely new way to interact with your computers. It’s more accurate than a mouse, as reliable as a keyboard and more sensitive than a touchscreen. For the first time, you can control a computer in three dimensions with your natural hand and finger movements.

robots artificial intelligence

For all the speech lines we hear about jobs these days, rarely does anyone mention robots.

They do occasionally, but usually it’s saved for the “innovation” speeches. This is understandable. If you’re running for office, better to keep the two ideas separated, because while jobs are good because they’re, well, jobs, and robots are good because they mean progress, mix the two together and soon enough people will start asking how you’ll be able to create a lot of jobs if these really smart machines are doing more and more of the work.

No, I’m not going all Luddite on you. I’m in awe of machines and the remarkable things they can now do. But that’s the point. We’re not talking about the technology of the past, which clearly made humans more productive and allowed us to move into better-paying jobs requiring more specialized skills.

Now we’re creating machines that are much more than tools. They’re learning to think and adapt, and technologists such as Martin Ford, author of Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future, believe that within five to ten years, machines will be able to surpass the ability of humans to do routine work. As he told The Fiscal Times: “It’s the first time we’ve had this level of technology that allows machines to solve problems on their own, to interact with their environment, to analyze visual imagines, and to manipulate their environment based on that.”

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It’s been 30 years since the release of Blade Runner and 10 years since Minority Report. Both are rich sources of predictions about the future. But what has actually come to pass?

Based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner – the tale of a hunt for four dangerous “replicant” humans – is a classic envisioning of a dystopian future, set in 2019 Los Angeles.

Minority Report, based on a short story by Dick of the same name, and set in Washington DC in 2054, is another cornucopia of technological possibility, where crime is predicted and therefore prevented.

So which predictions in these movies have been fulfilled?

Languages challenging English

As well as English, some of Blade Runner’s 2019 LA residents speak a patois mixing European and east Asian languages.

There has certainly been language shift in Los Angeles, most notably a doubling of the number of Spanish speakers (those who speak the language at home) in the past 30 years from 1.5 million in 1980 to 3.6 million in 2010 (including Spanish Creole).

Internationally, Spanish is also significant and futuregazers have gone as far as predicting that one day Mandarin Chinese could become the default language of business worldwide.

Speaking to the New York Times in 2009, French linguist Claude Hagege, author of On the Death and Life of Languages, said that Hindi and Mandarin could replace English some day.

Gesture-based computer interfaces

John Anderton, Tom Cruise’s character in Minority Report, dons a data glove to use a rather elegant gesture-based interface. Wired magazine reported back in 2008 that such interfaces would soon become a reality.

John Underkoffler, the scientist who developed the system for Minority Report, set up Oblong Industries to develop and market it. He told TED in 2010: “We’re not finished until all the computers in the world work like this.”

The triumph of touchscreen interfaces is an obvious prelude. The Apple iPhone has offered “pinch”, “pull” and “swipe” features for the past five years, and the Microsoft Kinect games system allows users to control the action with their movements.

The most recent addition is the Leap gesture-based computer interaction system, launched in May. The USB device tracks an area of 8 cu ft for movement, and is capable of differentiating between fingers, thumbs and pencils.

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Scientist say they have managed to turn patients’ own skin cells into healthy heart muscle in the lab. Ultimately they hope this stem cell therapy could be used to treat heart failure patients. As the transplanted cells are from the individual patient this could avoid the problem of tissue rejection, they told the European Heart Journal. Early tests in animals proved promising but the experimental treatment is still years from being used in people.

Experts have increasingly been using stem cells to treat a variety of heart problems and other conditions like diabetes, Parkinsons disease or Alzheimer’s. Stem cells are important because they have the ability to become different cell types, and scientists are working on developing ways to get them to repair or regenerate damaged organs or tissues. More than 750,000 people in the UK have heart failure. It means the heart is not pumping blood around the body as well as it used to.

Researchers are looking at ways of fixing the damaged heart muscle. In the latest study, the team in Israel took skin cells from two men with heart failure and mixed the cells up with a cocktail of genes and chemicals in the lab to create the stem cell treatment. The cells that they created were identical to healthy heart muscle cells. When these beating cells were transplanted into a rat, they started to make connections with the surrounding heart tissue.

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Hot Glue Gun Bot The Hot Melt Adhesive robot can do more than climb walls, as seen here — it can fashion its own tools, too. ETH Zurich

Most robots are designed to do a couple specific things, which is one reason why the adaptability requirements in DARPA’s robotics challenge will be so interesting. But not everyone has the funds or know-how to build a robot that can do anything. Instead, the robotics whiz teams at ETH Zurich are giving robots the ability to build any new tool for itself, whenever the need might arise. It just comes with a hot glue gun, which the robot uses like a low-tech 3-D printer.

Other robots have used hot glue guns before, primarily to climb up walls — Israeli researchersand the ETH researchers themselves are among those who’ve built such surface-scaling bots. But if you’ve ever played with a hot glue gun, you know the tool can be used to do much more than form an adhesive — you could make any shape you want and simply let it cool, hardening into an milky-looking object of your design. That’s what this new robot does.

It uses hot glue to form a base and sides of a cup one layer at a time, much like a 3-D printer would sinter materials one layer at a time. The robot also builds a handle and attaches it to the cup so it can tote the water vessel between two separate containers. It takes about an hour. All the tasks were performed autonomously, reports IEEE Spectrum, which spotted the bot at the ICRA conference over the weekend. But the cup design was pre-programmed.

Ideally, future versions of this robot would be able to figure out exactly what type of tool is needed for a given task, and be able to design and build said tool. It certainly works more slowly than a 3-D printer, but it’s much simpler, too. Watch in the video below.

Teleportation, sci-fi-y as it sounds, is actually not fictional or even new; two years ago, Chinese physicists broke the then-current record for quantum teleportation by teleporting photons over 10 miles. But a new effort from that same team demolishes that record, beaming the photons over 97 kilometers.

The physicists, working from the University of Science and Technology of China in Shanghai, have again taken advantage of quantum entanglement for the purposes of moving an object from one place to another without ever moving in the space between. According to Technology Review, “The idea is not that the physical object is teleported but the information that describes it. This can then be applied to a similar object in a new location which effectively takes on the new identity.”

The task uses a 1.3-watt laser “and some fancy optics” to beam those photons and retrieve them at the final location. The trick seems to be maintaining the photons’ information, since the beam widens over space, but eventually teleportation of this sort could be used to beam information incredibly quickly up to satellites.

Source: Tech Source

Will this be the future of luxury bachelor and bachelorette parties? Maybe it’s something you could get your grandkids. By 2050, bordellos will offer for-hire sex robots for disease- and guilt-free pleasure, according to a new scientific paper.

The research, published in the May issue of the journal Futures, sits incongruously among more staid titles about new spatial planning methods and urban sprawl. The paper is meant to be a “futuristic scenario” that “pushes plausibility to the limit,” write its authors, Michelle Mars and tourism professor Ian Yeoman, both of the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

Nevertheless, they said, “It is feasible. Society has had relationships with machines and we continue to have increasingly intimate relationships with more and more sophisticated technologies.” And for the sex tourism industry, it’s something to look forward to, they said. Commercial sex robots would be free of disease and would reduce the trafficking of real people for sex work, they write.

To explore their ideas, Yeoman and Mars envisioned Amsterdam’s sex tourism industry in 2050. They imagined “Yub-Yum,” a sex club for business travelers, which would sell “all-inclusive service” — including massages, lap dances and intercourse — for 10,000 Euros, or about $13,000.

Rises in human trafficking and in drug-resistant strains of HIV, which Yeoman and Mars predict will occur in the 2040s, motivated Amsterdam officials to license robotic bordellos. In spite of serious problems with human brothels, city tourism council members didn’t want to shut down brothels altogether because they worried such a crackdown might drive away tourists. Robots were the answer.

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Google announced just a month or two ago that they were in the advanced stages of work on a pair of augmented reality glasses. The company was short on details or, importantly for our fantasies, imagery, until today, when it posted a concept video showing how these glasses might be used. And it’s pretty amazing.
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