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Monthly Archives: January 2014

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Kindhearted Techies 3D Print Prosthetics for Ducks With Disabilities

Thanks to a few thoughtful individuals and a 3D printer, Dudley the duck has a new lease on life. Still a duckling, Dudley and his siblings were placed in a cage at an animal shelter with some aggressive chickens. In a fight that left his siblings dead, Dudley’s leg was seriously injured and had to be amputated. The shelter’s owner, Brandon Schweitser, coaches jiu jitsu on the side. One of his students, Terence Loring, runs a 3D design company called 3D Pillar. Schweitser asked Loring whether he might design a new leg for Dudley.

Simple Method for Creating Stem Cells Promises Cheaper, Faster Therapies

New research has found a way to develop the malleable stem cells using a much simpler method than the one that earned the 2012 Nobel Prize. In a paper published in Nature, researchers from Harvard University and Japan’s RIKEN Center show that by simply giving an adult cell an acid bath, they can convert it into a stem cell.

Google’s AI Acquisition Blurs Lines Between Futuristic Visions and Business-as-Usual

Google continued a spree of recent acquisitions earlier this week with its £400-million acquisition of the London-based artificial intelligence company, DeepMind. There’s no doubt about it: Google is expanding its view of software’s role in the world, venturing into self-driving cars, humanoid robots and health care. But its DeepMind acquisition is, in many ways, just more business as usual.

New Inexpensive Skin Test in Development to Diagnose Malaria in an Instant

Efforts to devise better, cheaper tests are nothing new, but Rice University researcher Dmitri Lapotko has developed the first bloodless, instant test for the disease. According to a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Lapotko's test is accurate enough to detect a single infected red blood cell in 800 with no false positives.

uArm, A Mini Robotic Arm You Can Assemble and Control

The world has long had robots. Lots of them. Robotic arms live in factories, tirelessly assembling heavy things, cutting through metal (like butter)—and generally doing some pretty dangerous and crucial work. Robotic arms are pretty amazing. And now you can assemble and mount your very own robotic arm on your desk, nightstand, or kitchen counter for a Kickstarter pledge of $185.

DNA Origami to Nanomachines: Building Tiny Robots for the Body and Beyond

In 2008, Paul Rothemund gave a TED talk on a field he called DNA origami, or the creation of microscopic shapes and forms from DNA. As it turns out, Rothemund said, DNA is an ideal nanoscale building material. Life’s operating system codes for self-replicating, computing machines called cells. If we want to build our own molecular machines—why reinvent the wheel? Today’s researchers attach short strands of DNA to key points along a longer strand. Base pairs of the shorter strands adhere like pieces of tape at various points along the long strand, thus bending the long strand into shape. These include nanoscale tiles, spheres, polyhedrons, even smiley faces.

Gene Therapy Improves Sight in UK Patients

In a recent Oxford trial reported in The Lancet, doctors restored sight to patients with choroideremia, a rare inherited cause of blindness that affects about 1 in 50,000 people, with a surgery that involved temporarily detaching the retina to inject mutation-free genes behind it. Of nine patients who underwent the experimental procedure, the two with the most impaired vision could read 2 – 4 additional lines on an eye chart six months later. Four patients whose eyesight was initially only marginally impaired had their night vision improve after treatment.

Wireless Brain Implant Aims To Give Paralyzed Power Over Their Limbs

BrainGate, a program that pools research from several universities, is moving ever closer to giving paralyzed patients use of their limbs by using technology developed to drive computerized prosthetics to drive the paralyzed limbs. The team is developing a system in which a patient’s mental signal to move an arm is recorded, filtered through a computer and sent as a command to an electric stimulation device that activates the patient’s muscles.

Gene Therapy Helps Parkinson’s Patients, But Is It Simply A Placebo?

Even with promising results in humans paired with dramatic results in earlier tests in primates, a gene therapy treating Parkinson's disease, first developed in 1997, is heading back to the drawing board. Here's why.

MIT’s Tangible Media Group Gives Digital Bits Physical Form

MIT’s Daniel Leithinger sits in front of a screen displaying video of a red ball on a table. Leithinger raises up his hands and a field of columns erupts from the table, forming a pixellated physical model of his hands in real time. Leithinger’s hands have been digitally transported from one room to another and physically re-manifested using a “tangible user interface.” He can pass the ball from one hand to the other or manipulate objects without being physically present.

Amid a Debate That’s Hot As Ever, General Mills Says No GMOs in Its Cold Cheerios

General Mills recently announced they’ll make one their most recognizable breakfast cereals, Cheerios, free of genetically modified ingredients. The controversy surrounding GMOs is, of course, closely related to many of the technologies we cover at Singularity Hub. Fear of genetically modified crops may only be the tip of the iceberg, as biotech moves into the more fraught territory of genetic engineering and therapies in animals and eventually humans.

Sight, Sound Out of Sync in Kids With Autism Says Study

A recent Vanderbilt University offers neurological findings that can help account for autism's seemingly disparate symptoms. The study found that children with autism have a broader window of time than normal children during which their brains process two distinct sensory stimuli as aspects of the same event. The window exists to allow the brain to connect stimuli, for example the sound of the sight of the same action, arriving at slightly different times. In autistic children, that window is much longer, leaving room for confusion.

Robot Helps Identify the Perfect Cookie

The Cookie Perfection Machine makes individual cookies according to the user’s specifications, entered by computer, by meting out the specified proportion of each ingredient and dispensing them into a receptacle. A sheet of cookies thus becomes a “flight” of cookie recipes to taste, and the fastidious baker can identify which recipe is best.

The Humble Toothbrush Gets an Internet Makeover

To date, smart toothbrushes have tracked how long and how often users brush, displaying the data in a mobile app and, upon request, sharing it with the user’s dentist. But a newcomer to the field, Kolibree, tracks not just the quantity but the quality of brushing behavior.

Will Oculus Bring Immersive Virtual Reality to Consumers for $300 in 2014?

The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset. Though it is still a prototype, each time Oculus unveils a new update, the applause grows louder. The most recent version, dubbed Crystal Cove, received almost uniformly awed reviews after the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month.

With Emotion Recognition Algorithms, Computers Know What You’re Thinking

A handful of companies are developing algorithms that can read the human emotions behind nuanced and fleeting facial expressions to maximize advertising and market research campaigns. Major corporations including Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Unilever, Nokia and eBay have already used the services.

Google Dips Into Med-Tech With Glucose-Monitoring Contact Lenses

In recent weeks, Google said it would acquire Nest — whose signature product is an Internet-connected, self-adjusting thermostat — before venturing even farther afield with its announcement that it will bring to market a glucose-measuring contact lens for diabetics.

IHS Automotive Report Says ‘Not If, But When’ for Self-Driving Cars

In Back to the Future, Doc Brown tells Marty McFly, “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need…roads.” Where (or more precisely, when) were they going? Why, the year 2015. As you may have noticed, we’re nowhere near Mr. Fusion or flying cars. Robot cars, however, are likely coming to a road near you inside the next decade. And according to a recent IHS Automotive study, 54 million of them will hit the streets by 2035, and nearly all autos will be fully automated by 2050.

Parrot’s Latest MiniDrone Fits In The Palm Of Your Hand, Plus Jumping Sumo

When you hear drone, you may think of the army or Amazon. But a robot flyer can be just plain fun too, right? Parrot aims to bring drones to the rest of us with their new MiniDrone—essentially a scaled down, easier-to-fly version of their AR.Drone. And paired with their new Jumping Sumo two-wheeler? Good times.

Could Implanted Pellets Replace Booster Shots?

A small pellet could be implanted under the skin along with an injected vaccine; later, instead of a booster shot, a pill taken orally would signal the pellet to release a second dose, researchers at the University of Freiburg demonstrated in a recent paper.

Smarty Digital Ring Delivers Text, Email, and Social Media Updates Directly to Your Finger

You've glasses and watches get smart. Time to add rings to the list of everyday wearable items boasting microchips, miniature displays, and touch interfaces. Say hello to Smarty Ring.

IBM Still Slogging Away to Market Watson’s AI Smarts, Invests $1 Billion

IBM recently launched a business division, called the Watson Group, dedicated exclusively to answering those questions. The group will have its headquarters in New York’s “Silicon Alley” technology hub and will employ 2,000 people. IBM has invested $1 billion to get the division going. The investment shows that the company is still committed to Watson, although it has has been slower to capitalize on the platform than some executives and investors would have liked.

AirDroids Markets a Pocket Drone for the Everyman

In a current Kickstarter campaign, the Southern California company AirDroids is offering plug-and-play book-sized drone, aptly named Pocket Drone, for a manageable $495.

3D Systems and Sugar Lab Bring ChefJet 3D Sugar Printer to CES

For a $5,000 to $10,000, high-end chefs will have a new toy and tool later this year—a 3D printer specializing in sugar. 3D Systems’ ChefJet series can print monochromatic or full color shapes to adorn cakes and other edible works of art.

New Pills Deliver Bacteria, Not Drugs, To Cure Us

Pharmaceutical startups are popping up to bring science and sterility to the inquiry surrounding the human microbiome. A couple have already begun testing bacterial medicines in hopes of finding the right strain or stains of bacteria to cure widespread and still mysterious illnesses.

Facial Recognition App for Glass Challenges Google’s Ban on the Technology

FacialNetwork recently launched a facial recognition app for Glass, called NameTag, in the hopes of pushing Google to change its ban on facial recognition apps. Using a photo taken Glass or smartphone camera, NameTag compares it to its database of faces and returns the person’s name, additional photos and social media profiles.

Burritobox Joins Growing Number of Fast-Food Making Robots

Box Brands has launched the first-ever burrito-making robots at two locations on Santa Monica Boulevard — inside Mobile and 76 gas stations. The orange Burritobox offers 6 types of burrito, including a breakfast burrito, and several sauces. The customer selects the burrito s/he wants and which sauces from a touch-screen menu, then swipes a credit card. One minute later, the machine dispenses a hot “hand”-rolled burrito. Gas-station quality burritos may not be the sexiest use of automation technology, but the Burritobox joins a growing number of fast food-making robots.

Intel Aims For Post-Smartphone Era With SD Card-Sized Computer

At the annual Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, Intel, one of the weightiest firms in the tech industry, endorsed wearable computing with the launch of a new chip designed for it. The company unveiled Edison, a computer the size of an SD card that supports multiple operating systems and features a 400-megahertz Quark processor with integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

It’s Alive! Artificial-Life Worm Wiggles on Its Own

A worm wiggles. It’s a process as old as time, but this time there’s a twist: The worm is a bit of open-source software that encodes biological data gleaned from decades of scientific study into the nematode C. elegans. The parameters are programmed, but the worm acted on its own.

Our Singularity Future: Should We Hack the Climate?

Even the most adamant techno-optimists among us must admit that new technologies can introduce hidden dangers: Fire, as the adage goes, can cook the dinner but it can also burn the village down. The most powerful example of an unforeseen problem is climate change. Which makes the debate about whether to use still more novel technology to help fix the problem — to hack the climate — particularly heated.

Hydrogen Vehicles, Long Promised, Finally Hit the Road

After years running on the fumes of hype, hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles are beginning to hit the road. Toyota made a big splash when it announced at the annual Consumer Electronics Show that it would market such a car beginning in the 2015 model year. Hyundai has also committed to roll out a fuel-cell vehicle next year. And Honda has already begun leasing its hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity to customers in California.

Japanese Scientists Levitate, Move Objects in Mid-Air Using Sound Waves

Japanese scientists have devised a way to levitate objects as big as a small screw in mid-air, moving them not just up and down but also to-and-fro and side-to-side.

Singularity University Features Female Entrepreneurs at CROWDFUNDxWOMEN

There aren’t enough women in tech. It’s an often repeated refrain. Raising capital can be daunting for any new business, but sometimes for reasons beyond merit, the road can be more challenging for female technology entrepreneurs. Singularity University recently partnered with Crowdfunder to bring promising new startups and the women leading them together with investors.

Gene Therapy Turns Several Leukemia Patients Cancer Free. Will It Work for Other Cancers, Too?

A new cancer treatment called targeted cellular therapy has generated a lot of excitement in the field. Researchers tried the approach on patients suffering from lymphocytic leukemia with no other treatment options. After receiving targeted cellular therapy, 26 of 59 patients, including 19 children, are now cancer-free.

Ford Joins Tesla, Volvo, Nissan, BMW, and Mercedes in Race to Self-Driving Cars

In 2013, major automakers either forecasting self-driving technologies or announcing their own included Mercedes, BMW, Nissan, Volvo, Tesla—and now, you can add Ford into the mix. The Michigan automaker said they’re working with the University of Michigan and insurer, State Farm, to develop mostly driverless technology by 2025.

Credit Card-Sized Chip Diagnoses HIV and Provides T Cell Counts on the Spot

A credit card-sized chip can diagnose HIV infection and provide T cell counts to guide treatment, according to a recent paper in Science Translational Medicine. The tiny fluid-processing chip provides accurate test results in less than 20 minutes using a single drop of blood that goes directly into the testing chamber and does not require trained handling.

Simple SkySweeper Robot a Mechanical Inchworm to Patrol Power Lines

Nick Morozovsky, an engineering graduate student at UC San Diego, exemplifies how much you can do with how little these days. His SkySweeper robot that moves along cables like an inchworm, using naught but an Arduino microcontroller, 3D printed parts, and an off-the-shelf battery for power. Morozovsky thinks it might be used to inspect power lines for a fraction of current costs.

Mars One Announces Lockheed Martin Partnership, Crowdfunding for 2018 Mars Mission

Mars One, the private organization proposing to colonize Mars by 2025, recently announced Lockheed Martin is working on a mission concept study for a Mars lander based on their 2007 Phoenix lander. Mars One also recently launched a $400,000 Indiegogo campaign to fund the mission concept studies. Mars One says they hope the campaign will “show [their] partners and sponsors that the world is ready for this to happen.”

US Army Straps Laser to Truck, Takes Target Practice With Drones and Mortars

In three weeks of testing at New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range, the US Army recently reported they’d successfully engaged over 90 mortars and drones with—a giant laser mounted on top of a truck. Using radar to locate and engage its quarry, the 10 kW Boieng-built laser—which is roughly equivalent to 10,000 light bulbs focused into a coin-sized beam—acquires its target and rapidly heats it until the weapon explodes in midair.

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