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Cameron Scott

Cameron Scott

Cameron received degrees in Comparative Literature from Princeton and Cornell universities. He has worked at Mother Jones, SFGate and IDG News Service and been published in California Lawyer and SF Weekly. He lives, predictably, in SF.

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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.

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.

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.
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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Progress in Efforts to Develop Lab-Grown Lungs: Functional Cells

Since the development of induced pluripotent stem cells in 2006, scientists have managed to use the manufactured stem cells like seeds to grow a wide range of tissues and rudimentary organs. But different tissue types have not proven equal, and researchers are still struggling to coax stem cells to take on certain roles: Lung cells have proved difficult to create. Columbia University researchers recently managed to develop functional lung and airway cells from human iPSCs.

Drug Hopes to Delay Onset of Alzheimer’s Symptoms With a Monthly Shot in the Arm

An Alzheimer's drug is attracting the spotlight as it enters clinical trials. The drug, called solanezumab, appears to slow the buildup of amyloid beta in the brain and improves cognitive function in patients with mild dementia when given as a monthly shot. But the excitement about the drug is as much a measure of other treatments’ failures as it is of its success.

Researchers, Startups Hope One Drop of Blood Could Diagnose All Types of Cancer

As genetics reveals the incredible diversity among cancer cells, researchers have largely given up pursuing a silver bullet to cure all types of cancer. Instead, many have begun searching for the next-best thing: a silver bullet test to diagnose all cancers. The test would look for markers of cancer in the patient’s blood, where the process of tumor-making leaves a trail that can often be picked up before tumors are big enough to spot.

Edible Batteries Could Power a Range of Smart Pills and Medical Devices

Carnegie Mellon materials engineer Christopher Bettinger argues that flexible biodegradable batteries safe for human consumption could maximize the benefits of smart pills and devices “by harnessing simultaneous advantages afforded by electronically active systems and obviating issues with chronic implants.” In a recent paper, Bettinger documents that such a battery made from the pigment cuttlefish — sea creatures related to squid — can discharge 10 microamperes of electricity for a period of five hours, with performance under ideal circumstances of up to 24 hours.

Delicate Eye Cells Are Latest to Be 3D-Printed

Blindness might just be the first major disability to disappear, at least if our high-tech future takes more a utopian than dystopian bent. A bionic eye is already on the market in the United States, and stem cell therapy has been shown to restore sight in mice. Now British scientists have successfully printed retinal cells.

It’s Settled: Electric Cars Are Cleaner Than Their Gas-Powered Cousins

One major issue that has dogged the electric vehicle is the complexity of any answer to the simple question, Are EVs better for the environment than gasoline-powered cars? Many instinctively believe the answer is no, because the cars get their power from the electrical grid — which is, in turn, driven chiefly by coal and natural gas. While that instinct may have been valid in decades past, it no longer is.

Meta Launches Its AR Eyeglass Hologram Computer To Compete With Glass

Meta, a Silicon Valley startup with an Israeli Defense Forces veteran at the helm, has opted to try to out-perform Glass in functionality, even if it means a significantly less lightweight product. The company recently opened pre-ordering for its first consumer product, Mega Pro glasses.

New Study: Daily Multivitamins, Supplements ‘A Waste Of Money’

One of the few nutritional recommendations that most doctors seemed to agree with — take a daily multivitamin to plug any gaps in your diet — is facing a serious challenge in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The journal’s current issue features two studies and a meta-analysis which all conclude that multivitamins don’t deliver any significant health benefits.

Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset Gets $75M Investment: Coming To ‘Consumers Everywhere’

Virtual reality, long a dream of gamers and science fiction buffs, has moved much closer to reality since Oculus burst onto the scene earlier this year. The company got a significant vote of confidence recently, in the form of a $75-million investment round led by one of Silicon Valley’s most highly regarded venture capital firms, Andreessen Horowitz.

Handheld Device TellSpec Can Detect Allergens, Chemicals, and Nutrients In Food

A hand-held spectrometer pioneered by Toronto-based TellSpec that can determine exactly what is in the user’s food and display it on his or her smartphone. The idea for the device came from co-founder Isabel Hoffman’s daughter, who suffers from gluten intolerance and other food allergies.

Evidence Mounts for Gene Therapy as Treatment for Heart Failure

Damage done to the vital organ by heart failure has been the focus of much research into gene therapy, a process in which patients receive, usually inside an inert virus, replacement genes for those suspected of causing an illness. One genetic treatment has gotten as far as clinical trials in patients with heart failure, and initial results presented recently at an American Heart Association meeting, suggest that the gene therapy may just help hearts damaged by heart failure heal themselves.

Ma Bell Dives Into Home Automation With Digital Life Package

Home automation is the rare futuristic idea that has almost universal appeal. Yet, it’s been slower to arrive than other, more controversial technologies. But a few recent developments suggest that it's edging toward mainstream adoption. AT&T is currently rolling out Digital Life, a home automation subscription service that connects alarm systems, security cameras, lights, thermostats and selected devices (like the iron) to a mobile app.

Rise Of The Robot Security Guards: R2D2 Lookalike K5

Knightscope’s K5 is a 5-foot-tall, 300-pound robot that patrols areas like school campuses. But the company is now marketing K5 as a security tool for corporate campuses, warehouses and even communities.

Amazon: Drones Could Deliver Orders in Half an Hour, But Feds Need To Allow It

In a recent 60 Minutes interview, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos boasted that his company would soon offer 30-minute delivery by drone in a feature called Prime Air. Justifiably or not, Bezos is very, very bullish on commercial drones. Just think, they are to trucks and planes what the Internet is to paper.

Google Glass Makes Its Way Into Operating Rooms

Hands-free devices like Google Glass can be really transformative when the hands they free are those of a surgeon. And leading hospitals, including Stanford and the University of California at San Francisco, are beginning to use Glass in the operating room.

Eat Nuts, Live Longer? Study Says Yes

To live longer and healthier, the best current advice is exercise, maintain healthy weight and eat dark leafy greens. But we're likely to increasingly see eating nuts included in that list. Those who ate nuts nearly every day were 20 percent less likely to die in the course of two 30-year cohort studies. Nut eaters were almost 30 percent less likely to die of heart disease and more than 10 percent less likely to die of cancer than those who never at them.

FDA Tells 23andMe to Stop Marketing DNA Sequencing Service

The FDA told 23andMe on Monday that it must stop marketing its hallmark personal DNA sequencing kit. The agency informed the company that it considers its 2012 petition for approval withdrawn because it has not received the information that it required.

Spain Considers Release Of Genetically Modified Fruit Flies, Controversy Simmers

Medical uses of genetic technology are well received. But agricultural uses are a different story, generating controversy at every turn. In the United States, where genetically modified strains dominate the most common crops, fights have...

Smartphone Physicals Are Taking Off With Explosion of Apps, Attachments

Last month in a Ted Talk, Shiv Gaglani showed that a standard physical exam can now be done using only smartphone apps and attachments. From blood pressure cuff to stethoscope and otoscope — the thing the doctor uses to look in your ears — all of the doctor’s basic instruments are now available in “smart” format. The work has generated a lot of interest and will likely become the basis for a company.

Bionic Eye Implant Will Become Available in U.S. in Coming Weeks

The Argus II retinal implant looks like computing goggles such as Google Glass, but it sends the images the eyeglass-mounted visual processing unit detects to a tiny electrode array that’s been implanted in the user’s retina. Electrical stimulation sends visual information up the optic nerve to the visual cortex of the user’s brain, allowing him or her to see. You could call it a bionic eye, and average Americans will gain access to it before the end of 2013.

With Flexible Circuits, Wearable Electronics Gain Uses

Boston-based electronics company MC10's skullcap that measures head trauma will be spotlighted at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. There are lots of wearable products out there. Most are small and clip easily onto clothing, but they're as rigid and fragile as electronics ever were. Few if any other wearable devices could withstand a football game attached to one of the players, but MC10 is proof that more will come.

Small, Fast and Cheap, Theranos Is the Poster Child of Med Tech — and It’s in Walgreen’s

A number of startups are selling portable diagnostic laboratories that require just a drop of the patient’s blood, made possible by advances in the field of microfluidics. But perhaps an equally important part of making lab tests faster, easier and more accurate is a turn-of-the-last century technology: automation.That’s the bet the Silicon Valley company Theranos is making, and the company recently sealed a deal with Walgreen’s Pharmacy to deliver on-site laboratory services to many of its stores.

New Surgery Promises Cyborg Bladder

A study published recently in Science Translational Medicine suggests that it may be possible to give paralyzed patients control over their bladders while avoiding both catheterization. Instead, doctors could craft insulated packets of nerves and connect them to an electrical probe that allows patients to urinate with the touch of a button, according to the study.

DNA Sequencing Is Moving to the Cloud

In October, an ambitious, collaborative genetic research program based at Baylor University became the largest cloud-based genomic research project to date, by its own account. As part of Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology, or CHARGE, the sequencing endeavored to link the risk of particular diseases with particular genetic variants — a task that checks off two variables that mean big data: population research and whole genome sequencing.

Monkeys Control Coordinated Arms Using Brain-Machine Interface

Duke University researchers Miguel Nicolelis and Peter Ifft managed to create a two-handed brain-machine interface using monkeys in a study recently published in Science Translational Medicine.

New Chip to Detect Gestures in Front of Tiny Wearable Screens

It has proven difficult to design a rich, easy-to-use interface for devices whose screens are only a few finger widths across. But for every problem there's a startup, and this one's no exception. A fledgling company, Chirp Microsystems is developing a gesture-based operating system to work with a new chip that uses sound, rather than vision, to track the user's movements.

Causes of Cancer Likely Found in ‘Junk’ DNA, Study Says

Even as whole-genome sequencing has become much cheaper, genetic research has continued to focus on the exome, or the tiny fraction of human DNA that codes the proteins that make up our physical structures. But according to a recent study published in Science, the sources of cancer most often lie in the rest of the genome, once referred to as junk DNA. Cancer is, in other words, a very important needle in a very large haystack. The study also helpfully provides a roadmap to the spots in the genetic haystack that are most likely to give rise to cancer.

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