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Jason Dorrier

Jason Dorrier

Jason is managing editor of Singularity Hub. He did research and wrote about finance and economics before moving on to science, technology, and the future. He is curious about pretty much everything, and sad he'll only ever know a tiny fraction of it all.

From This Author


AI Startup Anki Debuts At WWDC, Wows With Impressive Tech, $50 Million In Funding

You’ve probably never heard of Anki. Before this article, I’d never heard of Anki either. Nevertheless, the robotics and artificial intelligence startup took pole position at Apple's 2013 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote address—an event that sold out in less than a minute, was staged in front of a couple thousand journalists and developers, and was broadcast live to thousands more online. It’s the kind of exposure new companies dream about.

Oslo Burns So Much Trash for Energy They’re Importing Rubbish

The US throws out 250 million tons of garbage a year. Roughly a third is recycled, and the rest is landfill. You might think that’s a problem, but one man’s trash is another’s treasure. Oslo, Norway burns rubbish to power and heat homes, and they’ve run out. The city imports trash from Sweden, Ireland, England—and they wouldn’t mind taking on a few tons from the US.

‘Anti-Gravity’ 3D Printer Uses Strands to Sculpt Shapes on Any Surface

3D printers build objects by cross-section, one layer at a time from the ground up—gravity is the limiting factor. But what if it wasn’t? Using proprietary 3D printing materials, Petr Novikov and Saša Jokić’s Mataerial 3D printing system is gravity independent. The duo’s method allows a robotic arm to print objects on floors, walls, ceilings—smooth and uneven surfaces.

You’ll Be Able to Buy a 3D Printer at Staples by the End of June

Though industrial firms have used additive technologies in rapid prototyping for years, the tech is still fresh and growing in the consumer segment. The latest sign of the 3D printer home invasion? Retail office supply chain, Staples, says they’ll sell the 3D Systems Cube 3D Printer online and in retail stores by the end of June.

What’s in the Cube? Mystery Revealed, Prize Awarded to Young Man From Scotland

Bryan Henderson hails from Edinburgh Scotland. He’s 18 years old and recently became a god. Henderson won the collaborative, cube-destroying game Curiosity—What’s Inside the Cube, and he’s reportedly still a bit baffled as to how it happened.

Google Buys Quantum Computer for Artificial Intelligence Lab at NASA

To some of us, wicked fast quantum computers seem like the stuff of theory and some far off future. Not so if you work at Google or NASA. In a sign the technology is creeping closer to practical use, Google, NASA, and the non-profit Universities Space Research Association (USRA) recently announced formation of the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab and seeded it with a brand new D-Wave quantum computer.

Chinese Firm Gains Approval, Hype to Raise World’s Tallest Building in Only 90 Days

China has ten cities bigger than New York. Almost half of the world’s 20 tallest skyscrapers under construction today are in China. Naturally, China’s builders are chomping at the bit to get things done, like yesterday. But no one can erect the biggest skyscraper on the planet in three months…right? We may find out later this year. Broad Sustainable Building (BSB) says its Sky City scraper will hold the title by the end of 2013—and they haven’t even broken ground.

Oculus Rift Is Breathing New Life Into the Dream of Virtual Reality

Palmer Luckey wasn’t exactly a household name this time last year. He’s a young guy from Long Beach, California, smart as a whip, and obsessed with virtual reality. After building a massive collection of the day’s top virtual reality tech, he realized nothing came close to the experience he wanted. So, he decided to build it himself. Say hello to the Oculus Rift, the virtual reality headset causing quite a stir in the tech and gaming communities.

Diamandis And Planetary Resources To Build First Crowdfunded Space Telescope For Public Use

How do you get kids interested in science? Strike that. How do you get kids and adults interested in science? One: Involve them in it. Two: Awaken awe. Asteroid mining firm Planetary Resources’ new Kickstarter aims to accomplish both by giving the public control over one of the firm’s ARKYD space telescopes—to snap a selfie or two with its camera arm or to plumb the cosmic depths with the scope’s optics.

78,000 Apply for A One-Way Ticket to Colonize Mars

Ever dream of living out your days on a hostile desert world, exiled from the garden planet of your youth? Who do you think you are? Paul Atreides? Well, maybe it’s not so strange. 78,000 other Earthlings (and counting) share your dream of exile. Since late April, the not-for-profit organization, Mars One, has been flooded with applications for a one-way ticket to colonize Mars in 2023.

Another Alzheimer’s Drug Fails, Disease Still Confounds Researchers

Humans are living longer, but for many, longevity doesn’t equal quality of life. Increasingly, the final years are marked by a steady cognitive decline where memory and personality are swallowed in dementia. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is on the rise, and there is no treatment. Worse, researchers and drug companies wrestling with the disease seem to have hit a wall.

Orbital Trash a Problem With No Immediate Solution, Growing Exponentially

Our technology can get us to space, but once there, we still aren’t too flexible. Earth orbit is clogged with debris because we simply don't have an easy way to clean it up. According to the European Space Agency (ESA) there are 17,000 tracked objects in orbit (and a total of 29,000 objects greater than 10 cm) of which only 7% are working satellites. About ten objects a week pass within two kilometers of each other, and ESA initiates three collision avoidance maneuvers yearly.

Are Fingerprints a Secure Way to Pay?

You may have heard Google wants to absorb your wallet into your smartphone. But these days, slimmer is better. So how about making the wallet disappear altogether? Paytouch wants to link credit cards to fingerprints. What’s the advantage of a fingerprint payment system? No more carrying around cards. No more losing cards. No more worrying about identity theft. Fingerprints are unique and therefore secure (maybe). The world is your oyster, and your oyster alone.

Matternet Building Quadcopter Drone Network To Transport Supplies

Last summer, drones took to the skies over the Dominican Republic and Haiti. These flying bots weren’t on a military mission, nor were they conducting police surveillance. They belonged to audacious Singularity University Labs startup, Matternet. Matternet wants to leapfrog road infrastructure in developing countries by building a futuristic Pony Express—with drones.

DARPA’s Robotic Hand Can Unlock and Open Your Door

Engineers often turn to nature for inspiration, but working from evolutionary blueprints isn’t always necessary. The Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA) recently showed off a dexterous robotic hand that uses three rotating fingers, instead of a human-inspired four fingers and opposable thumb configuration. And the thing can unlock and open doors. Yikes.

Cara Face Recognition Transforms Standard Webcams Into Intelligent Sensors

The human face is a treasure trove of information. A millisecond after meeting someone, we’ve guessed their general age bracket, gender, mood, and more. With tech startup IMRSV’s new face detection software Cara—released for the first time May 15th—your home PC and webcam will learn to recognize some of the same subtleties. Using this information, IMRSV hopes to make analog business and advertising as detailed, data-driven, and personalized as online business and advertising.

Moshe Vardi: Robots Could Put Humans Out of Work by 2045

Robots began replacing human brawn long ago—now they’re poised to replace human brains. Moshe Vardi of Rice University thinks that by 2045 artificially intelligent robots may be capable of "if not any work that humans can do, then, at least, a very significant fraction of the work that humans can do." So, he asks, what then will humans do?

US Takes Gold in Bot Hockey at RoboGames 2013

Gentleman, some ground rules first. No caltrops, spike strips, cattle prods, or stun guns. No spears, hammers, saw blades, lasers, or flame weapons. We’ll play three 3-minute periods. If all players die in any given period and cannot be resuscitated by the next period, the team with the highest score wins. Okay? Let’s play some robot hockey.
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Video Shows Robo Raven Diving, Spiraling, Flipping—and Getting Attacked by a Hawk

Robo Raven is a truly clever robot flier—it can dive, spiral, even back flip. Although up close, Robo Raven's reflective body doesn’t look very hawk-like, its wing motion and silhouette are realistic enough to...

Polytron, Maker of Switchable Privacy Glass Aims For Transparent Smartphone

Taiwan’s Polytron Techologies, a subsidiary of US firm Polytronix, wants to change the way we look at (and through) glass, one of mankind’s oldest inventions. Polytron makes giant touchscreens, selectively opaque glass, projection glass, holographic glass, LED-impregnated glass, color-changing glass, rainbow glass, glowing glass, and the mysterious Polyheat glass.

Hunters In Louisiana Build Thermal Camera Carrying Drone to Hunt Hogs

Drones are notorious for their grim military and law enforcement uses. But as the cost of UAV technology has plummeted in recent years, non-government use of DIY drones is on the up and up. Take feral hogs, for example. Too wily for traps, wild pigs breed like rabbits and devastate crops. But there’s a drone for that. James Palmer and Cy Brown’s “Dehogaflier” Skywalker UAV conducts flyovers of local fields, peering through dense foliage in the dark with a FLIR thermal imaging camera to pinpoint marauding packs of pigs.

Beyond Banks? Peer-to-Peer Lending Is On the Upswing, Google Dives In

Lending Club, the peer-to-peer loan firm, recently announced a big investment in the firm’s stock by Google and Foundation Capital. Google and Foundation bought $125 million in shares of the firm’s outstanding equity on secondary markets (that is, from previous investors—not newly issued stock) for three times the stock's valuation a little less than a year ago. Lending Club says their system has funded $1.7 billion in loans since inception and, according to Tech Crunch, Lending Club hopes to take the firm public by 2014.

RoboBee Robot the Size of a Quarter Shows Off New Flight Skills

A tiny biomimetic robot, dubbed RoboBee, recently took wing under controlled flight for the first time. The robot is part of Harvard’s “Micro Air Vehicles” program led by principal investigator Robert Wood, and the controlled flight, years in the making, is no small feat. Wood hopes these tiny robots may one day be so cheap they are all but disposable. Swarms will fly reconnaissance, search and rescue, or research missions. They may even one day pollinate crops.
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Allan Savory to Reverse Desertification, Solve Global Warming, Feed World’s Poor

As a young biologist in Africa, Alan Savory helped set aside national park lands. His organization removed indigenous “hunting, drum-beating people” to protect animals. However, burgeoning herds of elephants were soon identified as causing desertification by overgrazing. Savory theorized as much in a paper and sent it to his peers for review. Other scientists corroborated the report and the government killed 400,000 elephants. Instead of improving, desertification worsened.

Samsung’s (Very) Early Attempts At Thought-Controlled Mobile Devices

Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones can be controlled by touch, gesture, eye movement—and your mind. Well, not exactly. Not yet. Not even close. Perhaps half in the name of science, half in the name of publicity, Samsung’s teamed up with Roozbeh Jafari—University of Texas, Dallas assistant professor and expert in wearable computing—to translate thoughts into common computing tasks using an electroencephalogram (EEG) cap.
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Spectacular Video Of First Virgin Galactic Rocket Test Going Supersonic Ten Miles High

In October 2004, Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites claimed the $10 million Ansari X Prize when their spacecraft SpaceShipOne achieved suborbital flight—the first private organization to do so. Now, eight and a half years later, the commercial version of SpaceShipOne, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, achieved supersonic speeds after its pilots successfully fired the rockets at 47,000 feet. The video speaks for itself.

Moore’s Law Is No Joke — Pile Of Electronics From 1993 Fits In Your Palm Today

There’s nothing like a well-conceived picture to drive a point home. You know the point, right? Sure you do. (Hint: It's in the title.) Shall we run through these items? (I don’t know if I can ID them all perfectly—feel free to leave details/corrections/reminiscences in the comments!) Far right first. Easy. That’s a top-of-the-line Walkman. You could take it with you running, which accounts for the sporty lemon yellow hue. (It plays cassette tapes, kids.)

Giant Next-Generation Thirty Meter Telescope Gets Permit From Hawaii to Build on Mauna Kea

What would Dr. Evil do with a supercomputer, a giant laser, and a 30-meter deformable mirror? Hold the planet for ransom, of course. The billion-dollar Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project, on the other hand, will assemble these components into a state-of-the-art optical telescope on the lip of a giant volcano and peer into the depths of space and time. (Astronomers. No ambition.)

Robots Will Do Everything You Do Now Only Better—What Then?

The US stock market is approaching a record high—having finally regained all it lost in the 2008 bear market. It would be cause for celebration, if it didn’t feel so out of touch with the “main street” reality of elevated unemployment. As a recent New York Times headline read, “recovery in the US is lifting profits, but not adding jobs.” The NYT goes on to blame the divide between rising corporate profits, recovering stocks, and stubborn unemployment on technology—or more specifically automation and robots.

CO2 Emissions in US Plunge to 1994 Levels As Natural Gas Booms

Proponents of natural gas, or methane in its purest form, say it is cleaner than coal and oil, lacks the PR problems and toxic waste byproducts of nuclear, and more efficiently produces electricity than sustainable sources. It is abundant and, in recent years, cheap. Is natural gas the future of energy production, a risky stop-gap measure to energy independence and cleaner energy, or simply overhyped?

Switch to Tablet and Smartphone Drives Striking Sales Declines in PCs

What’s going on with PCs? According to data provider IDC, worldwide PC shipments (laptops and desktops) declined -14% in the first quarter of 2013 compared to the first quarter of 2012. It’s the worst 12-month decline since IDC began covering the market in 1994, the fourth consecutive such drop, and almost twice the predicted -7.7%. Another data provider, Gartner, is sketching a similarly stark PC forecast in 2013, predicting a -7.6% decline in PC shipments this year.

Willow Garage Spinoff IPI Is Building Robots That Can See, Think, and Act

We often hear of robots forcing humans to learn new skills—but Willow Garage spinoff, Industrial Perception, Inc., (IPI) wants to do just the opposite. IPI is in the business of training robots for the real world. Step one: Give them eyes. Step two: Teach them to understand what they’re seeing. Step three: Do something about it.

Anticipated and Controversial, First Google Glass Devices in Production

Google Glass is fast becoming the most hyped, anticipated, controversial technology trial of the year. You heard it here first—although I’m sure you didn’t—Google will ship the first trial pairs of Google Glass in the next few days. Google’s Glass Explorer program enrolled 2,000 pre-early adopters who will pay $1,500 to beta test the firm’s wearable computer, iron out the kinks, and get the PR ball rolling.

Festo’s Robot Dragonfly an Awesome Mix of Prehistoric and Futuristic

German manufacturing firm Festo recently resurrected a Paleozoic dragonfly. No, we’re not talking de-extinction or synthetic biology—this baby’s robotic. But at 70 cm (27 in) by 48 cm (19 in), Festo’s BionicOpter robot dragonfly is a futuristic flying machine with more than a touch of the prehistoric in it.

Coming Soon to a Body Near You? World’s Smallest Chip to Be Swallowable

Dumb things will soon be smart—you’ve heard it repeated ad nauseum. Cyborg-Earth will bristle with uncounted hordes of tiny embedded chips; smart-roads will talk to smart-cars, warning of black ice; smart-buildings will hold court with smartphones, regulating temperature and lights to match prefences and schedule; trees, oceans, and glaciers will dutifully report real-time conditions to scientists.

Meet The Two-Ton Robotic Mantis: A Hexapod You Can Ride In

Weighing in at a little over two tons, Mantis is likely the biggest robot hexapod you’ve ever seen. Mantis walks on six ground-sensing hydraulic legs, carrying a human in its thoracic cockpit or being guided remotely by a nearby pilot. In footage taken without the full cockpit, the Mantis/pilot hybrid has the look of Spider-Man’s Doc Ock. Mantis is, quite simply, a sweet looking robot.

Bitcoin Exchange Mt. Gox Suspends Trading As Prices Crash

The market price of bitcoins in USD has fallen and fallen hard. After peaking at $266, prices plunged Wednesday morning. There was a strong late rally, such that some data providers listed the “close” around $165. But the cryptocurrency trades round the clock, and Wednesday morning’s decline continued throughout the evening and into Thursday.

Jurassic Park – But For Real This Time. De-extinction On The Move

Scientists may soon bring a species of frog (Rheobatrachus silus or the gastric brooding frog) back from the dead. The frog—which bizarrely swallowed its eggs, incubated them in its stomach, and gave birth to them through its mouth—has been extinct since 1984. However, researchers from the University of New South Wales harvested dead cell nuclei, frozen in the 70s, and implanted them in a living egg of a different but related frog species. Some of the eggs began to divide into early embyros, and the researchers were able to confirm the genetic material in the dividing cells was a match.

Man Puts House in the Canadian Rockies Up For Sale – in Bitcoins

You can use the digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin to buy an ever-lengthening list of items. Last week, a 2007 Porsche Cayenne sale was settled in the currency. But a house? Sure, why not. 23-year-old Taylor More is listing his grandparents home in the Canadian Rockies in Canadian dollars (C$) or Bitcoin—a minor detail More has yet to relay to grandma and grandpa.

Bitcoin Blows Up, Exchange Rate Jumps Ten-Fold in Recent Weeks

Recent headlines are humming over the booming digital currency Bitcoin—it’s either the next big thing or the digital equivalent of Tulipomania. Either way, there’s no debating the fact Bitcoin’s on a wild ride.

Liquid Robotics Launches New Powerful Data Collecting Ocean Robots

Maker of the epic ocean-going robot, Wave Glider, Liquid Robotics announced it’s engineered and will ship the next generation this fall. The new Wave Glider SV3 combines Liquid Robotics’ proprietary wave-energy harvesting tech (see here for more) with good old fashioned solar power to ensure the glider is master of its own destiny in any conditions.

Are We Paying Enough Attention to Information Technology’s Dark Side?

For centuries, the threat and selective use of brute force has steered the international balance of power. In the last couple of decades, the system has increasingly accommodated economic power as a means of non-violent leverage between states. Now, according to Marc Goodman of Singularity University, we must add technology to the equation.

Human or Robot? Harder to Tell In Latest Bipedal Robot PETMAN Video

Boston Dynamics is no Geppetto and PETMAN no Pinnochio, but someone must have wished on a phosphorous flare because, decked out in full chem-resistant chamo and a dystopic gas mask, PETMAN couldn’t look more human.

First Fully 3D Printed Building May Take Shape This Year

We can 3D print the very small—check out these mindblowing nanoscale creations—but what about the very big? If a few bold architectural startups have anything to do with it, we may soon see the first...

Robots Invade Restaurants: Here Are Eight of Our Favorites

Robotic automation has long been the domain of manufacturing. But of late, robots have made an often entertaining and sometimes gimmicky leap to restaurants in China, Taiwan, Japan, and increasingly the US. Please accept the following video ode to Singularity Hub’s favorite restaurant robots of the past few years.

A Million Smartphones Will Drive Biggest Heart Health Study in History

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) are recruiting a million participants to join a decade long heart health study. The enabling factor? Smartphones. It’s a great example of information technology bleeding into other fields and speeding their progress. If all goes to plan, the UCSF study (dubbed Health eHeart) will be the broadest such study ever completed.

Reprogrammed Assembly Line Robots Make Fine Art in San Francisco

What is an Autofuss? Good question. The four year old San Francisco design firm is hard to pin down. Go to the website to find out, and you will be shown (not told) with a lush selection of video shorts defying the laws of physics and begging the question, “How’d they do that?” Well, you wouldn’t be here if the answer were anything else. Robots, of course.

Sensors in Smartphones: Galaxy S4 Adds Pressure, Temperature, and Humidity Sensors

Samsung recently launched their latest salvo in the smartphone wars, the Galaxy S4. Most tech writers couldn't decide whether they’d rather be bored by the phone or pan its ridiculous Broadway-style launch (see below, circa 17:20)—a little from column A, a little from column B, perhaps? We don’t write about every smartphone release, but this one caught our eye. The S4 includes a barometer, thermometer, and hygrometer (to measure humidity)—the first smartphone to do so.

Accelerating Technology Parallels Exponentially Rising Piles of Junk

In the midst of a move and digging through the clutter, I’ve excavated a number of ancient pieces of tech from bygone eras. There’s a 2004 Apple Powerbook that’s thicker than the econ textbook it’s sitting on, a cracked first generation iPhone, and an early “flatscreen” TV (that’s far from flat). What to do with this stuff? The faster we move from one generation of technology to the next, the faster the current iteration is destined for the trash heap. Does accelerating tech therefore doom us to flee an uninhabitable WALL-E world in the future? Maybe, but probably not.

World’s Biggest Radio Telescope Opens Eyes in the Chilean Atacama

Information technology continues to invade every nook and cranny of modern life. At Singularity Hub, we tend to focus on genomics, robotics, artificial intelligence, or the Internet of Things. But another field, radio astronomy, is progressing leaps and bounds thanks also to rapidly advancing computing power.

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