Water-Droplet Computer

June 8th, 2015 § 1 comment § permalink

It’s not about manipulating data faster, it’s about manipulating matter for the first time. I’m super curious about what kind of applications this could be used for.



(via devour.com)

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Autonomous cars will destroy millions of jobs and reshape the US economy by 2025

May 20th, 2015 § 4 comments § permalink

Zack Kanter at Quarts on the impending
Autonomous cars revolution:

Autonomous cars will be commonplace by 2025 and have a near monopoly by 2030, and the sweeping change they bring will eclipse every other innovation our society has experienced. They will cause unprecedented job loss and a fundamental restructuring of our economy, solve large portions of our environmental problems, prevent tens of thousands of deaths per year, save millions of hours with increased productivity, and create entire new industries that we cannot even imagine from our current vantage point.

I’m not sure we will make it by 2025, there are some large hurdles to overcome, but I pretty much agree with everything else in this article. Say goodbye to car ownership, speeding tickets and parking lots.

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Stanford researchers take two different takes on a new battery, one with more lithium, one with less.

May 18th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

There are some interesting, if possibly competing, teams working on new battery designs at Standford.

One team, lead by Hongjie Dai is working on an aluminum-ion battery with some interesting benefits. Typical alkaline batteries are terrible for the environment and lithium-ion batteries not only have a bad habit of catching on fire but they are also slow to recharge and only last about 1,000 cycles. The aluminum variety should be able to charge in minutes while also lasting more than 7,500 cycles. The main hurdle, and it’s a big one, is that it currently doesn’t put out enough juice to power something fancy like an iPhone. (source: iflscience.com)

Aluminum-ion battery

Meanwhile, on the other side of Campus Yi Cui is going after the ion side of the lithium-ion battery.

Today, we say we have lithium batteries, but that is only partly true. What we have are lithium ion batteries. The lithium is in the electrolyte, but not in the anode. An anode of pure lithium would be a huge boost to battery efficiency.

There are a number of problems with using lithium as an anode, not the least of which is that when lithium comes into contact with air it bursts into flames. To prevent this researchers are covering the lithium in a protective layer of interconnected carbon domes a bare 20 nanometers thick. They are still working on the coulombic efficiency of the battery but so far the results are quite promising.

(source: news.standord.edu)

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The Future of Wind Turbines? No Blades

May 18th, 2015 § 1 comment § permalink

The Vortex Bladeless is an interesting idea for a new wind turbine.

The Future of Wind Turbines? No Blades | WIRED

Vorticity has long been considered the enemy of architects and engineers, who actively try to design their way around these whirlpools of wind. And for good reason: With enough wind, vorticity can lead to an oscillating motion in structures, which, in some cases, like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, can cause their eventual collapse.

Vortex Bladless Wind Turbine

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Flipboard’s work on upscaling images

May 8th, 2015 § 1 comment § permalink

If you have ever rolled your eyes when a TV show or movie enhances a blurry image to bring out more details then you will certainly want to take a look at image scaling using deep convolutional neural networks that the engineers at Flipboard are working on.

The math is pretty dense but the article also has a great primer on the use of neural networks to create algorithms that learn how to reduce their own error rate.

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Ride in Mercedes’s F 015 Driverless Car

March 23rd, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

One ride in a car like this and people will stop saying “but I like driving” when confronted with driverless cars.

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Continious Liquid 3D Printing

March 17th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

Not only is this new printing technology anywhere from 25 to 100 times faster than current 3D Printing methods but the process manages to be simultaneously beautiful and grotesque. Like something H.R. Giger would dream up.

(Via Devour.com)

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Explore the world’s largest cave by both land and drone

March 13th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Amazing footage overall but the drone footage is particularly amazing. Ten years ago it would have been simply impossible to get footage like this as there is no way you could fly a helicopter into this cave even if it is the world’s biggest. It’s a shame that drones are synonymous with CIA assassinations and efficient delivery of materialism as they can be used to create some amazing art as well.


(Source and Title via devour.com)

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Box from Bot & Dolly

March 2nd, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

This incredible art installation was created using a couple of industrial robots, high quality projectors and very clever 3D modeling. What is perhaps more interesting is what they did not use however. There is no green screen and no special effects were added after it was filmed; it was captured entirely in camera. The creators would prefer that people see it in person but in the interest of allowing a greater number of people to experience their art they created this short film.

From the video description:

Box explores the synthesis of real and digital space through projection-mapping on moving surfaces. The short film documents a live performance, captured entirely in camera.

If you were as intrigued by this as me then you should certainly check out the behind-the-scenes video where they show off some of the technology they used.

The modeling software, Maya, even allowed them to control the movement of the robots that control the canvases. Like tool paths in a CNC milling machine but instead of milling aluminum they are creating art.

(via Alexis Madrigal’s excellent Real Future newsletter)

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Video Games and Companion Apps

February 26th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

I ran across some interesting news over at Polygon about a recent update to the Destiny companion app. I don’t own a console that can play Destiny so I can’t testify to the usefulness of this particular App but there are a couple of games that I’m playing where I’ve often wished for something just like this.

Borderlands 2

I’ve logged almost 140 hours since I first discovered this game last year and there are many things I really love about the game. It certainly did not win “Game of the year” for its inventory management though. I played the game on my Mac and every time I pulled up the inventory menu I felt like I was trapped in a UI hampered by its need to work for console controllers and crowded out by pointless eye candy. Going through my loot and figuring out what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to sell was a chore that ate into my quite limited game time (father of two over here). An app that would allow me to evaluate the quality of the various items in my inventory and flag them as sell or keep would allow me to take care of such chores while I’m in line at the deli. Who knows, it might even have a superior user interface though I wouldn’t hold my breath when it comes to game developers.1

Dragon Quest: Origins

I’m only 20 hours into this game and I’m not sure how much longer I will go but I feel this game would benefit even more from a companion app. Not only is the inventory manager even worse than the one in Borderlands 2, no small feat to be sure, but the game has a deep well of written material that not only provides background but can help you complete missions. It also seems as if reading the material can change the gameplay in subtle ways. Having to load up a full 3D gaming engine just to spend 20 minutes reading text seems pretty silly to me. It’s actually one of the things holding me back from playing the game more and it’s a real shame because I want to encourage game developers to add more back story and dynamic plot lines where the choices you make have consequences but I don’t really want to have my CPU fan cranked up full blast just to read about the characters in my game.

Wii U GamePad

The Wii U GamePad controller has its own screen that can display different content from what’s on the TV. While I don’t own one I’m very intrigued by the gameplay options that having a second screen can open up. Whether it be something simple like cleaning up the in-game HUD by moving less critical elements to the second screen or something more complex like displaying information that can be seen by one player but not others using the same TV. It could be anything from a map in a first person shooter to more complex dungeon master details you might find in a D&D type game.

Beyond the controller

It’s a great idea but it’s not one that necessarily requires an expensive controller. At this point most gamers have, sitting in their pockets, a fantastic, high-resolution screen with more processing power than a dumpster full of Wii U Gamepads. Games could take advantage of notifications both on and offline. Perhaps your phone will buzz when you pass by a hidden treasure or you could get notified when a certain friend starts playing. There could be time locked instances that open up at different times for different players and you must have the app setup to find out about them. There might even be mini games or plot lines that could be accessed to further your progress in the game.

Obviously there are a slew of other use cases, some good, some bad, as I’m just scratching the surface of what can be done. When the iPhone was first released in 2007 there would not be an App store until the iPhone 3G was released the following year. To many it was clear, even before the app store, that the multi-touch all screen phone was going to usher in a slew of new applications but it was very hard to imagine the possibilities that lay beyond the limited number of services that our dumb phones provided. To me it seems like we are in the same place with companion apps for games. There is the potential to completely transform how we play games it’s just hard to see what the possibilities are in 2015.

  1. If we wanted to take this one step further the App could even have more access to information than the game. Players of the game will know that certain weapons have “mystery” stats that can be figured out through either trial and error or a google search. Once I figured out that wiki has all of the weapons and their stats laid out I would often find myself using my phone while playing the game to look up gun stats like this as it would determine whether I would keep the weapon. If this information was baked into the companion app it would encourage more adoption of the app and ultimately more engagement with the game. []
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