We are living in the future. Let’s face it. So each week, I will provide you with specific examples of why I feel like we’re already living in the future – or at least what I pictured as the future during childhood and as a young adult. Perhaps these posts will provide inspiration for great sci-fi stories. (click the headlines to read the full articles)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has pitched for a scientific future where people can teleport, instead of commuting physically from one place to the other. Appearing on the invite-only Clubhouse app, he detailed Facebook’s progress in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology. Under the name ‘Zuck23,’ Zuckerberg said, “We should be teleporting, not transporting,” and hinted that work is going on at Facebook’s Reality Labs.
China’s Tianwen-1 probe has sent back its first picture of Mars, the Chinese space agency has said, as the mission prepares to touch down later this year. The spacecraft, launched in July around the same time as a US mission, is expected to enter Mars orbit around 10 February. The photo released by the China National Space Administration shows geological features including the Schiaparelli crater and the Valles Marineris, a vast stretch of canyons on the Martian surface.
Jason Barnes has a new tool at his disposal that should help him in his quest to become a professional drummer: a drum-enabling robotic arm. The unique prosthesis was announced last week by the Georgia Institute of Technology. As demonstrated in this video, Barnes, a below-the-elbow amputee, possesses a robotic arm prototype that allows him to experience three-way independence between his two arms—meaning that he can perform three distinctive stick patterns simultaneously. That’s a technical capability unimaginable to most drum set players (the inimitable jazz drummer Eric Harland aside).
Google’s latest Pixel-exclusive feature is the ability to track your heart rate and respiratory rate without any extra hardware. The company says that starting next month, Google Fit on Pixel phones will track these health stats using only the devices’ existing cameras. We’ve seen heart-rate tracking on smartphones before thanks to Samsung’s Galaxy line. From the Galaxy S5 through the Galaxy S10, Samsung tracked heart rate through a physical photoplethysmography (PPG) sensor on the back of the phone. Users could simply press a finger against the sensor and get a heart reading in seconds.
Fraunhofer researchers have presented a magnesium-based “Powerpaste” that stores hydrogen energy at 10 times the density of a lithium battery, offering hydrogen fuel cell vehicles the ability to travel further than gasoline-powered ones, and refuel in minutes. Typically, of course, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles carry their H2 fuel in gaseous form, stored in tanks at pressures around 700 bar (10,150 psi). These tanks are fairly large and heavy, which counteracts one of hydrogen’s key advantages over today’s lithium batteries – its higher energy density. The high pressures involved also make hydrogen an impractical option for powered two-wheelers like motorcycles and scooters.
What’s the first company that comes to mind when you hear the term artificial intelligence (AI)? DeepMind? OpenAI? Boston Dynamics? Well, whatever it is, it’s most likely not Domino’s Pizza. But this international pizza chain is a fascinating case study on AI. Domino’s adoption of AI is quite remarkable, mostly due to the fact that the company is in the category of companies least likely to adopt AI. Yes, it’s a multinational non-tech company founded in the 1960s with a streamlined value chain and a dominating position on the market. Companies with these traits tend to be late to the digitization party, if you know what I mean. For large companies with optimized value chains, adopting AI can be a colossal challenge, as processes often need to be fundamentally reworked. That’s why it’s crucial to adopt AI solutions incrementally and to use the appropriate AI strategy for each activity.
Scientists have successfully studied einsteinium — one of the most elusive and heaviest elements on the periodic table — for the first time in decades. The achievement brings chemists closer to discovering the so-called “island of stability,” where some of the heftiest and shortest-lived elements are thought to reside. The U.S. Department of Energy first discovered einsteinium in 1952 in the fall-out of the first hydrogen bomb test. The element does not occur naturally on Earth and can only be produced in microscopic quantities using specialized nuclear reactors. It is also hard to separate from other elements, is highly radioactive, and rapidly decays, making it extremely difficult to study. Researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) at the University of California, recently created a 233-nanogram sample of pure einsteinium and carried out the first experiments on the element since the 1970s. In doing so they were able to uncover some of the element’s fundamental chemical properties for the first time.
3D printing homes was a really big deal a few years ago; the idea was novel, unprecedented, and crushed records for the cost and time it took to build a livable house. Now, 3D printed homes, while not yet prosaic and still pretty wow-worthy, have certainly become more commonplace, with all sorts of variations: prototypes meant for Mars, two-story apartment buildings, entire communities; it seems there’s still plenty of space to play with the technology and plenty of innovation around new concepts to build with it.