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Archive for December, 2016

Every year there are new inventions and innovations that seemingly come out of nowhere to change our lives for the better.  2016, despite its ups and downs, was no different.  Here’s a quick look back at my favorite ideas from the past year:

  • Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 – Back to the Future was prescient in some ways (predicting the video phone), almost prescient in other ways (predicting the Cubs would win the World Series in 2015), and not quite prescient yet (working hover boards).  Thankfully, one of the their other imagined innovations is finally ready for prime time: self lacing sneakers courtesy of Nike!  Unfortunately, they’re going to come with a $700 price tag to start out.
  • Breakthrough Starshot – This might be the most ambitious idea of the year.  A plan funded by the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Stephen Hawking designed to send tiny spacecraft probes powered by lasers to our closest cosmic neighbor Alpha Centauri to search for signs of intelligent life.  If successful this mission could lay the groundwork for the future of space travel.
  • Here One – Can you here me now?  In the future you won’t be able to…if you don’t want to.  Thanks to Here One, a set of noise cancelling earbuds, you’ll be able to selectively cancel out sounds that you don’t want to hear whether that’s a crying baby on a plane or background noise in a crowded restaurant and amplify the sounds that you do want to hear, such as the base at a concert.  Eventually, the earbuds will even act as a universal language translator.
  • NextVR – Thanks to NextVR you can now watch your favorite NBA team from court side seats without having to leave the comfort of your living room.  Last year the technology only worked with recorded games.  This year select games were broadcast in real time.  This is the future of sports entertainment.
  • GoTouch – I just wrote about this idea the other day but its awesomeness bears repeating for we’re talking about a portable device that is capable of turning any TV into a whiteboard!
  • H20 Ninja Mask – Thanks to not one, but two hurricanes I didn’t get to go to Hawaii this year as I had planned.  Had I gone I was going to pick up the H2O Ninja Mask so that I could snorkel underwater in style.  That’s because the Ninja Mask is a GoPro supported, fog free, peripheral vision boosting, normal breathing, revolutionary piece of equipment.  Underwater exploring will never be the same again.
  • Snow Melting Concrete – I’ve always wondered why we just let snow accumulate.  Short of putting salt down on the street or continuosly plowing we don’t have many weapons in our arsenal in the winter time fight against mother nature.  All that may be about to change though thanks to conductive concrete capable of melting the snow and ice that lands on it.
  • Beyond Ink – Your humble pen is about get pimped out with a boatload of incredible new and useful features.  Such as coming equipped with a phone charger and flash drive thanks to the designers of the James Bond inspired Beyond Ink.  In fact, we could be looking at the start of a new trend, one in which, other seemingly one dimensional objects such as key chains add more useful skills.
  • Cozmo – One of my favorite ideas of the year was, in fact, a kid’s toy.  But not just any kid’s toy.  A truly revolutionary toy, that could be the greatest toy of all time.  For we’re talking about an artificially intelligent companion robot that’s more like a friend or pet than a mere toy.  The more you use him, the smarter he gets and the more games you’ll unlock.  And if you don’t use him enough he’ll let you know that he’s not happy about it.
  • The End of Root Canals – Getting a painful root canal may soon be a thing of the past thanks to researchers from Harvard and the University of Nottingham who have found a way to get teeth to heal themselves by utilizing a stem cell stimulating filling.
  • Asgardia – Don’t like the country you were born into?  Then join Asgardia, the world’s first space faring nation, open to anyone.  As I wrote at the time: “We’re talking about the creation of an entirely new country, one free from national pride, regional entanglements, and other Earthly constraints.  A group of people dedicated to one thing and one thing only: ensuring access to outer space for the entire world.  As of now only thirteen countries have space programs lead by the likes of the U.S., Russia, China and India.  But what about everyone else?  Free from the regulatory and political shackles that currently throttle innovation on Earth this new space faring nation would be able to innovate at a much quicker pace and do so for the benefit of the entire planet.”
  • World View – My Instagram account is dedicated to sunsets but sunrises are pretty cool too.  Especially if you get to watch one from space.  That’s the promise being offered by World View, a company based in Arizona, that will take passengers up into the upper atmosphere in a pod tethered to a hot air balloon.  After the view of a lifetime, the pod will slowly drift back to Earth.

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Is Nike’s HyperAdapt the Greatest Idea Ever?

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As celebrity deaths continue to mount it’s becoming more and more clear that 2016 is the year that just needs to end.  As quickly and as mercifully as possible.  But before we turn the page and start making new years resolutions that we’re not going to keep it’s important to note that 2016 was actually a great year.  Maybe even one of the greatest ever.  At least scientifically speaking.  Here’s a look at the absolute greatest ideas of the year.  The ones that will truly impact us, now, and for the foreseeable future.

Without further adieu and in no particular order these ideas are as follows:

  • CRISPR – I first wrote about the revolutionary gene editing technique CRISPR-CAS-9 back in December of 2015 so the idea wasn’t necessarily new in 2016.  However, the technology advanced to the point where China actually began applying it to humans.  With research advancing at breakneck speed and dozens of startups pushing the pace it won’t be long before we’re eliminating diseases, genetically modifying crops to increase yield, and designing babies.  This technology is going to have a profound impact on the next generation of human life.
  • Gravitational Waves Detected – Earlier this year the LIGO observatory detected gravitational waves in deep space after two black holes collided confirming a prediction made by Albert Einstein one hundred years ago and bringing humans one step closer to understanding how the Universe works.
  • Reusable Rocket Lands At Sea – Back in April, despite the fact that no one was paying any attention, Space X landed a reusable rocket at sea on a floating platform after multiple failed attempts, thereby officially ushering in the start of a new space age as the cost of space travel drops significantly.  Will you remember where you were on April 8, 2016 the way you remember where you were when man first walked on the Moon?
  • Zika Inhibitor Discovered – The first half of 2016 was marred by fears that the Zika virus was going to spread out of control and make its way to America after wrecking havoc on newborns in Brazil.  The fears were so strong in fact that it kept many people from traveling to Rio for the Summer Olympics and even kept many athletes from competing.  Thankfully, scientists began to fight back and eventually found a small protein that inhibits the viruses ability to infect and kill cells.  Hopefully, Zika’s days are now numbered.
  • Emergent Gravity: There’s no such thing as gravity!  That’s the premise behind a new theory put forth by professor Erik Verlinde at the Universiy of Amsterdam that suggests that instead of being one of the four fundamental forces of the Universe, gravity is instead a by product of other actions and just appears to “emerge” from time to time when the proper conditions arise.  In the same way that temperature arises from the movement of microscopic particles, gravity emerges from changes in fundamental bits of information stored in the very fabric of space-time.  So far the theory checks out mathematically and would imply that there’s no such thing as dark matter or dark energy either.  This discovery, if proven true, could be one of the biggest science stories of all time.
  • Road Trip To Mars – As I’ve detailed often on this blog, when Elon Musk sets his mind to something he usually delivers.  So when he laid out exact plans earlier this year for how we’re going to get to Mars it wasn’t a publicity stunt.  It was a road map.  One that we should probably follow if we ever want to become a multi-planetary species.  Of course the plan is not without its flaws.  As I said at the time,”we’re talking about sending a million people to a planet that’s not yet habitable, in under ten years, using technology that doesn’t exist yet, with funding that we don’t yet have.”  But let’s not let that stop us!  Mars, here we come!
  • Juliana vs. U.S. – It’s not often that a court case is considered a great idea but that was the case earlier this year when a group of 21 kids got the go ahead to sue the federal government over climate change, specifically for their right to grow up in a stable climate.  This is an unprecedented case and could fundamentally change our society as citizens could be wrestling power away from long standing institutions, forcing them to make decisions that fly in the face of their personal agendas.
  • Neural Dust – Some people may cringe at the thought of inserting tiny implants into their brain but when it comes to Neural Dust the benefits may far out weigh the fears.  That’s because the wireless powered implants could be used to monitor our health, improve our performance, and control exoskeletons.  A future in which we’re all cyborgs of sorts just got one step closer to becoming a reality.

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Was the detection of gravitational waves the Greatest Idea of the Year?

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#1,006 – GoTouch

I absolutely love whiteboards.  In fact, I’m borderline obsessed with them.  I have one hanging up in my bedroom which I use to plan out my blogging schedule and I even have a portable one.  The problem with the portable one is that it’s portable in name only.  I can’t fold it up and put it in my pocket.  I can’t squeeze it into my briefcase.  I can’t really take it with me on a road trip.  The furthest I can venture with it is from my bedroom to the living room.  Not quite far enough to make any kind of real impact on my life.  Fortunately, there is now a solution: a truly portable whiteboard creating device known as GoTouch that turns any TV into an interactive creative space!

If you’ve used Apple TV or Google Chromecast you’re probably familiar with how casting technology works.  Basically it’s what enables you to show what’s on your phone screen on your TV.  Well, what if what was on your screen was a whiteboard or an image, pdf, video, or website that you wanted to annotate instead of a Netflix show or a YouTube video?  And what if, once your whiteboard was on your TV screen you could draw on it just like you would on a real whiteboard?  Well, that’s GoTouch in a nutshell.  With the companion pen in one hand, the wireless base hanging out nearby, and your phone attached to your TV via a HDMI cable, you have everything you need to start brainstorming.  Best of all, this technology can be used collaboratively, meaning that anyone with the companion app can follow along with your creative exploits.

As Yahoo Finance puts it, “Whether you are having a conversation over a family breakfast, pitching a presentation to clients, kicking around thoughts with coworkers, or helping a student learn, GoTouch represents a new way to express, explore and expand on ideas together in exciting new ways.”

Having already done extensive beta testing in South Korea the makers of GoTouch are finally ready to start expanding internationally where they hope to compete with the likes of Google Jamboard and Microsoft Surface Hub.  Considering their $99 price point compared to thousands of dollars for the Google and Microsoft offerings they may just be able to do that.  For example, Google’s Jamboard is going to cost over $6,000 and isn’t even going to be ready for another year.

If you want to learn more about this amazing product check out their Kickstarter page here.

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Is GoTouch the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,005 – Powdered Blood

Anyone who has ever participated in a Blood Drive, been seriously injured, undergone a medical procedure, or seen an episode of ER, knows how vitally important it is to have blood on hand in case a life-saving transfusion is needed.  The problem is that it’s hard to always have a viable supply of blood at the ready since blood needs to be properly refrigerated at all times and generally speaking, there’s usually a shortage of it.  Thankfully, there may soon be a workaround in the form of artificial blood that would ensure that we always have access to usable blood should the need ever arise.

The Artificial Blood, known as ErythroMer, was created by the aptly named Dr. Allan Doctor and comes in a powdered form.  When needed a paramedic would just have to add water to the mix and would then have blood ready for transfusion.  While this sounds almost too good to be true there is promising research to validate the concept.

According to Time, “The research is in the very early stages, but the researchers have so far shown promising results in a proof of concept study in mice. They were able to show that when mice were inserted with ErythroMer, the artificial blood was able to deliver oxygen to tissues in the same way as normal mice blood. They were also able to use ErythroMer to resuscitate rats that were in shock and had lost about 40% of their blood, Medscape reports.”

Considering its ability to recoup that much blood loss ErythroMer could prove to be a real life saver for military personnel as soldiers could easily carry around lightweight powdered packets of their own blood in case they get wounded on the battle field.  Eventually we could then get to the point where ambulances and hospitals would have it on hand too.

Before we get to that point we first need to continue the promising research that’s been conducted so far.  Hopefully, the early results from testing on mice will show up in humans as well.

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Is powdered blood the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Candles are awesome.  They can be used to make birthday wishes or as a light for sneakily reading a book late at night.  They can help you find your way in catacombs and can add some romance to your evening.  They can even be used as a weapon as anyone who has ever played Clue can attest to.  They’re the rare item that you can buy for yourself or as a gift for someone else.  In short, they are incredibly useful and absolutely wonderful and if you don’t believe me just ask the Yankee Candle kid.

Still not convinced?  Well, what if I told you that candles could now act as a space heater too?  That’s the promise offered by the Egloo candle heater, a small oval table-top device that can help you heat your house on the cheap this winter.  How cheap?  How does ten cents a day sound?

So, how does it work?!

According to their website:

“Egloo is composed by four elements: the base, the grill and the two domes.
The base offers a space for the positioning of the candles that, once you light them up, will warm the domes up.
There is a metal grill placed on the base, serving as a support for the domes. It makes a space to let the air in, necessary for the combustion of the candles. The thinner dome, placed centrally on the base, stores a high rate of heat, that is conveyed to the external dome; the dome’s air intake facilitate the outgoing of the warm air stored between the covers, allowing thermal exchange with the environment.”

The end result is that a 200 square foot room can be heated up by 3 degrees Celsius in just thirty minutes with the first heat emanating after just five minutes.  The only catch is that you have to use Ikea brand candles in order for the Egloo to work properly.  That shouldn’t be a problem though because everyone loves Ikea.  In fact, the only thing that people might love more than Ikea, are candles and the only thing that people love more than candles is saving money.  Since the Egloo combines all three this might just be the Next Big Thing.

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Is the Egloo heater the Greatest Idea Ever?

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There’s no denying that Facebook is widely popular.  It has hundreds of millions of users, generates millions of dollars in revenue, and is effectively one of the four largest and most influential tech companies in the world.  And yet I’ve always thought that something was missing.  In short: what’s the value add?

To be fair, Facebook does help us stay in touch with long lost friends and acquaintances that we probably would have long ago lost touch with.  And it even helps us find new friends or love interests via the dating apps like Tinder that use its API to help you connect with friends of friends.  But what’s the real end game?

Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift points to a future where socialization is at the heart of society as we watch movies or take classes with all of our friends joining along.  But that technology is still several years away from going mainstream.  In the interim is there any real reason to tune into Facebook?  Especially, when the news feed is just a gargled echo chamber filled with fake news stories, the exploits of people you barely know, and pictures of your friends babies and cats doing ridiculous things.

For all its flaws Twitter at least does offer up some real value in the form of breaking news, real time commentary, and the ability to hear from news makers directly.  Now, it appears that Facebook, thanks to their newest offering, Facebook Audio Live, will be offering up some real value as well.  In the form of podcasts, radio station broadcasts, book readings, celebrity Q&A’s, and other offerings from big name publishers and regular folks alike.

Audio Live is a direct descendant of the product that Facebook prominently rolled out in 2016: Live Video, which itself was a direct rip-off of Twitter’s Periscope, giving people the ability to broadcast their lives to their friends in real time.  As far as I can tell, live video has yet to catch on with YouTube still dominating the personal home video space.

But when it comes to audio there really isn’t another alternative out there.  Especially not one with a social component.  Sure, there are plenty of podcast hosting options but most are costly and restrict what you can do and for how long you can do it.  If Facebook Audio Live winds up being free, low bandwidth, and able to reach people in rural areas it could be a real game changer for amateur podcast publishers.  Actually it could wind up being a real game changer for everyone.

Just think about all of the incredible new experiences that you could have on Facebook with this new technology.  You could listen to your favorite radio station or a newscast while you scroll through your feed.  You could even listen to a studio recording session from your favorite artist to get a behind the scenes look at their creative process.  Or you could listen to a book on tape or perhaps a verbalized form of a Reddit Ask Me Anything. Not to mention any of the content that your friends might be generating themselves.

Unfortunately, this new feature is not yet available to everyone.  As TechCrunch reports, “The first publishers with access will be BBC World Service (news radio), LBC (Leading Britain’s Conversation talk radio), Harper Collins (book publisher), and authors Adam Grant (Originals, pop psychology), and Britt Bennett (fiction addressing race). Facebook writes, “Early next year, we plan to make this new format more broadly available to publishers and people.”

As far as I’m concerned, early next year can’t come soon enough.

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Is Facebook Audio Live the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Last week when writing about Mark Zuckerberg’s home automation project I referenced the man who is really the true real life Tony Stark: tech superstar Elon Musk.  So it’s only fair that I give Musk his moment in the sun as well.  Or, rather, his moment deep underground.  That’s because Musk has recently announced ambitious plans to fix traffic congestion by digging tunnels underneath existing roadways!

Having spent some time in Boston during the Big Dig I can attest to the fact that construction projects, even those designed to improve traffic, will in fact, just make traffic even worse at first.  After all, you need a place to put all those dump trucks and pieces of heavy duty construction equipment.  Not to mention the slower speed limits that usually accompany a construction zone.  Not only will traffic get worse at first but there are other logistical concerns as well such as ecological or environmental factors you may encounter.  Not to mention sites of archaeological importance that you may stumble upon.  And I haven’t even mentioned how much it’s going to cost yet.

But Musk doesn’t seem to be concerned with any of that.  The only thing that Musk seems to be concerned with is the fact that sitting in traffic sucks.  And when Musk encounter something that sucks he aims to roll up his sleeves and fix it.  No matter how impossible or ridiculous it may seem at first.  This is a man who intends to die on Mars after all.

As TechCrunch puts it:

“The Tesla and SpaceX CEO is prone to goofs, but he’s seldom been known to troll quite so hard as to say outright that he genuinely wants to do something in quite this way. Musk also changed his Twitter bio to include “Tunnels (yes, tunnels)” alongside Tesla, SpaceX and OpenAI as his current pursuits.

Here’s the thing about these tweets – they sound like a pretty juvenile response to encountering traffic; you’re average imaginative teenager has probably come up with two scenarios for getting around it: A) flying cars, and B) tunneling under. But Musk’s reputation means he might actually have put some genuine thought into this from a feasibility perspective, and at least conceived of some kind of rough road map.”

That road map apparently includes starting The Boring Company to oversee his efforts which I find to be a little bit surprising since this extreme hands on approach is in stark contrast to the HyperLoop when Musk put forth the idea and then stood on the sidelines while others took the ball and ran with it.  Did he learn his lesson, is he that passionate about this idea to want to be in the center of the effort, or is he only kidding about the entire thing?

I’m not sure.  All I know is that I learned a long time ago never to doubt Elon Musk. If he sets his mind on something you can pretty much guarantee that it’s going to get done.  Traffic congestion, you have finally met your match!

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Is the Boring Company the Greatest Idea Ever?

 

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