Archive for May, 2018

#1,316 – Lobe

Have an idea for an app that leverages machine learning but don’t know how to code?  You’re in luck.  Soon you’ll be able to create your very own applications thanks to an easy to use platform that makes AI accessible for the masses.  So easy to use, in fact, that’ll be just like playing with legos.

As Fast Company puts it, “The theory of machine learning isn’t hard to grasp. If you want to train software to spot a face in a photography, you amass many pictures of faces in photographs. You draw a box around the face parts. And over millions of rounds of practice, the software will learn to spot faces in pretty much any photograph–as if it’s twisting a wax key in a lock over and over again until it can unlock a door effortlessly.

The problem is that while the theory is largely understandable, the tools are hard to use, let alone master. You have to create all sorts of custom bits of code, plug it into multiple pieces of software, and operate under an almost intuitive grasp of advanced data analytics to get anywhere.

Or maybe that was the case, until the launch of Lobe, which looks like the most user-friendly take on machine learning yet. All you need is a big pile of images or sounds, which you drag and drop onto Lobe’s website. From here, Lobe will automatically begin creating a machine that’s capable of learning pretty much anything. There’s no coding required, and you can even stack existing bit of AI onto your project, much like Lego bricks.”

So, what can Lobe be used for?  Well, like with most new technologies the best use-cases are likely to come from the crowd now that the barriers to entry have been lowered.

According to TechCrunch, “The ease and speed with which new applications can be designed and experimented with could open up the field to people who see the potential of the tools but lack the technical know-how.

[Co-founder Mike Matas] compared the situation to the early days of PCs, when computer scientists and engineers were the only ones who knew how to operate them. “’They were the only people able to use them, so they were they only people able to come up with ideas about how to use them,’ he said. But by the late ’80s, computers had been transformed into creative tools, largely because of improvements to the UI.

Matas expects a similar flood of applications, even beyond the many we’ve already seen, as the barrier to entry drops.

‘People outside the data science community are going to think about how to apply this to their field,’ he said, and unlike before, they’ll be able to create a working model themselves.”

Given that fact Lobe has the potential to be truly game-changing once it gets into the hands of creatives. Hopefully, the applications that come out of it will be just as transformative as the tool itself.

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Is Lobe the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,315 – Pages

Ryan Reynolds and C.J. Miller, in a trailer for Deadpool 2, are seen auditioning various “superheroes” for the X Force team they are building.  When a guy shows up with the superpower of having both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes Miller jokes that its time to update LinkedIN.  In other words, that it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

This got me thinking.  If you really were looking to build a superhero team is LinkedIN where you would look?  Or would you look on Craigslist?  Or somewhere else?  And what if there was a better way?  A place where you could go to look for someone regardless of your need, whether you’re looking for a superhero or a plumber.

What I’m envisioning then is an app called Pages, named after the White Pages and Yellow Pages listings that dominated the pre-Internet era.  Anyone can set up a page and use it to announce to the world what they would want to be “hired” for.  Now this isn’t strictly a job platform although you could use this service for that if you really wanted to.  Nor is it a dating app, although, once again, if you wanted to use it to find dates you could.  Rather the point of Pages would be to find anyone you are looking for.  That could be a fill-in for your softball team, a babysitter, someone to go hiking with, or someone to help you move.

For instance, my Pages profile would announce that I’m available for public speaking gigs.  Someone else might announce that they’re down to fill in on your bar trivia team or to round out a golfing foursome.  Others might broadcast the fact that they are a wedding singer looking for gigs or a photographer looking for work during wedding season.

No matter who you are or what you’re interested in, from fighting crime to playing kickball, chances are that there’s someone out there with similar interests looking for someone just like you.  Isn’t it about time that we made it easier for one another to find each other?  Isn’t it about time that we created a Google type search engine for people?  Facebook doesn’t make the cut.  Our profiles are private.  Only shared with people we already know.  On the other hand Pages would be public and fully searchable so that we could broadcast ourselves in order to find work or make new connections.  This service would be a real game-changer for freelance workers and weekend warriors alike.  For everyone and anyone with a need for someone.

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Is Pages the Greatest Idea Ever?

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It’s enough of a struggle trying to find true love without having one hand tied behind your back. And yet that’s the reality facing millions of men around the world who have to contend with the onslaught of male pattern baldness.  Sure plenty of men who are either bald or going bald still find love.  Some women don’t care about looks.  And some men even embrace their new looks, going full Michael Jordan.  But for others, dealing with losing one’s hair is just yet another setback in the on-going pursuit of happiness.  Luckily, men in the future won’t have to worry about baldness at all.  Thanks to yet another accidental discovery.

According to Time, “Researchers may have discovered a new cure for baldness using a drug initially intended to treat osteoporosis.  Scientists from the University of Manchester say the drug,WAY-316606, stimulated hair growth in the lab by targeting a protein that halts hair growth and contributes to baldness, BBC reports.

They were originally testing Cyclosporine A, an immunosuppressive drug that has been used since the 1980s to stop rejections in organ transplants and mitigate symptoms of autoimmune diseases.  While it was found to suppress hair loss, Cyclosporine A had side-effects that made it unsuitable. So the team went on looking for a drug with similar attributes; they found it in WAY-316606.”

Hopefully, the promising research will continue and a commercial product will hit the market.  And hopefully, sooner rather than later.  At least for my sake.

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Is a cure for baldness the Greatest Idea Ever?

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All of the great environmentally friendly ideas that caught my eye this past week:

Atmospheric Harvesters

The home of the future won’t just be covered in solar panels.  It’ll also have its very own atmospheric harvester enabling it to generate its own drinking water, even if its located in an arid climate with little to no humidity.

As Engadget puts it, “As climate change continues to wreak havoc upon the Earth’s weather patterns, formerly lush locales like the American West are finding themselves increasingly parched. Perhaps nowhere is that abrupt arridization more pronounced than in Cape Town, South Africa. Since 2015, the region has suffered severe droughts and the coastal capital of 4 million people has struggled to maintain a steady municipal water supply.

Cape Town narrowly avoided Day Zero earlier this year, when the city’s taps were projected to run dry, but the city is expected to face another critical shortage in 2019. The situation has become so dire that officials are seriously considering importing icebergs to augment the water supply. But why try to tow 70,000 tons of ice 1,200 miles up from Antarctica when modern technology can suck the humidity we need out of thin air?”

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Recycling CO2 Faster Than Plants

A new process for Synthetic Photosynthesis could process the overwhelming quantities of carbon dioxide currently poisoning our atmosphere faster than plants.  Like twice as fast.

According to Futurism, “Once the technology is successfully transplanted into living plants, we would be in for faster, less energy-intensive CO2 fixation. Its applications include developing systems to create carbon-based feed for cattle, and perhaps even designing desirable chemical products. The obvious impact is better CO2 processing, which may contribute to stabilizing its presence in our atmosphere.”


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Choose Water Bottle 

British scientist James Longcroft claims to have invented a water bottle capable of decomposing in just three weeks.  If he’s right, this could have a huge environmental impact as plastic water bottles are one of the leading causes of ocean pollution.

According to Science Alert, “The outer lining of the bottle is made out of recycled paper donated by businesses, while the waterproof inner lining is made with a composite material Longcroft has developed himself.  All the constituents of the bottle can fully decompose within three weeks when left in water or landfill, and can be eaten by sea creatures, the company told Business Insider in a statement.”

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Are any of these the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I live right near a park which gives me picturesque views, quick access to a bike path, and relative quiet most of the time.  It’s perfect.  Except when it’s not.  The commotion from a birthday party being held in the Ramada.  The headache inducing repetitious music from an Ice Cream Truck.  The beautiful yet annoying cacophony of bird mating calls.  I love my apartment.  And yet there are times when I can’t wait to move out.  Noisy sounds and my inability to control them the likely cause of my downfall.

Thankfully, there may soon be something I can do about it.  Thanks to new noise canceling windows that can reduce noise pollution by 50%!

As Futurism puts it, “You can’t shut your neighbors up. But researchers out of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University have done the next best thing: they made noise-cancelling windows that can cancel out any harsh noise coming into your home.”

So how exactly does this amazing new technology work?!?!  If you’ve used noise-cancelling headphones the answer will sound familiar to you.

“The device is essentially an array of microphones and speakers that register the sound waves of loud noises coming in and cancel them out by playing an inverted version of the same wave — the waves’ peaks matched perfectly to the valleys of the other. When the inverted waveform and the original sound interact, they cancel each other out, leaving just mellow, ambient noise. All in real-time.”

Amen to that!

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Is a noise cancelling window the Greatest Idea Ever?

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The Do Not Call registry may have eliminated some of the annoyance of having to deal with unwanted phone calls but there’s still a modern inconvenience that we have to deal with: Robo calls.  Those automated messages that you receive upon answering your phone, even when doing so from trusted sources that you do want to hear from.

As Wired puts it, “When a robot rings your phone, you can usually tell right away. Its voice is melodic, it rarely stumbles, and it’s unnaturally efficient. The voice betrays its origin before it even has the chance to tell you that you qualify for a free loan, your mortgage payment is overdue, or that your input would really be valuable for a customer survey. Knowing it’s a robot also makes it easy to hang up.”

That’s where Google Duplex comes in.  Somehow able to mimic the complexity and nuance of human speech Duplex is the future of Robo calls.  And here’s the best part.  It’ll be a part of Google Assistant, able to make calls on behalf of ordinary citizens like you and me, not just on behalf of telemarketers.

For instance, with the technology at your beck and call you’ll be able to pass off the responsibility of making a dinner reservation or booking a nail appointment to your phone.  That may not sound like much but it floored the audience at Google’s developer’s conference the other day as it proved that AI is getting remarkably close to passing the Turing Test, that moment in time where us humans wouldn’t be able to tell if we’re talking to man or machine.

From Wired:

“The big reveal was that neither of the voices who initiated the calls belonged to a human. They were bots, dispatched through Google Assistant and activated through a back-end system. But they sounded human: They said ‘Um’ and ‘Ohh, I gotcha’ and ended query statements with the raised pitch of a question mark. And, for the purpose of the demo, they completed tasks that normally fall to us mere mortals, whether than meant making a hair appointment or determining whether it would be better to just walk into a restaurant and take a gamble on a table.”

This technology has startling ramifications and further demonstrates just how committed Google is to AI.  From object recognizing cameras to self-driving cars to do-it-all personal assistants Google is doubling down.  And we all stand to benefit.  One dinner reservation at a time.

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Is Google Duplex the Greatest Idea Ever?

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