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Archive for October, 2018

#1,390 – ShapeScale

For some people, losing weight or gaining muscle, isn’t something that happens overnight.  The changes, if there are any, might show up more gradually over time.  If you want to stay motivated and know for sure that your hard work is paying off then you may need the ShapeScale, a new device capable of generating a 3D image of your body to help you better visualize your fitness.

As CNET puts it, “Sure, ShapeScale ships with an app that tracks your weight, but it also does something I’ve never seen before. It uses a robotic telescoping arm that circles your body and spits out a 360-degree image. The camera array can measure the tiny differences in your body’s size and plot the change for you to analyze over time.”

For instance, in just under a minute you’ll be provided with a heat map to see specifically where your recent changes have occurred.  You’ll then be able to see yourself from every angle, chart your progress over time, and set goals for yourself.  Everything that you need to take your fitness to the next level.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  That you already have a fitness tracker and don’t need the ShapeScale. But counting steps won’t help you define your shoulders and just weighing yourself on a standard scale won’t help you grow your chicken legs.  If you want to work on a specific part of your body then you’re going to need a way to track your progress specifically as it relates to that one area.  Short of going old school and using a tape measure there’s really no way to do that.  The ShapeScale changes that.  And soon it could be changing the entire way that you view your body.

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Is ShapeScale the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,389 – Apeel

One third of all food produced every year goes to waste.  Spoiling before it can even make it to market or getting thrown out once it gets there for not meeting our standards.  Meanwhile millions of people around the world are starving to death.  This is a logistical nightmare.  Technically we are creating enough food to feed everyone.  We’re just not doing a good enough job of getting it to them.  Apeel aims to change that by producing a natural coating that can be applied to fruit and vegetables to double their shelf life.  And in some cases even triple or quadruple it.

CNN explains how it works:

“Food typically rots when moisture exits, oxygen gets in and mold takes over. To prevent this, Apeel takes the skins, seeds and pulp of homogeneous fruits or veggies — such as grapes from a winery or tomato skins from a ketchup factor — and presses out an oil rich in fat lipids. The company turns the oil into a colorless, odorless, tasteless powder that is tailored for each type of produce to which it will be applied.”

This powder will save money across the board, both for retailers who won’t have to discard as much product, and for those entities operating across the supply chain who will now have lower refrigeration costs.  And best of all, it won’t raise the price for consumers either.  Literally, every single person from the consumer to the retailer to the food producer will benefit from this technology.  All while saving the global economy trillions of dollars and possibly ending world hunger.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

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Is Apeel the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,388 – Spacebook

The pipe bomber.  The synagogue shooter in Pittsburgh.  Every day it seems like there’s another incident, carried out by a card carrying Trump supporter, who has been pumped full of hate from watching Fox News, and then having that hate amplified by the social media filter bubbles they live in online.

Now, I don’t want to blame social media for all of our problems, but it’s safe to be suspicious of sites like Facebook and Twitter, especially as we head towards pivotal mid-term elections that could determine the fate of the country, especially since it was the fake news hate speech spread on these sites that caused Trump to win the last election in the first place.

But what if it didn’t have to be this way?  What if social networks really were safe havens for connecting with other like-minded people?  What if they helped improve your lives instead of just feeding your narcissistic impulses?  What if they improved your confidence instead of making you feel insufficient when compared to your peers?

I believe there’s another way and so what I’d like to do is create a social network designed explicitly for bettering people’s lives.  How would this work?  Well, for starters, this site would ban people from posting about their personal lives.  You wouldn’t be able to post what you ate for breakfast and you wouldn’t be able to post any pictures of your cat or kids.  No checking in at hip restaurants, spreading memes, or posting pictures to humble brag about your extravagant weekend in wine country.  No doing any of the myriad things that we currently use social media for.

Instead the only things that you could post would be items that were either educational or informative.  The more thought provoking the better.  Book and podcast recommendations.  Interesting articles.  Self-improvement content.  News about cool new products.  Conversations would naturally spring up around topics not people.  You wouldn’t even have a public wall that people could post on.  Instead, you’d have a private dashboard, that only you could see, that would track your progress towards becoming a better person.  Monitoring your progress towards meeting your fitness and educational goals while providing you with motivational quotes to help inspire you along the way.  I’d call this site Spacebook.  A personal space for you to continue your development as a person.

They say that a person needs to learn to love themselves first before they can love others.  So often in today’s culture we forget to do that.  Jumping right to the part where we spew hate towards anyone whose beliefs are different than ours.  A social media site that takes a step back and helps people focus on improving themselves, rather than amplifying that hate, could be exactly what we need right now.

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What if there was a social media site focused solely on making your life better?

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#1,387 – Brixels

I think it’s safe to assume that anyone who is an architect probably grew up playing with Legos, the innovative toy that has long been credited with fostering creativity in children.  And I think it’s also safe to assume that any architect would love to still be playing with Legos if they had the opportunity.  Well, the architect of the future may very well get that chance thanks to the creation of a new Lego like building block.

According to Futurism, “Design studio Breakfast threw out that playbook with an extraordinary new demo of a technology it calls ‘Brixels’ — a portmanteau for ‘bricks’ and ‘pixels.’ They’re smart blocks, kind of like giant Legos, with built-in actuators that let them transform on the fly, giving designers a new tool with which to create adaptable public and living spaces.”

Considering our growing populations and space limitations, having adaptable public and living spaces could soon become more of a necessity than a luxury.  Think of modular work spaces that can transform from privates offices into conference rooms or think of living rooms that can convert into spare bedrooms when guests come over. Better yet, think about double sided walls that can be rotated to reveal a solid surface on one side and a mirror on the other.  Interior designers could have a field day with a technology that’s this flexible, giving them the freedom to design houses that can be altered to fit any need or style as entire houses transform to accommodate a single homeowner, a family of four, or a young couple hosting a dinner party.

But that’s not all.  These customizable bricks are capable of doing so much more from becoming part of an art installation to displaying digital content.

As they state on their website: “Brixels are infinitely rotating, variable-size bricks that are controlled by proprietary software and can act as pixels in large-scale and customizable artworks, building facades, and a range of other applications. They can also display a range of digital content, as well as respond to the movements of passers-by. The bricks themselves are customizable in size, shape, material, and color, making each installation unique.”

All of which is to say that Brixels could very well be the future of design.  Part brick.  Part pixel.  Totally cool.

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Are Brixels the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I’ve never understood climate change deniers.  Are you denying the fact that the climate is changing at all?  Or are you just denying the fact that humans may be responsible for the change?  Either way if there’s even a chance that danger could be looming on the horizon shouldn’t you be doing everything in your power to prevent it?

In other words instead of just reacting to the news that the climate may be changing, why not take preventative measures and protect the environment, at all times, not because you have to, but rather because doing so is just something that one does?  And yet we don’t do that.

Instead we spend more time worrying about fake calamities than we do an actual ecological disaster staring us in the face.  With Y2K it was like the sky was falling.  In 2012 we literally thought the Earth was going to suddenly stop spinning on its axis because the Mayan calendar was ending.  The Large Hadron Collider? A means to opening up a wormhole that will wipe out all life on Earth.  North Korea developing nuclear weapons? The end of life as we know it.  And yet when we’re told repeatedly, by actual scientists mind you and not crack pot conspiracy theorists, that we are in actual danger, we take what we have for granted and turn a blind eye to the very real danger that our ignorance is causing.

I just don’t get it.  The dinosaurs got wiped out by an asteroid that they never saw coming.  We’re faced with an ecological asteroid that we do see coming and could do something about and we still ignore it?  Sadly, that’s a luxury that we just don’t have anymore.

According to a recent U.N. report we only have 12 years to counteract the effects of Climate Change before a global catastrophe unfolds that will wind up killing hundreds of millions of people.  We’re only talking about twelve years.  Barely over a decade.  In other words, the planet is going to be ruined beyond repair at this rate within our lifetimes.  Not our children’s lifetimes. Not our grandchildren’s lifetimes.  But within our own lifetimes.  Forget about having a mid-life crisis.  We’re all going to have a life or death crisis facing us on a daily basis in the near future.

This isn’t something that we can ignore.  We’ve already tried that and it didn’t’ work.  This problem isn’t going to go away on its own.  No miracle cure is coming.  No technological breakthrough is going to clean up our mess for us.  There’s no great idea for me to write about.  The only way to save ourselves is to adapt widespread societal changes on a global scale.  And yet not everyone is on board with this plan.

As Grist puts it, “This report is a rallying cry to save the basic functioning of human civilization, shouted into the din of a news cycle dominated by a media that pretends not to understand, in a world led by anti-democratic politicians that pretend to be doing enough, aimed at a populace that pretends not to care.”

It’s a sad but true commentary on life in 2018.  We’re all either so caught up in our own lives or just totally desensitized to the news at this point to pay any attention to the bigger picture.  If we are doomed it’s a fate that we deserve.  One that we sealed years ago with our iPhone addictions, me first attitudes, and celebrity culture.  Relying on technology hasn’t saved us.  It’s rendered us impotent.  Blinded us to the only truth that really matters: that we were dying a slow death of our own doing.

So if there is a great idea to be gleamed from all this it’s this: put away your phones.  Stop refreshing your Facebook feed, scrolling through Instagram, or browsing YouTube.  Stop building your brand.  Discontinue your side hustle.  Put your life on hold and live like there’s no tomorrow because soon there won’t be.  Rack up credit card debt like nobody’s business.  Attack that bucket list of yours with rigorous vigor.  Do everything you’ve always wanted to but never had the chance.  Do it all.  Carpe Diem and all that.  Because soon the only thing you’ll be doing is fighting for survival Mad Max style.

As a glass half-full futurist with an optimistic view of the future it pains me to say that.  I want to believe that greener pastures lie ahead.  That scientific breakthroughs and technological advancements will save the day and usher in a new era of great prosperity.  That gene editing, driverless cars, 3-D printing, clean energy, quantum computers, the blockchain, virtual reality, and all the rest will make our lives better.  After all it’s a rhetoric that I’ve been repeating for over five years now, every time I’ve written a blog post.  But I’m not so sure anymore.  This report from the U.N. is dire.  As dire as dire gets.  And I haven’t seen it get much attention since it came out last week.  No emergency sessions in Congress.  No newspaper editorials.  No buzz whatsoever on social media or in the workplace.  Even if we’re not all going to ban together to save the planet you would think that we would at least do what anyone with a terminal diagnosis would do and just go out with a bang.  And yet nothing has changed.  We are literally ignoring our own death sentence, neither taking the drastic steps necessary to change it, nor accepting our fate.  I guess what they say is true.  Ignorance is bliss.

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12 years is all we have left.

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#1,385 – Solid

I come up with a lot of business ideas that I never do anything with. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, one of the original creators of the World Wide Web, doesn’t have that luxury.  His idea, to create a decentralized web that will let individuals control their own data has a sense of urgency since more and more people are becoming victims of actions undertaken by big tech companies, as the power that these companies yield grows and grows.  Wait any longer and it may be too late.

As Fast Company reported:

“’We have to do it now,’ he says, displaying an intensity and urgency that is uncharacteristic for this soft-spoken academic. ‘It’s a historical moment.’ Ever since revelations emerged that Facebook had allowed people’s data to be misused by political operatives, Berners-Lee has felt an imperative to get this digital idyll into the real world.”

So what exactly is this digital utopia that Berners-Lee is working on? Built on MIT’s Solid, this new version of the internet would let the end user control their own data by linking everything that they do, every bit of data that they create or add, to a unique “pod”, a personal online data store, that would follow them around as they surf the web.  This would mean that Facebook couldn’t manipulate your feed for political purposes and that Google couldn’t sell your search history data to advertisers.  The only person with access to your personal data would be you.

How would this play out?!?!

According to Fast Company, “one idea Berners-Lee is currently working on is a way to create a decentralized version of Alexa, Amazon’s increasingly ubiquitous digital assistant. He calls it Charlie. Unlike with Alexa, on Charlie people would own all their data. That means they could trust Charlie with, for example, health records, children’s school events, or financial records. That is the kind of machine Berners-Lee hopes will spring up all over Solid to flip the power dynamics of the web from corporation to individuals.”

So, will developers flock to Solid to create other decentralized versions of existing services? I’m not sure. But one thing I am sure about: Google and Facebook aren’t going to go quietly into the night.  The fight for the future of the internet has only just begun.

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Is Inrupt the Greatest Idea Ever?

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The new Apple Watch Series 4 is so advanced, it can even detect if you’re about to have a heart attack.  But even the best smart watch is still limited by the fact that it’s still just a watch.  A technology that rigidly wraps around your wrist and may be uncomfortable to sleep in or wear 24/7.

Thankfully, there’s a new wearable device on the way that’s thinner than a piece of cardboard and looks more like a band-aid than a watch.  It’s so thin, in fact, that it more closely resembles skin than jewelry.  Which means that you’ll be able to keep it on your person at all times.

As Inverse explains, “this device really breaks ground is in the way it’s powered. This team was able to implant tiny organic solar cells on the device that can convert light into electricity. The idea was to create a self-sustaining wearable that never has to be taken off.”

Incredibly, this isn’t the only new “skin” currently being developed.  There’s also a synthetic skin being created for use with prosthetic limbs that’s so sensitive that it could replicate or even surpass our natural sense of touch.

According to Futurism, “Tests shows that the skin can sense extremely subtle pressure, such as a blowing breeze, dripping water, or crawling ants. In some cases, the synthetic skin responded to pressures so gentle that natural human skin wouldn’t be able to detect them.”

The only issue left to figure out is how to take the data being generated by this synthetic skin and get it fed into the nervous system.  A hurdle that scientists in other fields are likely to clear in the near future.  For now we’ll just have to be satisfied with the knowledge that we’re on the cusp of tremendous breakthroughs capable of changing our lives for the better.  In more ways than one.

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Is a wearable that feels like skin the Greatest Idea Ever?

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