Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Another day, another great use for Blockchain technology: a secure platform for DNA research.

Companies like 23andme already let you learn about your DNA so that you can find out if you are at risk for any diseases.  But when you send in your saliva the transaction is basically complete.  Your genetic data free to go to the highest bidder with you getting nothing in return for your efforts, save for the peace of mind of knowing that you are helping advance scientific research.  But now, thanks to the power of the Blockchain and a new company founded by genetic pioneer George Church, known as Nebula Genomics, you can get something else for your efforts.  You can get paid.

According to Futurism, “Individuals will send a saliva sample to Nebula, which is analyzed by the company. From there, other entities are free to pay a fee to access to the genetic information for research purposes, using a secure computation platform provided by Nebula. The data can be rented out over and over again, even to more than one buyer at the same time.

The system is based around a purpose-built cryptocurrency dubbed Nebula tokens. Companies would need to buy tokens in order to pay for access to people’s genetic information, and individuals would initially pay a small fee to have their DNA sequenced using the coin. The idea is that they would get the money back as their genetic code is purchased by researchers all over the world.”

Getting paid for your data?  What a novel idea!  Google and Facebook, are you listening?

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Is Nebula Genomics the Greatest Idea Ever?


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#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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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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Have you ever come across an object and wondered about its origins?  Perhaps while browsing in an antique shop, walking around your neighborhood, or sitting in your grandmother’s living room.  If so, maybe there was someone that you could ask to satiate your curiosity.  Someone who knew about the object’s history.  Where it came from.  How old it was.  What purpose it served.  But maybe there wasn’t.  Maybe your inquiry went unanswered.  Leaving you to wonder about the object of your affection.

Well, in the near future you may not have to worry about leaving the fate of an object to chance.  Instead, thanks to Google you’ll be able to point your phone’s camera at it, in the native camera app even, and learn all about it.  All thanks to Google Lens.

According to Wired:

“When Google first announced Google Lens last year, it was described as a kind of search in reverse. Rather than type a text query to find image results, you could point your phone’s camera at an object, like a dog or a plant, to find text-based information. Lens was not only a statement about your camera as an input device but also a most Google-y expression of technology: It combined search, computer vision, AI, and AR, and put it all in apps that weren’t limited to one ecosystem.”

The article adds that, “The new features, which roll out at the end of May, represent Google’s next steps to make your smartphone camera ‘like a visual browser for the world around you,’ says Aparna Chennapragada, vice president of product for AR, VR, and vision-based products at Google. ‘By now people have the muscle memory for taking pictures of all sorts of things—not just sunsets and selfies but the parking lot where you parked, business cards, books to read,’ Chennapragada says. ‘That’s a massive behavior shift.’

A behavior shift that Google is now hoping to take advantage of with Lens as they further re-imagine what mobile search can and should be.

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Is Google Lens the Greatest Idea Ever?

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With Marvel’s Infinity War currently blowing up at the Box Office, now is as good of a time as any to ask if you could have any superpower, what would it be?!? If you answered having the ability to shoot lasers out of your eyes, you’re in luck.  That’s now a real thing.

According to Engadget, “It will still be a while before scientists are able to harness Superman-like laser vision, but the technology is now closer than ever before thanks to a new development from the University of St Andrews. The team there have created an ultra-thin membrane laser using organic semiconductors, which is for the first time compatible with the requirements for safe operation in the human eye. Even though the membrane is super thin and flexible, it’s durable, and will retain its optical properties even after several months spent attached to another object, such as a bank note or, more excitingly, a contact lens.  The ocular laser, which has so far been tested on cow eyes, is able to identify sharp lines on a flat background — the ones and zeros of a digital barcode — and could be harnessed for new applications in security, biophotonics and photomedicine.”

What kind of applications are we talking about exactly?  I’m not sure.  Perhaps we could unlock a door just by looking at it or maybe a blind person could use this technology to scan objects in order to learn about them. Either way it would seem like we would need to have an interface in place that could process what the lasers in our eyes are scanning.  Making it ideal technology to pair with a neural implant that would let us connect directly to the Internet through our minds.

Such a pairing would be decades away though.  For now it’s just cool to say that we can shoot lasers out of our eyes.

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Is having the ability to shoot lasers out of our eyes the Greatest Idea Ever?

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If you’re a fan of blockchain technology these are exciting times.  On a seemingly daily basis there are new applications and cryptocurrencies being developed with no end in sight. In a way, it’s almost like the entire web is migrating onto the Blockchain which essentially means that the entire world is migrating as well.  It’s the dawn of a new era.  A transformative point in time leading to an entire reinvention of modern society.  And unlike the birth of the Internet, I’ll actually be paying attention this time to watch it all unfold.

As compelling as this narrative is, I always thought that the revolution would be occurring in the background.  Startups and giant corporations working feverishly behind the scenes to build out the infrastructure and underpinnings for our new way of life.  I never imagined that the Blockchain could be real.  Something tangible that I could actually hold in my hand.  And yet that’s exactly what we’ll all be doing one day when we all have blockchain phones.

These new age mobile devices will look and act just like a regular iPhone or Samsung Galaxy device and will come with all of the usual trimmings.  They’ll just be more secure.  Really secure.  Fully encrypted devices that can’t be tampered with enabling users to surf the web in peace.  Away from the prying eyes of Facebook or even the authorities.  Case in point: BitVault.  A new device that would enable people to hold private conversations, bank privately, and store images securely.  It’s the wave of the future and the perfect response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.  A tool for regular people to fight back against Big Brother.

What I love the most about the concept of blockchain backed smartphones though is how perfect they are for tying in with my long-standing idea for a Game of Life, wherein everything we do in life gets rewarded.  Such a concept sounds good in theory but is incredibly hard to pull off in real-life logistically.  How could you monitor what everyone is doing and reward them accordingly?  How could you keep track of all the prize payouts that would be occurring?  Well, as it turns out the blockchain would be perfect for this endeavor.  A blockchain smartphone becoming the key to the entire ecosystem.

Case in point: the first blockchain based smartphone for the U.S. market is called The Motif and it’s created by a company called Blacture, whose mission is to empower black youth financially.

As Futurism describes, “Created by blockchain and mobile tech company Zippie, this OS automatically rewards users with tokens whenever they use their Motif phones for activities like buying things online, agreeing to share their personal data (it’s not yet clear what data, or with whom), or making the exceedingly vague endeavor to ‘offer products and services’ to the Blacture community.”

This is great.  I already shop online and already gladly hand over my personal data so that I can benefit from getting served targeted ads tailored to my interests as well as receiving more relevant search results adjusted in real-time based on my exact location and recent search history.  Getting paid for doing those things or for otherwise contributing to community building is an added bonus.

BitVault and Motif aren’t the only new kids on the block(chain) when it comes to smartphones though. There’s also the Finney, designed especially for cryptocurrency power users.

“Named after scientist Hal Finney, recipient of the world’s first bitcoin transaction, the Finney smartphone is an open-source, ultra-secure phone built on an independent, free blockchain network. It’s expected to come with a 256GB internal memory, a 16 megapixel camera, and a powerful suite of security measures, and it will be powered by the Tangle technology of IOTA.’

This is just the beginning though.  It’s likely that we will soon see many other variations of blockchain powered smartphones on the market in the near future and it’s only a matter of time before the major phone carriers and big tech companies get in on the fun as well.  Exciting times indeed.

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Is a blockchain phone the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Google is how we discover and explore the world.  Amazon is how we gear up to best navigate through that world.  Facebook governs our social lives and LinkedIn our professional lives.  Our thoughts are shared on Twitter.  Our pictures on Instagram.  Pretty much every aspect of our lives are already accounted for by a major tech company.  And yet I still feel underserved by technology.  Still feel like I’m on my own pretty much all of the time.

Just take a look at my personal life.  Sure, technology plays a part.  There are plenty of dating apps for me to swipe through.  But that’s not working for me.  I don’t need yet another dating app.  What I need is a makeover.  And a stylist.  And a nutritionist.  And then finally a matchmaker.  But not until I get the rest of my life in order first.  Which I am, as time has proven, either unwilling or incapable of doing myself.  Which begs the question: why isn’t there some evil conglomerate to do all of that for me, enhancing my life, collecting my personal data along the way, and then profiting off of my ineptitude and laziness?  Why is it that the Big Four (Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook) only care about what we do online?  Watching our every move.  Data mining our newsfeeds.  Customizing targeted ads.  Shouldn’t they also care about what we do offline?  Why isn’t anyone trying to penetrate this market?  This untapped resource of fear and despair, where we spend most of our time, stuck in our own heads, wallowing in self-pity, dreaming of the better life that no one want to give us.  If I was a major tech company this is where I would want to be operating.  Out in the real world.  The one place where everyone is acting naturally, not putting on a show for Big Brother.  As Jimmi Simpson said on the most recent episode of Westworld, “There’s a business in that and if you can’t see that then you’re not the businessman I thought you were.”

What I’m envisioning then is a startup built around a subscription based model that would charge users a monthly fee and then leverage various technological solutions to enhance their lives.  It would be like having your very own headhunter, matchmaker, financial advisor, personal trainer, mentor, realtor, and life coach all rolled into one.  Any service you can think of.  At your disposal.  Anytime you need it.  For one low monthly fee.

As part of your subscription you’ll get job recommendations, stock tips, dating matches, inspirational quotes, etc.  Anything that you need to enhance your life.  But the service wouldn’t just be feeding your information.  It’ll also connect you with a network of real-life support staff to actually meet with you and help you out of your rut as needed.  You could never afford all of these services on your own on your lowly dead end job salary.  But thanks to this company’s freemium model, that aims to make money off of advertising and data mining, now you can.

At the end of the day, would we really be okay with turning over our day-to-day lives to an evil conglomerate?  I think so.  We already do that now when we post to Facebook and search on Google and we don’t get anything for our troubles.  Doing it through a life enhancing company would make a lot more sense.  This way we’d actually be getting something in return.  The better life that we’ve always dreamed about but never knew how to get.

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Is a tech company dedicated to actually improving our real lives the Greatest Idea Ever?

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