Glimpses of the Future August 2014

New Communications Protocol Could Make Internet “10 Times Faster”

Researchers at Aalborg University (Denmark), MIT and Caltech have developed a new mathematically-based technique claimed to boost internet data speeds by up to 10 times, by making the nodes of a network much smarter and more adaptable.

The advance also vastly improves the security of data transmissions, and could find its way into 5G mobile networks, satellite communications and the Internet of Things.

In a recent study, the researchers built an implementation of the new protocol, displaying some impressive speed gains. In a demo, a four minute-long mobile video was downloaded five times faster than with the state of the art technology, and was then streamed without interruptions.

Is “Jibo” Going To Become The First Successful Domestic Robot?

Jibo, a new domestic robot, is a foot tall, weighs six pounds and is wirelessly connected to the Internet. It has a moveable LCD screen that in demonstrations displays an expressive orb, but not a human face.

The robot, which is a stack of three components allowing the display to swivel freely in any direction, is intended to be a family companion performing a variety of interactive tasks like sending messages, taking pictures, acting as a personal messenger and serving as a robotic stand-in during conversations between people in different places, as well as a “friend” with a personality.

The manufacturing company, which is running a crowdfunding campaign for the robot on, is also hoping that software developers will seize on Jibo as a platform and create applications that will extend the robot’s functions to things like tutoring and coaching.

(As this edition of Glimpses was being prepared Jibo’s makers had raised over $1 million via crowdfunding to build the little robot – 10 times their initial goal.)

Regenerative Medicine Market Expected To Be Worth $67 Billion Globally By 2020

The market for “regenerative medicine”, a term which encompasses stem cell medicine and gene therapy, is expected to be worth $67 billion globally in six years’ time (up from $16.4 billion in 2012).

This four-fold increase is predicted in a field which deals with the “process of replacing, engineering or regenerating human cells, tissues or organs to restore or establish normal function”. This field holds the promise of engineering damaged tissues and organs via stimulating the body’s own repair mechanisms to functionally heal previously irreparable tissues or organs.

Regenerative medicine also includes the longer-term possibility of growing tissues and organs in the laboratory and safely implanting them when the body cannot heal itself. If a regenerated organ’s cells could be derived from the patient’s own tissue or cells, this would potentially solve the problem of the shortage of organs available for donation, and the problem of organ transplant rejection.

Computer Memory The Size Of A Postage Stamp Can Store One Terabyte

High-density, next-generation computer memory that can store about one terabyte of data on a device the size of a postage stamp — more than 50 times the data density of current flash memory technology — is now a step closer to mass production.

That’s because Rice University’s breakthrough silicon oxide technology will allow manufacturers to fabricate “resistive random-access memory” (RRAM) devices at room temperature with conventional production methods, the researchers say.

The basic concept behind resistive memory devices is the insertion of a dielectric material — one that won’t normally conduct electricity — between two wires. When a sufficiently high voltage is applied across the wires, a narrow conduction path can be formed through the dielectric material.

Non-invasive Retinal Imaging Device Detects Alzheimer’s 20 Years In Advance

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center researchers have developed a non-invasive retinal imaging device that can provide early detection of changes indicating Alzheimer’s disease 15 to 20 years before clinical diagnosis.

A few years ago researchers at Cedars-Sinai discovered that the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease occur not only in the brain but also in the retina.

By ‘staining’ the plaque with curcumin, a component of the common spice turmeric, researchers could detect the plaques in the retina even before they began to accumulate in the brain. Recent clinic trials have validated this diagnostic approach.

The device developed enables doctors to look through the eye — just as an ophthalmologist looks through the eye to diagnose retinal disease — and see these changes.

Single Injection Halts Type II Diabetes (In Mice)

In mice with diet-induced diabetes — the equivalent of type 2 diabetes in humans — a single injection of the protein FGF1 is enough to restore blood sugar levels to a healthy range for more than two days. The discovery by Salk Institute scientists, published in the journal Nature, could lead to a new generation of safer, more effective diabetes drugs.

The team found that sustained treatment with the protein doesn’t merely keep blood sugar under control, but also reverses insulin insensitivity, the underlying physiological cause of diabetes. Equally exciting, the newly developed treatment doesn’t result in side effects common to most current diabetes treatments.

Will Self-Driving Cars Be A Boon To Terrorists And Criminals?

The FBI believes that self-driving cars could revolutionise high-speed car chases within a matter of years. A recent report from the Bureau also warned that autonomous cars may be used as “lethal weapons” by terrorists.

The FBI predicts that autonomous cars “will have a high impact on transforming what both law enforcement and its adversaries can operationally do with a car.”

In a section called Multitasking, the FBI report notes that “bad actors will be able to conduct tasks that require use of both hands or taking one’s eyes off the road which would be impossible today.”

One nightmare scenario could be suspects shooting at pursuers from getaway cars that are driving themselves.

How To Create A Sex Toy To Your Own Personal Design

A Berlin-based programmer has built a web site and system that lets you custom design your own sex toy, and have a silicone mould of it 3D-printed in a range of colours.

The website doesn’t exist to judge. It simply gives you a 2D section to play with, and the ability to add as many Bézier curves as you like, then shows you what you’re building in a separate 3D model box.

In addition to the cross-sectional shapes, the adventurous can add an overall “bend” and “twist” dimension, to suit their own personal tastes.

New Genome Analysis Service For Use By Doctors

When the FDA last year ordered 23andMe to stop giving customers medical information based on their DNA, they unintentionally opened a new market niche. The rapidly declining cost of genomic analysis means more and more companies can offer DNA analysis services for the consumer market.

One new company, BaseHealth, is betting customers will like their proposition: A 23andMe-like platform where doctors have access to their patients’ genomic data and build personalized medicine plans for their clients.

BaseHealth’s core product, GenoPhen, is a platform for doctors to create customized patient health care plans. When a physician opens Genophen, the program’s dashboard integrates 23andMe-like data from the patient’s DNA analysis, information from patients regarding personal health history and family history, and information from patients’ quantified-self devices such as Fitbit.

Cat Recognition System Means Your Automated Feeder Will Not Feed Wrong Feline

A group of cat lovers has developed Bistro, an automatic feeder that uses feline facial recognition technology to ensure that when you’re away the food in the automatic cat feeder is going to its intended recipient.

The creators claim that when a cat steps onto the Bistro platform and looks into the food area, an inbuilt camera is triggered and video is streamed to a server which then runs the feline-facial recognition algorithm.

If the cat is recognized, food will be dispensed. If not, the food is withheld and the owner will be notified via the Bistro smart-phone app that gives them the choice to create a new cat profile should they so desire. This function also allows the Bistro system to individually monitor and feed multiple cats in a household.


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