Glimpses of the Future – August 2015

Now Trip Advisor Starts Offering Rooms

TripAdvisor has told its members they can now advertise their spare rooms on the site.

In a move that is being interpreted as a bid to take on Airbnb, some members of the TripAdvisor community received an email recently with the headline: “Rent out your space on TripAdvisor”.

“Turn your home, spare room or vacation house into a goldmine,” TripAdvisor said.

“Advertise it for free today and reach millions of paying guests waiting to book.”

The email links out to FlipKey, a vacation rental site owned by TripAdvisor.

Microsoft’s Hololens Proving Useful In Medical Training

The Microsoft Hololens has been making waves since its initial showing this year as the first augmented reality headset to be applied to much more than gaming.

The public wasn’t able to see much of how the headset works, but over the months we’ve seen more of the real world application rather than only their plans for video games.

In addition to news of it being used on the International Space Station we are now seeing the Hololens’ applications in medicine and study in general.

Case Western Reserve University had demonstrated exactly how the augmented reality works in medical training. The area that is actually affected by the augmented view is the middle of the lens at the 1:25 mark.

Studying the parts of the body in new ways and maybe in the future allowing for full “hands-on” holographic surgery practice, allowing students to learn by gaining practical experience without risk of failure.

JustPark – An App That Helps You Find A Parking Space

You can now find a space for your car with peer-to-peer parking share network, JustPark.

This app connects drivers with vacant spaces either in the driveways of people’s homes, in under-used car parks, churches, small businesses, you name it.

It is claimed that people clearly appreciate the beautiful symmetry of this – JustPark recently achieved the UK’s largest ever crowdfunding at £3.7m, as almost 3000 customers invested in the company, which operates widely in the UK and has spread to Australia and the US.

It has also received institutional backing in the form of BMW; the application was added to the dashboard functionality of the latest Minis.

Ford Helps Ford Owners Earn Revenue From Their Fords

The Ford Motor Co. recently announced a pilot program with Getaround, a tech company whose mobile app enables city dwellers to rent out their cars by the hour.

Between now and November, Ford plans to market the peer-to-peer car-sharing service to 14,000 of its customers in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Portland, Ore. Notably, the Detroit automaker is targeting only those car owners who have loans through its financing arm, rather than other buyers of Ford vehicles.

Ford Motor Credit’s interest in the so-called sharing economy augurs a future – perhaps not too far off – in which auto lenders take into account the revenue a vehicle’s owner can generate by renting the car to strangers.

UK Fusion Researchers “On Verge Of Wright Brothers Moment

A British start-up believes it is on the verge of it they calls the “Wright brothers” moment for nuclear fusion power.

If the company is right, the potential for cleaner, more efficient energy is immense.

This claims is the bold ambition of Tokamak Energy, a spin-off from the UK government’s Culham Laboratory, and is a compelling example of how companies and academic groups are developing new forms of carbon-free energy.

One of the researchers recently demonstrated a prototype nuclear fusion reactor and said that within a decade it will make electricity from fusion — the reaction that powers the sun and stars. Most observers have previously estimated that such a shift was at least 20 years away.

How Bitcoin’s Verification System May Transform Banking

Far from destroying banking as some early Bitcoin boosters predicted, it now looks as if the verification system developed for Bitcoin – the so-called Blockchain – may be taken up and used to transform traditional banking.

At present, when one bank sends money to another, no physical currency changes hands. Banks and settlement systems use central electronic ledgers to track assets. But they can be slow and inefficient, often relying on faxes or manual input. That not only wastes time but racks up fees. The system is also open to hacking and fraud.

The blockchain works by sequentially ordering blocks of transactions into a chain. Transactions between bitcoin users are gathered as blocks and broadcast to a network of computers.

Proponents of the blockchain say a ledger updated in minutes could save millions in collateral and settlement costs, while also automating banks’ creaky and expensive back office systems.

Meanwhile Criminals’ Use Of Bitcoin For Ransom Tarnishes The Currency

Hackers around the world have seized files on millions of computers, taken down public websites and even, in a few cases, threatened physical harm. The victims — who have ranged from ordinary computer users to financial firms and police departments — are often told that their only way out is through a Bitcoin payment that is sometimes more than $20,000.

One set of attackers, believed to be based in Russia and Ukraine, collected about $16.5 million in Bitcoins in a little over a month, primarily from victims in the United States, according to the security firm Sophos.

Criminals like the virtual currency because it can be held in a digital wallet that does not have to be registered with any government or financial authority — and because it can be easily exchanged for real money. At the moment, a single Bitcoin can be sold online or on the street for around $290.

English-Speaking Robot Dinosaur Greets Guests At Japan’s New Hotel

The “Henn’na Hotel,” which translates from Japanese as “strange hotel”, is a hotel staffed mainly by robots. Reports says the place lives up to its name.

“Please ask me your request, but don’t ask me a difficult question because I am a robot,” says the dinosaur behind the check-in desk.

The English-speaking dinosaur robot is designed to appeal to child guests. Also at reception, is an almost creepy humanoid, programmed to speak Japanese, and of course, to bow in respect.

There’s a robotic bag-check, even a robot concierge.

The hotel says having robots fill jobs can help reduce employee costs by about 70 percent. At the Henn’na, rooms start at only about $80 per night – a pretty low price in one of the most expensive countries in the world for travellers.

A hotel executive admitted that the robotic staff “don’t come cheap,” but said that compared to an annual payroll for human personnel, “they are quite cost-effective… and as (technology) improves I think they will become quite price-competitive.”

In technophile Japan, robots are becoming part of everyday life; from commercials, to appearances on TV as modern-day samurai. They’re in stores greeting customers, and titillating tourists at Tokyo’s famed “robot restaurant.”
It appears hotels were merely the next logical progression.

Liver Transplants May Become Unnecessary As Stem Cells Regrow Livers

For the first time, scientists have restored organ function in a severely damaged liver in a live animal by transplanting lab-grown stem cells.

The achievement brings closer the day when cell-based therapies that regenerate the organ replace the need for liver transplants.

In the journal Nature Cell Biology, the researchers describe what happened when they transplanted liver stem cells into mice with severely damaged livers.

Over the ensuing months, the cells spurred major areas of the liver to regrow, improving the structure and function of the animals’ organs.

The liver is generally very good at healing itself. This is because it contains cells called hepatocytes that are capable of self-renewal following injury. However, these cells are less capable of self-renewal following severe injury, such as that caused by conditions like cirrhosis and acute liver failure.

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