Abundance Insider: July 1, 2016 Edition

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In this week's Abundance Insider: Raptor-like household robots, salt-sized 3D printed cameras, and the next generation of AI fighter pilots.

Cheers,
Peter, Marissa, Cody, Maxx, Kelley, Greg, Andrew, and Alex

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Boston Dynamics' Spot Mini Robot Can Handle Fragile Objects

boston dynamics spot mini

What it is: Boston Dynamics has just released video of its latest robot, Mini Spot, performing a variety of household tasks with ease: loading wine glasses into a dishwasher, climbing stairs and navigating around objects in a room. The video comes at an ideal time, as Toyota is reportedly in talks to acquire Boston Dynamics from Google. The Toyota Research Institute, a research arm of Toyota, is currently working on elder care robots.

Why it's important: Household chores -- especially activities like loading stemware into a dishwasher -- require a delicate touch. Mini Spot is a promising step forward in personal care robots that might one day help elderly family members retain their independence. Join the Discussion

Spotted by Cody Rapp

German Engineers Create Injectable Micro-Camera

injectable micro camera

What it is: Engineers at the University of Stuttgart in Germany have developed a 3D printed, three-lens camera small enough to fit inside a syringe. Their unique production method has sub-micrometer accuracy and is the first that can 3D print optical lens systems with two or more lenses. The compound lens is only 100 micrometers (0.1 millimeters) wide, and 120 micrometers with casing.

Why it's important: These lenses could become minimally intrusive endoscopes for exploring inside the human body. They could also be deployed into smartphones, security monitors, drones, robots and even human organs like the brain. Join the Discussion

Spotted by Bjorn Russell

New Artificial Intelligence Beats Tactical Experts in Combat Simulation

alpha ai flight simulator

What it is: A University of Cincinatti doctoral graduate has developed an artificial intelligence system called ALPHA that can outperform U.S. expert tacticians -- and other AI opponents -- in simulated aerial combat. Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Gene Lee, who has been testing AI simulators since the 80s, called it "the most aggressive, responsive, dynamic and credible AI I've seen to date." The research team reports that ALPHA repeatedly beats human experts in flight simulators -- even when its speed, sensors, missile capability and turning are deliberately handicapped.

Why it's important: "The AI is so fast that it could consider and coordinate the best tactical plan and precise responses, within a dynamic environment, over 250 times faster than ALPHA's human opponents could blink," reports the University of Cincinnati. Perhaps most impressive of all: The computing power behind ALPHA isn't a supercomputer, but a humble Raspberry Pi, which retails for as little as $35. Join the Discussion

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield

Uber CEO: Beijing to Rival Silicon Valley in 5 Years

beijing silicon valley

What it is: At Summer Davos, the World Economic Forum's global meeting on innovation, science and technology held in Tianjin, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick aditted that China has been the easiest country to do business in, and could rival Silicon Valley in as little as five years. "We had regulatory resistance in over 70 countries around the world... When people asked what places have been easiest to do business, I surprise them by saying China," said Kalanick. Speaking of the government's Internet Plus initiative, which aims to deploy the tech sector into the more traditional areas of its economy, Kalanick added: "That embracement of innovation on the ground is resulting in an entrepreneurial ecosystem, especially in Beijing [a place] that I think ultimately rivals Silicon Valley in five years."

Why it's important: Peter has previously predicted that as technology continues to accelerate and its access democratizes, we'll see international borders begin to dissolve. By fostering entrepreneurship and digitization, China positions itself to attract more innovators and ultimately accelerate all areas of its slowing economy. Join the Discussion

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield

Solar Impulse 2 Completes World's First Solar-Powered Atlantic Flight

solar impulse 2

What it is: The Solar Impulse 2 recently completed the world's first solar-powered crossing of the Atlantic, landing in Seville after 4,200 miles and close to 3 days of straight flying time. The 100% solar-powered plane has massive 72-meter wings -- longer than a 747 -- covered with 270 square meters of photovoltaic cells. During the day, the cells power four 14kW (17.4hp) electric motors and charge four 41kWh lithium-ion batteries. When it's dark, the motors run on the batteries. Seville to Abu Dhabi is the final leg needed for the Solar Impulse 2 to circumnavigate the globe.

Why it's important: Bertrand Piccard, one of the two pilots, remarked, "It is symbolic because all the means of transportation have always tried to cross the Atlantic: the first steamboats, the first aeroplane, the first balloons, the first airships and, today, it is the first solar-powered aeroplane. But the goal is not to change aviation, as Charles Lindbergh did, but to inspire people to use [renewable] technologies and show people they can use these technologies every day to have a better quality of life." Join the Discussion

Spotted by Alex Shahery

Anki's Next Smart Toy is an AI Robot Named Cozmo

anki cozmo

What it is: Anki engineers have created a playful AI-powered robot named Cozmo with a charming personality inspired by robots in animated films like Pixar's Wall-E. The palm-sized toy contains 300+ individual pieces that combine robotics, artificial intelligence and computer vision, which give it the capability to process more data per second than all the Mars Rovers combined. Cozmo interacts with its environment in organic (albeit unpredictable) ways, which gives it a virtually endless repertoire. It recognizes faces, plays games and stacks blocks, and will debut in the U.S. in October for $180.

Why it's important: Cozmo is cheaper, smaller and more personalized than robots with comparable performance. The toy is also an inspiring vision of how personal robots might act in the future -- and that's partially because its interdisciplinary design team combined the best practices from the worlds of animation, gameplay and robotics. Join the Discussion

Spotted by Alex Shahery

The Future of Work? This Article

space virtual reality

What it is: A new VR productivity app called Space, developed by the Shanghai-based firm Pygmal Technologies, pairs with HTC Vive or Oculus Rift to digitize your physical monitors in a virtual environment. In this beta version, up to six giant monitors float in front of the headset at a time, and the user can multitask between apps and windows by looking around or pulling browser windows into view.

Why it's important: Apps like Space allow us to longer be constrained by physical monitors and traditional workspaces. Pygmal Technologies founder Xiao Jia says that future versions of Space will enable real-time collaboration with fellow users, which could make it ideal for decentralized programming, creative or engineering teams. Join the Discussion

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield

Feeling Sick? Google Improves Search Results for Medical Symptoms

google medical symptoms

What it is: If you're one of the millions of people around the world who have consulted "Dr. Google" for health symptoms, the quality of your research results is about to improve. Google enlisted a team of doctors and medical experts at the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School to, as Stat reports, "evaluate medical conditions based on a representative sample of searches." An algorithm that incorporates those evaluations, and the experts' suggested courses of action for each, will make it into U.S. search results for testing this week.

Why it's important: Previously, Google's search algorithms calculated a source's authority based on factors like site age and keyword density. This latest effort adds human expertise into the mix, and should hopefully give patients faster, easier access to better information. Join the Discussion

Spotted by Alex Shahery

A World Without Uber: Dispatches From Austin

austin uber

What it is: One month ago, citizens in Austin, Texas voted to force all drivers who work for a ridesharing company to pass a fingerprint-based background check. In response, Uber and Lyft decided to cease operation in Austin as of May 9, and this Vocativ article outlines the unusual aftermath as citizens and displaced drivers alike pick up the pieces: peer-to-peer "Request a Ride" Facebook groups, decreased bar sales, increased DUI and DWI arrests, and the challenges that new ridesharing apps are having in in onboarding drivers.

Why it's important: Peter has previously written about how regulation is the protection of last resort. While the government's role is typically to stabilize, Austin's ridesharing legislation is one example where regulation may unintentionally enable more dangers for its citizens than before. Join the Discussion

Spotted by Cody Rapp

What is Abundance Insider?

This email is a briefing of the week's most compelling, abundance-enabling tech developments, curated by Marissa Brassfield in preparation for Abundance 360. Read more about A360 below.

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