Abundance Insider: October 30 Edition

In this week's Abundance Insider: Sweat-reactive second skin, robotic construction teams and smart street lights.

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

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Robo-Bulldozers Guided By Drones Are Helping Ease Japan's Labor Shortage

construction drones

What it is: Komatsu, the world's second largest construction company, has responded to a tremendous labor shortage in Japan with technology. Its Smart Construction service uses a team of robotic vehicles guided by a fleet of Skycatch drones. A staff of remote operators can man the robot team, and Smart Construction recommends that one or two lightly trained humans remain on the site to take control should something go wrong. In this article, Skycatch CEO Christian Sanz also reveals why his U.S.-based company has focused almost exclusively on Japan (hint: regulations).

Why it's important: Surveying and mapping a construction site is faster and more accurate: what used to be a 2-week project is now done in as little as 30 minutes. This is also a glimpse into the future of human-robot collaboration, and robot-drone teamwork.

Spotted by Clyde Dennis

MIT Is Growing Living Bacteria Into a Second Skin That Reacts To Your Sweat

biologic

What it is: BioLogic is a project from MIT's Tangible Media Group that aims to "grow" wearable technology in the lab. It's a skin-like film with built-in fins that reacts to your body temperature and sweat volume by raising and lowering the ventilation in real time to help you cool off or warm up. The secret is in BioLogic's biological actuator, created with Bacillus Subtilis natto, also known as the bacteria in Japanese fermented soybeans.

Why it's important: Currently, BioLogic is being used in experimental workout clothing, lampshades and teabags. Future versions of this technology could be adapted for industrial or even architectural applications.

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield

MIT's New Microwave Camera Can See Through Walls

mit camera

What it is: MIT's Camera Culture Group has created an unusual camera that uses microwaves to literally see through walls. Microwave "flashes" 100,000 times weaker than microwaves from your oven and 100 times weaker than the radio in your cellphone help illuminate the scene to produce images that "recover 2D brightness, depth and multi-spectral response of objects."

Why it's important: Imagine first responders and rescue teams using cameras that can see beneath rubble, or archaeologists who can peer inside a tomb without opening it. While the camera currently costs about $1,000 and takes an hour to capture each exposure, we Insiders know that it's only a matter of time before this tech gets cheap and fast enough for mass adoption.

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield

Cable Out During Tonight's NBA Opener? Just Watch It in VR

nextvr nba opener

What it is: This week, the NBA season kicked off with the first-ever live stream of an NBA game in virtual reality. For the Golden State Warriors and the New Orleans Pelicans opener, NextVR used two 180-degree cameras to give viewers an inside look into the game and the Warriors' pregame ring ceremony. They also positioned a handful of additional cameras throughout the arena to test optimal views for the future, including from luxury boxes and 10 rows off the court.

Why it's important: Being able to view live events in virtual worlds will revolutionize how we enjoy sports, concerts and other in-person experiences. The tech isn't perfect yet, but here's how Jeff Marsilio, the NBA's Vice President of Media Distribution, is thinking about VR: "You need to look past what might be challenges with existing hardware -- whether it's resolution, fogging of lenses, whatever -- and see the promise of the technology."

Spotted by Greg O'Brien

Doctors in Spain Announce World's First Clinical Trial To Cure HIV

spain clinical trial hiv

What it is: Spain's National Organization of Transplants has announced an ambitious clinical trial: to recreate the success of Timothy Ray Brown, the only living person ever to be completely cured of HIV. In 2006, Brown received two stem cell transplants from a donor with a certain cellular mutation resistant to HIV; now, the small traces of the virus that remain in his body cannot reproduce. The clinical trial aims to cure five people with HIV over the next three years using a similar stem-cell treatment to the one Brown got.

Why it's important: A powerful application of stem cell therapy. "It will allow us to gain more knowledge about HIV and parallely offer us a potential option for curing a poorly diagnosed malignant hematological disease," adds Jose Maria Moraleda, the president of the Spanish Society of Hematology and Hemotherapy.

Spotted by Derek Lundsten

New Chinese Street Lighting Lets You Charge Electric Cars, Surf the Internet and Even Monitor Pollution

smart street lights

What it is: The city of Shanghai has just installed 15 "smart" street lamps in a pilot program. The lamps enable pedestrians to monitor pollution, access free Wi-Fi, call emergency services and access a central directory. Drivers can even charge their electric cars by downloading an app. If successful, these smart street lamps will be rolled out to city tourist spots next year.

Why it's important: A great example of how city infrastructure can be retrofitted to support an increasingly mobile-centric, tech-savvy population.

Spotted by Clyde Dennis

For the First Time, Americans Will Do Most Of Their Holiday E-Shopping On Mobile Devices

mobile shopping

What it is: Adobe has just released projections for holiday season online shopping. Most notably, it predicts that this year will be the first time ever that the majority of shopping in the U.S. (51 percent) will take place via mobile devices. For its forecast, Adobe analyzed 55 million product models with data from over a trillion visits to 4,500+ retail websites.

Why it's important: Historically, shoppers have perused on their phones, but end up purchasing items on a desktop or tablet. Adobe's predictions -- which have been correct within 2 percent in previous years -- indicate this paradigm is shifting. This aligns with one of the metatrends Peter unveiled at Abundance 360 2015: mobile is eating the world.

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield

Second Life Pioneer Philip Rosedale Shows Off Virtual Toy Room in High Fidelity

second life philip rosedale

What it is: At the SEA-VR tech conference, High Fidelity CEO Philip Rosedale (and a presenter at Abundance 360 in 2015 and 2016) demonstrated a virtual toy room, where up to 15 individuals can participate in the same room and interact with objects in real time. This article also includes his commentary on the near future of virtual worlds, and is a great update on the material he presented at A360 in January.

Why it's important: Rosedale predicts that much of our human creativity will move into virtual spaces, explaining, "We will move into the Metaverse [referencing Neal Stephenson's 1992 novel Snow Crash] for much of our work, design, education and play in the same way we moved onto the Internet. There is very little that stands in the way of that happening."

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield

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