Abundance Insider: December 14th, 2018

In this week's Abundance Insider: Biology-augmented computer memory, the latest AlphaZero upgrade, and Big Data vs. the opioid epidemic.

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Peter, Marissa, Kelley, Greg, Bri, Jarom, Joseph, Derek, Jason, Claire and Max

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Cafe In Japan Hires Paralyzed People To Control Robot Servers

What it is: A new beta-stage cafe in Tokyo, Dawn ver.ß, is merging service job automation with telepresence robotics for the disabled. In partnership with Ory — a startup that develops robotics for physically disabled individuals — Dawn ver.ß has hired 10 employees suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS, as well as other spinal cord injuries. Working from bed, these employees can now operate 4-foot interactive OriHime-D robots with eye-tracking software, enabling them to engage directly with customers and earn a 1,000-yen hourly wage.

Why it's important: As converging AI and robotics technologies allow for a new generation of telepresence robots, advanced eye-tracking software and immersive user interfaces will unlock near-term palliative solutions for the severely disabled. With approximately 2.7 million physically impaired patients in domestic care, as well as an aging population, Japan has now seen a host of technological solutions for its handicapped citizens. Globally, this impact could reach approximately 15 percent of the world population, allowing severely disabled members of society not only to reenter the workforce, but embody real-world avatars capable of granting social engagement and outdoor experience.  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Aydika James / Written by Claire Adair 

Drone Delivery Service Coming To Remote Canadian Community

What it is: Drone Delivery Canada (DDC) just signed a deal with the Moose Cree First Nation to begin drone deliveries to the island community, which is located about 500 miles north of Toronto in the James Bay. Starting in Spring 2019, the autonomous drones — each capable of carrying up to 11 pounds in a consignment box at its base — will deliver food, medicine, and mail from the town of Moosonee about 1.5 miles away on the mainland. Flights will operate in a preapproved path in active airspace, within Canadian aviation regulations, and monitored remotely from DDC’s headquarters in Toronto and a mobile command center in Moosonee.

Why it's important: Similar to Zipline’s efforts to deliver blood supplies via autonomous drones in Rwanda, this is a great example of solving a big problem today — delivering needed supplies in places where road and other infrastructure are lacking — while refining the technology and regulatory structure needed for broader adoption. Look for similar examples as drones continue their disruptive growth. More generally, how might you apply this approach to bring other exponential technologies to market?  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield / Written by Jason Goodwin 

MIT Scientists Used A Biological Virus To Make Faster Computers

What it is: MIT materials scientists recently overcame a major challenge in next-generation memory storage (specifically, phase change memory) by using a biological virus. In the past, high processing temperature requirements, relative to the temperature at which the material can exhibit PCM behavior, currently limit the widespread application of PCM technology for memory applications. By using a biological virus as a template on which to grow nanowires of the material, the researchers were able to synthesize the PCM material without excessive processing temperatures.

Why it's important: As technologies like artificial intelligence, big data, virtual and augmented reality, and 5G communications permeate the market, we’ll need to meet their increasing computation and memory requirements. Phase change memory, and innovative micro-fabrication techniques for making PCM useful, are a promising next-generation memory solution to meet the demands of a data-saturated, speed-hungry world.  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield / Written by Max Goldberg 

Move Over AlphaGo: AlphaZero Taught Itself To Play Three Different Games

What it is: Armed with only the most basic rules of the game, Google DeepMind’s newest AlphaZero has mastered three complex board games without any human intervention, all in a mere three days. Using the machine learning (ML) subset “reinforcement learning,” AlphaZero essentially generates knowledge on its own, drawing from millions of instances of trial and error, each providing actionable feedback. Rewarded for its most successful moves, the AI then calculates winning strategies from countless probability calculations in the matter of seconds. Aside from its combination of deep reinforcement learning and a general-purpose Monte Carlo tree search method, AlphaZero has an abundance of processing power (5,000 tensor processing units) to thank for its speed.

Why it's important: Emerging victorious among its predecessors AlphaGo and AlphaGoZero, DeepMind’s newest iteration is increasingly self-taught, generalized and quick. As explained by DeepMind co-founder and CEO Demis Hassabis, “AlphaZero gradually learns what good play looks like and forms its own evaluations [...] In that sense, it is free from the constraints of the way humans think about the game.” However, while AlphaZero’s algorithm is constrained to problems with a finite number of moves and a basic model of its environment, such AIs are quickly taking on increasingly challenging and unstructured games. As of now, AlphaZero has defeated world champion programs in Go, chess and the Japanese chess-like game of shogi, but with growing versatility, AlphaZero has barely scratched the surface.  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield / Written by Claire Adair 

Scientists Used Google Searches To Predict Heroin Overdoses

What it is: Using Google search and heroin-related emergency room visit data from nine major U.S. metropolitan areas, scientists developed a model that correlates Google searches with heroin overdoses. While there’s a long way to turning their model into a scalable application, similar models used to correlate Google search data with suicide have achieved extremely high accuracy.

Why it's important: The U.S. is in the midst of a major opioid epidemic, with an average of 100 people dying every day from opioid overdoses. We previously featured research using CRISPR to treat cocaine addiction in mice. Can strategic deployment of exponential technologies address addiction more effectively than legislation and regulation?  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield / Written by Max Goldberg 

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