7 min read

Abundance Insider: November 29th, 2019

By Peter H. Diamandis on Nov 29, 2019

In this week's Abundance Insider: New haptic device for VR, socially aware algorithms, and NASA’s supermassive black hole finding.

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New virtual reality interface enables “touch” across long distances.

What it is: A Northwestern University team has created a lightweight wearable patch that vibrates when activated by another user’s touch— from miles away. Using this technology, a mother was able to remotely “pat” her son on the back while video chatting him. As she touched a screen interface, this data was communicated through a haptic device on her son’s back, stimulating identical touch patterns. Most of today’s haptic feedback devices rely on batteries, requiring bulky containers that cannot fit snugly against the skin. By contrast, this new patch consists of a vibrating disk—only a few millimeters thick—that is powered by near-field communication, a wireless power transfer typically used in ID card locks. External silicone sheets protect the two inner layers of the device: one containing the near-field communication technology to power the device, and another holding miniature actuators that simulate various degrees of touch pressure. Led by physical chemist and materials scientist John A. Rogers, the team now aims to make the patch more flexible and lightweight before commercializing the device through their newly established startup.

Why it’s important: While today’s audiovisual interfaces have long captured our eyes and ears, incorporating the dimension of touch into our devices will add another layer of immersion in tomorrow’s digitally augmented world. For VR and AR devices, this haptic technology could transform virtual simulations into tactile physical environments—without any real materials. The Northwestern team’s device currently conveys only perpendicular pressure against the skin, but eventually the patch may be able to simulate even twisting motions or temperature changes. The technology will also likely expand beyond simple patches into full body suits, capable of translating touch interactions between individuals, or between game worlds and reality. The ability to see, hear, and feel in a digital simulation will drastically disrupt travel, entertainment, and human interaction.

New Amazon capabilities put machine learning in reach of more developers.

What it is: Amazon has just announced a new approach that will make machine learning models more accessible to both developers and business users. By taking advantage of tools like Amazon QuickSight, Aurora and Athena, anyone who can write in basic SQL can now make and use predictions in one’s applications without having to generate custom code. To make the process even easier, these machine learning models themselves can come pre-built from Amazon Web Services (AWS), be developed by an in-house data science team, or purchased in AWS’s ML marketplace.

Why it’s important: As explained by AWS cloud and open source executive Matt Asay, “there is often a large amount of fiddly, manual work required to take these predictions and make them part of a broader application, process or analytics dashboard.” Amazon’s initiative marks a significant step towards machine learning’s User Interface moment, removing friction and making AI’s predictive power more accessible to a large set of users. Keep on the lookout for a surge in easy-to-build applications and experiments as sophisticated Software as a Service (SaaS) products hit the marketplace.

Socially aware algorithms are ready to help.

What it is: In light of growing concern about AI’s obscure inner workings, software engineers and data scientists responsible for many of the algorithms involved in our everyday online activity have increasingly used more socially aware algorithmic structures. For instance, data scientists now use a technique known as “differential privacy” to add random “noise” to data sets, preserving the overall structure whilst obscuring individual data. This, in turn, helps to anonymize our data and thereby protect user privacy. Other techniques include the addition of fairness criteria, such that predictive models’ output—from creditworthiness to insurance-related decisions—minimize bias where possible.

Why it’s important: As machine learning algorithms are granted greater responsibility over socially consequential decisions (think: our ability to take out loans or a legal decision to grant bail), problems of privacy, bias, disinformation, filter bubbles, and transparency abound. As a result, AI engineers have begun working on algorithms’ ability to explain their decisions, overcoming their status as mysterious “black boxes.” Meanwhile, the above fairness conditions are a promising start in our pursuit to build equitable, unbiased, and evidence-based algorithms: predictive models that prove accurate without perpetuating “fake news,” racial inequalities, and a slew of other social challenges. Differential privacy, fairness conditions, and similar tweaks do result in some costs to algorithmic “utility” and error rate in the short-term. However, such initiatives will be essential for a future wherein machine learning helps safeguard equitable, systemic decision-making and privacy, while protecting against some of today’s worst institutional tendencies.

NASA finds supermassive black hole birthing stars at “furious rate.”

What it is: Scientists have now discovered a supermassive blackhole at the center of a distant galaxy cluster “furiously” birthing stars at a rate about 500 times that of the Milky Way Galaxy. Using data from the Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory, the team of astronomers was able to observe the equivalent of trillions of Suns’ worth of hot gas cooling around the black hole within the Phoenix Cluster, some 5.8 billion light years away.

Why it’s important: Typically, the supermassive blackholes at the center of galaxy clusters are too active for star formation. They usually blow powerful streams of gas around the region, heating up interstellar hydrogen and preventing the gas from cooling down enough to trigger the creation of new stars. However, as this blackhole in the Phoenix Cluster is smaller than others, its jets are not as powerful, allowing for prolific star formation. From a scientific perspective, observations like this enable us to better understand and characterize the lifecycle of galaxy clusters and the role that blackholes play in both preclusion and creation of new stars.

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Abundance 360 is a curated global community of 360 entrepreneurs, executives, and investors committed to understanding and leveraging exponential technologies to transform their businesses. A 3-day mastermind at the start of each year gives members information, insights and implementation tools to learn what technologies are going from deceptive to disruptive and are converging to create new business opportunities. To learn more and apply, visit A360.com.

Abundance Digital, a Singularity University program, is an online educational portal and community of abundance-minded entrepreneurs. You’ll find weekly video updates from Peter, a curated news feed of exponential news, and a place to share your bold ideas. Click here to learn more and sign up.

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Topics: Abundance Insider AR/VR AI space exploration machine learning Artificial Intellegence Batteries nasa social responsibility haptic devices
8 min read

Abundance Insider: October 28th, 2019

By Peter H. Diamandis on Oct 28, 2019

In this week's Abundance Insider: Google's quantum computing breakthrough, a new gene-editing technique, and NASA's collaboration with Caterpillar on Moon mining machines.

P.S. Send any tips to our team by clicking here, and send your friends and family to this link to subscribe to Abundance Insider.

P.P.S. Want to learn more about exponential technologies and home in on your MTP/ Moonshot? Abundance Digital, a Singularity University Program, includes 100+ hours of coursework and video archives for entrepreneurs like you. Keep up to date on exponential news and get feedback on your boldest ideas from an experienced, supportive community. Click here to learn more and sign up.

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New gene editing technology could correct 89% of genetic defects.

What it is: Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard have now developed a new gene-editing technique called “prime editing.” Built upon the foundations of CRISPR technology, prime editing has the expected potential to correct up to 89 percent of genetic defects, including those responsible for diseases like sickle cell anemia. By combining the traditional CRISPR-Cas9 approach with a protein that can generate new DNA, prime editing can thereby both snip DNA strands and transfer edited sequences to target DNA, allowing scientists to delete and replace whole sections of DNA strands.

Why it’s important: Single point gene mutations constitute roughly two-thirds of known human genetic variants associated with disease. As a result, effective gene editing techniques—once perfected—could correct mutations and wipe out a number of debilitating conditions. As explained by one of the authors of the study, Andrew Anzalone, “The versatility of prime editing quickly became apparent as we developed this technology [...] The fact that we could directly copy new genetic information into a target site was a revelation.” Now refining the new prime editing technique, Broad Institute’s scientists hope future iterations of CRISPR could target everything from obesity to Alzheimer’s to some of today’s most vexing genetic maladies. |Share on Facebook.

NASA's collaborating with Caterpillar on Moon mining machines.

What it is: NASA has recently teamed up with autonomous construction vehicle manufacturer Caterpillar to develop machines for excavating and mining the Moon. The two have long collaborated on robotics projects, but it is the autonomous capabilities of Caterpillar’s vehicles that make the company uniquely positioned to develop technology for NASA's lunar exploration programs. According to NASA spokesperson Clare Skelly, “there are many synergies between what NASA needs to meet exploration goals and Caterpillar technologies used here on Earth.”

Why it’s important: On the heels of revived interest in lunar exploration and the goal of establishing a lunar base, NASA has been heavily pursuing methods to make tasks easier for astronauts. Given multiple hazards associated with navigating the lunar surface, semi-autonomous vehicles could minimize dangerous construction work done conducted directly by astronauts. Once validated and fully autonomous, Moon-mining machines might one day provide a continuous supply of raw materials, from dust to water, for NASA’s proposed lunar outpost. | Share on Facebook.

Tesla’s new Solar Roof costs less than a new roof plus solar panels, aims for install rate of 1K per week.

What it is: Tesla has just launched its third-generation Solar Roof for residential home use. Planning to start installations in the coming month, the company is now aiming for a production rate of up to 1,000 new roofs per week. Long a work in progress, Tesla’s Solar Roof is designed to double as both an aesthetically appealing roof tile and set of home power-generating solar panels with high surface area coverage. While the installation process remains “very non-trivial,” according to Elon Musk, Tesla hopes to gamify consumer installation learning through ‘installathons’ and is investing in R&D to lower this critical barrier.

Why it’s important: Although individual tiles’ power-gathering cells are still less energy-efficient than traditional solar cells, version three of the Solar Roof well exceeds the energy-generating capacity of similarly sized roofs retrofitted with traditional tiles, on balance. Furthermore, V3 marks a tremendous improvement over previous iterations of the Solar Roof, and Musk forecasts a total addressable market of up to 100 million households globally. As installation procedures plummet in complexity and cost, and solar continues to demonetize, self-sustaining and energy-efficient residences could fast become the norm worldwide.

Google Confirms Achieving Quantum Supremacy.

What it is: Google’s quantum computer, Sycamore, has just claimed “quantum supremacy” after completing a computation that would normally take 10,000 years on the most powerful supercomputers, in just 200 seconds. Led by experimental physicist John Martinis at UC Santa Barbara, the Google team published its feat in Nature magazine this week. Instead of traditional semiconductor computers, which store data in 1s or 0s, quantum bits (qubits) can exist in a third superposition state of both 0 and 1 simultaneously. With more degrees of bit variability, quantum computers can thereby perform exponentially more calculations per second than traditional computers. Quantum entanglement, described by Einstein as “spooky action at a distance,” then allows computers to measure entangled qbits at the same time. As Google’s Sycamore contains 54 qbits capable of storing over 10 quadrillion combinations of values, the tech giant now boasts the potential to tackle computational problems inconceivable in the past.

Why it’s important: While real-world applications of quantum computing may lie further on the horizon, Sycamore’s scientific achievement is a tremendous milestone for the many companies investing in this space already. In just the last two years, about US$400 million has been channeled towards private quantum-related firms—doubling investment figures of the past five years. Intel and IBM have demonstrated processors similar in scale to that of Sycamore, yet error-checking remains an issue for all three. Moving forward, Google aims to implement full error-checking once it can create processors with at least a million qubits. Currently, however, a second Google team is exploring how Sycamore-like computers can develop machine learning algorithms that generate realistic images. Meanwhile, competitor IBM offers quantum cloud access to partners such as drugmaker Merck. Even Airbus Ventures has invested in quantum startup IonQ, which may eventually aid in aircraft physics simulations. Spanning countless applications, the long-term vision of early investors in quantum computing will pay off sooner than you might think. |Share on Facebook.

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Abundance 360 is a curated global community of 360 entrepreneurs, executives, and investors committed to understanding and leveraging exponential technologies to transform their businesses. A 3-day mastermind at the start of each year gives members information, insights and implementation tools to learn what technologies are going from deceptive to disruptive and are converging to create new business opportunities. To learn more and apply, visit A360.com

Abundance Digital, a Singularity University program, is an online educational portal and community of abundance-minded entrepreneurs. You’ll find weekly video updates from Peter, a curated news feed of exponential news, and a place to share your bold ideas. Click here to learn more and sign up.

Know someone who would benefit from getting Abundance Insider? Send them to this link to sign up.

(*Both Abundance 360 and Abundance Digital are Singularity University programs.)

Topics: Abundance Insider Robotics google solar solar energy autonomous vehicles Genetics CRISPR quantum computing nasa solar cells solar power solar roof extraplanetary colonies genetic engineering Caterpillar
15 min read

Abundance Insider: May 3rd, 2019

By Peter H. Diamandis on May 3, 2019

In this week's Abundance Insider: Pollution-eating artificial trees, AR contact lenses, and a "brain decoder" that turns thoughts into speech.

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

P.S. Send any tips to our team by clicking here, and send your friends and family to this link to subscribe to Abundance Insider.

P.P.S. Want to learn more about exponential technologies and hone in on your MTP/ Moonshot? Abundance Digital includes 100+ hours of course work and video archives for entrepreneurs, like you. Keep up to date on exponential news and get feedback on your boldest ideas from an experienced, supportive community. Click here to learn more and sign up.

Bulleit Brings 3D Printing Tech To Tribeca For A New Whiskey Experience

What it is: Bulleit Frontier Whiskey is displaying what it calls a ‘3D printed experience’ at the Tribeca Film Festival. The display includes robotic arms that ‘print’ cocktails. Essentially, as you can see from the accompanying GIF, the robot places patterns of beads infused with different cocktail flavoring into the whiskey.

Why it's important: Experiential marketing frequently brings out the most engaging displays of exponential technology. This project by Bulleit Frontier Works is a prime example of corporate innovation and tech experimentation within the food and beverage industry. From augmented reality e-commerce to artificial intelligence-powered customer service, how can your company leverage the technologies we feature in this digest to tap into new customer bases and drive more value?  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Max Goldberg / Written by Max Goldberg 

Electric Car Price Tag Shrinks Along With Battery Cost

What it is: Thanks to the development of large-scale manufacturing in batteries and electric drivetrains, the cost of electric vehicles continues to drop, shortening the date for when analysts project EV’s will reach cost parity with internal combustion engines. Today, BloombergNEF projects that the crossover point is 2022, sooner than its projections of 2026 (in 2017) and 2024 (in 2018).

Why it's important: Demonetization will have dramatic positive effects for the proliferation of passenger EVs, the elimination of fossil fuels, and the feasibility of large-scale batteries for use cases such as shipping, construction and aircraft. This also highlights both the importance and difficulty in forecasting exponentials. Said Greg McDougal, CEO of Harbor Air Ltd, “we don’t want to be trying to get through the regulatory process after [electric aircraft] becomes economically viable, we want to do it now.”  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield / Written by Jason Goodwin 

Scientists Develop ‘Brain Decoder’ That Turns Brain Signals Into Speech

What it is: Termed the ‘brain decoder,’ a new UCSF-developed tool can convert brain signals into a computer simulation of the vocal tract. By first simulating the movement of a speaker’s lips, jaw, tongue and larynx on the basis of brain activity in cerebral speech centers, researchers can then generate speech through a synthesizer. As part of the study, five volunteering epilepsy patients were first set up with brain-implanted electrodes and proceeded to read aloud while researchers tracked brain activity in language production regions. A “virtual vocal tract” was then created for each participant, all feeding an algorithmic synthesizer to generate dramatically accurate audio. In the words of UCSF doctoral student Josh Chartier, “We were shocked when we first heard the results — we couldn’t believe our ears.”

Why it's important: A burgeoning example of brain-computer interfaces (BCI), this brain decoder and its soon-to-come successors pose extraordinary implications for speech-impaired individuals. Up until now, the best available speech synthesis technology has been constrained to eye-tracking devices or those that map residual facial muscle movements. Words are spelled out letter-by-letter, delivered at under one tenth the rate of natural speech. Now with the promise of a clinically viable device, anyone suffering from speech loss — whether as a result of ALS, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s — may soon gain a voice for seamless communication. What other BCI applications can you think of?  Share on Facebook

Spotted by John de Rivaz / Written by Claire Adair 

Scientists Share Results From NASA's Twins Study

What it is: NASA’s Twin Study entered into its final stages of integrative research in April, publishing a summary paper in Science explaining some of the key findings from the 10 research teams involved in the effort. The study — which compared the health of Scott and Mark Kelly during and after Scott’s yearlong stay in space — gives us a better understanding of the effects of space missions longer than six months. Unexpectedly, Scott experienced some significant changes in telomere dynamics, with more long telomeres post-flight than he had previously. Scott’s overall gene expression differed somewhat from Mark's during the flight, but reverted to baseline after returning to Earth; additionally, researchers found some indication of inflammation and thickening of the carotid arterial wall, which are suggestive of atherosclerosis that may not be reversible.

Why it's important: This research will guide NASA’s Human Research Program for years to come and give insights into the planning of longer missions on the ISS, the Moon, Mars and beyond. To the extent that telomere length is an indicator of longevity, space travel may not have the same negative impact on lifespan as one might expect. This study raises many questions about why telomeres grew longer, and whether these conditions could be replicated on Earth.  Share on Facebook

Spotted by David Ormesher / Written by Jason Goodwin and David Ormesher 

Toddler Skin Cells Spark Discovery Of 2 New Diseases

What it is: Researchers from Montreal’s Douglas Mental Health University Institute and CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center have newly identified the link between a mutation in epigenetic regulator ACTL6B and two neurological genetic diseases. Prior to their joining forces, the Douglas Institute’s Carl Ernst and his team had harvested skin cells from toddlers with inexplicable seizures and neurodevelopmental deficits. By ‘reprogramming’ the skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), the researchers were able to make neurons from the iPSCs, compare them to healthy neurons, and thereby discover an ACTL6B mutation implicated in irregular neuronal development. As a result, iPSCs and CRISPR have now accelerated the discovery of one key culprit in the incidence of epilepsy and neurodevelopmental problems, giving way to future research.

Why it's important: Less than 10 years ago, the cost of genome sequencing was 10 times what is today. CRISPR-Cas9 had not yet been adapted for genome editing, and the reprogramming of human cells to iPSCs had only just been pioneered. Today, all three have begun to play a pivotal role in discovering the origins of disease and developmental disorders. Beyond their newfound illumination of the mechanics of cellular development, iPSCs and CRISPR genome editing allow us to identify mutations at record speeds, experiment with genetic alterations and even one day prevent mutation-resulting diseases in the first place. Welcome to an age of biological self-mastery.  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield / Written by Claire Adair 

World’s First ‘BioSolar Leaf’ To Tackle Air Pollution In White City

What it is: Arborea, a startup spun out of Imperial College London, has created the world’s first “BioSolar Leaf,” a living structure capable of removing greenhouse gases and other pollutants from the air. At its core, the leaf is essentially a cultivation system for microalgae, diatoms and phytoplankton on large solar panel-like structures, which can be installed on land, buildings or other developments to improve surrounding air quality. Using the surface area of a single tree, the system can remove carbon dioxide and produce oxygen at a rate equivalent to 100 trees. The team also expects to harvest the biomass to extract additives for plant-based food products.

Why it's important: The most exciting developments in exponential technologies occur at the intersection of disciplines. As we saw last week with the creation of transparent wood, biology and materials science are converging to deliver solutions to some of our largest challenges in the areas of environmental health and food production.  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield / Written by Jason Goodwin 

DARPA: This Smart Contact Lens Could Give Soldiers Superpowers

What it is: Researchers at French engineering school IMT Atlantique have developed the first smart contact lens that includes a standalone, flexible microbattery. In this version of the prototype, the flexible battery can power a small LED for several hours. Impressively, near-term iterations of this small-scale device will be able to receive visual information wirelessly via radio signals. In the long term, these lenses are slated to form the backbone for next-generation augmented reality eyewear.

Why it's important: Eventually, smart lenses like these will have profound implications for industry (from manufacturing to healthcare) and everyday life. DARPA and other government agencies are particularly interested in how this smart contact lens breakthrough will help them augment soldiers’ operational capabilities. What new capabilities and ‘superpowers’ are you excited to access when smart contact lenses hit the consumer mainstream?  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield / Written by Max Goldberg 

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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Abundance Digital is Peter’s online educational portal and community of abundance-minded entrepreneurs. You’ll find weekly video updates from Peter, a curated newsfeed of exponential news, and a place to share your bold ideas. Click here to learn more and sign up.

Know someone who would benefit from getting Abundance Insider? Send them to this link to sign up.

Topics: Abundance Insider Space Materials Science health Artificial Intellegence environment healthcare Augmented Reality Stem Cells wearables Brain computer interface mHealth electric vehicles marketing nasa