GLIMPSES OF THE FUTURE – OCTOBER 2018

Wireeless “Black Box” Remotely Monitors Your Health

 Imagine a box, similar to a Wi-Fi router, that sits in your home and tracks all kinds of physiological signalsas you move from room to room: your breathing, heart rate, sleep, gait, and more.

Dina Katabi, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, built this box in her lab. And in the not-so-distant future, she believes, it will be able to replace the array of expensive, bulky, uncomfortable gear we currently need to get clinical data about the body.

Professsor Katabi says the box she’s been building for the last several years takes advantage of the fact that every time we move—even if it’s just a teeny, tiny bit, such as when we breathe—we change the electromagnetic field surrounding us.

Her device transmits a low-power wireless signal throughout a space the size of a one- or two-bedroom apartment (even through walls), and the signal reflects off people’s bodies. The device then uses machine learning to analyse those reflected signals and extract physiological data.

So far, it has been installed in over 200 homes of both healthy people and those with conditions like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression, and pulmonary diseases, she explained recently. Katabi cofounded a start-up called Emerald Innovations to commercialize the technology and has already made the device available to biotech and pharmaceutical companies for studies.

Feeling Upset About Brexit and Trump?

 Endured sleepless nights in the aftermath of the Brexit vote? You weren’t the only one.  A study of 11,600 wearers of Nokia Health monitoring devices shows the changes in our biorhythms during and after monumental political moments, including the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote.

Stress can cause sleepless nights and increase heart rates, but little was known about how this links to big societal changes. “We wanted to add in the quantitative data,” says Daniele Quercia of Nokia Bell Labs.

Quercia and his colleagues analysed data from users who wear health monitoring devices, such as smart watches, in San Francisco and London between April 2016 and April 2017. They found that an entire populations’ sleeping habits, heart rates and distance walked can swing out of sync after big societal events.

The proportion of people whose data moved out of sync with the general population’s norm increased by 30 per cent after the election of Donald Trump, while heart rates rose from 66 beats per minute in San Francisco before his election to 70 beats per minute on election day. Four months later, heart rates had still not returned back to their pre-voting baseline

“Tricorder” Box Can Detect Cancers and Coronary Biomarkers

Researchers at the University of Glasgow have developed a small handheld devicethat can scan for biomarkers to quickly and easily diagnose people with certain diseases and illnesses. Inspired (as always) by Star Trek’s tricorder, the new “multicorder” is designed to help doctors track the presence or progression of an illness from just about anywhere.

At the core of the new device is a complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) chip. Most people might associate these chips with cameras, but these effective and inexpensive sensors pop up in all kinds of imaging devices.

In this case, that sensor is divided into four reaction zones each on the lookout for different metabolites – biomarker molecules found in samples of body fluids like urine or serum. By looking at the presence and quantity of these metabolites, doctors can diagnose certain illnesses in a patient.

“We have been able to detect and measure multiple metabolites associated with myocardial infarction, or heart attack, and prostate cancer simultaneously using this device,” says Samadhan Patil, lead author of the study. “This device has potential to track progression of the disease in its early phase and is ideally suited for the subsequent prognosis.”

Spray On Antenna May Slim Down Wireless Devices

If a device connects wirelessly to other things, chances are high that it has an antenna in it. But as crucial as these components are, the rigid metals they’re made of can limit what devices they can be built into. To help with that, researchers at Drexel University have developed a new kind of antenna that can be sprayed onto just about any surface.

The antenna is made up of an incredibly thin, metallic material known as “MXene” (pronounced “Maxine”). This stuff is a two-dimensional form of titanium carbide that’s highly conductive, which allows it to transmit and direct radio waves.

Previously, we have seen MXene put to work in experimental batteries that recharge in seconds. In this case, the Drexel team created a powdered form that can be dissolved in water to form an ink or paint. That can then be sprayed onto a surface, effectively turning it into a 2D antenna in whatever shape is needed.

Chemotherapy “Cream” Works From The Outside

Researchers have just made the first steps towards a kind of chemo therapy that can be “painted” onto the skin.

As the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma is a particularly cruel illness, sitting right out in the open air but spreading its harm inwards, through the lymphatic system. By the time it makes itself known on the skin it might be too late, and chemotherapy is still our best bet to keep it under control after it’s started spreading. But of course, that shotgun blast of a treatment affects healthy cells throughout the body too.

Finding ways to apply chemo or other treatments directly to tumour cells is a key area of cancer research. Recent breakthroughs include a technique where nanoparticles are injected and then only activated at the tumour site by way of x-ray pulses, which creates singlet oxygen to destroy the cancer cells. Similar studies have used infrared light to heat up gold nanoparticles, which get into tumors by hitchhiking on white blood cells

Driverless Cars Will Take Longer To Arrive Than We Think

Until recently we were being told that driverless cars were just around the corner.  But as reality bites it now seems that this new technology will take far longer to arrive.

Uber, for example, recently closed its self-driving truck project, and suspended road testing self-driving cars after one of its vehicles killed a pedestrian. Uber’s chief executive even announced he would be open to partnering with its biggest competitor in self-driving tech,Alphabet Inc. subsidiary Waymo. Meanwhile, Waymo CEO John Krafcik recently said it will be “longer than you think” for self-driving vehicles to be everywhere.

Self-driving technology has the potential to make our roads safer and cities more livable, but it will take a lot of hard work, and time, to get there,” says an Uber spokeswoman.

In the past two years, Tesla CEO Elon Musk planned, then scrapped a coast-to-coast autonomous road trip. And Lyft CEO John Zimmer’s 2016 prediction that self-driving cars would “all but end” car ownership by 2025 now seems borderline ridiculous.

There are many reasons the self-driving tech industry has suddenly found itself in this “trough of disillusionment,” and chief among them is the technology. We don’t yet know how to pull off a computer driver that can perform as well or better than a human under all conditions.

$1 Million Prize Offered To The First Person To Live to 123

The founder of an app called Papa Pals has offered a $1 million price to the first person to live to123 (although he doesn’t suggest what they might do with it).

Papa Pals has been launched to match students with older people who need chores doing or who may be lonely. The idea came from the founder, Andrew Parker, who was frustrated that he could not spend enough time with his grandfather.

He wondered if surrogate grandchildren could fill the gap. Papa Pals students have to be on nursing or social care courses and have a four-door car so they can take their “grandparents” shopping or for medical appointments. They are often called upon to help with digital education, such as the setting up of computers or television services such as Netflix.

The service costs $20 to $30 for a three-hour visit in Florida and Mr Parker now plans to launch in the UK.

Nest Is Planning To Provide Digital Health Monitoring For The Elderly

Nest is quietly planning a move into digital healthcare off the back of its purchase of Seattle-based startup Senosis Health. Google’s smart home brand has remained tight-lipped since the deal came to light in August 2017. But its secret is revealedin internal communications and financial documents on the Senosis acquisition obtained by GeekWire.

The filings show that it was in fact Nest, not Google, that snagged the company; a University of Washington (UW) spinout that turns smartphones into health-tracking tools using their built-in sensors. Its products include HemaApp, which checks your blood’s hemoglobin count using your phone’s camera, while SpiroSmart uses the microphone to measure your lung functions.

Only Nest isn’t ready to go public with the move just yet. Records show the firm has been ordering personnel not to mention the company’s name and barring UW from publicising the deal. “It turns out Nest is much more secretive than the rest of Google or Alphabet,” Senosis co-founder Shwetak Patel wrote in a June 2017 email to UW’s Fiona Wills. “They seem to be particularly sensitive in this situation since they don’t want people to know they are getting into a whole new line of business, digital health, until they are ready to publicly announce.”

 Airfish Glides Over Water At 120mph

 A Singaporean company has resurrected a post-WW2 German design to commercialise a beautiful reverse-delta ground effect vehicleas a high-speed, high-efficiency ferry for six to eight passengers.

The Airfish 8 hovers serenely between two and 23 ft (0.6 to 7 m) over the water and hits speeds of almost 120 mph (193 km/h).

The wing-in-ground effect is well understood at this point: when an aircraft is close to the ground, it operates significantly more efficiently than it does higher up. The additional air pressure underneath the aircraft at altitudes below half the wingspan adds extra lift, and you also get a corresponding reduction in lift-induced drag. The ground effect increases the closer you get to the surface, peaking at an altitude around 5 percent of the wingspan, where you can get a craft operating some 2.3 times as efficiently as if does in free air.

Numerous attempts have been made to capitalize on this effect for quick, efficient transport over water, but right now, the leading players appear to be Sea Wolf Express, which plans to begin a passenger ferry service between Helsinki, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia, using a Russian-built Ground Effect Vehicle (GEV) in 2019, and Wigetworks Private Limited, operating out of Singapore.

Senior Microsoft Executive Calls For Regulation of Face Recognition

A top Microsoft Corp. executive is calling for the U.S. government to regulate facial-recognition technology, an area Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc. and other tech-giant rivals have made significant bets, and where Microsoft has made its own investments.

It is also the latest controversial topic Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, has taken on. He has recently challenged the Trump administration over the immigration travel ban and the separation of children from parents at the Mexican border. He also has weighed in on the role of artificial intelligence in society and tangled with the government over law-enforcement efforts to secretly search customer data on Microsoft servers in the U.S. and abroad.

Facial-recognition technology has become deeply integrated in tech giants’ products, whether the key feature for unlocking Apple’s iPhone X or identifying people in Google’s photos app.

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