This week my Top 5 engineering technology article picks include further advances in contact lenses technologies, autonomous and flying taxis, $18 million in funding for engineering research cut loose and putting a chip in our brains.
- How your contact lenses could talk to your phone
- Uber is about to start giving rides in self-driving cars
- Airbus is building a high-speed flying taxi fleet
- NSF wants engineering researchers to bend rules (of classical physics)
- Putting a computer in your brain is no longer science fiction
How your contact lenses could talk to your phone
First, some fun facts. The global market for the contact lenses industry is estimated to reach 10 billion USD by 2022. The average age of contact lens wearers worldwide is 31 years old. Match that up to the 1.8 billion smartphones shipped in 2015 and you’ve got a recipe for innovation.
The University of Washington is working on that. They have announced a new technology called interscatter communication that would allow small devices, such as your contact lenses to communicate with our everyday devices. According to their proof-of-concept demos, Interscatter transforms bluetooth signals into wifi signals by using only reflections. Your smartphone or smartwatch will receive information transmitted by a neural implant. Pretty cool !
This one is of particular interest to me because, as a resident of the Pittsburgh area, I was intrigued to hear that Fords and Volvos, capable of driving themselves, are fully equipped and ready to hit the streets here. This marks the first entry into the first commercial application of self-driving cars in the U.S. Exciting times.
According to the article, Uber will be selecting existing customers to volunteer for the self-driving service, though they did not say how many, but the rides will be free. The cars will come with two drivers, so it’s a very controlled experiment. And, as an Uber customer I’m kind of hoping I get a call to give it a try.
Airbus is building a high-speed flying taxi fleet
Tired of sitting in traffic? Airbus may have a solution. The aircraft manufacturer is designing a flying taxi, named CityAirbus, that can fly itself to make commuting easier in traffic-heavy cities. A team of Airbus engineers based out of Silicon Valley are currently working on this project that is intended to be both used for cargo transport and passenger transport purposes.
Robin Lyasoff, the Airbus engineer leading the project has stated that “many of the technologies needed, such as batteries, motors and avionics are most of the way there,” But, the project will also need reliable sense-and-avoid technology, which is starting to be introduced in cars,
Flight tests of the first vehicle prototype are slated for the end of 2017 with commercial service anticipated by 2026.
NSF wants engineering researchers to bend rules (of classical physics)
National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $18 million to nine teams of engineering-led, interdisciplinary researchers to disrupt the ways in which electronic, photonic and acoustic devices are designed.
Recent advances in materials research and engineering, including how materials behave differently in different environments, are expected to contribute significantly.
Over the next four years, this team will be researching the emerging area they call New Light and Acoustic Wave Propagation: Breaking Reciprocity and Time-Reversal Symmetry (NewLAW). Studying and manipulating the behavior of light and sound waves could make it possible to design and construct a new class of electronic, photonic, and acoustic devices capable of new functionalities not achievable by current technology.
Putting a computer in your brain is no longer science fiction
The Washington Post
Neuroprosthetic research began as early as 1973 at the University of California, Los Angeles. In its simplest form, a neuroprosthetic is a device that supplants or supplements the input and/or output of the nervous system. One of the most visible demonstrations of the power of neuroprosthetics was a spinal cord–injured patient using a brain-controlled exoskeleton to kick off the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Now, if you read last week’s Top 5, you’ll remember we talked about exoskeletons and VR.
This week, Elizabeth Dwoskin from The Washington Post, offers us a fascinating in-depth look at Bryan Johnson, founder of startup Kernel, and his journey with the potential of the technology. Kernel’s mission is “to dramatically increase our quality of life and create a thriving humanity. We believe that starts with a renewed focus on human intelligence (HI).” While this may seem a little techno-utopian Dwoskin says:
He [Johnson] recognizes that the notion of people walking around with chips implanted in their heads to make them smarter seems far-fetched, to put it mildly. He says the goal is to build a product that is widely affordable, but acknowledges there are challenges. He points out that many scientific discoveries and inventions — even the printing press — started out for a privileged group but ended up providing massive benefits to humanity. The primary benefits of Kernel, he says, will be for the sick, for the millions of people who have lost their memories because of brain disorders.
It’s a great read!
Alright, that’s my picks for the week. Did you read something interesting this week you’d like to share with our readers? Just add a comment with a link!