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TECHNOLOGY UPDATES: Uber introduces driverless cars

Donate Your Voice: VoiceID technology as unique as fingerprints



What would it be like to have no voice of your own? VoiceID technology is an amazing leap! Some say the human voice is like the fingerprint of the soul, yet many people in the world have no voice due to medical or neurologic conditions. Luckily, a great bit of technology existed for decades called the synthetic voice, which affords voiceless folks the ability to communicate more easily with the world The world-famous physicist Stephen Hawking has been the poster boy for the original synthetic voice.

While it’s fabulous for voiceless people to be given a better chance at verbal communication, unfortunately, until recently, the same voice as been used by every 10-year-old girl, 75-year-old man, and anyone in between who could not speak for themselves. Imagine being at a conference of sorts specifically for people who cannot speak! All conversations would be in a single, synthesized tone, no matter the age or gender of the speakers! It would sound surreal (and maybe a bit irritating from the voiceless person’s perspective). The problem is made even more curious by the fact that all around us nowadays, lovely, less-robotic/more-individualized synthetic voices are becoming a part of everyday life: we’re constantly bombarded with soothing voices on our GPS systems, floor notifications in elevators, or when we’re conversing with Apple’s Siri, just to name a few. Why would pleasant voices be reserved for such gadgets?


It seems researcher Rupal Patel thought that very same thing about synthesized voices and their lacking quality, then took it a step further. She wondered: “what if we could make synthesized voices tailored to the user? Moreover… what if we made synthesized voices that were so specific to the user… they were almost like fingerprints?”


We found a video from the Huffington Post regarding the new technology that could give the Stephen Hawkings of the world a chance to sound more like themselves, Go to this site and check it out!

Drink Sewage: Introducing


the Omni Processor

On January 22, 2015, Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, came on the set of The Tonight Show with all-around funnyman Jimmy Fallon, with a simple proposition for Fallon: let’s each drink a glass of water. Simple right? Oh… here’s the catch: one of the glasses contained bottled water, while the other was very recently fresh sewage , filtered using Gates’ latest philanthropic effort, the Omni Processor.

Omni Processor Water Purifier

In retrospect, it seems incredibly obvious that the solution to the question “how do we get potable water to all of Africa?” ended up being this process which involves high school level chemistry. On some level it’s very simple, hearkening back to basic principles that have been understood for centuries. How much of a solution are we talking about? Well according to the Omni Processor’s website this machine can process a moving van’s worth of sewage each day and turn it into 10,800 liters of water a day. If you use the calculations from the Institute of Medicine , that’s enough drinking water to keep 3700 people healthy, per day! Human beings need about 2.6 liters (11 cups) of water per day to stay healthy.

The energy from the generators seems to be a bonus! (I could produce enough energy for 50 small households per year.)

The long and short of water purification

  1. When you heat something up to dry it, pure water is separated in the form of steam and can be used to drive a generator creating electricity. Remember the invention of the steam engine in the 1800s!
  2. To get the heat to dry the feces, they are burning that same dry waste as fuel. This is actually nothing new either; poop burns, and burns well, and for thousands of years in arid regions of the planet where there are no trees for firewood, people have been collecting, drying and burning animal dung to cook their food.
  3. When the steam circulates through the generators, you can capture it

and turn it back into liquid water. No pathogens can survive the temperatures that the steam goes through so the water comes out perfectly safe to drink! Other than the initial energy needed to dry that very first batch, it’s a completely closed loop! (This is something we will be hearing more and more about as we try to re-vamp how resources are used on our planet.)

Uber Rolls Out First Driverless Cars



If you’ve ever driven around in downtown Pittsburgh , you know it’s no picnic.

In fact, it’s whatever the opposite of a picnic is. Thanks to three converging rivers, the downtown area is a tangle of narrow bridges, stacked overpasses and barely sublimated Rust Belt aggression. Pittsburgh drivers are in it to win it. So it’s kind of a surprise that Uber is planning to roll out its first self-driving

cars in the heart of Steel City. But that’s evidently the plan, according to a

recent report at Bloomberg.

Starting later this month, Uber customers in downtown Pittsburgh will be

able to climb into specially modified Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicles

strapped with dozens of sensors, cameras, lasers and GPS components. The

cars won’t be completely roboticized — all vehicles will still have a human

driver on board to supervise matters and take control if necessary. Still, it’s a Pretty Big Deal. If Uber follows though, the Pittsburgh experiment will be the first driverless car-sharing service to come to market. Uber is partnering with Volvo on the initiative, and the two companies plan to have around 100 self-driving vehicles on the street by the end of the year. In the first phase of the rollout, the dispatch of self-driving cars will be

randomized. Call up a ride with Uber, and you may get one of those souped- up Volvos. If so, your ride will be free of charge. Uber plans to eventually partner with other automakers getting into the autonomous vehicle business,

according to the Bloomberg report. The Pittsburgh rollout itself isn’t random, however. The city is home to Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute , which has been very busy with autonomous vehicle research. Uber has been hiring experts in the area

for the last couple of years. In fact, the upcoming public rollout is just part of

an ongoing beta test that Uber’s been facilitating on downtown streets for a while now. It appears that Uber is going all-in on autonomous vehicles and has hired hundreds of engineers, roboticists and mechanics for the venture. Volvo and Uber hope to have a fully autonomous fleet on the roads by 2021. Go, Yinzers !
Trousers, Heal Thyself: Squids Make Self-Fixing Clothes Possible


heal trousersIt’s generally not a good idea to smear squid parts all over your outfit, but one day, clothes could fix their own rips with the help of coatings made of squid proteins, according to a new study. This research might lead to more than just everyday self-healing clothes. It could also help create garments that are tailored for protection against chemical and biological warfare agents and that can repair themselves , the researchers

added. Rips and tears in shirts or jeans are usually no big deal — you can either

repair the clothes or simply throw them away — but damage to items such as hazmat suits or biomedical implants can be a matter of life or death. As such, for years, scientists have explored self-repairing films that could boost the lifetimes of these types of products. While previous self-repairing films could work quickly, they often had

weaknesses; for instance, some cracked under warm, dry conditions. As such, researchers in the new study wanted to find a more versatile material to use, they said. The scientists investigated molecules that came from the suction cups on squid tentacles for use in self-repairing films. Specifically, the scientists focused on proteins from razor-sharp, tooth-like structures around the openings of these suction cups that help squid latch onto and take down prey, the researchers said. Previous research suggested the proteins from these “squid ring teeth” are tough and elastic under both wet and dry conditions. The scientists developed a coating that contained the squid ring-teeth proteins. When a fabric covered in this coating is soaked in water, the proteins diffuse toward holes and tears in the coating, linking segments of coating and fabric together to make repairs, said study co-senior author Walter Dressick, a chemist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. The researchers experimented with different types of cloth, applying the proteins to cotton, linen and wool sheets. They dipped the fabrics in the new coating and then cut holes in the cloth. The scientists next immersed these sheets in water and pressed patches made of the same coated fabrics against these holes, which successfully healed the damage. “We were surprised at the rapidity of the healing process and the strength of the healed materials,” said study co-senior author Melik Demirel, a materials scientist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. Future applications of this work could include a detergent-like solution that can be added to washing machines to help self-healing clothes repair themselves, the researchers said. “The centrifugal force on the tumbler may provide enough force for the required pressure of self-healing,” Demirel Added. However, “there is still a lot of work to do before self-repairing clothes will appear in your local department store,” Demirel said. The cost of the material is still an issue. However, expense shouldn’t be a barrier once the scientists figure out how to scale up the manufacturing process “to meet anticipated commercial needs,” Demirel said. Large-scale production of the squid protein is the next step, he said. This and similar self-healing materials may find uses in clothing and biomedical implants, but also for “biodegradable gels for wound healing in the near future,” Demirel said. The researchers have also developed synthetic genes to create squid ring-teeth proteins. Future research with these genes can help scientists analyze the properties of the proteins and create variants to add qualities for specific

applications, Demirel said.
Smartphone-Connected Contact Lenses Give New Meaning to ‘Eye Phone’



Apps allow you to link your smartphone to anything from your shoes, to your jewelry, to your doorbell — and soon, you may be able to add your contact lenses to that list. Engineers at the University of Washington have developed an innovative way of communicating that would allow medical aids such as contact lenses and brain implants to send signals to smartphones. The new tech, called “interscatter communication,” works by converting Bluetooth signals into Wi-Fi signals, the engineers wrote in a paper that will be presented Aug. 22 at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special

Interest Group on Data Communication conference in Brazil. “Instead of generating Wi-Fi signals on your own, our technology creates Wi-Fi by using Bluetooth transmissions from nearby mobile devices such as smartwatches,” study co-author Vamsi Talla, a research associate in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington, said in a statement. Interscatter communication is based on an existing method of communication called backscatter, which lets devices exchange information by reflecting back existing signals. “Interscatter” works essentially the same

way, but the difference is that it allows for inter-technology communication— in other words, it allows Bluetooth signals and Wi-Fi signals to talk to each other. Interscatter communication would allow devices such as contact lenses to send data to other devices, according to the researchers. Until now, such communication had not been possible, because sending data using Wi-Fi requires too much power for a device like a contact lens. To demonstrate interscatter communication, the engineers designed a

contact lens equipped with a tiny antenna. The Bluetooth signal, in this case, came from a smartwatch. The antenna on the contact lens was able to manipulate that Bluetooth signal, encode data from the contact lens and convert it into a Wi-Fi signal that could be read by another device. And though the concept of “smart” contact lenses may seem a bit gimmicky, they could, in fact, provide valuable medical information to patients. For example, it is possible to monitor blood sugar levels from a person’s tears. Therefore, a connected contact lens could track blood sugar levels and send notifications to a person’s phone when blood sugar levels went down, study co-author Vikram Iyer, a doctoral student in electrical engineering, also at the University of Washington, said in a statement. (Monitoring blood sugar levels is important for people with diabetes.) The researchers also said interscatter communication could be used to transmit data from brain implants that could one day help people with paralysis regain movement. Not all of the potential applications are related to medical devices, however. Interscatter communication could also exchange information between credit cards, the researchers wrote. This would allow people to transfer money between cards by simply holding them near a smartphone, for example, they said.



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