Hey all, happy Wednesday. Here are a bunch of interesting things I've been reading and thinking about over the last month or so with the first sections loosely connecting topics on urban design, limitations in space, and machine learning, followed by the typical assortment of semi-random cool links.
Urban Design / Maps
🏡 Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture laboratory, Taliesen West, has been surveyed with 360 cameras from Leica to create one of the largest virtual 3D tours.
🔋 Where 3 Million Electric Vehicle Batteries Will Go When They Retire. The need for large-scale power energy storage for cities and homes could get a huge boost from the upcoming wave of car batters that can be recycled. A major breakthrough to solid-state batteries is still needed for the next step function in, and as an interesting interview with Bill Joy notes, the language for this technology doesn’t even exist yet. ’ There’s this evolution of language. Like we had telephone, and then we had the touch-tone phone. And then the phones that weren’t touch-tone suddenly were rotary phones. And then you called on cellphones. But now when you say “phone” you mean a mobile phone, and if you want to talk about the other phone you need to say “landline.” ‘
🛤 How an Electrical Engineer Revolutionized the UX of Modern Transit by drawing subway lines closer to a representation of circuits as opposed to actually geographically accurate.
🏙 Multiple overlaid sliders showing how major US cities have changed over the past 60 years.
🗺 Zooming out a bit more, National Geographic’s Maps Archive.
Space / Exoskeletons / Genetic Editing
🚀 The Gloves We’ll Wear on Mars - These will be designed to be more compliant for day-to-day tasks and serving as an actively powered compression sleeve rather than being air-pressurized like the current bulky suits built for zero-g orbits which would be too heavy to wear even on Mars' one-thirty gravity of Earth. Since robots are themselves learning to grasp the art of gripping, I could imagine future spacesuits doing away with gloves altogether and using a band similar to CTRL Labs’ that can relays intent to any number of switchable attachments. Simple soft exoskeletons can reduce a wearer’s metabolic energy consumption by almost 20% during treadmill walking, using algorithms to learn optimizations for different natural gaits.
💊 Geneticist George Church has some pretty out-there thoughts from the cutting edge of genetic editing, discussing the future of capabilities and ethics in Reversed Aging, Pig Organs, and the Future of Humankind. This wasn’t specifically relevant to space, but after reading, I couldn’t help but wonder if the more drastic deliberate changes to our genes could soon be to increase our robustness to space-environments. As space-faring hardware is increasingly designed to last longer and longer, the longest continuous time anyone has spent in space is little more than a year, and even that’s long enough to surface countless unforeseen side-effects, as detailed by Scott Kelly.
🔍 Why the Future of Machine Learning is Tiny — how the power of efficient deep learning and miniaturizing electronics go hand in hand for embedding background cognition to coundless devices. Seems like a huge opportunity for embedding cheap durable sensors in vairous infrastructure projects.
☁️ Ways to think about machine learning (and ways to not to think about it). Thinking about all the different applications for ways we could utilize essentially the brainpower of infinite 10 year olds to expedite the more menial tasks in life is a more useful and realistic exercise versus worrying about doomsday scenarios.
🧠 In a similar vein, here’s an interesting talk from last fall with John Giannandrea, then-Google’s AI Chief on Making Computers Smarter, and he has since recently become the head of AI and ML at Apple.
🎨 Other neat applications of AI now include: creating a neural network out of DNA that can recognize handwritten characters, designing personalized fashion, and powering a doodle-printing Polaroid, identifying individual instruments sounds from a video.
🌊 A good visualization of the complexity and route of the recent Thai cave rescue, and a full explainer from Vox and more background on the expert volunteers who led the initial search.
🔈 Another great teardown from the Bolt blog comparing the design / manufacturing of a Sonos One vs an Amazon Echo and how they reflect the business model and future outlook of the respective companies.
👋 New demos from Leap Motion showcase some cool applications hand-tracking in VR by exploring the anatomy of a carnootish cat, painting in 3D, and playing with the physics engine of jumbo particles. A similar demo of interacting with a human’s actual 3D MRI / ultrasound scan, and it will be cool to eventually see this with new 3D color x-rays.
🎇 What it’s like to be one of America’s top fireworks designers.
⛓ A drone made up of various configurable links to either optimize for speed / stability or fitting through tight spaces. In other flying shape-shifting news, a new Disney Imagineering robots takes the form of an autonomous robot stunt double with to executes mid-air acrobatics.
🕷 In simultaneously fascinating and terrifying news - Some spiders can ride miles through the sky, carried by both wind and atmosphere electric charges. Researchers recently studied how electric fields alone can cause a spider to start deploying their balloons and even control their floating altitude while wind provides most of the thrust.
🚐 DARPA reinvents the wheel to instantly transform from a circular tire for harder terrains and a triangular tread for softer conditions.
😲 Random crazy impressive thing - the 2018 National Yo-Yo champions performance to Lynrd Skynrd's Freebird.
Until next time,