Category Archives: Technology

Space Debris

blog_entry_0924784001479135493Trash isn’t only a problem on planet earth, we have a serious debris problem in space as well. This may seem distant and a bit “out of sight out of mind”, however this could pose a big problem for space travel.

In less than 25 years, the size of space garbage has become sufficiently huge enough to decimate a shuttle has dramatically increased. The enormous concern is that gathering space garbage may prompt something many refer to as the Kessler syndrome, a chain response of crashes that exponentially expands the measure of garbage. An impact between two satellites may make a large number of smaller items. Those a huge number of trash items could crash into millions more objects, et cetera. The final product is an invulnerable billow of flotsam and jetsam that would make space travel so much harder.

Scientists have a problem on their hands to solve to make sure that we can safely continue to navigate space.

Robot Caretakers

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Caretaking of the elderly has always fallen on two different group: the family or an outside source like a nurse or living facility. As scores of people reach their golden years the question about who will care for them as life start to get a bit more difficult for them to live independently comes to the minds of those around them and of course themselves. Living without the aid of others is often seen as a key level of independence and many senior citizens fear losing that independence. So, what if robots hold the key to not only keeping a level of care, but also this much desired sense of autonomy? This may very well be the case in the future.

We already have robots doing lots of tasks: building machines, vacuuming our floors, and creating all sorts of forms of entertainment for us. So in the future we can expect them to surely be good caretakers. Able to open fridges, give medicine, and open doors they will be nurses and friends who do not need to go home or sleep. They will always be there for those who need them.

But will we accept them? A EU survey published last year said 51 percent would feel “uncomfortable” about “a robot provide services and companionship to elderly or infirm people.” The public overall still seems cold to the idea of robots taking care of us or being in our lives to a bigger degree. Only time will tell if we will warm up and take advantage of the benefits robot caretakers could give.

Tech is for Everyone

o-CELL-PHONE-facebookYou’ve heard it before maybe from a parent or a grandparent, your next door neighbor, or even your favorite cashier at the local store: tech isn’t for them.

In a world growing more and more attached to their tech this attitude is common, but still confounding. Every fascist of life is touched by new products and new techniques of using the technology around us to make life “easier”. We get doctors notes through online portals, set up meetings for the DMV on the computer, and can even order from Starbucks on our phone for instant pickup. We can argue about the benefits and the fall outs of everyday things like this, but resistance is futile. Tech is here to stay, denying it is only going to keep you lagging behind.

So why are people resistant to tech? Fear of the unknown? Fear of lack of personal interactions? Fear of robots taking over our planet? The last question is mostly a joke, but there are people who stand by the idea that using tech opens up our species to their demise.

However, tech could be a window into the world, instead of shutting down the life around you. You can reach out to people you may have forgotten about in the past, social media can keep you up to date on news faster than your cable or newspaper might, smartphones are useful emergency tools, and paying your bills online is officially the cheaper option. In every nook and corner tech is making life a little easier, you just have to keep your mind open.

Tech in the New Year

vrA new year, a new set of tech is on coming our way. We all remember when the Ipod was released so many years ago, and truly that may have been the birth of our modern tech boom. Since then it seems like every year something new and increasingly fascinating has been released; smart phones, personal drones, fitness tech, etc. So what’s on the rise for 2017?

Tech is ingrained in every part of our lives, many may resist this—but the overwhelming trend is clearly leaning towards smart technology. We have already dipped our toes into this first trend, but it is clear that virtual reality will continue to grow in 2017. Virtual reality will begin to take shape and become more mainstream within gaming. Call it the new Atari, rough and imperfect now—but clearly leading to something bigger down the road.

Next up is something that everyone uses, even the most tech-resistant among us; cars. Yes, self-driving car technology is only going to get bigger in 2017. Take a drive through the Bay Area and you are likely to see a plethora of these self-driving cars whizzing around from Stanford to San Francisco and everywhere in-between. This form of transportation will start to expand this year to more locales no doubt.

My last prediction is more people turning to get their news from social media. We already saw this trend in 2016; people pulling away from mainstream news sites and shows and turning to the news they see on Facebook and Twitter among other alternative sources. We already rely on social media, so it becoming a big source of our news only seems logical at a certain point. Will it be a turn towards more truthful news coverage or a rise of fake stories? Only time will tell. 2017 is surely going to be a volatile year, and news coverage will be more important than ever to follow.

Cheers to the new year and cheers to new tech.

Employees Will Need to Adapt to New Tech

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No matter where you work, no matter the field or location, you have surely seen the technology in your job change over time. Computers, smart phones, and automated work forces within robotic technology above all else have completely swung the direction of all businesses in ways they never expected. This tech is not all bad, and within embracing new tools comes many benefits. Technology no doubt has created a more focused and enlightened work force.

There are many ways we can help ourselves, our coworkers, and our employees grow and gain from tech from education to creating a culture of progress. What does this look like though in the work place?

Simply put training is a great place to start. Many fear tech because they are unsure if they will be able to use it, after all everyone fears looking slow or behind the times. Open up the conversation and hold no judgements—only opportunities to learn. Retrain all whenever a new technology is brought in, and make it beneficial to everyone. The key is keeping those around you feeling comfortable, entertained, and encouraged. The next step is tracking feedback both from employees and the numbers. How do those in your company feel about the new tech? How do your sales or business numbers look? Always be open to helping those lagging, and don’t be afraid to make adjustments so that all are more productive and use the tech efficiently. Lastly encourage questions not only from those around you, but from yourself as well. Creating a space that is open and able to discuss will always make integrating tech all the much easier. Within creating this open culture in the workplace tech will only make your business more productive!

To Mars We Go?

This computer-generated view depicts part of Mars at the boundary between darkness and daylight, with an area including Gale Crater beginning to catch morning lightSpace travel has long been on the minds of the human race. In 1835 the Great Moon Hoax brought us the modern fever of wondering if there is life out in the stars. The Sun, a New York newspaper, reported fake stories about fantastical lifeforms found on the moon observed through earth bound telescopes. Since then of course, we’ve traveled to the moon and back and realized there are no trees, oceans, or anything near what we can call evidence of intelligent life out on the moon. Our attention seemed from that point to quickly swerve to travel to other planets, particularly Mars.

Mars has become Earth’s “backup plan”. Similar in size and with suitable gravity, we’ve seen it as a place that we will one day inhabit—maybe in the event that Earth is beyond saving. Getting there has never been more of reachable goal than it is today; technical readiness, public interest, and political will are finally all aligned to get human beings there. Both NASA and SpaceX have invested interests in getting us to the Red Planet in the next 20 years.

How will humans fare on this new planet however? Mars, while similar in size to Earth, is a much more unforgiving environment. No plants grow in its dry soil, there is no liquid water, and we cannot breathe much needed oxygen in its environment. Our lives on Mars would be limited to being indoors, or in complex space suites whenever we get the chance to step foot outside. We’d battle the fatigue of being constantly being cooped up and surrounded by others. We’ll need to provide shelter to these pilgrims; create ways to grow our own food and provide the inhabitants with clean water. Additionally, astronauts going to Mars will need protection from the extremely high levels of radiation out on the surface of the Red Planet.

In the face of all this, we as humans continue to press forward. Truly the spirit of explorations is shown at its best in these efforts. While only time will tell what will become of our attempts to colonize Mars, we know that the idea of space travel will always light up our minds with wonder and excitement.

Saving the world, one app at a time

With the continual evolution of technology, we as individuals are becoming more and more empowered to make an impact on the world on a daily basis. From the protection of endangered species to weather prediction, citizen scientists are now able to apply their photo abilities and use their personal drones and smart phones to effect the world around them.

In California, citizens have been documenting changes in the California coastline due to El Nino, adding to the data available to researchers and helping them to better and more rapidly understand the environment and perhaps predict future change.

Across the ocean, the non-profit “Planet Indonesia” are working on two apps that would allow anyone with a cell phone to help track the illegal animal trade. One app would allow individuals to “collect data in Indonesian bird markets” and a second lets them identify confiscated Slow Lorises  using genetic data. The Slow Loris is a popular animal to be kept as a pet, and with this type of data, hot spots for trade and poaching can be identified, investigated, and hopefully stopped.

The use of technology to help protect our world may just save the things we love the most, if we are willing to do our part.

Will Self-Driving Vehicles Makes us want Fewer Cars?

The idea of self-driving cars might conjure up an image akin to The Jetsons or one of the many other variations of retro pop culture and futurism that’s lodged in our collective imagination. If you woke up in some such world, would you call it a dream? —A nightmare? This question sprouts a tree of others when we think about the cars of the future.

Let’s look at the positives. Self-driving cars would instantly free up time. You could be more productive on your way to your job, take a nap, or entertain yourself with the latest gadget. It could potentially eliminate the problem of drunk driving; it could reduce car crashes, and it could (if these cars were fueled by electricity or other alternative resources) reduce our carbon footprint and clean up our air. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But a little reflection may reveal some potential problems brewing under the surface.

One of the potential issues is the industry itself. Self-driving cars could take down the near century-long love affair with driving motor vehicles. With companies like Uber already chomping at the bit to bring in on demand self-driving cars, there may be a time where many car companies that currently exist just get phased out. In theory you could just call up, or locate a car (similar to the various Car-To-Go services that already exist) and pay to be on your way. Why have your own car if you could just pay a bit here and there when you need to be driven somewhere? The appeal seems widespread. A study by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found that the average number of vehicles per American household is 2.1–and according to the study, that could dip as low as 1.2, a reduction of 43% if self-driving cars came into the market. We simply wouldn’t need as many cars. This is sure to ripple through related economies.

So what does the future have in store for us? It might be too soon to say, but the momentum toward developing these technologies makes it seem like an inevitable reality.

Is Our Waiter a Robot?

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Via muchies.vice.com

As technology improves and robots become more intelligent–and in many ways more human–the future seems to be slowly approaching Hollywood’s classic model of it. Picture robots serving us food, selling us clothes, and taking over the service industry we depend on. If you think about it, we might already be in our Hollywood-like future.  We have self checkouts, which eliminate the use of human tellers, automated phone receptionists, robotic assembly line workers, and so on. If the future is indeed here, the question isn’t whether or not robots will take our jobs, it’s whether they’ll come to dominate the these kinds of industries entirely. While that may sound terrifying and interesting at the same time, it’s not unreasonable to think that it might actually happen. The University of Oxford published a paper in 2013* that estimated in the next few decades there’s a 92% chance fast-food preparation and serving will be automated. Where will that leave those who fills those jobs now?

 The idea of humans facing off against robots has been around for some time. We’ve clearly benefitted from the machines, but we’ve struggled with them, too. What’s more, finding the middle ground is often easier said than done.  On one hand, we want to be the “masters” of technology and, on the other, we want to incorporate it into our lives such that or creations sweep away the tasks we don’t want or care to handle. –There’s no shortage of popular fiction that tries to grapple with this opposition.  We seem to always have had this push and pull of fearing and loving tech. It might just reside in the fear of change that the future promises. Will the benefits of these robots outweigh our fear? Time will tell.  However, seeing as tech has become so entrenched in our lives, we may very well be sipping on drinks delivered by apron-wearing androids.

How much would you tip a robot?

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http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/publications/view/1314

Internet for Everybody (Yes, Everybody!)

Last year, Google launched Project Loon as a first step in their endeavor of global internet access for all. Only one-third of the world’s population is online, and the other two-thirds lack access due to remote location, socioeconomic status, or lost network access after a natural disaster or war. Project Loon is a series of balloons that float on the edge of space, in the stratosphere, that enable internet access for computers and LTE-enabled smartphones. Since the first launches in New Zealand, the Central Valley in California, and Northeast Brazil, the technology and procedures have been refined and readied for the next stages of the project.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m96tYpEk1Ao

Google’s new partnerships with telecommunications companies, improved balloon technology, and better understanding of stratospheric conditions are making the balloons a more feasible option for global internet access. In approximately one year, Google has made amazing technological advances like increased airtime for the balloons (now over 100 days), better Wi-Fi coverage for users, and shared cellular spectrum to bring access to phones.

Google’s next test flight will be in Australia in partnership with Australian carrier Telstra, and it will be the biggest test flight so far. Each balloon transmits for over 600 square miles, and if the right weather data is collected, they could be a solution for uneven global internet access in the near future. The 20 balloons that will be launched in Australia this December will tell us more about the future of a connected world, and how soon it will be a real possibility.