Category: Hello Future


Researchers have developed a simple and versatile method for making artificial anti-cancer molecules that mimic the properties of one of the body’s natural defence systems.

The chemists, led by Professor Peter Scott at the University of Warwick, UK, have been able to produce molecules that have a similar structure to peptides which are naturally produced in the body to fight cancer and infection.

Published in Nature Chemistry, the molecules produced in the research have proved effective against colon cancer cells in laboratory tests, in collaboration with Roger Phillips at the Institute for Cancer Therapeutics, Bradford, UK.

Artificial peptides had previously been difficult and prohibitively expensive to manufacture in large quantities, but the new process takes only minutes and does not require costly equipment. Also, traditional peptides that are administered as drugs are quickly neutralised by the body’s biochemical defences before they can do their job.

A form of complex chemical self-assembly, the new method developed at Warwick addresses these problems by being both practical and producing very stable molecules. The new peptide mimics, called triplexes, have a similar 3D helix form to natural peptides.

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Oliver Kreylos has combined three Kinects with an Oculus Rift to import a 3D representation of himself into virtual reality.

The Kinects’ video stream is merged before being fed into the Oculus headset, giving the impression of a solid 3D object. In this instance, the object is Mr Kreylos, who can be seen sitting in a virtual office. Low resolution and prone to glitches, the device is still an early prototype.

The three Kinects – peripherals for Microsoft’s Xbox – are positioned in an equilateral triangle to accurately capture the subject, whose image is then beamed into Facebook’s Oculus Rift headset. Mr Kreylos is able to control the camera in such a way that he can see himself in both a first and third person perspective.

Unlike an ordinary 2D camera, the Kinect is equipped with a 3D camera, which provides the missing bits of information necessary for 3D reconstruction that a regular camera does not have. Mr Kreylos, researcher at University of California, Davis, said in his blog that despite the low quality of the image, it still feels very real.

“I believe it’s related to the uncanny valley principle, in that fuzzy 3D video that moves in a very lifelike fashion is more believable to the brain than high-quality avatars that don’t quite move right.”

The Uncanny Valley principle is a hypothesis that suggests human features that are designed to move similarly, but not exactly, like natural human beings – such as in robotics or 3D animation – can cause revulsion in observers. Mr Kreylos first started experimenting with the Kinect back in 2010 and this appears to be the first time the device has been used to create this particular effect in conjunction with the Oculus Rift.

We’re all familiar with ant colonies, where every tiny creature is running around doing just what it needs to. Well it looks like SRI International has taken inspiration from the giant mounds of insects, to create their own swarms of tiny worker robots that can put together mechanical assemblies and electronic circuits.

Diamagnetic Micro Manipulation (DM3) uses tiny magnets that move under a circuit board, to get the micro-robots to follow a set pattern based on a set of preprogrammed instructions. The system can be set up so just one or a couple of robots are working together, or you can have giant groups of them moving together in sync like some bizarre gymnastics routine. Despite their tiny size, the robots can move up to a foot in a single second, so they can haul around your micro manufacturing supplies pretty swiftly.

SRI says that DM3 can be used for prototyping parts, electronics assembly, biotech lab-on-a-chip experiments, and assembling small mechanical systems in hostile environments. Eventually they plan to scale up the technology, by developing a manufacturing head containing thousands of the little buggers that can build much larger assemblies.

As you might expect, the funding comes from the military, and is part of DARPA’s Open Manufacturing program.

Check out the video where you can see swarms of the micro-robots moving in unison, and then as a couple of them work together to build some pretty amazing truss structures. They even manage to dispense the super glue used to hold the rods together without getting it all over their fingers and sticking everything together.

Smart contact lens

Search and advertising giant Google is developing a “smart” contact lens that monitors blood sugar levels for diabetes sufferers.

The lens includes a small piece of circuitry that measures glucose levels from the tears that naturally lubricate the eye. It also includes a wireless sensor, which Google has stated could be used to communicate data collected with an app.

Tears were chosen, Google has explained, as they are one of numerous fluids the body produces alongside blood that can carry details of a person’s glucose levels. The use of a contact lens may transpire to be an easier way to monitor these levels, and potentially display the results to a wearer using small LED lights that blink when readings are above or below a healthy threshold.

Google has said it has completed several studies to advance development of a prototype, which currently reads glucose levels once per second. The company is also in talks with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to bring the technology to US diabetes sufferers in future. The company has not commented on any UK-specific launch or testing, although Wired.co.uk understands talks have taken place with British medical charities.

It is estimated that three million people in the UK have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, with a further 850,000 suffering without diagnosis. Most home monitoring involves pricking the finger to extract a drop of blood, and using strips of material or a machine to determine the current status of glucose levels.

The smart contact lens project is being run at Google X, the company’s research and development lab for projects outside of the business’s core focus areas. Other projects known to be underway at the lab include self-driving cars and internet-equipped air balloons.

Back in 2011, University of Southern California Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis said new technology will soon allow massive 3D printers to build entire multi-level houses in under a day.

A group of 3D printed houses, 200 m2 each, recently appears in Shanghai, China. These building were created entirely out of concrete using a gigantic 3D printer, and each costs only 30,000 RMB ($4,800).

The company behind these 3D printed building, Shanghai WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co, said it has for years been working on developing the system and its materials. The company owns 77 national patents of construction materials, such as glass fiber reinforced gypsum and special glass fiber reinforced cement.

While Hobbyist models of 3D printers are currently available for only a few hundred dollars and lets users feed plastics and polymers into a machine, the company takes this technology to a bigger level. Using concrete, instead of plastic, WinSun wants to revolutionize the way homes and other structures are built.

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Scientists in Canada have made DNA cubes that are programmed to unzip and reveal molecules locked inside them in response to a carefully chosen trigger. Hanadi Sleiman and colleagues at McGill University and the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, designed the cubes to release the drug cargo they might be carrying only in diseased cells and not normal cells.

‘In the future, we would like to use our DNA cubes in the treatment of cancer and other diseases with a genetic component,’ says Sleiman. The cube opens into a flat assembly when a specific RNA sequence, in this case a gene product that is unique to prostate cancer cells, binds to two single-stranded DNA overhangs on the corners of the cube, disrupting the hydrogen-bonds that maintain the cube’s shape. Sleiman says it would be easy to change the sequence to which the cube responds and since the cube has two overhangs, ‘it would also be possible to make a cube that responds to two different triggers.’

The DNA cube was also modified with hydrophobic and hydrophilic chains to modulate its cellular uptake and prevent enzymatic degradation.

‘Compared with previous DNA origami-based designs the present system does not rely on the use of M13 [bacteriophage] DNA and can therefore be applied to many targets,’ comments Hiroshi Sugiyama, a DNA nanotechnology expert at Kyoto University in Japan.

Payment System Reads Your Palm For Quick Check-Outs [Video]

A Swedish startup called Quixter has demonstrated a technology that lets buyers use their hands to make payments. Quixter’s payment technology involves scanning the vein patterns of a person’s palm to verify the person’s identity. Though vein-scanning isn’t new, it’s the first time that a payment system is using the whole palm to do so. To make a payment, the user needs to first enter their ID code and then scan their palm. The scan reads the user’s vein patterns, which is unique to an individual. The user’s purchases are collected in an invoice and paid twice a month through direct debit.

Quixter was started by Fredrik Leifland, an engineering student at Lund University. Leifland wanted to come up with a quicker way to make payments. The system is currently used in 15 places around the Lund University campus, and has approximately 1,600 users. Quixter is convenient for people who don’t want to carry their wallet or money around with them, but even Leifland admits that it takes a lot of work to get retailers and financial institutions to go for the system. The company has plans to expand, but it may be a while before it finds its way outside Sweden.

Check out a demo in the video below.

Thymus

An elderly organ in a living animal has been regenerated into a youthful state for the first time, UK researchers say.

The thymus, which is critical for immune function, becomes smaller and less effective with age, making people more susceptible to infection.

A team at the University of Edinburgh managed to rejuvenate the organ in mice by manipulating DNA.

Experts said the study was likely to have “broad implications” for regenerative medicine.

The thymus, which sits near the heart, produces T-cells to fight off infection.

However, by the age of 70 the thymus is just a tenth of the size in adolescents.

“This has a lot of impacts later in life, when the functionality of the immune system decreases with age and you become more vulnerable to infection and less responsive to vaccines,” one of the researchers, Dr Nick Bredenkamp, told the BBC.

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age

Scientists have successfully reversed the aging process in mice according to a new study just released. Human trials are to begin next, possibly before the year is over. The study was published in the peer reviewed science journal Cell after researchers from both the U.S and Australia made the breakthrough discovery. Lead researcher David Sinclair of the University of New South Wales says he is hopeful that the outcome can be reproduced in human trials. A successful result in people would mean not just a slowing down of aging but a measurable reversal.

The study showed that after administering a certain compound to the mice, muscle degeneration and diseases caused by aging were reversed. Sinclair says the study results exceeded his expectations, explaining:

“I’ve been studying aging at the molecular level now for nearly 20 years and I didn’t think I’d see a day when ageing could be reversed. I thought we’d be lucky to slow it down a little bit. The mice had more energy, their muscles were as though they’d be exercising and it was able to mimic the benefits of diet and exercise just within a week. We think that should be able to keep people healthier for longer and keep them from getting diseases of ageing.
The compound the mice ate resulted in their muscles becoming very toned, as if they’d been exercising. Inflammation, a key factor in many disease processes, was drastically reduced. Insulin resistance also declined dramatically and the mice had much more energy overall. Researchers say that what happened to the mice could be compared to a 60 year old person suddenly having the muscle tone and energy of someone in his or her 20s.”

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Disney Bets $1 Billion on Technology to Track Theme-Park Visitors

Jason McInerney and his wife, Melissa, recently tapped their lunch orders onto a touchscreen at the entrance to the Be Our Guest restaurant at Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort and were told to take any open seat. Moments later a food server appeared at their table with their croque-monsieur and carved turkey sandwiches. Asks McInerney, a once-a-year visitor to Disney theme parks: “How did they know where we were sitting?”

The answer was on the electronic bands the couple wore on their wrists. That’s the magic of the MyMagic+, Walt Disney’s $1 billion experiment in crowd control, data collection, and wearable technology that could change the way people play—and spend—at the Most Magical Place on Earth. If the system works, it could be copied not only by other theme parks but also by museums, zoos, airports, and malls. “It’s a complete game changer,” says Douglas Quinby, vice president for research at PhoCusWright, a travel consulting firm.

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We’ve seen interactive rings that receive alerts from your smartphone and even rings that will give you the current time in a unique way, but a new ring leapfrogs the rest by acting as a full-on control mechanism.

On its exterior, Logbar’s Ring device looks like nothing more than a silver ring, but packed inside the device are electronics that allow it to recognize your finger gestures and control any number of devices.

Logbar CEO Takuro Yoshida gave a detailed demonstration of the silver interactive device last year in San Francisco, and now Ring is available for purchase through a Kickstarter campaign.

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Move over, copper wires. The next generation of electricity cables may well be made from lettuce, based on the innovation of a U.K. researcher. The advance could pave the way to biological computers and bio-robots of the future.

Computer scientist Andrew Adamatzky of the University of West England did a series of tests with four-day-old lettuce seedlings. To create bio-wires, he bridged two electrodes made from conductive aluminum foil with a seedling that was placed onto the electrodes in drops of distilled water.

Next, he applied electrical potential between electrodes ranging from 2 to 12 volts, and calculated the seedling’s so-called potential transfer function that shows output potential as a fraction of input potential — the amount of energy produced relative to energy put in.

He found that resistance of the seedling repetitively changed with time, or oscillated. He determined that, roughly, the output potential was 1.5-2 V less than the input potential, “so by applying 12 V potential we get 10 V output potential,” he said.

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New technologies are helping doctors assist in surgery from locations far away. As the Global Smile Foundation is finding out, this could dramatically expand access to life-changing specialist procedures in poorer countries.

Telemedicine could be a boon to the developing world, particularly helping to broaden access to procedures done by specialists. In the future, we’re likely to see more remote surgery–where surgeons do their stuff from somewhere other than the operating room–and certainly a lot more remote training.

That’s getting non-profits like the Global Smile Foundation excited. GSF exists to help children with facial deformities like cleft palates. But the amount of the work it can get through is limited by the volunteer surgeon time it can drum up. Typically, these in-demand professionals go to some location for a week of volunteer work, do a few dozen operations, and then return to their day job. Telemedicine could allow them to get involved at other times of the year on their own schedules.

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Micro-Algae Factories Could Be A Food And Energy Source For The Home

We’re used to keeping certain types of plants in our homes, and research is increasingly finding some very concrete health benefits to simply keeping a pretty, healthy plant around. But these days, a plant’s got to earn its keep in more ways than one. Innovative systems like the AquaFarm remind us of the interdependency of all life while maintaining themselves and even providing food. Now a new set of interior architecture components could bring a new type of productive plant into the household while literally integrating them into the home. The WaterLilly ‘smart creatures,’ photo-bio reactive household elements conceived in 2012 by Italian designer Cesare Griffa, exploit new discoveries about the potential of algae for food, light and energy while looking great in a living room.

waterlilly3

The WaterLilly ‘family’ is designed to be interactive, reacting to human activity as well as to other members of the system that are nearby. They love social activity and keep you notified on their chemical activities like carbon-fixing, making for a great party plant. Since the conditions for growing algae are very precise and will require different adjustments depending upon the precise conditions in one’s home, multiple WaterLillies will also communicate with each other and alter their activity according to the environment, creating, Griffa says, “the conditions for a connective intelligence based on open knowledge sharing.” They will still require some feeding, however, in the form of light, mineral salts, and carbon dioxide. The algae are ”timid organisms who do not disdain company,” he told Wired UK.

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NASA and Houston-based company GRoK Technologies will work on the development of new “breakthrough products,” noninvasive medical technologies designed to “regenerate bone and muscle tissues.” It really sounds like something out of Star Trek, but “it’s not just sci-fi anymore.”

That’s exactly what GRoK’s founder and CEO Moshe Kushman says:

It’s not just science fiction anymore. All indications are that 21st century life sciences will change dramatically during the next several decades, and GRoK is working to define the forefront of a new scientific wave.

According to the press release, NASA is “interested in the potential these technologies present for regenerating bone and muscle.” It wants this tissue regeneration technology to help astronauts during long interplanetary travel, when they “are susceptible to developing osteopenia, which is a condition arising from the loss of bone and muscle mass and bone density.”

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This plant has been genetically engineered to provide mood lighting

By splicing genes from a bioluminescent bacteria with a common decorative plant called Nicotiana alata, engineers have created the first biological light source for your home. This is the first glimpse of a future world where synthetic biology transforms our lives.

Called the Starlight Avatar, this plant is being touted by company Bioglow, which created it, as the “first” light-producing plant. There are many kinds of algae and animals that glow, but this claim may be technically true. The company is auctioning off the first set of grown plants, and taking pre-orders for ones that they grow later this year.

The plants don’t give off very much light, but they are just the forerunners of other GMO species that could be used to make our living spaces more sustainable and beautiful. I love the idea that future city inhabitants might be farming their lights instead of changing light bulbs.

This plant has been genetically engineered to provide mood lighting

Intel Launches SD Card-Sized Computer [CES 2014]

Announced at CES 2014 in Las Vegas, Intel has developed a tiny computer that’s the same size and form factor of an SD card. Edison, as the bite-sized PC is dubbed, houses Intel’s previously announced Quark processor. The unveiling made quite a bit of noise at the show, and the product itself seems poised to make waves in the burgeoning wearables industry, once it’s available this summer.

What’s special about Edison — in addition to its size — is the power it packs. As mentioned, it houses a dual-core Quark SOC, which was designed for ultra-small and power-sensitive devices. In addition, Edison runs Linux and comes with an array of connectivity and I/O capabilities, including built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE.

Brian Krzanich, Intel’s Chief Executive Officer, demonstrated Edison’s capabilities at CES using a Mimo onesie that utilized Intel’s technology to transmit data to, interestingly, a coffee mug. Presumably, in the real world, the onesie would notify parents of a baby waking up or any changes in body temperature.

With the demonstration, Krzanich and the Edison seemed to open doors to new innovations in the so-called Internet of Things edge devices.

To no one’s surprise, wearables have been a hot topic thus far at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Items from bracelets to headphones to glasses have been showing up, outfitted with sensors and processors, and all of them together indicate an industry that’s ripe for growth. With Edison, the possibilities for innovation in wearables seem even greater, as makers now have a power-packed computer that they can attach to pretty much anything.

lens

Flexible, stretchable, bendable circuits will make futuristic wearable devices andimplantable medical sensors possible. Today, a Swiss research team revealed a big new step in that field: a super-thin circuit that can function while wrapped around a human hair or laid on a contact lens.

The team, led by Giovanni Salvatore at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, created a circuit on a parylene film just a single micrometer thick. That’s about onesixtieth the thickness of a human hair. The scientists achieved this by building the circuit on a vinyl polymer base that’s then dissolved away, leaving the ultra-thin, ultra-flexible circuit intact.

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While Google works to bring a polished Glass device to market, wearables startup Innovega is taking head-mounted displays a step further: contact lenses that interact with full HD glasses.

Anyone who has ever dreamed up a sci-fi future in which neon interfaces float in front of us and information exists not on screens, but projected onto our eyes, is likely watching the blossoming wearable technology market with great anticipation. With its iOptik system, wearables startup Innovega has sighted in on that futuristic vision, designing special contact lenses that will read the light from projectors fitted to glasses. In doing so, it’s inching closer to a product that may rival even Google in its wearable ambition.

Optical head-mounted displays, or devices that augment our vision either through full-blown glasses or fixed optics that float screens in our peripheral sight, have come to epitomize the cutting edge of wearable tech. One of the bigger hurdles now is that while the technology may be powerful, the form factor is still that of a goofy computer-glasses hybrid graphed onto our face, and not a single high-profile product has had a chance to test the murky waters of the mass market.

Google’s Glass wearable has yet to exit its beta “Explorer Program” — though prescription lenses appear to be on the way — and still tends to freak people out and keep the critics testing it in the wild apprehensive of wearing it in public settings.

Innovega, which showcased its unique iOptik augmented reality (AR) device on the head of a mannequin at last year’s CES, is confident that it’s getting closer to something we’ll actually want to wear, but with the unconventional caveat of contact lenses, an untested stipulation at the moment. The company, headed up by CEO Stephen Willey, will be back at CES 2014 next week, but this time with a fully functioning prototype. The device, a pair of sleek eyeglasses capable of overlaying digital media and transparent AR data onto the accompanying lenses, will be worn by Innovega staff on the floors of CES.

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human-robot competition Shutterstock

Researchers have developed a tiny robotic muscle that’s 1,000 time stronger than a human muscle.

The team of researchers at the University of California-Berkeley found that vanadium dioxide changes from an insulator to a conductive metal at about 152 degrees, which produced a huge amount of strength during the transition.

The scientists used the material to demonstrate a microchip-sized, twisting robotic motor that could catapult objects 50 times heavier than itself over a distance five times longer than itself faster than the blink of an eye – within 60 milliseconds.

The team fabricated the micro-muscle from a long V-shaped ribbon made of chromium and vanadium dioxide, which is already prized for its ability to change size, shape and physical identity, and heated it with a tiny pad or by electrical current.

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