Machine learning as film critic

While identifying a Wes Anderson movie is probably something many moviegoers could do without complex AI, the creator of a new machine learning program called Machine Visions is hoping he can learn more about what makes an auteur’s works distinct.

[Yannick] Assogba uses four of Anderson’s films as source for his project — The Life AquaticThe Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise Kingdom — from which he extracts a frame every 10 seconds, for a sample of 2,309 frames in total.

Assogba investigates color and recurring motifs in Anderson’s works, drawing out themes from the machine learning much faster than a human would be able to watch and process the images.

The Life Aquatic pixel grid

Each frame that the program analyzed from The Life Aquatic is displayed as a single pixel in this grid

Why It’s Hot

Machine visions not only provides an interesting way to look at film and cinematography through the lens of technology, it provides a detailed and accessible framework for starting to understand machine learning. By introducing people to machine learning through art and pop culture, Assogba gives both technical and non-technical people a reason to explore further.

“It can suggest similarities and juxtapositions for a human to look at, some are ones we would find ourselves while others might be surprising or poetic because of imperfections in the algorithms and models.”

Learn more  i-DMashable | Machine Visions

Biotech startup Taxa debuts genetically engineered fragrant moss

Taxa, a biotech startup in Silicon Valley, has debuted a new product: Orbella, a line of three fragrant mosses genetically engineered to give off aromas of patchouli, linalool (floral, clean, and fresh), and geraniol (rose-like). The project is a textbook example of synthetic biology, or synbio, which is the application of engineering techniques to the building blocks of life. (Basically, creating new life forms.)

Orbella was produced through a collaboration between Taxa and Dr. Henrik Simonsen, a professor at the University of Copenhagen whose work focuses on using photosynthesis (as opposed to conventional chemical synthesis) to biosynthesize small molecules.

The scented mosses were created by taking genes associated with a certain scent and splicing them into the moss genes. The actual process sounds like a near-future sci fi plot point: the scientists design the spliced gene online, use a gene gun (real name) to insert the genes into the moss cells, and then grow the GMO moss in liquid form.

If you’ve heard of Taxa before, it’s probably because of their intensely controversial Glowing Plant Kickstarter project. Back in 2013, Taxa successfully funded the Glowing Plant project with the promise of delivering a genetically modified plant that’d glow in the dark. Problem is, the biotech required to actually produce the glowing plant proved to be beyond Taxa’s reach, and their actual product hardly emitted any light.

Regardless of the success (or not) of the Glowing Plant itself, the Kickstarter project faced heavy blowback amid concerns of GMO products hitting consumer markets without any regulatory oversight. Prompted by the Glowing Plant controversy, Kickstarter banned GMO projects shortly thereafter. Taxa then pivoted to fragrant moss, which is much easier to engineer due to its simpler genome and shorter life-cycle, which allows scientists to run experiments more quickly.

Why It’s Hot: Orbella is a step forward in the consumer-facing biotech sphere. Taxa’s hope is that the product helps to positively change people’s perception of GMOs and demonstrate the varied uses of the emerging technology. Taxa is also funded primarily through crowd funding, and they’re an independent biotech company – their work is proving that GMO products don’t have to be the sole purview of massive conglomerates.

More significantly, though, the synbio field is truly the future of biotech, and represents mind-bogglingly vast possibilities for humanity – along with equally vast moral and ethical quandaries. How much modification is too much? Where’s the line between a fun, harmless GMO like scented moss and something more troubling? And who should be allowed to produce, and sell, and purchase GMO products in the first place?

Orbella Moss: Gizmodo | Business InsiderOrbella Moss
The Glowing Plant project: Kickstarter | Mother Jones | The Verge

NASA’s Cassini probe ends its 20 year journey

The Cassini space probe vaporized early in the morning on Friday, September 15, as it hurled itself into Saturn’s atmosphere and broke apart, losing connection to the NASA team monitoring it. This was as planned, in order to protect planetary system from potentially harmful microbes the probe might carry from Earth.

Still, it was an emotional time for everyone involved, as many have been working with this spacecraft for decades. Launched in 1997, Cassini traveled seven years through and across 2.2 billion miles of space to reach Saturn. It then spent more than a decade whirling around the planet and flying close by the many moons in the system, gathering data and making discoveries that many at NASA never even expected. Perhaps Cassini’s biggest revelation was the fact that Enceladus has a global ocean underneath its crust, one that could be habitable. The vehicle has also taught us much about the unique nature of Titan, showing that the moon has lakes and rivers of methane on its surface

Scientists still need to decode the data sent from Cassini, and it could be years before we understand exactly what the probe saw.

Why it’s hot

Even non-scientists are enraptured by the end of Cassini’s journey, getting caught up in the emotion of destroying a probe after 20 years of exploration. Capturing people’s awe at our universe and shared experiences like this is a powerful way to tell a story.

https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/15/16308334/nasa-cassini-spacecraft-saturn-titan-enceladus-dive-destruction

What the eclipse can teach us about science

While people across the country are racing to find safety glasses and make last-minute travel arrangements, scientists are making other preparations. These are just some of the natural phenomena that will tested with the help of this week’s solar eclipse:

Einstein’s theory of relativity

Einstein’s 1915 theory says that massive objects should warp the shape of space itself by a noticeable amount. Something like the Sun should bend the light from the constellations behind it, making the stars look as if they’ve moved over a teeny bit.

 

Learning more about the sun’s corona

The sun’s corona, “the bright, high-energy plasma blasting off the Sun’s surface” is the source of space weather, as well as energy particles that “can cause wild auroras, harm satellites, or potentially even swap votes in voting machines should they hit electronics in the right place.” A special telescope, which blocks out most of the sun for the viewer, is used to observe the corona, but eclipses allow scientists to get more precise images of the corona itself. Scientists will be observing the corona from the ground as well as from hot air balloons.

Plant and animal behavior

Unexpected darkness in a plant or animal’s habitat could allow scientists to study their reactions. Many plants and animals behave differently in the run-up or wake of natural disasters, will they show any new behavior during the eclipse?

The effect on weather in different climate zones

“The eclipse will be passing over several different ecosystems, including forests, farmland, and prairies.” Professional scientists, as well as citizen scientists, are preparing to record the temperature throughout the eclipse in St. Louis and the surrounding area.

Why it’s hot

There’s still much about the world we have yet to learn, and a natural phenomenon like the eclipse gives us a unique perspective to measure and observe. It’s something to be excited about that isn’t horrible!

To see other experiments, and to learn how to set up your own for the eclipse, see the full article at Gizmodo

Augmented reality without glasses

Diagram of artificial lense

Artificial lens diagram via techcrunch.com

Six months ago, Omega Ophthalmics did a small trial of seven patients outside of the US. Their goal was to test for adverse effects of a surgery similar to lens replacements that often accompany cataract removals. The difference? Rather than replacing the cloudy lens with a normal artificial lens, surgeons instead implanted a lens that could be used for augmented reality, interactive sensors, or drug delivery.

Why it’s hot

Although widespread adoption of this technology is unlikely in the near future, scientists, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists hope that there is a market for such implants in an aging population that wants to be independent for longer. Whether this small trial is successful may pave the way for larger trials to test additional possibilities and risk.

Learn more at TechCrunch.com

student teacher…

An 11 year old Tennessee girl recently found a way to instantly detect lead in water, cutting the time it used to take to do so drastically. Previously, you had to take a water sample and send it off to a lab for analysis, now all you need is her contraption and a smartphone. She discovered her solution when she read about a new type of nanotechnology on MIT’s website, and imagined its new application in its new context.

Here’s how it works:
“Her test device, which she has dubbed “Tethys,” uses a disposable cartridge containing chemically treated carbon nanotube arrays. This connects with an Arduino technology-based signal processor with a Bluetooth attachment. The graphene within the nanotube is highly sensitive to changes in flow of current. By treating the tube with atoms that are sensitive to lead, Rao is able to measure whether potable water is contaminated with lead, beaming the results straight to a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone. When it detects levels higher than 15 parts per million, the device warns that the water is unsafe.”

Why it’s hot:

1) Never let “can we do this” stop you
2) Never let “how can we do this” stop you
3) Some of the best solutions come when you put two (or more) things together

This offers a good lesson in a few important ingredients for innovation – how much you care, how much you believe, and how creative you can be. When all are high, you can create amazing things. Know what’s possible, believe that anything is, and let nothing stop you. Let’s do it.

DNA to replace your flash drive?

Data storage of the future: DNA. Researchers were able to recreate and store a short film into bacterial DNA and then retrieve it! With the use of Crispr, a powerful gene editing technique they were able to create this masterpiece in some good ‘ol E. coli.

Since there has been buzz around data storage being a growing issue this “futuristic feature” may be the new method of data storage. The intended purpose wasn’t to store movies but instead, researchers hope to be able to program bacteria as recording devices that can drift into the brain through the blood stream and essentially take notes. It would work similarly to airplane black boxes that are used to retrieve information in the event of a crash.

Why it’s hot:

There are so many possibilities. If DNA can store data like this, imagine what it could do for doctors and researchers. Feeling a little ill and not entirely sure what the issue is? Perhaps your doctor can retrieve the information directly from inside of you.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/12/science/film-clip-stored-in-dna.html

When will AI outperform humans at work?

352 AI experts forecast a 50% chance AI will outperform humans in all tasks within 45 years, and take all jobs from humans within 120 years. Many of the world’s leading experts on machine learning were among those they contacted, including Yann LeCun, director of AI research at Facebook, Mustafa Suleyman from Google’s DeepMind and Zoubin Ghahramani, director of Uber’s AI labs.


Get the full research document HERE. Go to page 14 to get details on predictions

School Subjects Could Be A Thing Of The Past in Finland

Finland is rethinking how it teaches in the digital age – seeking to place skills, as much as subjects, at the heart of what it does in a framework called Project Based Learning (PBL)

VIDEO: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39889523

WHY ITS HOT

Traditionally, learning has been defined as a list of subject matters and facts you need to acquire – such as arithmetic and grammar – with some decoration, like citizenship, built in around it.

When it comes to real life, our brain is not sliced into disciplines in that way; we are thinking in a very holistic way. And when you think about the problems in the world – global crises, migration, the economy, the post-truth era – we really haven’t given our children the tools to deal with this inter-cultural world.

It’s a major mistake if we lead children to believe the world is simple and that if they learn certain facts they are ready to go. So learning to think, learning to understand, these are important skills – and it also makes learning fun, which we think promotes wellbeing.

Never fear splitting your pants wide open ever again

A company called Imperial Motion has released a line of outerwear and bags that incorporates nano technology. The special material self-heals when torn by rubbing two fingers over the puncture back and forth for about 10 seconds.

Link to Imperial Motion’s Nano Cure line

Why It’s Hot

This is a great practical application of a once-excessively hyped technology. In addition to being a great idea, it seems to be very reasonably priced.

In Two Shakes of a Lamb’s Tail We’ll be Growing Humans in Fluid Filled Bags

So we’re able to let Lambs develop outside the womb.

Physicians at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia worked with 23 week-old lambs to in order test a synthetic device that imitates a woman’s uterus, hoping to limit mortality and disease in premature children that are born before 37 weeks.

Premature birth is the leading cause of death for newborns. So it makes sense that we try to find a solution, albeit a creepy looking one. In this successful breakthrough, lambs were placed in transparent biobags just 105 days after they started development, which is equivalent to about 22 weeks of human development.

The lambs were kept in the biobags for four weeks. During this time, they grew hair; their lungs developed; and they reached the point where they could survive on their own.

Remarkably, the eight lambs in the trial developed normally in the artificial womb and each survived, proving that the biobag successfully mimicked the natural conditions found in the uterus—and paving the way for a new life-saving device for humans.

Although the fluid-filled plastic enclosure can’t develop a child for an entire nine-month term, it can allow us to incubate them remarkably soon after conception. The team of physicians is already in talks with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and clinical trials are slated to begin in the next 3 to 5 years.

Image result for the matrix image coming out of the goo

Read more here.

Why it’s hot:

  1. ‘Cause this new device could allow premature babies to develop in natural conditions and maybe avoid a host of chronic health conditions.

We All Could Benefit From The Japanese Practice of Forest Bathing

The Japanese practice of forest bathing or is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.

From 2004 to 2012, Japanese officials spent about $4 million dollars studying the physiological and psychological effects of forest bathing, designating 48 therapy trails based on the results. Forest environments can be viewed as therapeutic landscapes.

Forest bathing works easily: Just be with trees. No hiking, no counting steps on a Fitbit. You can sit or meander, but the point is to relax rather than accomplish anything.

WHY ITS HOT:

It’s only recently in human history that we stopped being outside, spending 80% of our time in doors and most of our time in 2D environments. With the onslaught of more screens, AI, virtual reality et al – Its more important than ever for us to understand how our environments effect us, and what we need to not only be happy, but what we need to unlock creativity, empathy, self love, and healing.

More from the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/09/14/how-tech-workers-are-turning-to-the-japanese-practice-of-forest-bathing-to-break-their-smartphone-habits/?utm_term=.c91df83b644d

AI and the Rise of the Useless Class?

 

In 2004, MIT and Harvard published a report on automation in the job market – they predicted that truck driving could not undergo automation – but now Google and Tesla are working on it. Until recently, facial recognition was also a favorite example of something that babies accomplish easily but which escaped even the most powerful computers. Today, facial-recognition programs are able to identify people far more efficiently and quickly than humans can.

We’ve had evidence for awhile that AI is coming for things that we thought only humans could do.

An Oxford study in 2013 surveyed the likelihood of different professions being taken over by computer algorithms within the next 20 years. Just as example, they predict these professions have over an 80% chance or higher of being eliminated by AI – Sports Refs, Cashiers, Chefs, Waiters, Paralegal, Tour Guides, Bakers, Bus Drivers, Construction Workers, Security Guards, Sailors.

So what does this mean?

Traditionally, life has been divided into two main parts: a period of learning, followed by a period of working. Very soon this traditional model will become utterly obsolete, and the only way for humans to stay in the game will be to keep learning throughout their lives and to reinvent themselves repeatedly. Many, if not most, humans may be unable to do so.

Enter the idea of a “useless class” of people. The prediction is, just as mass industrialization created the working class, the AI revolution will create a new unworking class.

Why Its Hot / Questions To Think About:

1. Today, work has been the standard way to valuing your time/contribution to society – if that goes away, what else could we be doing that builds societal value?
2. If the gap between people that create and people that consume widens, how will we value the sacredness of life and human experiences?
3. What exactly should be the role of AI in modern life? Is it to eliminate work, or would this change over time?
4. Professionally, how do we continue to level up? How will our own work change?

 

 

The rise of the useless class

what we should eat is defined by our DNA

A startup called Habit is providing personalized nutrition/diet plans and meals based on customers’ DNA. For $299, with few drops of blood and saliva, scientists and nutritionists can tailor nutritional advice specified to your biological make up – what food your body craves, rejects, etc.

Once customers’ metabolic and DNA analyses are gathered, Habit also recommends individual’s health goals through its Nutrition Intelligence Engine algorithm to place them into one of seven Habit types. Each type has different plan specifies the ideal ratio of carbs, protein, and fat in each meal in addition to the TYPES of carbs, protein, and fat their body will respond best to.

Meal plans and access to health coach are further complemented by personalized meals that are delivered fresh to your door – for extra cost of course. Working with biometric devices such as Fitbit, participants can use their devices to monitor their progress and enable Habit staff to input any changes to plans/meals as needed.

Why it’s HOT:

  • this is a business model around hyper personalization, based on individual biological make up, can’t get more personal that this.
  • there will be the growth of converging science/nutrition/data to create consumer facing products and services.
  • Habit was valued at $210 bil by Morgan Stanley Research for its meal-delivery services – with the potential to disrupt and clearly differentiate itself from Blue Apron and other food delivery services.

Want me to dance? Code me

Hasbro is trying to teach kids to code in a unique way. They are launching a Belle doll that pairs with a basic programming app for iOS or Android. The doll teaches kids the fundamentals of coding all in the name of getting Belle to dance. Kids can program dance routines through Belle’s companion app

Whether your child is younger or older, this doll can help gear a child’s mind towards coding. For the younger kids, you can program Belle’s movements with a basic connect-the-dots mode, where the screen is filled with shapes that coincide with basic dance moves. When a child drags their finger across the shapes on the screen, in whatever pattern they choose, Belle dances in conjunction with the selected commands. For older kids, you can use the “block coding” mode where you can drag and drop moves and commands into a sequence for Belle to perform. The doll pairs over Bluetooth and relies on batteries for power. Belle costs $120 and will be available in the fall 2017.

While it won’t necessarily make them computer geniuses overnight, it will help them develop problem solving skills, give them an interest in how things work on a fundamental level, and likely increase a child’s interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)

Why it’s hot
More girls in STEM please – Girls have historically been far more likely to stray away from STEM education and careers. Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29% of the science and engineering workforce. So, it’s encouraging to see toy companies making an effort to welcome more little girls into the STEM community.