Change the World

Change the World


As concerns over personal privacy grow, particularly in terms of new technology, a Maryland-based company seeks to provide an alternative. Silent Circle, encrypts clients’ voice calls, text messages, and file attachments. Encryption prevents potential eavesdroppers from listening in on phone calls and protects metadata. Silent Circle has big plans for the future including a secure smartphone called Blackphone. Blackphone will utilize encryption tools currently used by Silent Circle, as well as other software that will help secure data.


Neuroscientists have worked for decades to better understand how the brain functions. Recent advances in brain mapping technology have made that ambitious task easier. An international team of researchers at the Human Brain Project have created a three dimensional atlas of the brain. The maps resolution is fifty times better than previous efforts. The atlas creators digitally stitched together thousands of brain cross-sections. The map shows details up to 20 micrometers in size—the estimated size of many human cells. While this is a huge advancement, scientists still aim to create a map that shows details at 1 or 2 micrometers, rather than 20.


Many companies around the globe are working towards blurring the lines between biological systems and man-made creations. Qualcomm is making significant steps in developing artificial intelligence system with the use of Neuromorphic Chips. These chips blend neurology into traditional technologies like smartphone chips. Qualcomm is already testing chips in small robots that allow the machines to perform tasks that typically require a custom computer. The chips can process sensory data through sight and sound in order to respond in ways that are not explicitly programmed. For example, the chips could anticipate user needs.


The potential of 3-D printing technology has many people excited about new applications. But current printers have important limitations. Up until recently, most 3-D printers can only use plastic. A group of researchers at Harvard University, led by Jennifer Lewis, have started to develop new 3-D printer inks. Her team prints intricate objects using materials that are chosen based on their mechanical properties, electrical conductivity, or optical traits. Eventually new inks will enable a wider variety of functions, including artificial organ creation.


The current infrastructure for collaborating in a professional environment can be counterproductive to getting work done. This problem is one that new apps like Quip aim to solve. The intent is to develop a system where every step of the collaboration process happens in the same digital space. It aims to create a more intimate experience by implementing chat features and a Facebook-style news feed, in turn creating a more collaborative experience. These new platforms aim to improve the efficiency and productivity of current workflows.


Taking a single step requires balance, coordination, force, and direction. Each of these factors has presented unique challenges for engineers designing robots that can walk. Enter Boston Dynamics who have experimented with the “dynamic balance”—a feature that allows robots to maintain balance while walking. Recently, they successfully created a robot that can walk across uneven and unsteady terrain. This new innovation opens doors for the greater use of robots in emergency operations or helping elderly and disabled individuals with chores and daily tasks. While the technology is still in the developmental stage, Boston Dynamics knows that the robots need to walk, before they can run.


One barrier to mainstream use of renewables is integrating sustainable energy sources into the current power grid. Big data and artificial intelligence have made it easier to predict how much power wind turbines will produce. Anticipating power fluctuations is key to developing technologies for integrating wind and solar into the power grid.

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