3 things direct from the future

Edition 89

Once every 2 weeks I will deliver “3 things direct from the future”. A 2 minute read that will always give you:

  • one thing that can help,
  • one thing to be wary of, and
  • one thing to amaze.

If this sounds interesting to you then please subscribe.


1. One thing that helps

Liquid Metal Coating

Smart this. Smart that. Everything is getting “smart”, and now it is paper’s turn. By coating paper in a liquid metal, we can turn it into gadgets and objects that can fold and change on their own.

“Utilizing our method, one can quickly create smart materials with good thermal and electrical conductivity as well as stiffness-tunable ability, which greatly expands material options for soft robots,” says lead researcher Bo Yuan

With the right amount of pressure and rubbing speed, the liquid metal can adhere to surfaces without the need for another substance to act as an adhesive. The researchers tried it on paper and the results are fascinating. The coat not only adhered well to the paper; it also did not damage the properties of the paper. They created an origami cube out of the metal-coated paper and found out that once unfolded, the paper would return to its original shape. The coat can also be removed without damaging the paper.

This metal coat makes it possible to easily turn “dumb” objects into “smart” objects. It will help in improving current soft robots’ capabilities. And like the paper cube, there’s also the chance that we can get boxes that open and close by themselves.


2. One to be wary of

AI Data Privacy

“I would say maybe some of the people in this audience are the users of AI, but the majority of the population is the subject of AI,” says Meredith Whittaker, president of the foundation behind Signal, at a Bloomberg technology summit.

It’s a glaring warning in the midst of all the frenzy and hype surrounding AI. It reminds us that AI is not just a tool that magically comes up with solutions. It needs to take those solutions from somewhere: it needs data. And that is where issues hound AI. If you apply for a bank loan and are denied, there is a high probability that no human saw your application but that AI did a background check, scraped your social media account and decided you were not worthy. But was it right? Were you worthy?

There is currently a class action lawsuit that alleges OpenAI and Microsoft of stealing vast amounts of private information from the web to train ChatGPT. The data may include social media information, names, contacts and even analytics and cookies! The lawsuit asks three additional things aside from stopping OpenAI and Microsoft from data scraping:

  1. Disclose what data is being collected and how it is being used;
  2. Follow a code of ethical principles and compensate plaintiffs for their stolen data, and;
  3. Allow internet users to opt out of any data collection and stop all illegal taking of data.

Sounds fair to me.

3. One to amaze

The Next Smartphone?

I crave a screenless future.

The smartphone is outdated technology and well overdue for a replacement. Tech start-up Humane is kick-starting us in the right direction with the Humane wearable device.

It’s a small AI-powered screenless device. It has a laser projector, a speaker, a camera, a microphone and gesture sensors. Unlike other wearables, Humane doesn’t pair with your smartphone so you don’t need to bring two devices with you. Hooray!  But what is it capable of?

For starters, it is equipped with gesture control so that you can wake it up without pressing on a physical button. It is primarily controlled through voice command instead of tapping on a screen. It is equipped with functions like “Catch me up” to give you details you missed at the meeting you’ve been. It can tell you about emails, calendar invites, messages and translate languages.

If you’re watchful over your diet, you can use the camera to scan a food item and ask, “Can I eat this?” Based on your personal preferences and dietary restrictions, it can help you spot foods you are allergic to or want to avoid. When you need to read, Humane projects the text on any surface, like the palm of your hands.

Humane device demo projector

Humane is looking to put the human in the centre of the interface. Imagine a world without people glued to their phone screens, interacting naturally – but with augmented tech help. The screen is not the future we need. This could be the start.

Have a great week.

Daniel J McKinnon

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