A Monthly Snapshot of Life-Changing Technology
1. Just Squidding
Researchers from UC San Diego just built a robot squid.
University of California, San Diego
I have an inkling you’re going to want to read this.
The team hoped to create an underwater exploration vessel that would be safe for its environmental co-dwellers. They opted for a soft robot, as it would be less likely to harm the surrounding aquatic life. Using a blend of soft materials like acrylic polymer and laser-cut structural parts, they constructed a robot swimmer capable of taking water in by compressing its body, and then releasing that water as an energy jet to propel itself forward––all inspired by the swimming technique of real squid.
The device has an adjustable nozzle, giving it the ability to move in any direction. It swims at around a half mile an hour, and includes a sealable compartment to hold a camera or other sensor for recording data. The team claims this is the first robot that can change its body shape to generate jet pulses for speed and efficiency.
2. Aisle tell you what...
Cooler Screens, maker of interactive digital displays to replace glass doors on beverage coolers in stores, has raised $80m in Series C funding.
Image from Cooler Screens
May no part of the consumer journey be left untouched by ads.
Arsen Avakian, Cooler Screens founder, argues that moving advertising in-store actually makes a lot more sense because it reaches people when they’re already in the mood for shopping. Customers can use the displays to find information they need then and there, and even ask questions like “which items are vegan?” or “how many calories does that product have?”
One relieving aspect of Cooler Screens technology is that it doesn’t collect personal information about its viewers. Avakian thinks of the technology as a resource for shoppers, while pitching the screens’ functionality to buyers as dual purpose “contextual advertising.”
The startup has now raised over $100 million in funding from investors including Verizon Ventures and Microsoft’s M12. The displays are already installed in 50 Walgreens locations in Chicago, and the company is planning to expand to 2,500 more Walgreens across the US, so keep an eye out for the new-age installments.
3. PAWgmented Reality
The US Army is exploring the use of VR headsets on working dogs.
Image from Command Sight
How far are we from tricking our dogs into thinking they went for a walk?
We’ve all seen dogs helping with drug and weapon detection in airports, but their responsibilities go beyond security. Military dogs work in the field, often in highly dangerous areas, guided by fellow soldiers using hand signals and laser pointers. But now the army has teamed up with Command Sight, a company working to improve human to animal communications, to develop fur-friendly VR devices that will help transmit signals from a distance.
The devices are each custom made to fit the individual dogs wearing them. Fitting is achieved using a 3D scan to inform the design, including where to place optics and other components. The device’s virtual reality works differently for animals, and is not meant to be interactive, but rather a means to transmit visual cues to help guide the wearer to a certain location. Professionals working on this technology (and with the dogs) believe that the tools will level-up alongside their understanding of canine vision and cognition, but for now, there’s a lot of room for improvement.
4. Hail Mary
Driverless taxis are officially here.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
“No one should be driving home tonight” has taken on a whole new meaning.
Jesus Take the Wheel
We’ve been talking about driverless technology for quite a while now, but in Arizona it’s really here. Anyone with the Waymo One app can hail a ride within a 50 mile radius of Chandler, a suburb outside of Phoenix.
The service is partial to existing customers, but will begin expanding to new users over the next several weeks. Waymo has partnered with AutoNation to ensure vehicle cleanliness. The taxis will be stocked with disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer, and even feature an upgraded air purification system.
Ketos, a hardware and software company that focuses on water quality and distribution has raised $18 million.
Making water smarter, not harder.
There’s been an increased demand for regulatory solutions when it comes to water and how it’s managed. Closer analysis of our water condition, waste reduction, and increased conservation are all endeavors ripe for tech transformation. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, waste water streams are even being monitored to help detect outbreaks of the virus.
With this latest round of funding, Ketos will focus on developing new capabilities of procuring water quality data, pipe conditions, contamination sources, as well as predictive functionality geared toward potential issues with water systems. The company uses machine learning in its pursuit of building the largest data hub of water quality insights. Another of Ketos’ major selling points is that data is captured remotely and requires no investment in additional infrastructure.
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-MaCall Manor, on behalf of SF AppWorks
MaCall Manor is an editor and writer based in San Francisco. She has always been a storyteller by trade, seeking to inspire with the work and content she creates. Brilliantly imaginative in filling out the details of the innovation processes and design thinking, she's passionate about all things creative, dancing, nature, and books/movies.