The Wonder, January 2nd, 2020 - Goodbye 2019: Underwater Symphonies & VR Therapy

A Weekly Snapshot of Life-Changing Technology

Written by MaCall Manor, on behalf of SF AppWorks

Happy New Year! We hope you enjoyed your holiday season. This is our recap on the tech from Decemberthe last of 2019! Here's to another year of Wonder-evoking technological innovation...let's continue reshaping and improving our world. Cheers! 🥂

1. Deep Fakes

Researchers placed underwater loudspeakers in Australia's Great Barrier Reef, playing sound bites of healthy coral reefs with the intention of attracting fish to dead coral patches. 

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Hot Take

It is...the most interesting party in the world.

Tenor

Existing Tech, New Wave

The study confirmed that twice as many fish came to the dead coral patches where the sounds were played, compared to the areas without the simulated marine symphony. Stephen D. Simpson, a marine biology professor at University of Exeter, explains that these sounds can be navigational indicators for young fish when they are determining a place to settle. One of the most exciting implications of the study was that fish attracted to the reefs tended to stay there! 

Concert-ed Effort

When you hear the term "acoustic enrichment," your mind might drift to thoughts of John Mayer's soothing voice on a rainy day. But this new application of technology involves a bit more grit. 33 experimental reef patches were built during the peak mating season of local marine life. Then, underwater loudspeakers were pitched and specifically angled to ensure sufficient sound reach. Over the span of 40 nights, the special recordings were played and tested against two other variable groups. In the end, the rigorous testing and data gathered demonstrated the promising viability of their approach. 

2. Hid-DNA

Scientists have developed a new method of storing data, which involves mixing it into common manufacturing components, like this adorable 3D-printed bunny.

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Photo courtesy of ETH ZURICH

Hot Take

Hide ya wife... hide ya data!

The Limit Does Exist

Humans are generating data at speeds incompatible with room to store it. To put things in perspective, we collectively produced 16.1 trillion gigabytes of digital info in 2016 alone—and a single gigabyte can store over 4,000 books. Luis Ceze, a computer scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle, asserts that the technology we use to store data today is reaching its limit. 

Act Natural

In discovering ways to harness the overwhelming amount of data, scientists are taking inspiration from the astounding capacity of our own biological structure. This solution is situated at the intersection of biology and nanotechnology, leveraging DNA coding as the possible final frontier for information storage. The scientists working on the project point out the potential facility of these methods to create devices containing their own blueprints...information stored within itself. 

Objectified

As is the case with this bunny, scientists are now able to seal DNA inside thousands of microscopic glass beads, which contain the instructions for duplicating the toy-like figure. This method has remarkable implications for future use, such as encoding a patient's health records in a prosthetic part or implant.

3. 3D-Liver

It seems like every time we turn around, there's more news on the 3D-printing horizon. But does this one take center stage with its ability to perform nearly all of a true organ's typical functions? Using innovative methods, Brazilian researchers have created "mini livers" that can produce vital proteins, store vitamins, and secrete bile.

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Photo courtesy of Daniel Antônio / Agência FAPESP

Hot Take

*This message is brought to you by Jack Daniels. Drink responsibly—or don't! You can always reprint your liver.

Cluster Luck

In this study, cells were integrated in the 'bioink' used to create the tissue in the 3D printer. Says Ernesto Goulart, a postdoctoral fellow in USP's Institute for Biosciences, "instead of printing individualized cells, we developed a method of grouping them before printing. These 'clumps' of cells, or spheroids, are what constitute the tissue and maintain its functionality much longer."

How to Save a Life

The complete process of collecting a patient's blood sample and producing the new tissue takes a total of 90 days. There are a few more stages of development required before a wholly complete organ is achieved, but these scientific breakthroughs are only a mile away. 

*KIDDING

4. Mint Condition

In order to combat overproduction of plastic for toothpaste containers, two Canadian entrepreneurs have created toothpaste in the form of a tablet.

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Photo courtesy of Change Toothpaste

Hot Take

Innovations like these are important to take note of. Everywhere around us there are opportunities for improvement and optimization. Entrepreneurs need only to observe their surroundings and ask "has anyone taken a fresh look at that lately?" 

Sticky Situation

Traditional toothpaste tubes can take over 500 years to break down, and are created with many different un-recyclable layers, including plastics, polymers, and resins. Hundreds of millions of these tubes go into landfills each year. 

Rinse and Be Green

Mike and Damien's creative idea involves chewable tablets sold in recyclable paper packs. You simply chew the tablet a bit, wet a toothbrush and continue as usual—in your mouth it becomes a foamy substance that cleans your teeth. Deemed "Change Toothpaste," the product boasts an ingredient list free of fluoride, gluten, dairy, nuts, and soy. The two even consulted with professionals to make sure the new-age toothpaste was safe for both children and adults.

5. VRy Therapeutic

Tech startup Limbix is enroute to receiving FDA approval for use of VR to treat anxiety and other mental health disorders with their cutting-edge approach to what is already known in the cognitive behavior field as 'exposure therapy'.

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Photo by Lux Interaction on Unsplash

Hot Take

Imagine what a world with more fearless people can accomplish in 2020...

Head-On

Cognitive behavioral therapy is said to take an immersive approach in dealing with a patient's fears or triggers "head-on." After successfully identifying unwanted behaviors, the subject can begin to move forward, replacing the negative responses with healthier ones. In essence, through gradual exposure of patients to their triggers, the VR helps create a "practice" environment. 

Don't Try This at Home

Limbix does not augment the role of a therapist, but rather is a useful tool made to enhance her practice. The company is marketing its product to healthcare professionals, citing that a controlled environment and guided use form an integral pillar of the therapy.

​Treatment, in High Definition

We live in an exciting time for medicine, where new parameters are constantly being explored and defined with emerging technology. On the road to gaining FDA approval, Limbix has joined forces with several powerhouse research institutions, including the Mayo Clinic and esteemed universities like USC and UCLA.


Thanks for reading! If you enjoy the Wonder, please consider sharing it with a friend. We'll see you next month! 

-MaCall Manor, on behalf of SF AppWorks