The Wonder, June 29 - Heartbreak-through

INblog, technology, the wonder|BYsf appworks

A Weekly Snapshot of Life-Changing Technology

1. Heart Recognition Technology

The Pentagon has developed technology that can identify a person by their heartbeat from 500 feet away.

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Hot Take
First, they came for our fingerprints. Then, they came for our faces. Now, they have come for our heartbeats.

How it works
“Jetson” uses laser vibrometry to detect movements on the surface of the skin caused by a person’s pulse. Did you know that each person has a unique heart rhythm?

Pros and Cons
Heart recognition technology is less error-prone than facial recognition or fingerprint sensors since our heart rhythm can’t be duplicated or changed. That makes it easier for companies and governments to engage in mass surveillance, for better or worse.

2. Front-loaded

Toronto is planning a high-tech remake of its rundown waterfront.

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Hot Take
The closely watched project could provide a glimpse into the future of our cities as well as a framework for how to handle privacy concerns regarding the use of public data by governments and companies alike.

Highlights!
Prefabricated wooden structures, automatic awnings, snow-melting sidewalks, self-adjusting timed lights, and robot trash collectors, to name a few.

Buy or sell?
Many cities are piloting high tech or green rebuild initiatives with the hope that it will create tech jobs and attract outside investors. These considerations need to be weighed against the impact of automation and privacy concerns.

3. Spider glue

UMBC’s Sarah Stellwagen becomes the first in the world to sequence genes for spider glue.

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Hot Take
If you’ve seen any of the 52 Spiderman movies, you get it. Spider glue is very sticky and very strong – about as strong as steel at only a fifth of the weight. Being able to sequence the genes is like getting the recipe to an enormously complex dish that we’re nowhere near good enough to prepare. Baby steps.

Imagine…
…A few of the things we could make if we could produce commercial quantities of spider glue:

  • Bulletproof clothing
  • Ropes, nets, seatbelts
  • Biodegradable bottles
  • Bandages, bandaids, and surgical threads
  • Artificial tendons or ligaments
  • Robotic ‘muscles’ for human-like movement
  • Industrial grade biodegradable insecticides
  • Spiderman

Random thought of the day
If this works, we might have to stop calling ourselves web developers 🤔

4. Heartbreak-through

A new ‘pumping’ patch that could help repair the damage caused by a heart attack is ready for human trials.

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Hot Take
I love it when an old solution (a patch) gets a boost from new technology (living, beating stem cells grown in a lab from a sample of the patient’s own cells)..

Why it matters
About 5.7 million adults in the US suffer from heart failure every year. Half of those people die within 5 years of diagnosis. It costs us an estimated $30.7 billion each year and there is no cure.

5. Mental Health Fire Alarm

Mindstrong’s new Health app promises an early-warning system that would flag users when an emotional crisis seems imminent.

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Hot Take
Recognizing behavioral patterns is the first step in changing them. Sensors, whether on our phones or in our voice assistants, offer near-continuous monitoring. The challenge is in finding a way to use that information to become happier, better versions of ourselves.

How it works
Users install a custom keyboard that monitors their activity on their phones. With a week’s worth of data, Mindstrong algorithms can establish a normal pattern of usage – including how frequently the phone is used and how quickly people type. When that usage pattern becomes abnormal, the app triggers a warning to the user.

Knowledge is (only) half the battle
Recognizing when we need help is important, but we also need to understand the skills and tools available to us to counter negative behavior or thought patterns.

Catch 22
What if the ‘fire alarm’ designed to blunt anxiety instead triggers it?

6. Delivery for...Fridge?

Walmart now delivers groceries to shoppers’ refrigerators.

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Hot Take
The days of standing in front of your fridge, door open, fruitlessly hoping something delicious will magically appear are long gone.

Your move, Amazon
The delivery wars are heating up. Walmart recently launched its one-day delivery without a shipping fee to beat out Amazon Prime. Amazon came back with in-house delivery and Walmart said “hold my beer, fridge”.

Thanks for reading! We’ll see you next week. 

-Andrew Greenstein, on behalf of SF AppWorks