The Wonder, March 29 - Robot Skin, Insta-checkout, and Refrigerdating

INblog, technology, the wonder|BYsf appworks

A Weekly Snapshot of Life-Changing Technology

Happy Friday!

Apple scrapped its plans to release a wireless charging mat, a rare move for the company. No updates yet on how I’ll charge my AirPods, iPhone, and Watch at the same time.

1. Robot Skin

Researchers at Brown University believe they have created a soft, strong, and responsive material that could be ideal for creating a robotic grip.

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Hot Take
The real breakthrough here isn’t in creating the soft, yet durable material, but in doing it in a 3D-printed and modular way. That could make building soft robotic components as simple as snapping together lego pieces..

Why It Matters
There are many practical applications for soft robot hands, particularly as we get farther out into the future. But in the short term, this technology can also be used to create microfluidiic chips that can be used to separate (and thus detect) cancer cells more quickly.

Cool or Creepy?
The ionic bonds in the polymer enable self-adhesion. In other words, these bad boys can become self healing.

2. Insta-checkout

Instagram is bringing a checkout feature so that users can purchase items without leaving the app.

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Hot Take
Zuck is working quickly to find revenue streams that don’t come from advertising as privacy concerns threaten Facebook’s core business..

The Big Picture
Last month Mark Zuckerburg announced a big shift in Facebook’s business model by moving away from public posts and towards encrypted, ephemeral communications. Private, encrypted messaging tools create room for payment and commerce transactions.

Fun Fact
130 million Instagram users per month tap on product tags in shopping posts.

3. iShrink

Seattle startup Clocktree rolls out a telehealth platform to help people find and receive therapy from mental health, relationship, addiction, and nutrition counselors.

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Hot Take
Mental illness is on the rise, though it’s unclear how much of that comes from an increased willingness to talk about it. Even so, cost and stigma lead to under-treatment. Lowering the barriers for seeking that treatment should help.

Why It Matters
Our mental health aside, the consumerization of healthcare is a powder keg about to explode. Many of the big tech players (Google, Amazon, Apple) are working on it. Concierge health services like One Medical are growing in popularity, home testing kits are becoming commonplace, and technology is enabling patients to access doctors online.

4. MS Paint for the AI Age

Nvidia unveiled an image creator that turns simple sketches into complex photorealistic images.

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Hot Take
Even a child can create sophisticated, realistic imagery with a few strokes; refrigerator art will never be the same..

The good, the bad, and the ugly
It is getting significantly easier to create entertainment (good), misleading representations of places (bad), and deep fakes (ugly).

5. Refrigerdating

Samsung has released a companion app to its Family Hub refrigerator that lets people look inside of the fridges of potential matches.

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Hot Take
It may seem ridiculous, but would you rather date a 6-pack of Bud Light, some moldy ham, and a hardened pool of crusted ketchup or champagne, fresh fruits, hummus, and a freshly seasoned prime rib?.

Why it matters
Antics aside, smart fridges have the potential to change the way we store food (by reminding us what is going to expire) and educate us about healthy choices (by analyzing the contents and offering suggestions). We’re only at the ‘take a peek’ mode and there is plenty of innovation left to explore.

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

– Your friends at SF AppWorks