VR, Crickets, Furniture Robots, Diversity in Tech and More
Dec 12, 2016 / Dan Campbell /
You’ll Be Eating Crickets Soon. You Have No Choice.
Jiminy Crickets! There has been a lot of buzz lately around the idea of using our musically-inclined arthropodic friends as a cheap and sustainable source of protein. Here’s the thing: the planet can only produce so much grain, and most of what we do produce goes towards raising cattle for protein. It seems like an incredibly wasteful process, and ends up using incredible amounts of water and other resources (not to mention producing a lot of greenhouse gas). Crickets are 10x more efficient than cattle on grain usage, and over 100x more efficient than cattle on water usage. If we can get over the “ick” factor of eating crickets, we may have a chance of saving tons of resources and energy. Hopefully the video’s title is not fully prophetic, and we’ll have some choice in the matter. But I for one am warming up to the idea.
Security & Adult Entertainment
Online security is obviously a big deal, and has become increasingly important as we do more and more online. Something we’ve been doing online practically since the internet’s inception is view Pornography. When we think about online security, we often think of securing credit card transactions and bank accounts, but how about securing some of the most personal information about ourselves? Mike Stabile, the director of communications for the Free Speech Coalition says about a potential security breach, “It’s tremendously exposing, especially if you’re closeted or in a community that’s going to frown upon that.” Many adult sites still aren’t protected with the encryption protocol HTTPS, which leaves them vulnerable to various hacking schemes. The FSC and the Center for Democracy and Technology, a digital civil liberties nonprofit, aim to secure the web one adult site at a time.
Diversity in Tech
The tech world has a persistent diversity gap: African Americans comprise about 7 percent and Latinos about 8 percent of the tech sector, in a nation where those numbers are 12 and 16 percent, respectively. Women comprise about 30 percent of tech, despite being 51 percent of the population. Google is putting some resources into filling that gap, piloting a new program called Code Next in Oakland California. The program seeks to provide workshops in everything from coding and game development to 3D modeling, in an “open-ended” and “iterative”way to encourage exploration. Google isn’t completely altruistic in its desire to bring new talent into the tech world — The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the industry will have 1 million more computer science-related jobs than people to fill them by 2020. Obviously, it is in Google’s interest in more than one way to try to engage young people who have been left out by the current system.
A Robot Furniture Designer
The title of this section may be a bit misleading. And maybe the difference between what this headline implies and what the article actually says is a good peek into the future of human-algorithm interaction. When we talk about neural networks or intelligent algorithms we have a tendency to personify them, perhaps based on conditioning from sci-fi films. What these designers did was collaborate with intelligent software in order to refine and iterate a design within a set of rules. Which is still pretty cool. They collaborated with Dreamcatcher, Autodesk’s generative design CAD system. They fed the software a 3D model of a chair as a starting point and gave it some rules to follow, such as how much weight the chair should support and that it needed to place the arms to be comfortable for a human body. The software would generate a series of iterations based on that input, the designers would choose the ones they liked, and the software would use those selections as the starting points for the next generation. One of the designers exclaimed “It’s cool to let it go too far—some of it looks like bug skeletons to me.” Of course this process could be extrapolated into many other fields, where computers and intelligent people can create something that neither could accomplish alone.
Google is getting into the hardware game like never before, and is coming out with some pretty incredible tech that feels very sci-fi. One such device is the Daydream View, Google’s latest virtual reality headset, and it looks super cool. On the surface, it just looks nice — it’s obvious it was designed as a fashion object as much as a gadget. Watch the video for a full review, and keep an eye out for more info about this and other exciting hardware from Google!
Dan is Great Big’s techy ambivert, overseeing all web and software development as well as technical strategy. He's a full stack developer but the front end has his heart. He finds great satisfaction in building systems that solve real-world problems, and is interested in making technology more accessible and intuitive for everyone.
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