5 Crazy/Cool Things That Happened This Week (April 21st, 2017)

by Srikar Kalvakolanu

Mind-reading, flying cars, and more.

AeroMobil Flying Car

Every week in tech is a bit crazy, but this one in particular seemed to have some interesting headlines floating around that caught my attention. Big Incumbents and Small Disruptors alike, it’s a nice time to look back and see some of the weird, crazy, and sometimes even comical events that transpired over the week in the world of tech.

1. Mark Zuckerberg confirms Facebook is working on “mind-reading” technology.

Yes, your sci-fi fantasies are starting to be realized. And so if you don’t even want to talk to your Alexa to do things (let alone another human), you can just think them. Facebook revealed a “secretive division” at its headquarters that has been experimenting with mind reading technology over the past few months — claiming it to be “the ultimate communication technology.” The topic came up during the developer conference on Wednesday where Regina Dugan of Facebook’s experimental division, Building 8, claimed that the ability to use optical neuro-imaging systems is closer than you think. Some estimates show that thinking to text input is approximately five times faster than typing on a mobile phone. Talk about an Alternative UI.

2. Flying car to go on sale: ‘The technology is there’.

AeroMobil unveiled Thursday its version of a flying car — a light frame plane with foldable wings based on the design of a dragonfly. The company plans to start pre-orders later this year. The vehicle has a top speed of 99 MPH a driving range of 62 miles. While flying, the range is 466 miles. The car apparently takes 3 minutes to change form. A handful of these have been popping up lately, but it’s nice to see one come to market finally. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like its something you’ll be seeing around the streets in the near future — the price is pretty prohibitive and you’ll need a pilot’s license to go into flying mode.

3. Silicon Valley’s $400 juicer may be feeling the squeeze.

I’m a big juice fan. I’d even go as far as saying I’m a juice fanatic. But $400 dollars for juice sounds like a bit of a stretch. But Juicero, creator of the ‘First Cold-Press Juicer of its kind’, ended up raising around $118.5 M in four rounds, from investors like GV and fellow startup studio, Interplay Ventures. Now for $400 dollars, one big problem is that most people started to realize that the juicer is less efficient than just squeezing a bag of juice yourself. Juicero’s defense? “It’s more consistent and less messy to have a $400 dollar machine squeeze a bag of juice into your cup than you doing it yourself.” Nice.

4. How to pull water out of thing air, even in the driest parts of the globe.

For the Star Wars fans out there, if you ever pay attention closely to the drier planets depicted (think Tatooine), you sometimes see these thin structures in the land that are stuck in the ground with seemingly no purpose. Well, they actually solve one of the bigger plot holes in the entire universe. Consider this: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, how the heck did they even find enough resources to live on those planets? Well, the answer is actually temperature differentials and condensation creation. MIT partnered up with UC-Berkeley to create the technology to harvest water to help water scarce individuals in more remote and arid climates. Pretty cool stuff. Pod-Racing is that much closer to being real.

5. Scientists create fluid that seems to defy physics.

Science is cool sometimes. Scientists at Washington State University (Go Cougars!) actually created a substance that defies Newton’s Second Law of Motion that basically says if you push a ball in one direction, the ball should travel that direction. Now, what if you pushed a ball and it came toward you instead of away from you? According to F=MA, that object would technically have to have negative mass (that’s pretty rare and interesting). This technology can be used to learn more about space and even to improve navigational instruments like compasses.