5 Crazy/Cool Things That Happened This Week (May 5th, 2017)

by Srikar Kalvakolanu

Cognitive Dresses, Invasive Species Control, Voice Mimicking

Big Incumbents and Small Disruptors alike, it’s a nice time to look back and see some of the weird, crazy, and cool things that transpired over the week in the world of technology in my This Week In Tech column.

  1. Biologists Are Using Robots and Technology to Battle Alien Plants and Animals

Invasive species are highly destructive to the environments they come into because there are no natural predators, while they dominate everything. This isn’t just about that cute bird that can’t survive either, it costs $314 billion in damages yearly in the US, UK, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, and India alone.

So, biologists decided that they should make an “unnatural predator” of sorts and bring robots to control plants and animals that are invasive. Some of these robots include drones that place poisoned dead mice to kill snakes, and underwater mini subs that shock lionfish.

2. New Technology that Can Help the 360 Million People with Hearing Loss

Scientists are revisting the pretty old Cochlear implant and making a better version. Typically, cochlear implants are electric, but new science is allow for optical implants that are much more effective for producing sound. Instead of turning sound into electrical signals to be transmitted to the brain, as current cochlear implants do, this technique turns sound into light. Micro-LEDs flash to send the information to the brain.

3. The Henry Ford to Debut ‘Cognitive Dress’ Using IBM Watson Tech

This isn’t a dress for your brain, but a dress that uses IBM Watson to find social media posts and determine the color of the dress based on the mood of the posts. This doesn’t exactly seem ideal if your dress doesn’t always match or you can’t control its color, but tech isn’t always about being directly useful and applicable. This is a cool idea to see if clothing in general can be modular.

4. Terrifying AI Learns to Mimic your Voice in Under 60 Seconds

Lyrebird debuted on ProductHunt 11 days ago and has started to pick up a ton of press. Basically, it uses AI to listen to your voice for 60 seconds and then learn to articulate text that you can type in a similar fashion. Simply, you can mimic your own voice and pretty much anyone’s voice using this app. Outside of the clearly creepy and (even potentially illegal) things that this app allows you to do, there is some fun stuff that is available to do. A great example is on their website with a conversation between Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Hilary Clinton about the app itself. Check it out here.

5. Binghampton University Students Work on 3D Bioprinting Artificial Pancreas

Students have been using Stem Cells to 3-D print a pancreas. Pancreas’ are pretty useful for breaking down food and producing hormones, so it’s pretty useful to have an effective one. It’s a pretty cool technique where they manipulate the stem cells into pancreatic cells and then layer then to create a structure that is very reminiscent of a regular pancreas. The attempt is to create a prototype to put into a human at some point, although that may take up to a decade before the science is ready.