In my first “Weekly Science Links” post from two weeks ago, I shared some of my favorite sources of science news and analysis. In last week’s “Weekly Science Links Pt. 2” I shared a bonus reference: a 216 slide “2016 Internet Trends Report” by Mary Meeker. This week I share a number of articles covering topics ranging from tech news to flying cars, to artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Make sure to watch the two excellent bonus videos linked at the end of the post.
Bloomberg: Snapchat now has 150M daily active users
Summary: That’s up 36% from the 110M DAUs Snapchat had as of December, and more than the 140M DAUs Twitter is estimated to have (note: Twitter only breaks out monthly active users, which were at 310M in Q1).
Snapchat’s evolution into a messaging/media platform that appeals to adults as well as teens may explain why the company was reportedly valued at ~$17B-$18B in its latest funding round (Twitter, by comparison, is currently worth $10.6B). The company is reportedly aiming for 2017 revenue of $500M-$1B, and could be laying the groundwork for an IPO.
http://seekingalpha.com/news/3187083-snapchat-passes-twitter-daily-usage?source=email_author_nl_eric_jhonsa_sa_eye_on_tech (Note: requires you to register / sign in)
Blizzard integrates Facebook login and live video into Overwatch
Overwatch, World of Warcraft, Diablo III, and other games on Activision Blizzard’s Battle.net platform will let gamers log livestream games on Facebook. By adding game streaming support, Facebook Live is taking on Amazon’s Twitch platform (the leader within this niche), as well as further encroaching on YouTube’s turf. Getting gamers used to broadcasting their activity to large Twitch/YouTube audiences to switch to Facebook Live will likely be a hard sell for now (particularly among those profiting from the activity), but Facebook could make some headway with those looking to share their activity with friends/family.
HPE opens up “The Machine” to developers
HPE has announced it’s opening up “The Machine” – a next-gen computing architecture which does away with main memory and storage memory in favor of a common “universal memory,” and in which this memory is connected to processors via optical links – to open-source developers to create the groundwork for the ecosystem needed for such a system to take off.
Exploring the disruptive potential of synthetic biology
Synthetic biology aims to make pieces of DNA easier to assemble, effectively modularizing them. Then you can build what you need much more quickly, accurately, and at scale. You can think of it as turning biology into a LEGO-like system, where you can create standard units, or bricks, and assemble them in different ways to create different products or outputs, either to correct a mutation or a defect that might lead to a disease or to create a simple organism that can be grown, say, in a fermentation and trained, by editing the DNA, to make a useful compound.
Lenovo phones get Tango augmented reality and snap-on modules
Lenovo has announced two unusual smartphones – a model that uses special cameras to scan its surroundings and a handset with optional snap-on parts. The Phab2Pro’s sensors allow it to make sense of objects and close-by spaces, allowing graphics to be intelligently added to real-world views. The Moto Z uses magnets to add optional hardware modules to the phone’s rear including a speaker and a projector. Analysts said the innovations might prove a tough sell.
Welcome to Larry Page’s Secret Flying-Car Factories
Page is said to have personally invested over $100M in Zee.Aero, a startup trying to commercialize a flying car that can take off and land vertically. He’s also reportedly backed a second flying car startup called Kitty Hawk. The report shines a light on Page’s go-for-broke mindset as Alphabet invests hundreds of millions in self-driving cars, anti-aging drugs, large-scale gigabit fiber access, and other technologies for which the payoff could be many years down the line.
As Bloomberg observes, autonomous navigation could eventually address many of the safety and traffic-control questions surrounding the technology.
Humans With Amplified Intelligence Could Be More Powerful Than AI
With much of our attention focused on the rise of advanced artificial intelligence, few consider the potential for radically amplified human intelligence (IA). It’s an open question as to which will come first, but a technologically boosted brain could be just as powerful — and just as dangerous – as AI. Unlike efforts to develop artificial general intelligence (AGI), or even an artificial superintelligence (SAI), the human brain already presents us with a pre-existing intelligence to work with. Radically extending the abilities of a pre-existing human mind — whether it be through genetics, cybernetics or the integration of external devices — could result in something quite similar to how we envision advanced AI.
Google developing kill switch for AI
Scientists from Google’s artificial intelligence division, DeepMind, and Oxford University are developing a “kill switch” for AI. In an academic paper, they outlined how future intelligent machines could be coded to prevent them from learning to over-ride human input. It is something that has worried experts, with Tesla founder Elon Musk particularly vocal in his concerns.
How will virtual reality change our lives?
Virtual Reality (VR) has been with us for many decades – at least as an idea – but the technology has now come of age:
Mark Bolas: “It’s been really fun playing all these years, but there’s something more important now, which is making it a space that allows us to harness our emotions, our desire to connect with people.”
Maria Korolov: “The biggest way [VR is changing the workplace] is training and simulations.”
Skip Rizzo: “Could we build virtual environments that represent everyday challenges that would help cognitive rehab?”
Nick Yee: “The bigger question was using VR as a new platform to study human psychology.”
Bonus Video: Hyper-Reality presents a provocative and kaleidoscopic new vision of the future
Physical and virtual realities have merged, and the city is saturated in media:
Bonus Video 2: