Big Tech &
Waymo, Volvo partner to develop electric robotaxis (3 minute read)
Waymo and Volvo have announced an exclusive partnership to integrate Waymo's self-driving software into a new electric vehicle designed for ride-hailing. The new vehicle platform will be capable of Level 4 autonomy, which means it will be able to handle all driving in a specific geographic area or in certain weather and road conditions. It is unknown whether the companies will continue to work together after the vehicle has been developed, but the wording from the announcement suggests that it is likely that the companies have more planned and that a possible licensing deal is being discussed. Volvo still has an active deal with Uber to supply vehicles designed for autonomous driving.
Amazon to pay $1 billion+ for self-driving tech firm Zoox (2 minute read)
Amazon is set to announce a deal to purchase Zoox for upwards of $1 billion. Self-driving technology is important to Amazon as it could potentially lower the costs of delivering goods to customers. Zoox aims to develop a fully integrated vehicle, not just core autonomous technology. Developing a car costs billions of dollars, and Zoox will require a lot more funding if it wants to continue on its mission. Amazon's plans for Zoox's technology are still unclear.
This One-Time Neuron Treatment Reversed Parkinson's Disease in Mice (4 minute read)
Scientists from the University of California San Diego have developed a method to create neurons. The technique is able to convert astrocytes, the supporting cells in the brain, into neurons, the brain's information processing cells. Using the technique, which is a one-time gene therapy, the researchers were able to permanently reverse Parkinson's symptoms in mice. The mice were cured within three months after a single treatment and remained symptom-free for the rest of their lives.
CRISPR gene editing in human embryos wreaks chromosomal mayhem (8 minute read)
A series of experiments has revealed how large, unwanted changes to the genome can occur when CRISPR-Cas9 is used to modify human embryos. The studies showed that these unwanted changes occurred to target sites, not just in the surrounding areas. These changes are the result of the DNA-repair processes used by gene-editing tools. The results of these studies are likely to inform the ongoing debate over whether scientists should edit human embryos to prevent genetic diseases.
Programming, Design & Data Science
Apple, Big Sur, and the rise of Neumorphism (8 minute read)
Neumorphism is a focus on how light moves in three-dimensional space. In the context of a GUI or simulation, Neumorphism focuses on how light interacts with a variety of objects in a purely digital space. Apple introduced macOS 11 Big Sur, its newest version of macOS, at its WWDC event this week. It features a new user interface design that has been criticized for its use of Neumorphism. However, despite the criticism, Neumorphism is said to be the next wave in UI design, and there will likely be an explosion of development around the possibilities of the system soon.
Google’s ARCore Depth API is now available for developers to make realistic AR experiences (2 minute read)
ARCore Depth API improves immersion for devices with a single camera, using Google's depth-from-motion algorithms to generate a depth map from a single RGB camera. It is now ready for a public launch for developers on Android and Unity. One of its key features is the ability to accurately place digital objects behind real-world objects. Depth-API also enables realistic physics, interaction with real-world surfaces, environmental transversal, and more. It has been used extensively by Snap for its products, as well as in several AR games. A 47-second introductory video to ARCore Depth API is available at the end of the article.
Far-UVC Light Safely Kills Airborne Coronaviruses (4 minute read)
A study at Columbia University Irving Medical Center has found that Far-UVC light can safely kill 99.9% of seasonal coronaviruses present in airborne droplets. Conventional UV lamps can kill viruses but they aren't used in occupied public spaces as they are a potential health hazard. Far-UFC light cannot reach or damage living cells in the body, which makes it feasible and safe to use in occupied indoor public places, significantly reducing the risk of person-to-person transmission of viruses.
Google will start paying some publishers for news articles (2 minute read)
Google has announced a new licensing program that will be a part of its upcoming News and Discover service launching later this year. The program will start with publishers from Germany, Australia, and Brazil, with Google planning to add more regions soon. Multiple countries have recently pushed for Google to compensate publishers for the news content it links to. Facebook has recently launched a news tab in the US, paying some participating publishers for their work. The scheme by Facebook was criticized for being too exclusive and not paying publishers enough.