Big Tech &
'Hey, Disney' voice assistant comes to Disneyland in 2022 (1 minute read)
Disneyland hotel rooms will have 'Hey, Disney' available alongside Alexa on their Echo speakers starting sometime in 2022. The feature will handle requests ranging from amenities through to stories and jokes. MagicBand+ wearables are also coming in 2022. The wristbands will allow guests to enter the park, make purchases, and otherwise go touch-free. They will also have haptic feedback and gesture controls to enliven experiences in certain areas.
Alphabet is putting its prototype robots to work cleaning up around Google’s offices (3 minute read)
Alphabet's Everyday Robots Project team has released some of its prototype machines onto Google's Bay Area campuses to carry out light custodial tasks. The robots are essentially arms on wheels that feature a multipurpose gripper. They have a head with cameras and sensors, including a spinning LIDAR unit for navigation. Alphabet aims to create robots that can manipulate never-before-seen objects in novel settings. GIFs that show the robots performing some tasks are available in the article.
Herpesviruses steal one cell’s protein, use it to infect another (4 minute read)
Herpesviruses latch on to a protein in the first cell they infect and then carry this protein along with them to other cells. The protein helps the virus latch onto a motor protein that carries it towards the cell nucleus. The virus was no longer able to spread after scientists mutated the gene that encodes the protein to remove its ability to latch onto the motor protein. It is possible that similar processes happen in other well-studied viruses given how difficult it was to detect this process in herpesviruses.
Researchers Rig Worms' Brains to Predict Smells With Machine Learning (2 minute read)
Scientists used machine learning to analyze worm brain signals to reveal what the worm recently smelled. Caenorhabditis elegans have 302 neurons, making them easier to monitor than more complex organisms. The scientists exposed the worms to five smells. The algorithm was clearly able to differentiate between two of the smells, but often confused the other three. This research could help scientists gain a deeper understanding of how the brain encodes information and what goes wrong in cases of sensory processing disorders.
Programming, Design & Data Science
elfshaker (GitHub Repo)
elfshaker is a version control system fine-tuned for binaries. It stores snapshots of directories into highly-compressed pack files and provides fast on-demand access to the stored files. elfshaker is good for storing lots of similar files and can achieve a compression ratio of close to 0.01%.
Pablo (GitHub Repo)
Perseverance Rover Captures Awesome Video of Helicopter Flying on Mars (2 minute read)
NASA has released footage of Ingenuity in flight. Two videos were taken during the rotorcraft's 13th flight. Ingenuity flew nearly 700 feet horizontally at an altitude of 26 feet during the 16-second flight. It was recorded on Perseverance's two-camera Mastcam-Z from a distance of about 1,000 feet away. The videos are available in the article.
El Salvador plans to create an entire city based on Bitcoin (2 minute read)
El Salvador plans to build a Bitcoin City near a volcano along the Gulf of Fonseca. The city will be shaped like a coin and have its own geothermal power plant. There will be no capital gains, income, payroll, or property taxes in the city, only value-added tax. El Salvador created a $1 billion US Bitcoin bond to pay for energy and mining infrastructure and to buy more bitcoin. The country will start selling its crypto holdings in five years and pay an extra dividend to bondholders.