TLDR 2021-04-14

Disney's real lightsaber ⚔️, Spotify's car gadget 🎵, futuristic Taco Bell 🌮

Big Tech & Startups

Spotify’s Car Thing debuts as a limited release for selected US users (4 minute read)

Car Thing is a Spotify-only voice-controlled device for cars. It enables users to listen to Spotify without built-in infotainment systems or phone connections. Car Thing is only available for select Spotify premium users in the US. Users can sign up to a waitlist, but Spotify has not announced how many units it will be testing. Images of the device are available in the article.

Facebook is testing a video speed-dating app called Sparked (3 minute read)

Sparked is a new video speed dating app from Facebook's New Product Experimentation (NPE) Team. During events, the app cycles people through speed video dates that last four minutes. If the date goes well, the pair can schedule a longer meeting. Users have to fill in questions when signing up that indicate that kindness is a major factor when qualifying for the app. The NPE Team has launched many apps with little success, so it is unclear how committed Facebook will be to this project.
Science & Futuristic Technology

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin lands a Pentagon contract to design nuclear-powered spacecraft (2 minute read)

Blue Origin has been awarded a $2.5 million contract by the Pentagon to design a nuclear-powered spacecraft. Lockheed Martin and General Atomics are also a part of the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program. The Pentagon wants to test nuclear thermal propulsion technology, which provides the power of chemical-based propulsion with the efficiency of electrical-based systems. It aims to have a nuclear-powered spacecraft in orbit in 2025.

A Massive New Gene Editing Project Is Out to Crush Alzheimer’s (6 minute read)

The iPSC Neurodegenerative Disease Initiative (iNDI) is a project that aims to stimulate, accelerate, and support research that will lead to the development of improved treatments and preventions for Alzheimer's and other dementias. The plan involves adding more than 100 genes linked to Alzheimer’s and other dementias into stem cells from a wide variety of donors to see which genes contribute to the disorder. It will investigate how the genes activate, what proteins they code for, how those proteins interact, and more. All of the data from the project will be openly shared online for anyone to mine and interpret.
Programming, Design & Data Science (Website)

natto is a tool for manipulating JavaScript expressions on a spatial canvas. It uses panes to evaluate expressions, store values, and display data. Canvases are saved in the browser.

My startup failed. Then I found out I was unemployable (5 minute read)

Moving from working on your own startup to working for a company can be a challenge, especially when a lot of your skills are self-taught. Self-educated developers may find themselves struggling with tech interviews. Many companies try to justify lower pay for their workers, but in the end, employment might not be the best solution. One option is to work on temporary contracts with clear boundaries and compensation.

Taco Bell’s bright new Times Square Cantina is completely no-contact (2 minute read)

Taco Bell's new Times Square location is completely contactless. Customers can only order online or at touchscreen kiosks, and they pick up their meals from secure food lockers. The new Cantina is located on the bottom floor of the Paramount Building. There is seating available. If the system fares well, it will likely spread to other locations too. A limited-edition Bell Apple Freeze drink will be available at the location.

How Disney’s ‘real’ lightsaber patent actually works (3 minute read)

Disney Parks' chairman recently ended a presentation by showing off a retractable lightsaber. The design appears to be based on a patent registered in 2018. This article contains a description of how the design works. 3D animations of the lightsaber's internal mechanism are available.
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