Todd’s Tech Report: August 14, 2014


Your Nest Is Stupid


What’s going on?

Maybe you have $250 to burn on some home-tech. Maybe you have a Nest thermostat. Maybe you think nothing of it except that it’s a whole sensor array in the middle of your house that can be hacked. To quote the guys who did so in front of hundreds of Anonymousallos (get it?) at the recent Black Hat conference, “This is a computer that the user can’t put an antivirus on. Worse yet, there’s a secret backdoor that a bad person could use and stay there forever. It’s a literal fly on the wall.”

Why does it matter?

Because the Internet of Things is an NSA (what up fellas!) conspiracy. Or more likely we’re all rushing to connect our toothbrush and toilet brush to the Internet in the name of convenience when we should probably step back tighten up security a bit. Dontchyathink?


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtM2R-L25W0

Bugs and Brainwaves


What’s going on?

The guys who decided to make a mind-reading tool for the masses are not neuroscientists. They’re artists who met at Parsons the New School for Design. Their system enables DIYers to use brain waves to control anything they can hack — a video game, a robot, you name it. Their OpenBCI system makes sense of an electroencephalograph (EEG), signal, a general measure of electrical activity in the brain captured via electrodes on the scalp.

Why does it matter?

Because from the mundane to the medical it has the capability to open up a whole new world of low-cost innovation. That’s super. The flood gates of innovation just got blown open…with my mind.


Hype Cycle is the New Spin Class


What’s going on?

The overlords of analysis over at Gartner have continued to show their love of bell curves. This one in particular tracks the hype of new tech trends with a dash of timeline for mass adoption or obsolescence. It’s like interval training for new ideas that includes a “trough of disillusionment”…that kinda sounds like a tagline for Tinder. #illbehereallweek.

Why does it matter?

It captures a moment and might be a bit predictive. So it lets us know that speech recognition is just starting to be useful and virtual reality decks like the Oculus Rift are getting there. People have stopped saying “big data” as much, but “Internet of Things” is still ascendant, and soon you could be endorsed for “Neurobusiness” on LinkedIn.


http://vimeo.com/102049447

Origamibots at IKEA


What’s going on?

Self assembling robots anyone? Yes please. The robot is made from composite paper and Shrinky Dinks (plastic sheets that shrink when baking) and equipped with two motors, two batteries, and self-folding hinges that are activated by heat. A microcontroller heats the hinges via electrical signaling. After just four minutes, the robot has gone from flat to functional, and stiff enough to crawl away.

Why does it matter?

Flatpack robots are a lot cheaper to ship and easier to deal with if they assemble themselves. Though no real-world application makes sense, it would be fun to order a robot playmate for your 4 month old Shih Tzu so he’ll stop eating toilet paper. That might just be my problem though.


Spotify + BandPage = Miranda Lambert


What’s going on?

First of all why use Miranda Lambert’s page to demonstrate a product? I don’t get it. But the real banger here is that Spotify partnered with BandPage to offer merchandise, tickets to secret shows, experiences and other products to their fans within the app. Super duper. Kudos.

Why does it matter?

Does it make up for the shit-sandwich royalty rate they pay? Probably not. But now fans can pick-up a koozie and t-shirt while blasting some Miranda jams. Seems like a solid rev stream for established artists and a good way for you to fund your new tejano-dubstep EDM career. #popthatmolly


Amazon To Put Square In A Full Nelson


What’s going on?

Deciding to going full Iron Sheik on the mobile payment platform front, Amazon has launched a competitor to Jack Dorsey’s private piggy bank. It’s just 1.75 percent per swipe on both credit and debit transactions, so long as users sign up before October 31. That’s a full percentage point lower than Square’s 2.75 percent per swiped transaction (3.5 percent plus 15 cents for manual entry), and will last until January 1, 2016. Drug dealer models rule.

Why does it matter?

Those $10 a jar bespoke pickle vendors at my farmers’ market might be wooed by the percentage rate but it doesn’t look like the pure sexy that is Square. So while they count their pickle pennies, Jack D. has some thinking to do. Bezos just gave him a Cactus Clothesline and I’m not sure what kind of Bionic Arm Drop Dorsey’s got. Oh yeah, and PayPal too.


IPOs Always Lead To Video Ads


What’s going on?

Twitter is now going to allow video ads. It’s in beta. During this testing period, select brands, publishers, and verified users will be able to upload and share videos that play directly from the timeline. Video cards will not be displayed on TweetDeck or other third-party apps.

Why does it matter?

It’s time to juice this orange! Actually I’m not sure it matters much. It seems like a natural progression. The tech press is all over it so I thought I’d tell you about it…AGAIN!


That’s The Earth Dying


What’s going on?

Word got to Milton Glaser that we needed a logo for global warming. He complied and dropped the circle above. The designer, known for developing the iconic “I ❤ NY” design, created a simple logo that is meant to emphasize what the global warming issue is really about – the planet’s decline.

Why does it matter?

Because it’s happening. California is baking to a crisp and they’re going to shoot the sequel to The Mosquito Coast in Iowa. Eventually we’ll all be eating Soylent and riding a Space X rocket to hang with Elon on Titan. All good though. All good.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V35ylAAPVMM#t=67

Drones To Share Power Lines With Birds


What’s going on?

Three MIT researchers, inspired by birds, have figured out a way for very simple fixed-wing aircraft to rapidly decelerate using drag and perch on a thin wire. Using the power lines’ magnetic field, the drone targets the perch and performs a rapid stalling maneuver right before hitting it, slowing its speed and orienting a hook underneath the aircraft for capture.

Why does it matter?

Small drones could stay aloft forever delivering medicine, monitoring environmental conditions or following the Kardashians. It hits a lot of buckets people. The NSA is totally not excited about this.


Mudbugs Make Neurons In Their Spare Time


What’s going on?

These tasty guys have a pretty remarkable ability to regenerate neurons from blood cells. In our human brains, new neurons will sometimes grow but only from stem cells. And we can sometimes even turn mature cells into stem cells through a very specific and artificial process in a lab. In crayfish, however, the whole process seems to happen naturally.

Why does it matter?

Because it’s science. And it’s cool. And things like this even out that depressing Milton Glaser story. And as invertebrates, they don’t technically have “blood” but a fluid called hemolymph that circulates in their body. These cells in the hemolymph that turn into neurons, which are called hemocytes, and are very different from our red blood cells orhematocytes, despite the similar spellings. Go figure.


Linear Note: I help the SXSW Interactive Festival curate content and jump the shark.