Kevin Lepton

I am the writer, editor and publisher behind this future technology blog and I predict you will keep reading to see what is coming right around that metaphorical corner.

Jun 282017

If you’ve been reading updates about the Google I/O conference (which took place on May 17 to 19, 2017), you’re probably impressed at the announcements that were made during the event. Google Assistant’s real-world analysis, Google Home’s call-making abilities, Google Photos’s new shared libraries — these are some of the new and exciting features that the tech giant has revealed.

But, if you take the event as a whole, you might notice two things: 1) Google is no longer hyper-focused on mobile technology since 2) it’s now setting its sights on artificial intelligence.

AI isn’t exactly a newcomer to Google. Many of the tools and features offered by the company, such as image search and speech recognition, are powered by artificial intelligence. However, Google and its CEO Sundar Pichai point out that AI isn’t just a tool to provide better services to users — it’s actually the foundation on which the company’s future (and the rest of the world’s) will be built. The fact that the Menlo Park-based tech giant readily admits this should make the tech community stand up and take notice.


Google’s AI Powerhouse

Google has already started to make artificial intelligence a central part of its service offering. One of the biggest steps it has taken so far is to make TensorFlow an open-source software back in 2015. By doing this, Google has made it easier for developers and software engineers to incorporate AI into their projects.

But what exactly is TensorFlow? Technically, it’s a software library that makes machine learning a quicker and faster process. It stemmed from DistBelief, a machine learning system that was built by Google Brain in 2011 to assist Google engineers in their research and product development tasks. Several computer scientists worked on DistBelief to make it faster and more robust, eventually turning it into TensorFlow.

The library was made open to the public on November 9, 2015. It can only be deployed single machines as of the moment, which is one of its few limitations, but users are hoping that Google will improve this in the feature. Thankfully,  TensorFlow supports multiple CPUs and GPUs and can be used on 64-bit Windows, Mac, and Linux computers as well as Android and iOS mobile devices.


Leading the Way

It’s important to note that TensorFlow is not the only machine learning library available. There are several other options out there, such as Swiss-built Torch, Facebook-supported Caffe (and its newest version Caffe2), and Keras (whose creator has become a Google engineer).

Despite these options, many developers and businesses decide to use TensorFlow because of several reasons. Some like the fact that TensorFlow promotes quick scaling, while others love that it easily integrates with the rest of Google’s services (which makes it easier for developers to push their products). Another good thing about TensorFlow: you can either build and customize your own algorithms or purchase off-the-shelf components if you’re squeezed for time or don’t have enough resources to go the DIY way.

With these in mind, it’s clear that TensorFlow is the future of Google’s foray into artificial intelligence. In fact, the tech giant has recently released a new version of the library called TensorFlowLite, along with an API that’s designed to interface with future AI-powered smartphone processors. These are just the beginning, though: we can expect to see more developments that will expand Google’s AI empire and help it dominate the artificial intelligence platform.


Swedish Scientists Use 3d Bioprinters to Generate Human Cartilage

 3D Printing  Comments Off on Swedish Scientists Use 3d Bioprinters to Generate Human Cartilage
May 162017

Lead Swedish researcher, Stina Simonsson, is in high spirits as she claims that her research team, created from the collaboration between scientists from Chalmers University and Sahlgrenska Academy from Belgium, has made a breakthrough in the field of medicine. This was after they were able to produce 3D-printed stem cells from cartilage cells extracted from knee surgery patients.

According to Simonsson, while the process to naturally differentiate stem cells into cartilage is not complicated, they were the first ones to successfully generate artificial cartilage, using real stem cells, which can be used for osteoarthritis treatment and damaged cartilage tissue repair. They made use of 3D bioprinting, also referred to as additive manufacturing, a process applied in regenerative medicine to address the issue of the rise in demand for engineered organs and tissues for transplantation on patients.

The process, posited by Simonsson, did not even require subjecting animals for testing and the good news being the stem cells were able to survive the printing process.


How does 3D bioprinting work?

After cartilage cells are harvested from patients who have undergone knee surgery, these cells are then transformed back into “pluripotent” stem cells. These stem cells are called the master cells since they have the potential to form all other cell types.

After being reverted, these cells are then covered in nano-cellulose material and bio-printed. The nano-cellulose compound is instrumental in the survival of these cells during printing. When they survive, growth stimulants are used to aid in cell differentiation and multiplication. Consequently, artificial cartilage will be formed.

However, the research team also disclosed one challenge they need to deal with. According to them, before patients can receive 3D bioprinted cartilage implants, further exploration should be done to find the perfect cellulose material that can be broken down properly and accepted by the body to ensure what remains is endogenous cartilage.

If this technique is applied, they also warned that more live stem cells will be needed. At the moment, the cellulose they have used is believed to be not perfectly suited for the human body.

The process of 3D bioprinting has already been in existence in recent years, with medical researchers from other parts of the world, including the U.S and Canada, trying this technology. Four years ago, scientists from Cornell University were able to generate human ears from cells harvested from a cow and 3D bioprinted. Conversely, Princeton University also reached a breakthrough when researchers used a 3D bioprinter to grow ears. They even claimed that these ears are able to receive frequencies from a very far range, outdoing the hearing capabilities of humans.

In Toronto Canada, the collaboration between the researchers from the University of Toronto and the Ross Tilley Burn Centre, resulted in the development of a process to mimic the appearance and qualities of human skin. This can be used for burn patients in the future, according to Dr. Marc Jeschke.

Meanwhile, despite the need for exploring new cellulose material, the hopes of researchers remain high. They believe that in the time, they can achieve their goals since the first steps have been taken and results are positive.





Tax the Robots Says Bill Gates

 Robotics  Comments Off on Tax the Robots Says Bill Gates
Apr 112017

The age of automation and artificial intelligence has arrived, and there’s no turning it back. While this is mostly good news for businesses and technology enthusiasts, it mainly spells out bad news for workers whose jobs can be automated and who can be replaced by robots in the near future. As a result, a lot of people are worrying that AI wave will leave them unemployed and struggling to feed themselves and their families.

However, tech mogul and Microsoft founder Bill Gates seems to have the answer to these worries: tax the robots.


Taxes and Automatons

It might seem ludicrous to think that robots would fret about VAT and income taxes, but Gates thinks that taxing them is a good idea. For instance, if a human worker in a factory is replaced by a robot, the automaton should be charged the same amount of taxes that the human paid when he was employed.


Gates believes that robot companies will not mind if they are charged with taxes for their automated workers. For one thing, they will be earning higher revenues since their laborers will be 100 percent efficient (something that humans can’t achieve) and have a steady stream of productivity. Companies will also save a significant amount of money since their robots won’t need sick leave, maternity or paternity leave, and retirement plans and pensions. With their increased earnings and lower overhead costs, businesses won’t find it hard to pay their robot taxes.


What to Do with the Money

The taxes collected from the robots could then be used to train the displaced laborers for other jobs, especially those that require human empathy. Some of them can work as teachers, which will allow schools to have smaller class sizes and ensure each child will receive one-on-one training. Others can be trained to become special education experts and assist children with special needs. Still others can be educated as nurses, nursing aides, and caregivers and provide high-quality healthcare to the sick and the elderly.

Gates points out that charging taxes can help slow down the advancement of automation. This might seem like a strange statement coming from a tech entrepreneur, but Gates is right in that the spread of automation needs to be controlled, especially in terms of its effects on job displacement. This way, the government and businesses can work together to create transition programs for displaced workers and minimize the negative impact that automation will have on families and even entire communities.

And yes, the government should get involved. Gates states that the government must play an active role in controlling the speed of automation and labor displacement instead of just relying on businesses to do everything. This way, inequity won’t be so rampant, and those in the low-income bracket won’t become even more disadvantaged.


Pair It with Universal Basic Income

Forbes contributor Ian Morris points out that robot taxation can also be merged with the concept of universal basic income. This can be funded by the amount collected from automation taxes and will ensure that everyone will have a monthly income that they can use to fulfill their basic needs. Morris agrees, though, that the country and the entire world will have to go through a painful transition before a balance can be achieved between automation and labor displacement.