Technology Tuesday: August 23

Welcome to Technology Tuesday! Every week The Job Shop Blog will bring you our 5 top science and technology news stories from around the web.

This week: Uber continues to invest in autonomous vehicles, a startup looking to augment memory with brain implants, Ford plans to have fully autonomous fleet by 2021, liquid light helps make electronics faster and smaller, and tiny robots that will map the universe.


Uber Acquires Autonomous Shipping Company

Uber is acquiring Otto, a startup that’s been working on developing self-driving trucks for an undisclosed sum. The company’s co-founder, Anthony Levandowski, is a former Googler who has been working on autonomous driving for years. He’ll head up Uber’s entire self-driving division — both Otto’s self-driving truck efforts and Uber’s own fast-growing autonomous division — reporting directly to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

The news comes as Uber announces a public pilot program that will see its autonomous vehicles (with minders sitting in the front seat in case something goes wrong) picking up real passengers in Pittsburgh beginning later this month.

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New Startup Looks to Commercialize a Brain Prosthetic to Improve Memory

A startup named Kernel came out of stealth mode yesterday and revealed its ambitious mission: to develop a ready-for-the-clinic brain prosthetic to help people with memory problems. The broad target market includes people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, as well as those who have suffered a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

If the company succeeds, surgeons will one day implant Kernel’s tiny device in their patients’ brains—specifically in the brain region called the hippocampus. There, the device’s electrodes will electrically stimulate certain neurons to help them do their job—turning incoming information about the world into long-term memories.

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Ford Says it Will Have a Fully Autonomous Fleet in 5 Years

More than a century after introducing the Model T, Ford hopes to once again change how the masses move.

The company announced this morning that it will have thousands of fully autonomous vehicles in urban car-sharing and ride-hailing fleets by 2021. To achieve that goal, the company will double, to 300, the number of people at its Silicon Valley research center and add 60 autonomous vehicles to the fleet of 30 already deployed there.

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Liquid Light Unites Light and Electricity to Improve Electronics

Strange things go on when you push physics to extremes. Extending Moore’s Law to its physical conclusion, we run into problems like the traces in circuits being so small that electrons can quantum tunnel between them. But electrons aren’t the only thing we can use to carry data through circuits. Researchers from Cambridge University have created a semiconductor assembly that blurs the line between electricity and light, and they think we can commercialize it to make optical spintronics — using electron spin in electronics — a reality.

“We have made a field-effect light switch that can bridge the gap between optics and electronics,” says Dr. Hamid Ohadi, coauthor, from the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge. “We’re reaching the limits of how small we can make transistors, and electronics based on liquid light could be a way of increasing the power and efficiency of the electronics we rely on.”


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5000 Tiny Robots Will Map The Universe

For the longest time, mankind has been navigating the unknown in search of the answers to a slew of never-ending questions. Unfortunately, one fact remains: many questions are still left unsolved– including ones about our place in the universe.

But now, under the command of scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL), an army of 5,000 tiny robots will boldly go “where no map has gone before.”


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Know any interesting stories we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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