Technology Tuesday: January 23rd

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: Amazon opens cashier-less convenience store, compact nuclear reactors for space exploration, the FDA approves a death prediction algorithm, the first American human CRISPR trials, and for the first time AI beats humans on the Stanford Reading Comprehension Test.


AMAZON OPENS ITS PROTOTYPE CASHIER-LESS CONVENIENCE STORE

Starting today, shoppers in downtown Seattle have the opportunity to visit Amazon Go, a mini-market some are calling a “store of the future.” The reason why is apparent nearly immediately upon entry — this store has no cash registers and no cashiers.

The entrance to Amazon Go features turnstiles like those found at subway stations, and with a swipe of the store’s smartphone app, shoppers are granted entry. Then, they can choose from a selection of items typically found at a compact supermarket or convenience store, such as soda, chips, and other small food items.

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COMPACT NUCLEAR GENERATORS COULD ONE DAY POWER A MARTIAN COLONY

For humanity to have any hope of long-term colonization on Mars, we’ll have to develop power systems capable of meeting our off-world energy needs. As such, NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have been hard at work on Kilopower, a compact nuclear energy reactor that could operate on the Red Planet and beyond.

The Kilopower prototype reactor is roughly the size of a coffee can, and it uses uranium to provide between 1 kilowatt and 10 kilowatts of electrical power for up to 10 years. Ten KW per day is more than enough for the typical household here on Earth, but NASA is going to need a bit more if the end goal is to sustain people on Mars and beyond.

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THE FDA APPROVES AN ALGORITHM THAT PREDICTS DEATH

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of an algorithm which monitors patients’ vitals to help predict sudden death from heart attacks or respiratory failure. The algorithm, named the Wave Clinical Platform, was developed by medical technology company ExcelMedical.

The platform senses subtle changes in vitals and sends alerts up to six hours before a potentially lethal event could occur. The algorithm monitors patients continuously, a feat that is frankly impossible for human medical professionals to realistically accomplish. Resources in the healthcare industry are stretched thin, especially where staffing is concerned. Speaking to Digital Trends, ExcelMedical’s Chief Strategy Officer Mary Baum said, “We do not have enough physicians or nurses, and we have an aging population who are sicker and who need more resources and services.”

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THE FIRST AMERICAN HUMAN CRISPR TRIALS WILL TARGET CANCER

CRISPR is currently humanity’s most effective and efficient gene-editing tool, and the technology is no longer just limited to editing plants or laboratory animals. In November 2016, Chinese scientists actually tested CRISPR in a human, and now, a human CRISPR trial is about to begin in the United States.

In June 2016, an advisory board of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) gave doctors from the University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine), led by Edward Stadtmauer, the initial approval needed to begin human CRISPR trials. According to a post in a directory of ongoing clinical tests, the team is now almost ready to begin their trial.

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AI BEATS HUMANS IN A READING COMPREHENSION TEST

Chinese retail giant Alibaba has developed an artificial intelligence model that’s managed to outdo human participants in a reading and comprehension test designed by Stanford University. The model scored 82.44, whereas humans recorded a score of 82.304.

The Stanford Question Answering Dataset is a set of 10,000 questions pertaining to some 500 Wikipedia articles. The answer to each question is a particular span of text from the corresponding piece of writing.


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