The Download: repairing pig cells and Pelosi’s trip fallout
The news: A new system called OrganEx stopped the deterioration of cells in pig organs one hour after the animal’s death, a finding that suggests cells don’t die as quickly as previously understood. The technology successfully restored blood circulation and repaired damaged cells in the pigs.
Why it matters: Experts have called the research “truly remarkable,” adding that if scientists are able to intervene and prevent permanent cell failure, it raises serious questions over how we define a biological death. The study could pave the way to making human organs more viable for transplantation by making them last longer, and in better condition, post-removal, and could also help towards developing methods to treat strokes and heart attacks.
What’s next?: The team is planning future studies in animals, and an obvious next step is to try to study whether organs treated using OrganEx are viable for transplantation. While they’re keen to emphasize the technology is not yet ready for use in humans, they’re cautiously optimistic the system may be able to salvage organs that would otherwise have been unusable. Read the full story.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Chinese social media users are mocking their government
They were angered by officials’ failure to prevent Nancy Pelosi’s plane from landing in Taiwan. (NYT $)
+ Now she’s left, China has started a series of military exercises near Taiwan. (BBC)
2 The law is coming for crypto fraudsters
But whether they actually get punished or not remains to be seen. (Recode)
+ Yet more major hacks have left the industry shaken. (WP $)
+ Elizabeth Warren take aim at banks’ legal crypto guidelines. (Bloomberg $)
+ Framed NFT art is not a fun icebreaker at parties after all. (Wired $)
3 The far-right is trying to recruit children online
Extremist ideology is thriving in online games and chat rooms. (The Guardian)
+ Here’s a schoolboy’s experience of being seduced by far-right content. (The Guardian)
4 Black creators feel shortchanged by an app that promised them wealth
Triller tempted them away from arch rival TikTok, but rarely delivered on its pledge. (WP $)
+ Social media’s white supremacy problem is being laid bare by the Jan 6 hearings. (Fast Company $)
5 The price of virtual land in the metaverse has tumbled 🏠
Who could have seen this coming?! (The Information $)
+ What a shame, we’ll have to wait to date in the metaverse. (Insider)
+ The metaverse is a new word for an old idea. (MIT Technology Review)
6 High-tech surveillance doesn’t stop people crossing the Mexican border
It does, however, make the trek much more dangerous. (The Verge)
7 Apple’s HR department is failing women
Employees claim the company is fostering a toxic, male-centric work environment. (FT $)
8 Gig economy riders are suffering in the intense heat 🚴
But for many, long shifts are the only way to guarantee a stable wage. (Sifted)
9 An AI trained on 4chan learnt to spew out misogynistic hate speech
To the surprise of precisely no one. (Slate)
+ AI still sucks at moderating hate speech. (MIT Technology Review)
10 We don’t know why some bats live for so long 🦇
Finding out could help us to live longer, too. (Spectrum IEEE)
+ Bats’ brains predict their next move during flight. (MIT Technology Review)
Quote of the day
“I’ve tried three courses and one expert on the side, and the only thing I got out of it was an empty wallet.”
—Scott Mitchell, 33, tells the New York Times how he plowed $15,000 into programs promising tips on how to get rich on YouTube, but made nothing in the process.
The big story
The Download: sleeping in VR, and promising clean energy projects
People are gathering in virtual spaces to relax, and even sleep, with their headsets on. VR sleep rooms are becoming popular among people who suffer from insomnia or loneliness, offering cozy enclaves where strangers can safely find relaxation and company—most of the time.
Each VR sleep room is created to induce calm. Some imitate beaches and campsites with bonfires, while others re-create hotel rooms or cabins. Soundtracks vary from relaxing beats to nature sounds to absolute silence, while lighting can range from neon disco balls to pitch-black darkness.
The opportunity to sleep in groups can be particularly appealing to isolated or lonely people who want to feel less alone, and safe enough to fall asleep. The trouble is, what if the experience doesn’t make you feel that way? Read the full story.
Inside the conference where researchers are solving the clean-energy puzzle
There are plenty of tried-and-true solutions that can begin to address climate change right now: wind and solar power are being deployed at massive scales, electric vehicles are coming to the mainstream, and new technologies are helping companies make even fossil-fuel production less polluting.
But as we knock out the easy climate wins, we’ll also need to get creative to tackle harder-to-solve sectors and reach net-zero emissions.
Inside the conference where researchers are solving the clean-energy puzzle
The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) funds high-risk, high-reward energy research projects, and each year the agency hosts a summit where funding recipients and other researchers and companies in energy can gather to talk about what’s new in the field.
As I listened to presentations, met with researchers, and—especially—wandered around the showcase, I often had a vague feeling of whiplash. Standing at one booth trying to wrap my head around how we might measure carbon stored by plants, I would look over and see another group focused on making nuclear fusion a more practical way to power the world.
There are plenty of tried-and-true solutions that can begin to address climate change right now: wind and solar power are being deployed at massive scales, electric vehicles are coming to the mainstream, and new technologies are helping companies make even fossil-fuel production less polluting. But as we knock out the easy wins, we’ll also need to get creative to tackle harder-to-solve sectors and reach net-zero emissions. Here are a few intriguing projects from the ARPA-E showcase that caught my eye.
“I heard you have rocks here!” I exclaimed as I approached the Quaise Energy station.
Quaise’s booth featured a screen flashing through some fast facts and demonstration videos. And sure enough, laid out on the table were two slabs of rock. They looked a bit worse for wear, each sporting a hole about the size of a quarter in the middle, singed around the edges.
These rocks earned their scorch marks in service of a big goal: making geothermal power possible anywhere. Today, the high temperatures needed to generate electricity using heat from the Earth are only accessible close to the surface in certain places on the planet, like Iceland or the western US.
Geothermal power could in theory be deployed anywhere, if we could drill deep enough. Getting there won’t be easy, though, and could require drilling 20 kilometers (12 miles) beneath the surface. That’s deeper than any oil and gas drilling done today.
Rather than grinding through layers of granite with conventional drilling technology, Quaise plans to get through the more obstinate parts of the Earth’s crust by using high-powered millimeter waves to vaporize rock. (It’s sort of like lasers, but not quite.)
The emergent industrial metaverse
Annika Hauptvogel, head of technology and innovation management at Siemens, describes the industrial metaverse as “immersive, making users feel as if they’re in a real environment; collaborative in real time; open enough for different applications to seamlessly interact; and trusted by the individuals and businesses that participate”—far more than simply a digital world.
The industrial metaverse will revolutionize the way work is done, but it will also unlock significant new value for business and societies. By allowing businesses to model, prototype, and test dozens, hundreds, or millions of design iterations in real time and in an immersive, physics-based environment before committing physical and human resources to a project, industrial metaverse tools will usher in a new era of solving real-world problems digitally.
“The real world is very messy, noisy, and sometimes hard to really understand,” says Danny Lange, senior vice president of artificial intelligence at Unity Technologies, a leading platform for creating and growing real-time 3-D content. “The idea of the industrial metaverse is to create a cleaner connection between the real world and the virtual world, because the virtual world is so much easier and cheaper to work with.”
While real-life applications of the consumer metaverse are still developing, industrial metaverse use cases are purpose-driven, well aligned with real-world problems and business imperatives. The resource efficiencies enabled by industrial metaverse solutions may increase business competitiveness while also continually driving progress toward the sustainability, resilience, decarbonization, and dematerialization goals that are essential to human flourishing.
This report explores what it will take to create the industrial metaverse, its potential impacts on business and society, the challenges ahead, and innovative use cases that will shape the future. Its key findings are as follows:
• The industrial metaverse will bring together the digital and real worlds. It will enable a constant exchange of information, data, and decisions and empower industries to solve extraordinarily complex real-world problems digitally, changing how organizations operate and unlocking significant societal benefits.
• The digital twin is a core metaverse building block. These virtual models simulate real-world objects in detail. The next generation of digital twins will be photorealistic, physics-based, AI-enabled, and linked in metaverse ecosystems.
• The industrial metaverse will transform every industry. Currently existing digital twins illustrate the power and potential of the industrial metaverse to revolutionize design and engineering, testing, operations, and training.