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The Future... According to DARPA

DARPA - the defense advanced research project agency was created in response to Sputnik, the first artificial satellite in orbit, but it wasn’t America that launched it, it was the Soviet’s during the Cold War. With the idea that we never wanted to be surprised again and that perhaps we could create some technological surprise ourselves, ARPA (DARPA’s predecessor) was born.

DARPA of course invests in these technologies for National Security, but in some cases it leads to things we use everyday.Obviously, things like computers, the 'net, and GPS. Also pushing development of Drones and promotion of self-driving cars.

They recently hosted a conference in St. Louis called, “Wait, What? - A Future Technology Forum". I had to see what it was all about.

DARPA is also well known for their “challenges”. The first back in 2004 was a grand challenge for the self driving car, initially the teams did pretty terrible, but after that they redid the challenge to quite a bit of success, and 11 years later we are starting to see this technology in the private sector. If you’ve ever been to Mountain View, you’ve certainly seen one of Google’s cars driving around. One of the reason they run these challenges is to get a diverse group of people involved in solving the problem. Earlier this year, we covered the Robotics Challenge, which had teams from all over the world competing to build a rescue robot. From self driving cars to predictive analysis for disease - there have been many challenge. The next one is to build a robust computer security system, that knows it’s being attacked, and can even thwart it.

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CERN Post-Higgs boson

CERN in Geneva, Switzerland is at the forefront of particle physics. It’s a global endeavor, with people and funding from all over the world. You have probably heard of the Large Hadron Collider, LHC, which is a massive machine (27 km circumference ring deep underground) that shoots groups of protons around in different directions and inside detectors along the LHC these protons will collide with one another in a burst of energy. When they collide they release different particles. Back in 2012 they detected the last piece in the Standard Model of Particle Physics puzzle, the Higgs boson.

The Standard Model lists all the particles we know and how they interact with one another. It has been amazingly successful, but there are still a few things missing. In this episode we explore what it’s like to be a proton hurling through the LHC and how the LHC could be used to unravel the mysteries of gravity and antimatter.

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The Future Home: Space 10, Ikea's Ideas Lab

My guest this week is Carla Cammilla Hjort of Space 10. Space 10 is Ikea’s future living lab. There they are working on how to design and create a better Ikea for the future. They research topics like food production and vertical farming, as well as the future city. I visited the space in Copenhagen and there was a vertical farm they were hacking together using Ikea products, a section dedicated to VR and conversation interfaces.

We discuss one topic that is near and dear to me, food and what the future of food looks like and what that means for Ikea’s iconic Swedish Meatball, how Ikea is trying to design portable homes for refugees, and design the home of the future.

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Bridging the Uncanny Valley

Paul Debevec of USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies works in their graphics laboratory to try and create better computer simulations for education and entertainment. The challenge is creating a realistic human character that is synthetic that you can interact with - essentially bridging the uncanny valley - tricking you into believing they are “real”.

We talk about his recent work with USC’s Shoah Foundation to bring Holocaust Survivors to life, as well as VR: when it will get good and the hopes for VR storytelling to instill empathy.

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Brewster Kahle & the Internet Archive

Libraries have always been one of my favorite places. They are a fountain of knowledge. As we move into the digital age, libraries are becoming even more valuable.

The Internet Archive has been archiving web pages, radio shows, over 80 TV channels from around the world, video games, and even books.

My guest this week is Brewster Kahle, founder and digital librarian at the Internet Archive. I spoke with Brewster about the Internet Archive’s mission, long-term storage of all this material, and how they are digitizing books.

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Signal: Encrypting "Your Junk" Pics

On "This Week Tonight" John Oliver put NSA surveillance in a perspective we all can understand, can they see "my junk" yes or no, and it turns out a lot of the time they can.

I am joined by Dr. Christine Corbett Moran to talk about the app she coded called Signal, which encrypts your text and call data and makes it a bit harder for the NSA to pass around "your junk" pics at the office.

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SXSW 2015

SXSW Interactive is a conference/trade show in Austin, Texas. It is a huge multimedia event that brings together people from all over - startups, universities, companies, musicians, filmmakers, to even the head of innovation at DARPA.There are talks about the future of AI, to who owns our wearable data, as well as a trade show floor. It’s like CES and TED combined with a dash of E3 to create a love-child. It’s overwhelming, there’s an influx of 50,000 people, there’s so much going on you are constantly experiencing that “fear of missing out”. Here's our coverage of it.

Guests include:

  • Ben Medlock, the CTO of SwiftKey on our AI future
  • Rachel Kalmar on who owns our wearable data
  • Joi Ito, the director of the MIT Media Lab, on the value of IP
  • Tim Marzullo of Backyard Brains where we play with controlling another person
  • Sunanda Sharma about what she's working on at the Mediated Matter Group at MIT
  • Nick Case of NASA and sending humans to Mars
  • Meagan of Ghostery about who is tracking us online
  • Alex Reben the creator of the adorable BlabDroid
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The CES Smorgasbord

Every year, CES showcases the new, exciting, trending, weird tech and gadgets. And every year, I attempt to run the 100-mile-gauntlet of exhibitors and booth babes to find everything worth discussion, an impossible task. There's no way any one person can see everything at this convection—let alone talk about it on the radio. I want to give a sampling of the future of consumer technology. Consider this show a technological smörgåsbord.

Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are some of the many things I saw at CES 2015.

This year at the show, the focus (or at least what grabbed my attention) were things that you could wear to either augment or monitor your life. The first stop on this tour de tech was an interview with Yelena Ashberger on the Swarovsky Shine "energy crystal."

Following a dead cell phone battery fiasco saved by the kind people at the TYLT booth, I went to calm myself using the Muse, a brain sensing headband, with a 3-minute relaxation session with Jason George… turns out I am horrible at relaxing..

Continuing the trend of things that you can wear, I visited Annie Shaw at 3D Systems to discuss the future of 3D printing and clothing. Keith Ozar enthusiastically explained to me the new CubePro C's ability to print in gradient color, furthering the aesthetics of 3D printing. I even had an interview with the 3D fashion designer Anouk Wipprechet and had firsthand experience of her Spider Dress—the 3D printed dress aggressively wards off anyone who enters the model's personal space.

Not all 3D printed wearables are solely for fashion or art (or consumable fun like XYZ's cookie dough printer). Samantha Bean at Open Bionics showcased their use of 3D printed hands for amputees and those born without.

In terms of entertainment, I had my go with the new prototype, Crescent Bay, for Oculus that continues to perfect the product. I even had the opportunity to throw on RocketSkates!

Speaking of speed…I had the opportunity to drive the new BMW i8 - BMW’s hybrid sports car and wow - I am still dreaming about it.

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The STEAM Carnival

I cover lots of events for this show, one of which is Maker Faire, which inspires young kids and exposes them to the Maker Movement, and it’s great, but it’s in the heart of Silicon Valley. Today we are bringing you an event that is based here in Los Angeles. The STEAM Carnival, it is a unique event featuring tech-infused game attractions and carnival inspired entertainment to re-imagine how we learn. It’s a two day affair on October 25th and 26th at Crafted and the Port of LA.

My guest this week is Brent Bushnell, the CEO and co-founder of Two-Bit Circus, who is designing the carnival.

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Burn After Listening: Experimenting with Art & Science on the Playa

Burning man is a festival in the desert where nearly 70,000 people congregate for a week - and for that week, it’s Nevada’s third largest city, known as Black Rock City, commonly called the Playa. There’s a street grid, city planning, emergency services, a radio station, mail, a DMV (Department of Mutant Vehicles), you can even be christened with your own “Playa Name,” I’m Sloe Ninja. For the residents of Black Rock City, it’s about radical self-reliance, you need to bring all you need to survive for a week; you must keep track of the trash you generate - and take it back to the default world with you; lastly you cannot buy anything there other than ice and a few select non-alcoholic beverages. It’s a gifting economy. Camps bring gifts… from coconut water, to scotch (yes, please!), to bacon, to science lectures.

When I arrived I realized Burning Man was a choose your own adventure type of place. Just like anywhere, you’re in control of the path you take. Ya there’s hippies and it’s hot, sure there are plenty of naked people (and some may not be what you want to see naked), and at night - it’s spectacular, an acid lovers mecca, - there’s nothing in the world quite like this place. The adventure I chose was to find the science on the Playa and to explore the relationship between art and science. From science talks about the brain or how we can use healthy bacteria to fight infections, to musical tesla coils, to art cars shaped like a giant brain, to a full fledged observatory, Burning Man is chock full of not just art, but science as well. The real beauty of this place is seeing science and art working together to create something magnificent.

The amount of time and effort put in by the community at large is astonishing. People put in hundreds of hours on projects that they display for a week out of the year. It’s the the people like this that come to Burning Man to experiment with their ideas, like a musical tesla coil, or a brain jungle gym art car, or an observatory - they are what makes this place so unique and special - and really a testbed for the creation of amazing art and science - and a place where you can clearly see the connection between the two.

No city is perfect, and black rock city is no exception, but just like anywhere else, you’re in control of your journey there, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Special thanks to Coup de Foudre, Dr. BrainLove, and the Black Rock Observatory.

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