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Information technology

Microsoft and Intel hire playwrights to improve AI and mixed reality

At Microsoft, a team of writers that include playwrights, poets and novelists develop lines for the company's AI Cortana to give her character and a consistent voice. These writers ensure that Cortana does not sound like a machine nor too human but an artificial intelligence. While steering clear on divisive topics such as politics, the team gave Cortana a favorite movie (Star Trek) since users were interested in knowing it. Elsewhere, Intel has also hired a playwright to create mixed reality experiences for the company. Intel is developing a technology where a digital fish consumes 3G and Wi-Fi waves that are visible to the user. The playwright is also a collaborator with Google’s Creative Labs and other technology projects.

Key Takeaway: 

Microsoft has professional writers that include novelists and playwrights to give artificial intelligence Cortana a human-like character and voice while Intel has hired a playwright to create a mixed reality environment for users.

Publication: 
Publication Date: 
September 19, 2016

Laser process makes graphene a thousand times conductive

Researchers at Iowa State University developed a laser technology that treats inkjet-printed graphene circuits, making them more electrically conductive by at least a thousand times. Treated graphene can be used in low cost electronic applications such as chemical and biological sensors, energy storage systems, electrical conducting components and paper-based electronics. The laser treatment can also pave the way for commercialization and mass production of graphene. The team's work is published in the journal Nanoscale.

Key Takeaway: 

A new laser treatment developed by a team at Iowa State produces graphene that is a thousand times more conductive, enabling their use in sensors, energy storage, electric components and paper-based electronics.

Publication: 
Publication Date: 
September 19, 2016

Government announces recall of 1 million Galaxy Note 7s

The US government announced an official recall of Galaxy Note 7 phones bought prior to September 15 over reports of the batteries catching fire. The recall will affect a million Note 7 phones sold in the US. The company had issued its own recall of the smartphone model early in September. Owners can receive a new device with a replacement battery, a refund or another smartphone for free starting September 21. Since the company's recall up to September 14, just a 13% drop in the smartphone's use was reported with 130,000 devices officially returned by consumers. A US consumer safety group had advised affected owners to power down and stop using their devices. 

Key Takeaway: 

The US government and a consumer safety group issued a recall of a million Galaxy Note 7 smartphones acquired before September 15 in the US due to overheating batteries with Samsung saying it will have replacements ready by September 21.

Publication: 
Publication Date: 
September 16, 2016

Ocean drones to monitor climate change, pollution and marine life

A company named Saildrone makes autonomous sailing drones that can be deployed into the world's oceans to collect climate data, monitor pollution and manage fisheries at a fraction of the cost of current methods. The company just raised $14 million which will be used to increase drone production. According to COO Sebastien de Halleux, a thousand of such drones can retrieve valuable data on climate change and the state of the planet. Current customers that buy data collected by the drones include NOAA, NASA and Stanford University. There is also demand for the company's services among renewable energy and insurance firms. The drones prove to be useful as scientists are increasingly monitoring acidification levels of the world’s oceans due to rise in carbon dioxide emissions from industrial and agricultural activities which affect marine life and habitats.

Key Takeaway: 

Autonomous sailing drones made by a firm called Saildrone provide a new, less expensive way to collect information from the world's oceans to predict climate change, monitor pollution and manage fish stock.

Publication: 
Publication Date: 
September 16, 2016

Chemists make low-cost defect-free graphene

Researchers from Germany and Austria have for the first time produced high quality graphene with no defects. The group added a solvent benzonitrile to the process and discovered this allowed layers of graphene to be separated while preventing the hydration and oxidation of carbon atoms which normally occur in chemical exfoliation. As the solvent turns red when layers of graphene are peeled off, the number of charge carriers, a measure of the material's electronic properties, can also be determined and measured easily. The method provides a low cost and improved way to make graphene, which can pave the way for its use in emerging technologies such as flexible displays. Their discovery is reported in the journal Nature Communications.

Key Takeaway: 

Chemists discovered adding a solvent benzonitrile to the graphene making process produces defect-free graphene while maintaining its low cost property; this can enable better graphene materials for technologies like flexible displays in the future.

Publication: 
Publication Date: 
September 15, 2016

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