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Bull Session

Smart Cities and Sidewalk Labs

April 28, 2016          

Episode Summary

On this episode of The Digital Life we discuss Google’s Sidewalk Labs and its radical plans to design a smart city from scratch. Sidewalk Labs wants to work with cities to build applications that solve big urban problems and accelerate innovation around the world. However, in their pursuit of these solutions, the company is seeking autonomy from many city regulations, so it can build free of the many constraints that come with the design of streets, parking, and utilities.

Sidewalk Labs already has two solutions in progress: Flow, a transportation coordination platform in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation; and LinkNYC, kiosks with gigabit fiber connections delivering WiFi, USB charging, free voice calls, and a tablet for access to the Internet.

Bull Session

Engineering Synthetic Biology

April 7, 2016          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we chat about the intersection of computer science / engineering and synthetic biology and Cello, a programming language for living cells.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Boston University (BU) synthetic biologists have created software that automates the design of DNA circuits for living cells. This software, called Cello, has the potential to help people, who are not necessarily skilled biologists, to quickly begin designing useful, working biological systems. Using Cello, oil companies, for example, could develop smart bacteria that could clean up oil spills. Cello, which is open source, can be downloaded from the online repository GitHub or accessed via a Web interface.

Resources
A Programming Language for Living Cells

Bull Session

Artificial Intelligence

March 31, 2016          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we chat about the evolution of artificial intelligence in light of recent public failure and success by tech giants in the AI space. First, Microsoft had to terminate Tay, its teenage chatbot, after the bot started tweeting neo-Nazi propaganda and other abusive language at people. Meanwhile, Google’s DeepMind has created an AI capable of beating some of the very best human players in the world at Go, the Asian strategy board game.

Resources
Microsoft Terminates Its Tay AI Chatbot after She Turns into a Nazi
In a Huge Breakthrough Google AI Beats a Top Player at the Game of Go

Bull Session

Robot World

March 1, 2016          

Episode Summary

This week on The Digital Life, we discuss a world filled with robots and what this could mean for humanity as we adjust to another type of “being” in our midst. It’s coming sooner than we might think.

For instance, last week, Boston Dynamics, a Google company, released a video of their next generation Atlas robot, that shows it walking through the snowy woods, recovering from slips, and picking up a 10-pound box.

To demonstrate the robot’s resilience, a Boston Dynamics employee wielding a hockey stick pushes the robot backwards, knocks a box out of its hands, and even shoves it to the ground. The robot is able to recover each time and go back to work, but the unease of watching a near humanoid manage these abusive trials is palpable. The phenomenon, known as the Uncanny Valley, has long-term implications for collaborative robotics.

Bull Session

Clothing and Technology

February 19, 2016          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, as a part of our trendspotting series, we discuss the intersection of high tech and clothing.

Clothing is one of humanity’s original technologies — it has protected our bodies for thousands of years. Today, clothing designers are working with multi-disciplinary teams, integrating input from engineers and synthetic biologists into their work. From 3D-printed couture to scarves dyed with bacteria to textiles grown in the lab, emerging tech is creating rapid innovation in the fashion industry. How do people interact with their clothing? How does clothing respond to the environment? And what is the next step? Join us as we discuss all this and more.

Boston MFA Exhibition: #techstyle
15 of the Best Designs Merging Fashion and Technology
Chameleon Clothing Adapts to Its Environment