THE NEFF ZONE -- BY JIM NEFF
CADILLAC NEWS -- AUGUST 15, 2020
Technology is all around us and continues to impact our everyday lives whether we want it to or not. Even if you're a confirmed Luddite, you have to grudgingly admit that the march of technology is pretty much an unstoppable force.
Several interesting tech developments have recently come to my attention. Some are amazingly simple. Some are amazingly complex. Some are just, well, amazing.
An example of a simple thing falls into the “why didn't I think of that” category. Just in time for summer picnics, the telescoping smore skewer is a genius idea. Now you can roast a marshmallow without singing off your eyebrows. “The 32-inch extra-long extendable design will keep you at a safe distance away from the campfire.
The fork can rotate 360 degrees in your fingers allowing you to spin the marshmallows without rotating the whole skewer.”
These come in multiple colors so your skewer can't get mixed up with someone else's skewer, reduce to 12 inches long and come in a carrying case. This is obviously “technology” the whole family can enjoy. (https://www.amazon.com/Marshmallow-Roasting-Extendable-PcsTelescoping-Campfire/dp/B071NP7R23)
An outdoor activity that is popular in the summer is bicycle riding. Wearing a helmet is a no-brainer (pun intended) and a company has introduced some new technology in this regard. “Thousand makes an excellent bike helmet that you’ll actually want to wear. The design is sleek, a little retro even, with a nub of a visor that will make you look like you’re wearing a bicycle hat from the 1970s. The buckle is magnetic and the helmet is easy to loosen or tighten thanks to a dial fit system located in the back. Finally, it has a secret pop lock on the side that you can put around your bike lock so you don’t have to take your helmet with you everywhere you go. If it does get stolen this way, Thousand will send you a replacement.” (https://www.thedailybeast.com/this-bike-helmet-from-thousand-is-good-looking-and-safe and https://www.explorethousand.com)
Speaking of bike locks, there is also new technology on this front. “Scientists in the UK have bad news for bike thieves: They say they've created the first artificial material that cannot be cut. In fact, the more someone tries to cut it, the more damage they will do to their blade. The material, dubbed Proteus, takes its inspiration from the unlikely duo of abalone shells and grapefruit peels. The material created in the lab could not be cut even by angle grinders or drill bits. It potentially has all kinds of applications in the world of security, including bank vaults. But the first practical application might be bike locks.” Hmmm...how long before Duluth Trading makes underwear out of this stuff? (https://www.newser.com/story/293894/this-shell-may-inspire-your-next-bike-lock.html)
If you lock up your bike and helmet while you go shopping for groceries, in the near future you may utilize some new technology inside the grocery store. Amazon has come up with a “Dash Cart” to hopefully speed up the shopping process. The Dash Cart looks similar to the traditional shopping cart, but there are some whiz-bang differences. “It’s equipped with a touchscreen and other various hardware components to automatically detect what items you’re placing inside and even how many of those items you’ve picked off the shelf. It has a ring of cameras, a scale, and computer vision and weight sensors to determine not just the item, but the quantity of the item.”
Once you've signed into your Amazon account the cart processes your order at the end of the trip. “The cart also has a coupon scanner built in and supports Amazon’s Alexa shopping lists feature. When you finish shopping you just exit the store without dealing with payments or waiting in a checkout line.” This is an Amazon exclusive right now, but you have to wonder how long it will be before competitors come up with their own versions.
As if using a grocery cart that may be smarter than you isn't unnerving enough, how about attending a stage play written by a robot? Hold on to your ticket stubs because the technology to do this is being developed. “A team of artificial intelligence researchers are teaming with theater professionals in the Czech Republic to create the world's first play written entirely by robots."
The Project is dubbed THEaiTRE. “The team is working with artificial intelligence models that were previously successful in generating pieces of text, including poetry and dialogue. The team is aiming to have a script finished in September to give the theater group time to turn it into a full-fledged production (by January).
You might wonder why they are doing this. “Most people do not know what today’s robots are capable of. Sometimes they fear robots’ abilities which are not real and sometimes they do not want to admit that we are surrounded by robots almost everywhere. We want to start a conversation about what robots of today can and cannot do and where they should and should not be used.” (https://www.theaitre.com/)
Finally, sometimes technological developments occur by accident. That's what happened when scientists recently invented a new fish. The sturddlefish is a hybrid offspring of the American paddlefish and Russian sturgeon. “Using gynogenesis (a method of asexual reproduction that requires the presence of sperm without the contribution of their DNA for completion), the researchers accidentally used paddlefish sperm to fertilize the sturgeon eggs. Remarkably, the hybridization worked.”
Scientists from the Research Institute for Fisheries and Aquaculture in Hungary, explain: "We never wanted to play around with hybridization. It was absolutely unintentional."
The sturddlefish is one weird looking animal. You can see it at: https://www.cnet.com/news/meet-the-sturddlefish-a-weird-new-hybrid-accidentally-created-by-scientists/. Trust me, if you hauled one of these into your boat you'd yell “yikes” or something stronger.