The Download, Feb 2, 2017: A Futuristic Glass Lab, Facebook’s TV Dream, and a Giant Quantum Computer
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Experimenting with the Future of Glass
To make the devices of the future, we need the materials of the future, too. And perhaps some of the most unfathomable challenges lie within glass. While the optical properties of the material are unparalleled, it can be stiff, brittle, and easy to scratch. That’s why researchers at Corning’s headquarters in upstate New York are working out how far they can push it. The company's Gorilla Glass is a good start, and probably already graces your smartphone. But it thinks it can do better—so that we might one day have foldable tablets or car interiors that are entirely made of displays. We took a peek inside the company’s far-out glass lab to find out more.
The Plan to Build a Giant Quantum Computer—Now
An international team of scientists has published a plan to build a huge quantum computer. The device, proposed in the journal Science Advances, would be as large as a football field and cost upwards of $125 million. The proposed design uses magnetic fields to trap ions, which would be used as qubits—the quantum equivalent of digital bits—and controlled via microwaves. Intriguingly, the team claims that it could be built now, arguing that components required for the system have been demonstrated in labs. In theory, it would be far more powerful than currently available systems. But researchers would have to face up to many engineering problems, like how to string the elements together and ensure it all stays cool. “Such high-level issues are rarely considered by people in the field of quantum computing,” said Christopher Monroe, a physicist from University of Maryland in College Park, to Nature. “Our community needs a systems-engineering push to simply build it.”
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Facebook Stumbles in VR, But Embraces TV
Facebook has been ordered to stump up the majority of a $500 million payment to ZeniMax Media as part of a VR court case, but the social network appears to be undeterred, outlining ambitious plans to grow its video reach. A Texas jury found that Palmer Luckey—co-founder of the VR company Oculus, which was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for over $2 billion—failed to comply with a non-disclosure agreement that he signed when he left the video game publisher. Oculus was not, however, found to have stolen trade secrets, as Zenimax had claimed. Unsurprisingly, Facebook plans to appeal. But it will also breezily push on with a plan to take over TV. In a call with investors yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg described how he plans for Facebook to become the place where “you want to watch videos, you want to keep up with the content that you watch episodically week over week.” To source content, the social network will pay video producers with up front payments as well as a slice of ad revenue. Meanwhile, earlier this week it was rumored that the company plans to build its own TV apps. Looks like we should stay tuned.
Ten Fascinating Things
01. The solution to botnets? It might just be artificial intelligence hacking software that could roam the Internet finding—and fixing—security flaws.
02. Uber is offering its California drivers an average of about $1 to sweep away alleged labor code violations.
03. In a bid to reduce its reliance on Intel, Apple is rumored to be building some of its own chips for laptops, using technology developed by ARM.
04. With carbon fiber bones and wings made from ultra-thin silicone, the 93-gram Bat Bot is a freakish-looking device that flies much like the real thing.
05. IBM’s artificial intelligence system, Watson, is prolific. But here’s one application we can all get behind: it wants to help do taxes.
06. Beyond streaming HD video and employing night vision, a new baby monitor called Raybaby uses wide-band radar to keep check on your child’s breathing.
07. Electronic health records are messy, time-consuming for medics, and potentially insecure. Blockchain could perhaps solve those problems.
08. Researchers in India claim to have used stem cells to treat Down’s syndrome. But some scientists think the treatment makes no sense.
09. Samsung is said to be the latest global technology firm to consider setting up production facilities in the U.S..
10.Take a look inside the weird and wonderful world of China’s live-streaming entertainment industry.
Quote of the Day
"I think that there's never been anything even close to this before ... you almost always feel like you're sacrificing something to eat these other plant-based meats.”
— Brad Farmerie, executive chef at Public in Manhattan, explains why his has become the first Michelin-starred restaurant to serve the meat-free burger that bleeds made by Impossible Foods. (It comes with hot pepper aioli, white cheddar, watercress, frisée, and relish, by the way.)