Bio & Life Sciences

Online Gamers Could Play Their Way to Breakthrough Science

Neurons traced by MIT's Daniel Berger using EyeWire (via eyewire.org)

Can untrained gamers help solve tough scientific puzzles? Some scientists and researchers are starting to think so. In fact, there are problems that professional scientists admit they are helpless to solve without the help of the "crowd." EyeWire is a game designed by a team at MIT's Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department to help chart nerve connections in the brain. "We need an army of people to go out and explore that jungle," said neuroscientist Sebastian Seung, the team's leader, in an NPR report. "Why not engage the public? It's a great adventure. What could be more exciting than exploring the brain? [It's] much more exciting than any artificial video game." About 35,000 players have already registered at eyewire.org to look at images of neurons in the eye and figure out how they're connected.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Startup’s Data Helps Women Succeed With In Vitro Fertilization

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In vitro fertilization (IVF), a last recourse for women who want to get pregnant, is expensive, and its outcome is uncertain. Now a Silicon Valley data-mining startup is significantly improving predictions about whether a woman's IVF will succeed. Reproductive health scientist Dr. Mylene Yao and Stanford statistics professor Wing Wong, founders of Univfy, compare detailed personal health information with large data sets taken from past efforts with thousands of women to predict the likely results of IVF treatment. It’s easy to see why it might be in demand.   More

Opinion

Working at Home: Mayer May Be Right

Marissa Mayer at Techonomy 2011

Does proximity matter for innovation? Marissa Mayer thinks it does, and has been getting chastised for it. The Yahoo CEO recently ordered her fellow Yahooligans to stop working from home and come into the office. She believes that proximity creates a better atmosphere for innovation. Yahoo’s human resources chief Jackie Reses explained in a memo: “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.” But that’s not where we’re supposed to be heading in the age of the Internet.   More

Energy & Green Tech Manufacturing

Will the Car of the Future Be Printable?

The Urbee at the EuroMold trade show in Germany (photo via urbeecar.blogspot.com)

We've already seen 3D-printed guitars, motorcycles, and even stem cells. Is 3D printing ready to disrupt the auto industry? It could happen sooner than you think. The Urbee 2, a lightweight three-wheeled, two-passenger vehicle designed to be constructed from 3D-printed materials, is the brainchild of engineer Jim Kor. Using ABS plastic and Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)—an automated, additive process that prints all of the car's parts in about 2,500 hours—Kor and his team have created a prototype at the on-demand 3D-printing facility RedEye.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

NASA Asks the “Crowd” to Help Track What Astronauts Eat

STS-110 crew eating on board the International Space Station

NASA has put a man on the moon, but it hasn’t yet come up with an efficient and accurate way for the International Space Station (ISS) crew to track their diets. Living in a zero-gravity environment poses the risk of nutrient deficiency and bone loss, so keeping close tabs on food intake in space is crucial. But the ISS crew complain that their meal monitoring methods are unreliable and tedious. Imagine having to recount everything you ate in a week while orbiting the Earth. That’s what astronauts do in a weekly “food frequency questionnaire.” But diet logging isn’t rocket science, so NASA is turning to “the crowd” for help.   More

Cities

A SimCity for Analyzing Urban Efficiency

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New York University's new Center for Urban Science and Progress is launching an initiative to develop sensor and data-crunching technologies aimed at creating a smarter, more efficient city. With partners including I.B.M., Cisco, Xerox, and the New York City government, the center will research and deploy the kind of smart-city technologies already being implemented in cities like Stockhom and Singapore to better manage urban infrastructure, with an emphasis on quality-of-life improvements like noise reduction and traffic abatement.   More

Media & Marketing

Spoiler Alert: Mobile Moviegoers Are the Biggest Movie Enthusiasts

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Today, with the help of their smartphones and tablets, moviegoers can stay on top of the latest movie trends in real time, purchase tickets on the go and even post their own reviews on social networks before the closing credits roll. Overall, mobile-connected moviegoers are bigger movie enthusiasts than the average U.S. moviegoer, according to Nielsen NRG’s 2012 American Moviegoing report. They spend more, consume more content and are more actively engaged in the moviegoing process. Smartphone and tablet owners are heavier moviegoers than average, attending 9 percent and 20 percent more movies overall in the past year, respectively. In terms of size, 69% of moviegoers own a smartphone and 29% own a tablet, with 23% owning both devices.   More

Government

North Korea Relaxes its Internet Grip, but Not Much

Korea on map

Last November, Techonomy contributor Gabriel Mizrahi wrote about how North Korea's strict prohibition of Internet access effectively quashes any hopes there for the kind of popular uprising seen in the Arab Spring. "This is the golden age of grassroots regime change," wrote Mizrahi. "Unless, of course, you [live] in North Korea." Until now, only a select group of government officials in Pyongyang could access the Web. Meanwhile, the mobile network Koryolink, which was developed by the Egyptian firm Orascom, has over 1 million North Korean subscribers, none of whom can pick up foreign networks or call outside the country. But in March North Korea will begin allowing Internet searches from laptops and mobile devices, as reported in the New York Times IHT Rendezvous blog. There's just one hitch. Only foreigners will have the privilege of accessing the 3G mobile Internet service to be offered by Koryolink.   More

Business

7.2 Square Miles: The Data Behind Detroit’s Resurgence

Image from the report

A new report produced by a consortium of Detroit-based organizations uses a wide range of analytics to document the revitalization of the 7.2 square miles that comprise the city's Greater Downtown area. Drawn from local surveys and data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, among other sources, the report details population and tourism figures, business distribution, and demographics on income, housing, ethnicity, and education. Some of the findings hint at the dynamics behind Detroit's resurgence.   More

Learning Partner Insights Security & Privacy

Educating IT Security Soldiers for a Virtual Cold War

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On a new global battlefield, countries, criminals, and commercial competitors can effectively leverage technology to steal from or attack target organizations. Corporate intellectual property is at risk of breach as most everyone seeks to gain advantage in the innovation race. Military and government information faces the same risks with consequences for national security, digitized assets, and international affairs. The most dangerous hackers are no longer solitary, discontented teenagers working from their basement bedrooms, but instead are highly skilled professionals employed by corporate offices or military bases.   More

Government

Green Card Policy Could Blunt U.S. Edge in Startup Innovation

At last year's Techonomy Detroit conference, salesforce.com's Vivek Kundra, who from 2009 to 2011 was the first U.S. Chief Information Officer, lamented the disconnect between an education system that attracts the world's best and brightest and an immigration system that prevents them from working here legally. "It is broken," said Kundra. "It makes absolutely no sense when we educate some of the smartest people in the world with advanced degrees and then ask them to leave the country and go start up companies elsewhere." A recent article by Kevin Sullivan in The Washington Post highlights this conundrum with a profile of two MIT inventors, Anurag Bajpayee and Prakash Narayan, whose water-decontamination technology has attracted serious interest from investors, but whose visas both expire soon.   More

Startup Culture

City Supports Tech Startups “Made in NY”

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The "Made in NY" advertising campaign has been touting the city's efforts to grow and energize local film and television production. Now, Mayor Bloomberg has launched a "We Are Made in NY" initiative that supports the city's burgeoning tech scene by offering online resources that help nurture startups and match employers with qualified applicants. The program is also asking local tech startups to submit 60-second introductory videos to give a behind-the-scene look at what they do. Along with initiatives like the Code for America partnership and the planned Cornell NYC Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, this new campaign bolsters the mayor's strategic reinvention of New York as "New Tech City."   More

Manufacturing

3Doodler Turns Sketches into 3D Objects

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The 3Doodler, a new 3D printing pen from the toy and robotics company WobbleWorks, lets users transform sketches into three-dimensional objects. The pen, currently in development thanks in part to a successful Kickstarter campaign, emits ABS plastic instead of ink. Once plugged in, the device lets you draw on a surface and peel away the plastic after it cools and solidifies. You can then build on an framework by drawing three-dimensional designs in the air. The company has demonstrated the pen by creating jewelry, fridge magnets, and a mini Eiffel Tower. If the 3Doodler delivers as advertised, back-of-napkin sketches will soon turn into impromptu prototypes.   More

E-Commerce Global Tech

Western Brands Try E-Commerce Road to China

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U.S. apparel maker Cherokee made a strategic gamble last week when it largely circumvented China’s traditional retail store network and opened a shop on the Internet, highlighting an emerging new path for mid-sized foreign brands into the lucrative sector. Unlike real-world shops, online stores are much cheaper to set up and also target an e-commerce market set to become the world’s largest over the next decade.   More

Learning Opinion

MOOC Mania and the 99%

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Are these new Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) the silver bullet to improving higher-education? They certainly are getting plenty of hype. I can understand the fascination with MOOCs, as they are a romantic idea: millions of people in India learning calculus in their pajamas. But while MOOCs are a positive innovation, they are not the solution to making education more affordable or improving learning outcomes.   More

Business

Healthcare Entrepreneur Disrupts Addiction Treatment

After confronting his daughter's alcohol and drug addiction, and supporting her through a torturous recovery, healthcare entrepreneur Peter Loeb wanted to help others who struggle with addiction. With his daughter, Loeb launched Lionrock Recovery, a two-year-old startup that uses secure videoconferencing technology to help addicts free themselves of chemical dependency.   More

Partner Insights

How ‘Social Intelligence’ Can Guide Decisions

By offering decision makers rich real-time data, social media is giving some companies fresh strategic insight. In many companies, marketers have been first movers in social media, tapping into it for insights on how consumers think and behave. As social technologies mature and organizations become convinced of their power, we believe they will take on a broader role: informing competitive strategy. In particular, social media should help companies overcome some limits of old-school intelligence gathering, which typically involves collecting information from a range of public and propriety sources, distilling insights using time-tested analytic methods, and creating reports for internal company “clients” often “siloed” by function or business unit.   More

Cities Jobs

Big Data Could Mean Big Jobs for Cleveland Area

Cleveland's harbor district at twilight (image via Shutterstock)

Last year, Techonomy held a one-day conference in Detroit to tackle the issues of jobs, urban revival, and U.S. competitiveness in the global economy. While Detroit continues its road to recovery, thanks in part to a burgeoning tech startup scene nurtured by investors like Detroit Venture Partners and entrepreneurship accelerators like Bizdom, another Midwestern city afflicted by the loss of manufacturing jobs is also mounting a tech-enabled recovery. In Cleveland, Ohio, companies like Explorys, which helps healthcare systems manage and analyze their data, are helping to put the city on the map as a locus for quality jobs in the tech sector.   More

Manufacturing

Making Robots Better Team Players

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Humans are intelligent, yet unpredictable. Robots are programmed to be predictably logical. Can they get along? These days they don't have much of a choice, as robots increasingly perform human tasks and work with human teams. As reported in SmartPlanet, researchers at MIT are examining ways to establish trustworthy and efficient relationships between humans and robots, using a cross training approach to team building. Their research shows that teams in which a robot and its human partner swap roles on different days become more efficient.   More

Business Energy & Green Tech

Is 2013 the Year of the Car in China?

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The auto industry is humming over new data that show China car sales soared 45 percent in January, marking their strongest growth since April 2010, when government incentives during the global economic crisis helped to turbocharge the sector. Industry watchers are acknowledging that seasonal factors played a major role in this latest jump, but point out that they still expect to see a return to strong growth in the upcoming Year of the Snake, as China's economy improves and consumers rediscover their love affair with cars.   More