Innovation

Welcome to iTown: Berkeley Designer Imagines What If Silicon Valley Housed All Its Employees

Alfred Twu says he got inspired by a friend who, after taking a job at a major tech firm in the South Bay, decided to save on rent by living out of his van in the company parking lot.

“The company had showers and food, so all he needed was a place to sleep,” says Twu, a designer who works for Berkeley Student Cooperative. “He would wake up in the morning and notice all the other vans in the parking lot like his.” Read more about Welcome to iTown: Berkeley Designer Imagines What If Silicon Valley Housed All Its Employees »

The Case of the Hacked Refrigerator—Could “The Internet of Things” Connect Everything?

Somebody hacked a refrigerator recently, and it could mark a tipping point for civilization. 

It’s no joke (although it is pretty funny). The target was a “smart” refrigerator:  a software-enhanced appliance capable of linking to the internet and sending and receiving information. Why would your refrigerator need to be smart? Read more about The Case of the Hacked Refrigerator—Could "The Internet of Things" Connect Everything? »

Drivin’ on Sunshine: Cal Team Is Crafting Solar-Powered Car for National Race

As flocks of wild turkeys and geese look on, about 50 members of the UC Berkeley Solar Vehicle Team—aka CalSol—are laboring from dawn to dusk every day at the Richmond Field Station, a 152-acre lot six miles northwest of campus. Their goal: the construction of “Zephyr,” a solar-powered car that can cruise along at 55 miles per hour on only the energy needed for a portable hairdryer.

It’s Cal’s latest entry in an international collegiate competition that has been going on since the early 1990s, before many of CalSol’s current members were born. Read more about Drivin' on Sunshine: Cal Team Is Crafting Solar-Powered Car for National Race »

Feeding Forward: Giving Us the Power to Fight Hunger From Our Phones

Time has borne out the veracity of the Biblical observation that poor will always be with us—and so, too, are well-meaning efforts to feed the famished. But success in getting food to the hungry has been spotty at best. Now, a group of idealistic Cal students is bringing high tech to bear on the problem, producing an approach that is propagating across the country. Read more about Feeding Forward: Giving Us the Power to Fight Hunger From Our Phones »

Gadzooks, MOOCs!

“I’ve been rereading Christensen a lot,” says Armando Fox. The Berkeley computer science professor is referring to business guru Clayton Christensen, famous for his research on how innovations can unsettle existing institutions. For example, how the PC upended the market for mainframes, or how the new business and publishing dynamics of the Internet have thrown traditional media companies into turmoil. Now Christensen warns that higher education will face its own disruption in the form of online learning. Read more about Gadzooks, MOOCs! »

From the Winter 2013 Information Issue issue of California.

Riding the iBomb: Welcome to Life in the Age of Exploding Information

The Acxiom Corporation has me down as Arab.

Acxiom is a commercial data broker based in Little Rock, Arkansas, a Big Data company that builds consumer profiles by aggregating information from various public and consumer databases. It then packages and sells that information to marketers who want to more accurately target ads to consumers. One of Acxiom’s slogans is “Stop Guessing. Start Knowing.” Read more about Riding the iBomb: Welcome to Life in the Age of Exploding Information »

From the Winter 2013 Information Issue issue of California.

Tracking Transit

The question at the center of Daniel Chatman’s latest paper seems like it already should have been answered: Just how much is public transportation worth to a city? Although city planning papers had examined public transit’s financial effects before, Chatman, an assistant professor of city and regional planning, found none researched the link between public transportation, worker productivity, and increased wages. That gap led Chatman to create a model that could accurately predict the financial benefits different public transit systems bring to the cities they serve. Read more about Tracking Transit »

From the Winter 2013 Information Issue issue of California.

Wrangling Big Data

Imagine a website that could offer you personalized medical advice. You could log on and input your symptoms and medical history. The program would then compare your situation to that of other people with a similar condition, perhaps analyze your genotype, consult with a few hundred doctors as necessary, and then provide you with a diagnosis and treatment recommendation. Read more about Wrangling Big Data »

From the Winter 2013 Information Issue issue of California.

“Fund Me:” Researchers who can’t get corporate funding forced to get creative

With government funding more scarce, corporations have stepped in to underwrite an increasing amount of research in academia—as we’ve reported, industry now accounts for about 10 percent of funding for research at UC Berkeley, double the percentage it was two decades ago. But what about the iconoclastic researchers—the ones whose work is either irrelevant to, or at cross-purposes with, the profit-minded interests of corporate funders? Read more about “Fund Me:” Researchers who can't get corporate funding forced to get creative »

Holy Innovation, Batman: Using bat-like sonar, UC researchers develop way to control smartwatches with a wave of your hand

A group of UC researchers has created a small motion-detecting control device for consumer electronics that uses bat-like ultrasonic echolocation, which means…

Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na… BATPHONE!

Or possibly Batwatch, or BatGPS, or Batslideshow-controller, or Batscreen with gestural interface. Really, the possibilities are endless within the realm of electronic devices you could control by waving your hand—like, say, a miniature symphony orchestra, or the stereo in the Batmobile. Read more about Holy Innovation, Batman: Using bat-like sonar, UC researchers develop way to control smartwatches with a wave of your hand »

Sound Check: Berkeley Rescuer of Old Recordings Garners MacArthur “Genius Grant”

Cal is replete with geniuses, of course, but it’s always gratifying when one is recognized as such. That happened today to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory physicist and “sound savior” Carl Haber, who has been named one of 2013’s MacArthur Genius Grant recipients. Read more about Sound Check: Berkeley Rescuer of Old Recordings Garners MacArthur "Genius Grant" »

Crowded Field: How crowdfunding is changing the investment world

Used to be, not so very long ago—prior to 2008, in fact—you had few options for raising money if you were low on cash and wanted to make a film or album, write the Great American (or Australian or Lithuanian) Novel, launch a killer app, or start a catering service for dogs. If you had credit cards, you could max them out. Or you could ask mom and dad for a currency infusion. Or you could…you could…well, that’s about it. With zip collateral, no bank was going to give you a loan. Venture capitalists or angel investors? Puh-leeze. You wouldn’t even register on their scopes.

Bridge Over Troubled Bolts: Cal Experts Question Whether New Bridge is Safe

As the Bay Area celebrates the opening of a new Bay Bridge—an eastern span that transportation officials are hailing as elegant and seismically secure—UC Berkeley engineers are expressing serious misgivings about whether the structure is safe. And at least one professor labels it far less stable than the old bridge.  Read more about Bridge Over Troubled Bolts: Cal Experts Question Whether New Bridge is Safe »

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