technology

Fresh Blood: What Theranos Leaves In Its Wake

The big question is why the scam wasn’t detected earlier. Theranos promised the moon—or at least a full battery of blood tests from a minim of blood—but it never came close to delivering.

Forget the Robot Apocalypse. Order Lunch.

The robot and I met at the southwest corner of Center and Shattuck. It was 3 p.m. on a Wednesday, and the streets were bustling. The robot was small and boxy, something like a cooler on wheels. I knelt down at what I presumed was the robot’s front end. It winked a pixilated eye.

Following instructions I’d received in advance, I raised a hand and flashed an “okay” sign. The robot emitted a pleasant dinging sound and a hatch on top slowly opened. I reached in and removed a grease-stained paper bag. Inside were two slices of warm pizza.

Is Augmented Reality the News Media’s New Frontier?

Earlier this month, the New York Times published its first feature story with augmented reality, or AR, depicting 360 degree models of Olympians suspended in action: a figure skater frozen in the middle of his quadruple jump, a speed skater paused during the sharp angling of a turn.

A Life And Career By Design: Qualcomm Exec Paul Jacobs

At an age when most boys are learning to throw a curveball and struggling with elementary algebra, Paul Jacobs was writing code. Simple code, to be sure, but code good enough to let him play the video game Adventure with his dad on a clunky, early laptop.

It’s no surprise that Jacobs, who was in sixth or seventh grade when he wrote his first programs, grew up to be an engineer.

From the Summer 2017 Adaptation issue of California.

Paint by Numbers: Algorithms for the Artistically Challenged

As a 10-year-old growing up in Shanghai, Jun-Yan Zhu often avoided homework with furtive doodling. He’d sketch comics or movie characters in pencil, then erase the evidence before his mother saw it. Much as he loved drawing, however, he wasn’t very good at it. He dreamed of a world where everyone, even those who lacked the talent, could easily communicate in pictures.

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

In the Water Works: Bringing Clean Water to Kenya’s Largest Slum

Nairobi is a tough town, and there’s no place in Nairobi that’s tougher than Kibera, Africa’s largest slum. Maybe a half-million people live there, maybe a million. No one’s really counting. But virtually everyone is desperately poor, with per capita earnings averaging about a dollar a day. Rape, assault, and murder are simple facts of daily life. The streets are paved with rotting garbage, sewage flows in the gutters, disease is rampant, and city services are largely nonexistent.

From the Summer 2016 Welcome to There issue of California.

Whooshing into the Future: Aiming to Make Speed-of-Sound Commutes a Reality

Remember pneumatic tubes, those compressed-air pipelines that whisked plastic canisters from basement mailrooms to penthouse boardrooms? Imagine being in one, traveling at more than 700 mph. You could make the round-trip from San Francisco to LA in a little over an hour. That may sound like science fiction, but it could one day be a reality thanks to the efforts of engineering students at UC Berkeley and elsewhere.

From the Summer 2016 Welcome to There issue of California.

The Blind Leading the Blind: Designing an Inclusive World

Joshua Miele has been blind ever since a violent acid attack took away his vision before his 5th birthday. But he says he no longer spends time wishing he could see. Instead, from his office at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco, he dreams up new technologies for the blind, and helps turn those visions into reality: maps that can talk, YouTube videos that can speak, electronic gloves that can text.

Not Supremely Tech-Savvy—Can High Court Keep Up With the Cyber Revolution?

A popular opinion on the Internet lately is that the members of the Supreme Court are a bit superannuated. You know: supremely old, dated, over the Capitol Hill, if you will. The presumption seems to be that with our geriatric justices aged to imperfection, they’re not only physically impaired, but technologically impaired as well.

“World’s Smartest Billionaire:” James Simons is Cal Alumnus of the Year for 2016

As a teenager in Newton, Massachusetts, James Simons had a short-lived job in the basement stockroom of a garden supply store. “I was terrible at it; couldn’t remember where anything went,” he told an audience at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2013. He was quickly demoted to floor sweeper, “Which I loved: It was easy, took no brain work.”

From the Spring 2016 War Stories issue of California.

Preparing to Launch: Inside SkyDeck, UC Berkeley’s Start-Up Accelerator

SkyDeck, UC Berkeley’s start-up accelerator program, is housed on the top floor of the tallest building in downtown Berkeley. All four walls of the 10,000 square-foot penthouse have floor-to-ceiling windows, offering up a 360-degree view. This is where Cal’s fledgling entrepreneurs come for free office space and guidance while preparing to launch their product or service. They have six months to a year up here with SkyDeck, and then it’s time to jump out of the nest.

Straw Into Gold: New Way to Retrieve CO2 From Air and Recycle It Into Useful Products

Turning an undesirable substance into something valuable seems like the plot of an old fable, but UC Berkeley researchers Chris Chang and Omar Yaghi may have done just that. Their invention, covalent organic frameworks, or COFs, can transform atmospheric carbon dioxide into a useful building block for biodegradable plastics, fuel, and more.

Chang likens COFs to TinkerToys, though at a nano scale. They consist of strings of carbon crystals that are special in their unique porosity, as they can be custom tailored to capture the chemical of choice.

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Confessions of a Tech Reporter: Like Other Freethinkers, I Did What Steve Jobs Wanted

For a brief moment, back when the tech revolution was young, I was an early adopter.

I was sucked in by that 1984 Apple ad that ran during the Super Bowl. I can’t recall a thing about the game, but I remember every detail of that ad: the woman running in her tank top one step ahead of the goons; the rows of corporate weirdos staring in open-mouthed horror; the hammer sailing toward the giant screen, smashing the Big Brother cult.

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

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