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The cool space tech that NASA is bringing to life on earth

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NASA is not just venturing into the cosmos – it’s also propelling technological innovations that benefit life on Earth.

The agency has given rise to groundbreaking technologies with applications extending far beyond the realms of space travel.

Many of these remarkable innovations are showcased in NASA’s annual Spinoff book, which spotlights a myriad of medical advancements and other transformative technologies born from the agency’s research and development expertise.

NASA’s 2024 Spinoff publication features several cutting-edge technologies that have found commercial success and are now enhancing everyday lives. Some of these innovations include:

1. Spherical “Squishy” Robots:

These ingenious robots can be deployed into hazardous environments before first responders, helping assess and navigate dangerous situations. They were notably used during a subway attack exercise in 2021 to detect gas leaks and other threats.

2. Digital Winglets Aircraft Routing:

This technology has revolutionized aircraft routing, leading to increased fuel efficiency and smoother flights, a boon for both the aviation industry and the environment.

3. Lighter, Durable Disc Brake Designs:

NASA’s contribution to disc brake technology has resulted in designs that produce less dust compared to traditional disc brakes, reducing environmental impact.

4. Natural Disaster Coping Software:

NASA-developed computer software aids businesses and communities in managing and recovering from natural disasters, such as wildfires, enhancing disaster preparedness and response.

5. Advanced 3D Printing Methods:

NASA’s innovations in 3D printing extend to additively manufacturing rocket engines and other large aluminum components, revolutionizing aerospace manufacturing.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson emphasized the agency’s commitment to technology transfer, stating, “A critical part of our mission is to quickly get those advances into the hands of companies and entrepreneurs who can use them to grow their businesses, open new markets, boost the economy, and raise the quality of life for everyone.”

The medical innovations featured in the Spinoff publication include groundbreaking achievements like the first wireless arthroscope, a device used during surgeries.

Pivotal role

NASA’s expertise in spacesuits and satellite batteries played a pivotal role in its development. Additionally, NASA-derived technologies have led to advancements in diagnosing illnesses, including the coronavirus, hepatitis, and cancer, as well as contributing to the creation of certain types of toothpaste.

The 2024 Spinoff also highlights developments stemming from NASA’s Artemis campaign, such as a rugged video camera improving aircraft safety and a novel method for detecting defects in composite materials.

Notably, fuel cell technology initially developed for the Apollo program over 50 years ago is now poised to support terrestrial power grids based on renewable energy sources.

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Google CEO condemns AI blunders in staff memo

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In response to recent controversies surrounding Google’s artificial intelligence blunders, CEO Sundar Pichai issued a memo to employees, addressing the company’s missteps and outlining plans for improvement.

The memo comes after Google faced criticism for flaws in its Gemini image-generation feature, leading to the tool being taken offline for further testing. Pichai described the issues as “problematic” and acknowledged that they “have offended our users and shown bias,” according to reports first surfaced by Semafor.

The Gemini image generator, introduced earlier this month as part of Google’s main group of AI models, allows users to input prompts to create images.

However, users discovered historical inaccuracies in the generated images, prompting widespread backlash online.

Consequently, Google removed the feature last week, stating its intention to relaunch it after addressing the issues.

Google Gemini

Pichai expressed regret over the offensive responses produced by the AI system, emphasising that such behavior is “completely unacceptable.”

He emphasised the challenges of developing AI technology, acknowledging that perfection is elusive, particularly in the nascent stages of the industry’s evolution.

Nevertheless, Pichai stressed that Google recognizes the high standards expected of them.

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Slack CEO has advice for turning off work notifications

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In an era dominated by constant connectivity, Slack CEO Denise Dresser emphasises the importance of setting boundaries to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

As leaders grapple with the challenges of an always-on culture, Dresser suggests that modeling certain behaviors can help alleviate the pressures faced by employees in today’s hyper-connected workplace.

Dresser, who assumed the CEO role last November, advocates for leaders to establish clear boundaries to prevent employees from feeling overwhelmed by the demands of modern work.

Rather than implementing new company policies, she believes that leaders can effectively shape the organisational culture by exemplifying healthy work practices.

Proactive measures

Victoria Mills, CEO of Hello Coach, echoes Dresser’s sentiments, emphasising the need for proactive measures to foster work-life balance.

Mills encourages her staff to disconnect by turning off notifications after 5pm and questions the necessity of installing work apps on personal devices.

Recognising the pervasive nature of technology, Mills underscores the importance of individuals taking control of their digital interactions. She advises employees to manage notifications and settings to prevent technology from dictating their lives.

In addition to individual efforts, Hello Coach implements company-wide initiatives to promote well-being, such as mandatory lunch breaks devoid of meetings or messages.

Mills believes that frequent breaks are essential for maintaining energy levels and productivity, particularly for employees spending prolonged hours in front of screens.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook announces AI timeframe

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In a recent announcement during Apple’s annual shareholder meeting, CEO Tim Cook revealed that the tech giant intends to provide more insight into its utilization of generative artificial intelligence later in the year.

Cook expressed Apple’s enthusiasm for the potential of generative AI, highlighting its capacity for breakthroughs in productivity and problem-solving.

Despite lagging behind competitors like Microsoft and Google in incorporating generative AI into products, Cook assured shareholders of Apple’s ongoing investment in this area.

“While AI is already integrated into Apple’s products behind the scenes, we are committed to unveiling more explicit AI features in the near future,” Cook stated.

Enhanced search

Apple’s plans reportedly include utilising AI to enhance data search capabilities across its devices, a move previously hinted at by Bloomberg.

Cook emphasised the prowess of Apple silicon-powered Macs as leading AI machines in today’s market.

However, shareholders voted against a proposal urging Apple to disclose further details about its AI practices and ethical guidelines.

The proposal, presented by the pension trust of AFL-CIO, America’s largest labor union federation, sought transparency regarding AI usage and ethical considerations within Apple’s operations.

Similar propositions have been raised at other tech firms, indicating growing concerns over AI ethics and transparency. AFL-CIO’s request specifically called for disclosures on AI training procedures and guidelines for utilizing copyrighted materials and personal likenesses.

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