Magnitude and Direction, Issue #24 | 11 Jan 2019

Hardware, Prototyping, and Fabrication

🤖❤ A lot of people are worried that robots are coming to take all our jobs, but some of them are just here to love you.

👃🏾 This BO-sniffing sensor gives a whole new meaning to the ARM microprocessor architecture.

🛳 This visualization of the global shipping container industry puts into perspective just how much stuff we make and send around the world every year.

☎ Do you like the idea of a smart home assistant, but hate the design? Now you can put Alexa into an early 20th century phone, thanks to 

📺 Roll-up screens have made the rounds at CES since 2016, but previously have always taken the form of "concepts" or "prototypes". At this year's CES, LG unveiled an actual productized version of the technology, in the form of a TV that can fold up into a sleek base (think a projector screen, but upside-down). As you might imagine, though, it's going to be pretty damn expensive for some years to come.

🚶🏼‍♀️ Also from this year's CES: a Hyundai concept car that swaps wheels for "legs" and makes it feel like you're about to invade a Rebel base on Hoth.

Software and Programming

🔎 Do I keep fear-mongering about AI's ever-increasing capacity to falsify andsynthesize images? Yes, but I do that because that dark future I keep talking about looks ever-more real with each passing issue of M&D. The least I can do, then, is share this great, detailed article with you about how to spot a faked image.

🖼 A group of researchers from the University of Washington and Facebook have developed a method to take a single, still photograph and animate one subject within it, such that they can move around, or even leave the picture frame, Harry Potter-style.

🎅🏾 AI is pretty good at using statistics to find patterns in numerical data, but when it comes to more creative endeavors - like writing the synopsis of a new movie - nonsense is common and hilarity may ensure. With that in mind, the folks over at the MIT Tech Review tried their hand at getting an AI to come up with silly, outrageous new Christmas movies and ended up learning a lot about how hard it is to get an AI to be funny instead of completely incomprehensible. Some of my personal favorite "new" movies were "The Christmas StorK" and "It Christmas".

Science, Engineering, and Biomedicine

🍽 It's not just you, restaurants are indeed getting louder, largely due to changes in design trends and operating costs.

⌬ A lot of molecules come in right-handed and left-handed varieties, where one version is very useful and the other is at best useless, and at times even dangerous. Most chemical synthesis reactions will give you both versions whether or not you wanted both and the prevailing wisdom has been this is just the way it is and you filter out the bad version afterwards. Now, a group from Munich has figured out a way to proactively perturb these chemical reactions so that only the desired variety is produced - a major leap forward that has implications for almost every industry.

🌊 Water Shapes Earth is a collection of photographs that show just how much power water has over our planet's topography.

Mapping, History, and Data Science

🏙 New York City and small apartments go together like gravity and falling, but NYC doesn't actually have the smallest average apartments in the US. That dubious distinction goes to Seattle (with 711 sq ft to NYC's 733 sq ft -- tied with Chicago!). Across the board, though, apartment sizes are going down while rents go up (a symptom of landlords partitioning individual apartments into smaller units in order to extract more value from their properties). Considering the big orange elephant in the room (and its home town) I do worry about future trends for NYC and how they'll compare to Seattle...

🔮 Predictions about the future aren't usually renowned for their accuracy, but a report on future jobs from 1988 turned out to be, overall, more accurate that not.

🌁 An interesting interactive article/visualization by the Wall Street Journal on Kowloon Walled City, a strange diplomatic quirk stuck between formerly British Hong Kong and China, which was once the most densely populated place on earth.

❓ The United States of Wonder, or "what are the most asked questions about each state online?"

🥪 The Cube Rule answers once and for all "Is it a sandwich?"

❌❌❌ PornHub's annual data review for 2018 is an incredibly detailed andinsightful data set, but it'll probably also make you say "stop the world, I want to get off".

Events and Opportunities

And just like that, we're back in full events swing:

  • Monday, 1/14 The NY Hardware Meetup gathers for the 53rd time at ITP, with presentations featuring smart baby monitors, laboratory robots, andat-home gyms.

  • Monday, 1/14 GeoNYC convenes for their first meetup of 2019, featuring databases oriented towards geospatial data and a push to expand the open-source geodata community.

  • Tuesday, 1/15 Taste of Science returns for their first event of the new year with a discussion on big data centered not on its abuses by big tech companies, but its genuinely useful applications in scientific research.

  • Thursday, 1/17 JLABS @ NYC is holding their next Innovators andEntrepreneurs mixer at their biotech incubator in SoHo.

  • Thursday, 1/24 The NY Nanotech Meetup holds their first event of 2019 at Clinton Hall for an informal gathering of nanotech professionals, students, and enthusiasts.

  • Thursday, 1/24 Civic tech think-tank/incubator Civic Hall is holding their winter Member Showcase,featuring presentations and project demos from those using and building technology for the public good.

  • Friday, 1/25 Join NYDesigns for lunch to meet other inventors, tinkerers, and awesome startups for their first community lunch of 2019. Eat, play games, watch a startup demo, and meet great individuals in the maker, design and entrepreneurial communities.

  • Friday, 1/25 The new NYC Entrepreneurs meetup group is having a casual mixer at the Empire Hotel rooftop.

Some other upcoming events to keep on your radar...

  • Wednesday, 1/30 The Transit Techies host their next meetup featuring presenters working on projects that include anticipating public transit demand in Brazil and building an intercity rail map of America.

  • Saturday, 2/2 Glassblowing, fire-throwing, beer-drinking extravaganza Hot Glass Cold Beer is back at Brooklyn Glass. As always, buying a ticket in advance also gets you a hand-blown drinking glass and unlimited beer to drink out of that glass.

Map of the Month

🕰 As we move into 2019, take a look back at the Manhattan of 410 years ago with the Welikia Project.

Odds & Ends

📸🥩 In case you were wondering, this is how to take amazing pictures of food.