DTNS 2295 – Baby Tested, Pet Approved

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comFraser Cain is on the show and we’ll chat about uBeam’s ubiquitous wireless power claims and how we so very much want them to come true.


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Show Notes

Today’s guest: Fraser Cain, publisher of Universe Today


Ars Technica reports scientists from Cornell University and IBM Research have designed a chip that mimics how the brain works though an asynchronous collection of thousands of processing cores capable of spikes of activity and complicated connections just like neural networks. Computers have been able to model neural networks but the binary nature of transistors have limited the efficiency. This new processor, dubbed TrueNorth, uses the cores to receive and send to 256 other “neurons.” The power density of TrueNorth is 20mW per square centimeter and was fabricated by Samsung using a 28nm process. Next up, software!

According to ZDNet, Google has released a preview of its Android fitness platform to developers. Google Fit, announced in June at Google I/O, will collect fitness activity from Android smartphones and wearables. Google says developers will be able to launch their apps when the SDK goes into general availability later this year through Google Play services for handsets, Android Wear and the web.

ReCode reports Facebook announced Thursday it has acquired PrivateCore, a server security startup. PrivateCore will help defend Facebook’s data centers from malware and other security breaches. PrivateCore’s founders and other members of the team will work at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters on the Facebook security team run by Joe Sullivan.

GigaOm reports Google said late Wednesday it will start taking TLS connections, the secure URLS that begin with https:, into account in search engine rankings. It will affect fewer than 1% of queries and carry less weight than other content signals. The move may encourage sites to provide secure connections to their webpages in order to help SEO. 

The Verge notes Twitch has begun scanning archived video for copyrighted music and muting entire 30 minute chunks if such music is found. Many games incorporate music and already high profile streams like the dota2 streams from Valve, maker of dota 2, have reportedly been muted. Twitch partnered with a company called Audible Magic for the scanning. The heavy-handed and often capricious nature of the policy reminds many of YouTube’s similar contentID system further fueling rumors that Google is acquiring TwiTch. Twitch CEO Emmett Shear said on Reddit Twitch has no intention of flagging songs due to original in-game music and will try to fix the problem and stressed the no live streams will be scanned or blocked. Twitch also announced it will no longer allow videos to be archived forever, Making 14 days the maximum that video will be preserved. However you can push a button and have your archived videos saved— to YouTube.

News From You:

MikePkennedy submitted the Verge article noting several reports that Microsoft will get rid of the Charms bar from Windows 9. That’s the devilish bar that you have to hover over to the right just right in order to access things like settings and shutdown. It works much better on touch screens than with a mouse. Windows 9 will also add an amazing Linux feature from the early 2000s known as ‘virtual desktops’. 

sdc111 pointed out the Boing Boing post that USIS, a federal contractor that does background checks for the US DHS, disclosed Wednesday that federal employees’ personal data has likely been stolen. USIS said the attack had “all the markings of a state-sponsored attack,” because reasons. The US FBI is investigating.

diggsalot submitted the Android Police report that T-Mobile claims it is now the number one pre-paid wireless provider in the United States. The company reports it has 15.64 million pre-paid subscribers to Sprint’s 15.19 million. Pre-paid contracts are not generally considered as lucrative as customers can stop anytime. The real money is in ‘post-paid’ subscribers–people locked into nice, predictable two-year prison sentences–er contracts. T-Mobile CEO John Legere predicts his company will overtake Sprint in overall subscribers by the end of the year. 

And tm204 passes along good news for European gamers from The Verge: Microsoft will release an over-the-air TV tuner/adapter for the European X-Box One, allowing users to pass broadcast channels through the Xbox’s HDMI port. The device goes on sale in October in France Italy German Spain and the UK, and will cost 29,99 Euros. Microsoft has not yet committed to going full DVR, but users will be able to pause live television and get program listings. No word yet on when this technology will reach other regions of the world, so Australia, you just keep doin’ what you do. 

Pick of the Day: The Red Cross First Aid App via Grant in beautiful Northern Ontario.

As a passenger train conductor, I am extensively trained in first aid. But, when an emergency pops up, I like to double check everything I am doing to make sure passengers are getting the best treatment possible. The Red Cross First Aid app is amazing for this purpose. It makes finding emergencies quick and easy right on the home screen and keeps updating for any new techniques that may have been implemented since my last first aid class. It is available for different countries and is free.

Plug of the Day:  It’s Thursday, which means its time for another article+video combo from Molly Wood in The New York Times. This week Molly checks out three services competing to be the Netflix of Books. Check out nytimes.com/machinelearning to read up on e-books.

Friday’s guest: Lamarr Wilson and Len Peralta

12 thoughts on “DTNS 2295 – Baby Tested, Pet Approved

  1. My first thought: using ultrasound to transmit energy is totally ridiculous.
    I can find no mention of the yield; that raises my suspicion to no end, is yield less than one percent ?

    Also: as with all forms of sound the energy of ultrasound dissipates to heat. So a speaker putting out a 100 watts worth of ultrasound will heat a room like a 100 watt heater.

    As we know, the world’s economy runs on fossil fuels, and currently the exploitation is just able to keep up with demand. As we know, fossil fuel reserves are running out fast, and demand is inexorably rising.

    Surely an absolute requirement for any form of wireless charging is a yield of something like 70 or 80 percent.

    I really hope some form of resonant inductive coupling will make it.

  2. Dear Tom
    On the UBeam. Low power microwaves are just as safe as low power ultrasound.
    If you expose yourself to a high enough level of ultrasound yes you can cook your body.

    1. You may have missed Fraser’s point. He rightly pointed out being near microwave transmitters is dangerous. Being near ultrasound emitters (speakers) is generally not dangerous. You are correct that in air microwave transmissions are usually safe

  3. We don’t have any technical details about uBeam. A guess:
    How about emitting a relatively narrow beam of ultrasound, and positioning the receiver right in that beam. Maybe a higher efficiency can be achieved thay way. We don’t know.

    What if the efficiency is below 1%? Again, I find it very, very suspicious that uBeam doesn’t even give a ballpark number for the efficiency.

    With resonant inductive coupling there is only energy transfer when a receiver is coupling to the emitter. When not charging the emitter can still remain in active state: in absence of coupling very little energy drains away.

    Conversely, with the energy converted to ultrasound the emitter is blindly pumping out energy. All of the energy that isn’t harvested dissipates to heat. If the efficiency is below 1%, then 5 watts at the receiving end means you’re looking at over 500 watts of heat output into the room.

  4. Thanks for pointing out the filed patents. I’ve skimmed one, and it’s interesting stuff.

    I should have assumed the beaming from the get-go. In hindsight: the very name of the product says ‘beam’. Duh.

    I suppose that to get a scheme like that going there must be two-way communication between the receiver and the sender. The receiver needs to send feedback to the base station, with the base station modifying the emissions accordingly (such as steering the beam). Presumably uBeam uses ultrasound for the two-way communication, so that it’s not dependent on other technology for its feedback loop.

    Any beam of ultrasound will distort as it propagates; air is not a good conductor of ultrasonic waves (the higher the frequency, the worse it gets). The goal, I assume, is to emit the ultrasonic waves in such a way that by the time they reach the receiver they are well suited for conversion to electric energy.

    I searched for the word ‘efficiency’ in the text. There is mention of an ‘electromechanical conversion rate’ of 40% for the transducers themselves.

    Just achieving 10% overall efficiency will be very hard indeed, I think, if possible at all.
    For me, 75% efficiency is a bare minimum. But I’m aware of course that many people will find an efficiency as low as 5% acceptable.

    Tom, it would have been great if you would have skimmed the filed patent before the show, so that you and Fraser could have speculated about the tech.

    I’d like you to push towards investigative journalism, and less being a news aggregator.

    1. Colin, Yes that would have been great! As it was I spent an hour tracking down information about the company to make sure it was real. Finding out about the history with the founder and why it had taken so long to get to the point it was at. Why the NYTimes felt it was significant in the first place.

      That got me to the notes and links below. I didn’t have time/expertise to parse the patents other than to acknowledge they existed.

      I try to be very clear that this is an analysis show, so that I can help people get a broad understanding of what’s out there in technology each day. Hopefully I can give some context. Hence my focus on vetting that this wasn’t just a fly-by-night ‘only a press release’ company.

      If I were to do investigative journalism I would not do a daily show, or any of my other shows. Proper investigative journalism is a full time job that’s more than 40 hours a week and will turn out a good detailed story possibly monthly if you’re really good. That’s just something I’m choosing not to do in order to be able to put out an efficient daily digest. Hopefully my and my guests insights and opinions help people understand a little more than they did and point them to resources where they can find out more if they wish.

      Wireless Charging, at a Distance, Moves Forward for uBeam – NYTimes.com http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/06/ubeam-technology-will-enable-people-to-charge-devices-through-the-air/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0
      uBeam | Careers http://ubeam.com/careers/
      uBeam wireless power startup shows prototype at D9 (video hands-on) http://www.engadget.com/2011/06/01/ubeam-wireless-power-startup-shows-prototype-at-d9-video-hands/
      Video – D9 Video: uBeam Demo – WSJ.com http://live.wsj.com/video/d9-video-ubeam-demo/7332C7FB-8AEC-409D-9CA5-5A1DA2DBF0D1.html#!7332C7FB-8AEC-409D-9CA5-5A1DA2DBF0D1
      OVERHEARD: UBeam Raising ~ $1 Million From Founders Fund – Business Insider http://www.businessinsider.com/overheard-ubeam-raising–1-million-from-founders-fund-2012-7
      DWECK v. PERRY :: Justia Dockets & Filings http://dockets.justia.com/docket/pennsylvania/paedce/2:2011cv07057/452029/
      CrunchBase http://www.crunchbase.com/organization/ubeam
      “- uBeam converts electricity to ultrasound then back to electricity
      – Meredith Perry, CEO Founder started as astrobiologist
      – Fully functional prototype means consumers should get one w/in two years
      – small size (5 mm thick) for home/office. Industrial size for airports/stadiums/auditorium
      – Walk around a room while charging.
      – Can’t penetrate walls. Each room needs a transmitter.
      – “stumbled upon the ability to be able to send highly secure data through its charging stations. “

      – Showed prototype at D9 in June 2011. Promised emitter and puck by fall of 2011. (Nora Dweck and Perry were the whole company then) 1 month after winning award at Penn
      – July 2012 Perry was raising $1 million. Had fought off a lawsuit from Dweck.\”

  5. Meredith Perry presentation april 2012 TEDx Nashville (TEDx = independently organized TED event)

    The presentation is about trying to be an innovator. Her experiences revolve around uBeam of course, as that is her product, but there is no uBeam tech in the presentation.

    As we know, in many countries around the world a phase-out of incandescent light bulbs is scheduled, as incandescent bulbs convert less than 5% of the energy to light, putting out the rest as heat.

  6. One of the investors in uBeam, Ben Parr, has posted an entry for uBeam on producthunt.com
    In the past days Meredith Perry has entered the ensuing discussions.

    Kumar Thangudu asked:
    An arsenal of questions/concerns arises that I look forward to seeing answered.

    – Beamforming?
    – Energy Density?
    – High intensity ultrasound damages tissue.
    – Waste energy
    – Inverse Square law?
    – Frequency Range & Power?

    Cheers and good luck.

    Meredith Perry answered:
    – Beamforming? = yes
    – Energy Density? = you’ll find out later
    – High intensity ultrasound damages tissue. = absolutely none
    – Waste energy = minimal
    – Inverse Square law? = doesn’t apply here
    – Frequency Range & Power? = you’ll find out later

    Two participants emphasized the question of efficiency.

    Meredith Perry answered:
    “[…] would love to be able to answer your […] question on efficiency but we won’t be disclosing any product specs until product launch.”

    I suppose that not disclosing specs prior to product launch is a more cautious attitude, for a startup.

    At the same time, the claim ‘waste energy = minimal’ is a bold one, as it amounts to claiming a high efficiency.

    1. Thanks for posting that Colin!

      It certainly sounds encouraging but I suppose it should coming from the founder.

      I think with all the patent lawsuits they fought off they’re a little gunshy on product specs. But that means the jury’s out for a couple years.

  7. On november 7 (2015), techcrunch wrote that Ubeam had revealed some technical specs of the technology they are working on.

    – Ubeam will operate at a single frequency within the range of 45kHz to 75kHz with an output of 145dB to 155dB
    – Designed to deliver a minimum of 1.5 watt

    My comments:
    – As mentioned earlier: air is a very bad conductor of ultrasound. Every meter of distance you lose something like half the energy (the higher the frequency, the higher the loss). Also, there mustn’t be any obstacle in between (including, of course, you yourself).
    So clearly with a Ubeam system you will have almost no freedom to move around.

    – The energy loss becomes heat. That is, the Ubeam transmission of energy will heat up the room.

    – Some of the sound energy will leak/distort into audible sound. (info: Holosonic’s ‘audio spotlight’ uses that phenomenon in a controlled way.) I guess that means that in a quiet room Ubeam will be noticably noisy (very high-pitched noise).

    – 150 dB, Ubeam’s specified output, is louder than standing next to a jet engine. It’s extremely violent. Yes, the frequency will be way beyond human hearing, but how about tissue damage? I would not try that in my home.

    The new information does not change my assessment: this technology is possible, a prototype can be built, but it’s not possible to engineer a compelling product (competitive efficiency, competitive usability, affordable price).

    Extensive discussion of Ubeam by a contributor on an electronics site’s forum.

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