3 things direct from the future

14th Edition

Once every 2 weeks I will deliver “3 things direct from the future”. A 2 minute read that will always give you:

  • one thing that can help,
  • one thing to be wary of, and
  • one thing to amaze.

If this sounds interesting to you then please subscribe.


1. One to help

Robot-assisted colonoscopy

Robot-Assisted Colonoscopy

OK so I am having trouble believing this one is really something we want to help us. Here goes though….

Nobody wants to get a colonoscopy – it’s not a pleasant experience. The skill and training of your doctor is key to how you feel during, and most-importantly after, the procedure. Apparently conventional endoscopes (the camera) can be difficult for even experts to manage.

“Gastroenterologists often lose sense of where up, down, left, and right is” – scientist Pietro Valdastri told New Scientist. I’m wincing even writing this. OK hold your breath there is a bit more.

Enter the tender and careful robot helper. Valdastri’s team has created a robot arm with a flexible probe attached (the new endoscope) Using machine learning, the robot can safely guide the camera through the colon in a way that causes less pain and damage to the patient. The doctor only needs to move the probe forward with a joystick and the AI controls the direction, eliminating any human error that may damage the colon.

Don’t worry though it has been well tested on two pigs! Human volunteers are next up. Do I see any hands raised?

2. One to be wary of

US Presidential Internet Power

As I write this we are still not sure of the results of the US election. But given the situation it is worth knowing that the US president can legally shut down the internet.

In Section 706 of the 1934 Communications Act, wireless communications can be shutdown “…upon proclamation by the president that there exists war or a threat of war, or a state of public peril or disaster or other national emergency, or in order to preserve the neutrality of the United States.”

It may sounds unlikely but: 1) Donald Trump is still in charge and 2) It has already happened this year in another country. Two of our Frontside Future development team live in Belarus and just a few months ago, the leader of Belarus shut down the internet to restrict citizens from getting information in and out after a hotly disputed election.

One can only imagine, what “a state of public peril”, “disaster” or “other national emergency” may mean to President Trump so as to justify a shutdown.

Two US lawmakers have introduced a new bill, the Preventing Unwarranted Communications Shutdown Act, to prevent misuse of this dated provision in the law. It provides checks such as narrowing the circumstances under which the internet can be shut down, and notifying the Congress, FCC and the Pentagon. A shutdown will also last a maximum of 48 hours unless approved by Congress.

Seems like a sensible bill for Biden to act on.

3. One to amaze

Legally Drive…then Fly!

Regular readers will remember my enthusiasm for flying cars. The expense and environmental impact of roads is huge, and their capacity is limited. But the main question remains: How long before we see them in the sky?

Pal-V, a Dutch company, may be close to delivering their Liberty flying car as the EU has now approved it to legally drive on the road. On the road you say? Well as much as I would like to land my flying car in my driveway, the dual modes of driving and flying will remain the dominant approach for the foreseeable future. These things still need to get to a suitable take-off spot.

The above video is impressive as a demo of the road-based capabilities but unfortunately there is no recent footage of the flying mode. In response to the comments on this omission Pal-V said “The Liberty in the video is still going through certification. The flight test program is the final step in the certification program that we run. We first have to perform more than 1200 tests before we can/are allowed to start the flight test program”. There is footage of a previous model flying here:

When in car mode, the Liberty is a three-wheeled vehicle with a 100hp engine capable of 160km/hr and an acceleration of 0-100km/hr in less than nine seconds. OK not setting any land-speed records but it does fly! In a few minutes, the car can transform into a gyrocopter and can fly for 4 hours giving a range of around 500km.

Flying cars make a lot of sense, and there is a lot of research, money, and engineering going on right now to make it a reality. See this article for a great summary of the current state of play.

Have a great week.

Daniel J McKinnon

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