Hearing With Your Skin, Printing Liquid Glass, and a Nanocar Race—The Download, April 20, 2017

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Three Things You Need to Know Today

Facebook’s Weird New Ways to Communicate
Type with your mind and hear with your skin. That’s the unlikely sounding offer emerging from Facebook’s skunkworks team, which has now revealed details of two sci-fi style projects that it's been working on. The first technology is a noninvasive brain-machine interface that could convert neural activity to text at a rate of 100 words per minute, the second a wearable device that may make it possible to sense up to 100 different words via your skin using specific patterns of stimulation. Our own Rachel Metz has the skinny.

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3-D Printing With Liquid Glass
To see more clearly, researchers are draining their 3-D printed glasses. Previous approaches to printing glass have extruded strands of the molten material through a nozzle, which works but creates lumpy, translucent objects. A new approach, described in Nature, uses UV light to cure a polymer that’s been loaded with glass nanoparticles—so-called liquid glass—one layer at time, before baking it in a kiln to force out moisture and fuse the crystals. The resulting objects are currently small, but more detailed and transparent than those made using existing approaches.

Your Health Data in Google’s Hands
Google knows you pretty well—but will soon know 10,000 people intimately. Its health spinout, Verily, has launched a new multi-year study called the Baseline Project to scrutinize spit, tears, stool, heartbeats, and genomes of American volunteers, who will all be asked to wear a special watch, have their sleep tracked, and give up health records as part of the exercise. The idea: uncover new predictors of disease among seemingly healthy volunteers. Our own Antonio Regalado considers how useful the data will be—and where it might end up.

Ten Fascinating Things

As bleaching devastates the Great Barrier Reef, marine scientists are considering cloud brightening as a means of preserving the critical ecosystem.

A protein taken from the umbilical cords of human babies has been shown to have anti-aging effects on the brain function of elderly mice.

The autonomous car industry is clamoring for lidar sensors. On cue, Velodyne has announced a new solid-state device that will cost just hundreds of dollars.

This week scientists in Florida have released 20,000 altered mosquitoes, which carry Wolbachia bacteria to make them sterile, in a bid to fight Zika.

A new biometric credit card requires the fingerprint of its owner to make a transaction.

Google, which makes almost all of its money selling ads, is rumored to be building an ad blocker into its Chrome Web browser. Here’s how that could, perhaps, work.

Drivers, start your (very small) engines: a nanocar race is about to get underway, on a gold track measuring about a thousandth of the width of a human hair.

A new diode that thrives on heat could help researchers build computational devices that work at temperatures in excess of 300 °C. 

The headphones have ears—and they're not necessarily yours. A lawsuit alleges that Bose has been spying on listening habits and selling on the data.

Silicon Valley investors fell in love with the promise of a tech-enabled juice machine. But $120 million later they found it just … squeezes juice from a bag.

Quote of the Day

"Every bit of tech we’ve ever built is for helping people ... So, I believe optimistically that the robots we’re building are going to help us have better human lives."

— Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak explains how he overcame his fear that an artificial intelligence would keep humans as pets.

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