Google Assistant is coming to lots more gadgets this year

At the IFA expo in Germany, Google announced that it’s letting third-party hardware makers bake its AI-powered Assistant into their gadgets and home appliances, which means you’ll be soon be able to control all kinds of devices just by saying, “OK Google…” around the house.

Assistant currently lives on mobile devices and the Google Home speaker; breaking it out of the company’s ecosystem of software and hardware makes it more widely accessible. It’ll be available on speakers from brands like Panasonic, Anker’s new Zolo label and Mobvoi (pictured above). As with Google Home, you’ll be able to play music, ask questions and control your other smart gadgets. However, these new products don’t mention support for voice calls like the Home speaker – so if they’re cheaper than Google’s own offering, that might be one of the big reasons why.

The search giant also revealed that Assistant commands will be supported by upcoming washers, dryers and vacuums from manufacturers like LG later this year.

That should help Assistant catch up to Amazon’s Alexa, which already works with third-party gear. Google is right to be upping its game now, as we just learned that Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana will soon be able to communicate with each other; Apple is also slated to get into the smart speaker game in December with its HomePod.

Expect to hear about more smart gadgets from IFA, and plenty of ranting about too many assistants, a lack of privacy and unavailability of these services in India from yours truly in the coming days.

Las Vegas Apple stores prepare for new gadget reveal

Shoppers take advantage of a mild afternoon to shop at the Apple Summerlin store at Downtown Summerlin shopping center on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, in Las Vegas. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Jou ...

Apple is slated to release several new devices and gadgets Tuesday — the iPhone’s 10th anniversary.

The tech giant is hosting what a company spokeswoman called a “special event” at 10 a.m. at its recently constructed Steve Jobs Theater inside the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. At least three Las Vegas Valley Apple stores will live stream the event.

“We always encourage our customers with all the excitement to come down to the store if they want to watch the event live,” said Rachel Johnson, an Apple Store manager at Town Square.

Johnson said the store will live stream the event on an Apple TV displayed inside the store, and said she has “no idea” what to expect.

A huge leak over the weekend to a handful of Apple blogs — including 9to5Mac and MacRumors — though, suggests the tech giant will release three phones Tuesday: the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, with prices starting around $1,ooo. The new phones are reported to be equipped with features like wireless charging, more camera options and a facial recognition system.

“We don’t know what exactly what they’ll be announcing,” she said. “We don’t know anything at the store level until the announcement actually happens.”

People have come to watch live streams of Apple announcements in the past, she said.

Ryan Manzon, an Apple Store specialist at the Fashion Show mall, and an employee at the Forum Shops also confirmed the stores will have a live stream.

An Apple spokeswoman did not address questions about other ways in which local stores prepare for the event, or questions about the new gadgets.

“You’ll have to wait for the surprise and delight!” she said in an email.

TechInsights Confirms Apple’s A10X SoC Is TSMC 10nm FF; 96.4mm2 Die Size

One of the more intriguing mysteries in the Apple ecosystem has been the question over what process the company would use for the A10X SoC, which is being used in the newly launched 2017 iPad Pro family. Whereas the A10 used in the iPhone was much too early to use anything but 16nm/14nm, the iPad Pro and A10X is coming in the middle of the transition point for high-end SoCs. 16nm is still a high performance process, but if a company pushes the envelope, 10nm is available. So what would Apple do?

The answer, as it turns out, is that they’ve opted to push the envelope. The intrepid crew over at TechInsightshas finally dissected an A10X and posted their findings, giving us our first in-depth look at the SoC. Most importantly then, TechInsights is confirming that the chip has been fabbed on TSMC’s new 10nm FinFET process. In fact, the A10X is the first TSMC 10nm chip to show up in a consumer device, a very interesting turn of events since that wasn’t what various production roadmaps called for (that honor would have gone to MediaTek’s Helio X30)

Image Courtesy TechInsights

Apple is of course known for pushing the envelope on chip design and fabrication; they have the resources to take risks, and the profit margins to cover them should they not pan out. Still, that the A10X is the first 10nm SoC is an especially interesting development because it’s such a high-end part. Traditionally, smaller and cheaper parts are the first out the door as these are less impacted by the inevitable yield and capacity challenges of an early manufacturing node. Instead, Apple seems to have gone relatively big with what amounts to their 10nm pipecleaner part.

I say “relatively big” here because while the A10X is a powerful part, and big for a 10nm SoC, in terms of absolute die size it’s not all that big of a chip. In fact by Apple X-series SoC standards, it’s downright small: just 96.4mm2. This is 24% smaller than the 16nm A10 SoC (125mm2), and in fact is even 9% smaller than the A9 SoC (104.5mm2). So not only is it smaller than any of Apple’s 16nm SoCs, but it’s also about 20% smaller than the next-smaller X-series SoC, the A6X. Or, if you want to compare it to the previous A9X, Apple’s achieved a 34% reduction in die size. In other words, Apple has never made an iPad SoC this small before.

One key difference here however is that the X-series SoCs have never before been the leading part for a new process node. It has always been iPhone SoCs that have lead the charge – A9 at 16nm, A8 at 20nm, A7 at 28nm, etc. This does mean that as a pipecleaner part, Apple does need to be especially mindful of the risks. If an X-series SoC is to lead the charge for the 10nm generation, then it can’t be allowed to be too big. Not that this has stopped Apple from packing in three CPU cores and a 12-cluster GPU design.

Speaking of size, TechInsights’ estimates for area scaling are quite interesting. Based on their accounting, they believe that Apple has achieved a 45% reduction in feature size versus 16nm, which is consistent with a full node’s improvement. This is consistent with TSMC’s earlier statements, but given the challenges involved in bringing newer processes to market, it’s none the less exciting to actually see it happening. For chip vendors designing products against 10nm and its 7nm sibling, this is good news, as small die sizes are the rule for pretty much everyone besides Apple.

A10X Architecture: A10 Enlarged

Diving a bit deeper, perhaps the biggest reason that A10X is as small as it is, is that Apple seems to have opted to be conservative with its design. Which again, for a pipecleaner part, is what you’d want to do.

Apple SoC Comparison
A10X A9X A8X A6X
CPU 3x Fusion
(Hurricane + Zephyr)
2x Twister 3x Typhoon 2x Swift
CPU Clockspeed ~2.36GHz 2.26GHz 1.5GHz 1.3GHz
GPU 12 Cluster GPU PVR 12 Cluster Series7 Apple/PVR GXA6850 PVR SGX554 MP4
Memory Bus Width 128-bit 128-bit 128-bit 128-bit
Memory Bandwidth TBD 51.2GB/sec 25.6GB/sec 17.1GB/sec
L2 Cache 8MB 3MB 2MB 1MB
L3 Cache None None 4MB N/A
Manufacturing Process TSMC 10nm FinFET TSMC 16nm FinFET TSMC 20nm Samsung 32nm

We know from Apple’s official specifications that the A10X has 3 Fusion CPU core pairs, up from 2 pairs on A10, and 2 Twister CPU cores on A9X, all with 8MB of L2 cache tied to the CPU. Meanwhile the GPU in A10X is relatively unchanged; A9X shipped with a 12 cluster GPU design, and so does A10X. This means that Apple hasn’t invested their die space gains from 10nm in much of the way of additional hardware. To be sure, it’s not just a smaller A9X, but it’s also not the same kind of generational leap that we saw from A8X to A9X or similar iterations.

Unfortunately TechInsights’ public die shot release isn’t quite big enough or clean enough to draw a detailed floorplan from, but at a very high level we can make out the 12 GPU clusters on the left, along with the CPU cores to the right. Significantly, there aren’t any real surprises here. TechInsights heavily compares it to the A9X and there’s good reason to do so. IP blocks have been updated, but the only major change is the CPU cores, and those don’t take up a lot of die space relative to the GPU cores. This is what allows A10X to be more powerful than A9X while enjoying such a significant die size decrease.

As for the GPU in particular, Apple these days is no longer officially specifying whether they’re using Imagination’s PowerVR architecture in their chips. Furthermore we know that Apple is developing their own GPU, independent from Imagination’s designs, and that it will be rolled out sooner than later. With that said, even prior to today’s die shot release it’s been rather clear that A10X is not that GPU, and the die shot further proves that.

Apple’s developer documentation has lumped in the A10X’s GPU with the rest of the iOS GPU Family 3, which comprises all of the A9 and A10 family SoCs. So from a feature-set perspective, A10X’s GPU isn’t bringing anything new to the table. As for the die shot, as TechInsights correctly notes, the GPU clusters in the A10X look almost exactly like the A9X’s clusters (and the A10’s, for that matter), further indicating it’s the same base design.

Image Courtesy TechInsights

Ultimately what this means is that in terms of design and features, A10X is relatively straightforward. It’s a proper pipecleaner product for a new process, and one that is geared to take full advantage of the die space savings as opposed to spending those savings on new features/transistors.

Otherwise I am very curious as to just what this means for power consumption – is Apple gaining much there, or is it all area gains? A10X’s CPU clockspeed is only marginally higher than A9X’s, and pretty much identical to A10, so we can see that Apple hasn’t gained much in the way of clockspeeds. So does that mean that Apple instead invested any process-related gains in reducing power consumption, or, as some theories go, has 10nm not significantly improved on power consumption versus 16nm? But the answer to that will have to wait for another day.

Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro Launch on October 16th, More Kirin 970 Details

Riding on the back of the ‘not-announced then announced’ initial set of Kirin 970 details, Huawei had one of the major keynote presentations at the IFA trade show this year, detailing more of the new SoC, more into the AI details, and also providing some salient information about the next flagship phone. Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s Consumer Business Group (CBG), announced that the Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro will be launched on October 16th, at an event in Munich, and will feature both the Kirin 970 SoC and a new minimal-bezel display.

Kirin 970 PCB vs Intel Core i7 Laptop Sticker

Suffice to say, that is basically all we know about the Mate 10 at this point: a new display technology, and a new SoC with additional AI hardware under-the-hood to start the process of using AI to enhance the experience. When speaking with both Clement Wong, VP of Global Marketing at Huawei, and Christophe Coutelle, Director of Device Software at Huawei, it was clear that they have large, but progressive goals for the direction of AI. The initial steps demonstrated were to assist in providing the best camera settings for a scene by identifying the objects within them – a process that can be accelerated by AI and consume less power. The two from Huawei were also keen to probe the press and attendees at the show about what they thought of AI, and in particular the functions it could be applied to. One of the issues of developing hardware specifically for AI is not really the hardware itself, but the software that uses it.

The Neural Processing Unit (NPU) in the Kirin 970 is using IP from Cambricon Technology (thanks to jjj for the tip, we confirmed it). In speaking with Eric Zhou, Platform Manager for HiSilicon, we learned that the licensing for the IP is different to the licensing agreements in place with, say ARM. Huawei uses ARM core licenses for their chips, which restricts what Huawei can change in the core design: essentially you pay to use ARM’s silicon floorplan / RTL and the option is only one of placement on the die (along with voltage/frequency). With Cambricon, the agreement around the NPU IP is a more of a joint collaboration – both sides helped progress the IP beyond the paper stage with updates and enhancements all the way to final 10nm TSMC silicon.

We learned that the IP is scalable, but at this time is only going to be limited to Huawei devices. The configuration of the NPU internally is based on multiple matrix multiply units, similar to that shown in Google’s TPU and NVIDIA’s Tensor core, found in Volta. In Google’s first TPU, designed for neural network training, there was a single 256×256 matrix multiply unit doing the heavy lifting. For the TPUv2, as detailed back at the Hot Chips conference a couple of weeks ago, Google has moved to dual 128×128 matrix multiply units. In NVIDIA’s biggest Volta chip, the V100, they have placed 640 tensor cores each capable of a 4×4 matrix multiply. The Kirin 970 TPU by contrast, as we were told, uses 3×3 matrix multiply units and a number of them, although that number was not provided.

One other element to the NPU that was interesting was that its performance was quoted in terms of 16-bit floating point accuracy. When compared to the other chips listed above, Google’s TPU works best with 8-bit integer math, while Nvidia’s Tensor Core does 16-bit floating point as well. When asked, Eric stated that at this time, FP16 implementation was preferred although that might change, depending on how the hardware is used. As an initial implementation, FP16 was more inclusive of different frameworks and trained algorithms, especially as the NPU is an inference-only design.

At the keynote, and confirmed in our discussions after, Huawei stated that the API to use the NPU will be available for developers. The unit as a whole will support the TensorFlow and TensorFlow Lite frameworks, as well as Caffe and Caffe2. The NPU can be accessed via Huawei’s own Kirin AI API, or Android’s NN API, relying on Kirin’s AI Heterogeneous Resource Management tools to split the workloads between CPU, GPU, DSP and NPU. I suspect we’ll understand more about this nearer to the launch. Huawei did specifically state that this will be an ‘open architecture’, but failed to mention exactly what that meant in this context.

The Kirin 970 will be available on a development board/platform for other engineers and app developers in early Q1, similar to how the Kirin 960 was also available. This will also include a community, support, dedicated tool chains and a driver development kit.

We did learn that the NPU is the size of ‘half a core’, although it was hard to tell if this was ‘half of a single core (an A73 or an A53)’ or ‘half of the cores (all the cores put together)’. We did confirm that the die size is under 100mm2, although an exact number was not provided. It does give a transistor density of 55 million transistors per square mm, which is double what we see on AMD’s Ryzen CPU (25m per mm2) on GloFo 14nm vs TSMC 10nm. We were told that the NPU has its own power domain, and can be both frequency gated and power gated, although during normal operation it will only be frequency gated to improve response time from idle to wake up. Power consumption was not explicitly stated (‘under 1W’), but they did quote that a test of 1000 images being recognized drained a 4000 mAh battery by 0.19%, fluctuating between 0.25W and 0.67W.

We did draw a few more specifications on the Kirin 970 out of senior management unrelated to the NPU. The display controller can support a maximum screen size of 4K, and the Kirin 970 will support two SIM cards at 4G speeds at the same time, using a time mux strategy. While the model is rated for Category 18 for downloads, giving 1.2 Gbps with 3x carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO and 256-QAM, the chip will do Category 13 downloads (up to 150 Mbps). The chip can handle VoLTE on both SIMs as well. Band support is substantial, given in the list below.

Audio is an odd one out here, with the onboard audio rated to 32-bit and 384 kHz (although SNR will depend on the codec). That’s about 12-15 bits higher than needed and easily multiple times the human sampling rate, but high numbers are seemingly required. The storage was confirmed as UFS 2.1, with LPDDR4X-1833 for the memory, and the use of a new i7 sensor hub.

HiSilicon High-End Kirin SoC Lineup
SoC Kirin 970 Kirin 960 Kirin 950/955
CPU 4x A73 @ 2.40 GHz
4x A53 @ 1.80 GHz
4x A73 @ 2.36GHz
4x A53 @ 1.84GHz
4x A72 @ 2.30/2.52GHz
4x A53 @ 1.81GHz
GPU ARM Mali-G72MP12
? MHz
ARM Mali-G71MP8
ARM Mali-T880MP4
2x 32-bit
LPDDR4 @ 1833 MHz
2x 32-bit
LPDDR4 @ 1866MHz
2x 32-bit
LPDDR4 @ 1333MHz 21.3GB/s
Interconnect ARM CCI ARM CCI-550 ARM CCI-400
Storage UFS 2.1 UFS 2.1 eMMC 5.0
ISP/Camera Dual 14-bit ISP Dual 14-bit ISP
Dual 14-bit ISP
Encode/Decode 2160p60 Decode
2160p30 Encode
2160p30 HEVC & H.264
Decode & Encode

2160p60 HEVC
Decode1080p H.264
Decode & Encode

2160p30 HEVC
DecodeIntegrated ModemKirin 970 Integrated LTE
(Category 18)
DL = 1200 Mbps
3x20MHz CA, 256-QAM
UL = 150 Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAMKirin 960 Integrated LTE
(Category 12/13)
DL = 600Mbps
4x20MHz CA, 64-QAM
UL = 150Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAMBalong Integrated LTE
(Category 6)
DL = 300Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM
UL = 50Mbps
1x20MHz CA, 16-QAMSensor Hubi7i6i5NPUYesNoNoMfc. ProcessTSMC 10nmTSMC 16nm FFCTSMC 16nm FF+

How Technology Is Bridging The Gaps In India’s Fragmented Logistics Sector

India’s logistics sector is booming, and is touted to be worth $307 billion by 2020. Retail, e-commerce and manufacturing have propelled its rapid growth, but so far it has been largely unorganized, mainly thanks to outdated processes and limited technological intervention. This technological gap has created multiple opportunities for startups to provide innovative solutions to mitigate the industry’s connectivity problems, service e-commerce players better and provide a seamless customer experience.

Technology first

Shadowfax is one of India’s first logistics startups planning to run a pilot project using a drone. (Photo Credit: BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images)

Gurgaon-based hyperlocal logistics startup Shadowfax is one such startup. Co-founder Vaibhav Khandelwal believes technology can optimise business processes. By using artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive analysis, Shadowfax addresses last mile connectivity.

Some of Shadowfax’s solutions include InstaNow for delivery by motorcyclists, InstaSlot for time-specific deliveries, InstaFlexi for same-day delivery and InstaHulk for hiring trucks. A suite of services titled Just In Time is appropriate for delivery of documents, electronics and apparel. Shadowfax clocks fulfils nearly 50,000 orders daily and is active in 15 major Indian cities. “Technology allows for automation, which reduces costs and enables visibility of every process,” says Khandelwal.

India’s logistics sector lags behind in innovation because technology has always been perceived as an added expense, not an enabler. This prompted Soham Chokshi and his team to start Shipsy, a data-driven logistics company with the aim to refine product delivery processes. Shipsy has a suite of products that incorporate APIs to book parcels, serviceability using maps, mobile apps for completing pickups, real-time alerts and route optimization. Chokshi and his team have built a machine learning system that watches data continuously and delivers predictive analysis. Even better, Shipsy’s plug-and-play system can integrate with almost any company’s transport database.

“Logistics companies are reactive, not proactive. It’s not until a customer raises a complaint about a poorly-executed delivery that companies are forced to think of solutions,” says Chokshi. Through an automated promise-management system, Shipsy enables companies to plan processes and execute with ease. With a 40% market share, Shipsy works with DTDC, DotZot, Safexpress, Holisol and TVS Logistics, managing one million transactions every day.

The truck business in India is highly unorganized and lacks standard industry practices. Only 10% of Indian truck operators own a fleet exceeding 25 trucks. Most truck drivers own single trucks and rely on third party agents to handle orders. Visibility is limited and tracking mechanisms outdated, making it challenging to match demand and supply. This issue led to the genesis of one of India’s first truck logistics startup Shippr. Co-founder Rohit Fernandes realized technology alone could revolutionize India’s trucking business.

Shippr’s technology product suite, designed by a graduate of IIT-Delhi, helps truckers maximise delivery volumes in minimum time. A planning tool assesses products for their weight, size and delivery destination. This data is aggregated and fed into a centralized system that provides drivers optimal travel routes and estimated travel time. An in-built system tracker provides continuous updates to Shippr’s server. “Every delivery is planned and optimised. Technology has helped standardize and organize our operations better,” says Fernandes. The startup now aggregates and plies a fleet of 1,180 trucks, running intracity delivery in New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad.

5 British companies leading in advertising technology

Advertisers today know that while content may be king, data is the real belle of the ball. This is where advertising technology — or AdTech — comes into the equation: A rapidly growing industry in the UK and around the globe, AdTech connects the dots between marketing tactics and data on consumer behaviour and the journey through the sales funnel.

Salesforce’s fourth annual State of Marketing report cites significant growth year over year within the AdTech arena: It predicts 23-25% YoY growth for technologies like marketing analytics and CRM tools, and a whopping 53% YoY increase for artificial intelligence.

A handful of startups are cashing in on the AdTech boom with innovative products that are changing the game for advertisers and marketers. Below are five British businesses whose AdTech products are making serious waves on a global scale.

1. Captify

Search keywords have long been considered one of the most accurate indicators of purchasing intent, but advertisers haven’t always been able to pin down this crucial data accurately. Enter Captify, a startup launched in 2011 whose powerful C3 technology stack enables brands to serve customers with ads at precisely the right time to optimise conversion rates.

Captify calls itself “a global data activation company and a pioneer of search intelligence” that powers consumer insights across all channels and devices. The company’s products help its clients — high-profile brands including the likes of Amazon, Ford, Kellogg, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Nike — dissect the search behaviours of more than 2.2 billion people around the world. Captify works with both advertisers and publishers to extract concrete value out of complex consumer search habits.

Captify will have a presence at this year’s dmexco conference, taking place September 13-14, 2017 in Cologne, Germany. The company will host a two-day live seminar series in Hall 6, B-058. Stop by to join the conversation about how smart search insights are transforming the marketing stack.

2. 51 Degrees

51 Degrees is a company with a penchant for numbers: Its device detection software can effectively determine which of more than 44,530 devices a customer is using to access a site; it’s currently used by more than 1.5 million global websites; and it supports 2 billion unique device visits every month. Not to mention: The software is 99.9% accurate, and can pick up on a user’s device in less than a single millisecond. Oh, and it’s effective at driving conversions, too: It’s been proven to help retailers boost rates by as much as 33%.

51 Degrees’ open-source APIs make the platform extra customisable for brands who want to know details such as, say, a customer’s exact physical screen size. In addition, the company’s suite of products includes analytics, performance-monitoring tools, and image optimisation software. Currently, the company works with big-name clients like eBay, IBM, and Unilever.

51 Degrees will have a presence at this year’s dmexco conference, taking place September 13-14, 2017 in Cologne, Germany. The company will be located with IAB in Hall 6, C-080. Stop by to join the conversation about the increased importance of device detection in a world of wearables, smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, and virtual home assistants.



3. Wirewax

In an advertiser’s ideal world, the content marketing video they’ve spent six months and tens of thousands of pounds creating would let viewers click on painstakingly crafted product placements and purchase the said products seamlessly — without deviating away from the viewing experience.

Wirewax makes this scenario a reality — though it’s just one of the use cases for the innovative platform, which creates interactive videos that let users engage directly with characters, objects, and products. This functionality presents a huge range of possibilities for advertisers, from in-video contests and immersive websites to shoppable runways and gamified marketing campaigns. Major brands are perking up and paying attention: Wirewax currently lists companies like Disney, GE, Samsung, and Under Armour as clients.

4. voodooh

Whereas many AdTech platforms concentrate on intricate technical and analytical features, UK startup voodooh takes a more creative approach to digital marketing.

The company aims to “demystify” the digital out-of-home (OOH) space. In laymen’s terms, this means that it helps advertisers create compelling campaigns that target consumers outside of their home environments — whether that refers to innovative billboard designs, “smart” vending machines, or experiential marketing activations. voodooh offers a variety of services, including bespoke campaign creation, white label content, and technical consulting. The company has created intelligent digital solutions for an eclectic collection of client campaigns, including Black Swan, Buzz Radar, Concur and Polaroid .

5. LoopMe

LoopMe combines two of the buzziest and most exciting terms in the AdTech world: Video and AI.

The company’s primary focus is on all things video, from vertically formatted video to 360-degree and rich-media experiences to HTML5 and VPAID pre-roll. The company’s team of creatives even creates bespoke mini-games in video format for its clients, which include companies like Airbnb and Honda.

But the real kicker (and what makes LoopMe so exciting to marketers) is the company’s handle on artificial intelligence: It uses AI to optimise its efforts, from algorithms that learn and adapt in real-time to better meet campaign goals, to predictive modeling to match supply and demand.

The company touts itself as a mobile-first expert, and its videos currently reach more than 2 billion devices worldwide. Earlier this year, LoopMe raised a significant round of VC funding to further hone its products and continue expanding its sphere of global influence.

‘Placenta-on-a-chip’ technology will let scientists research neonatal diseases without using human fetuses

It’s hard to believe, but in the last few years, scientists have made great strides miniaturizing and recreating human organs on microchips, which researchers hope will help speed new drug development.

Organs-On-Chips (OOCs), pioneered by engineers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering in 2015, can be the size of a AA battery, and are embedded with microfluidic tubes containing human cells that mimic the biomechanical structure and function of a human organ. Researchers around the world have molded and adapted OOC technology to give hearts, lungs, kidneys and bones the microfluidic treatment.

Now, researchers from Florida Atlantic University are developing a placenta-on-chip that will mimic the microenvironment of the maternal-fetal interface and allow them to conduct studies on a variety of placental conditions and pathologies. The hope, here, is that placentas-on-chips can be used to eventually prevent pregnant women with malaria from having complications during their pregnancies. The research is also an early breakthrough on a future in which neonatal disease can be researched without using actual human embryos or fetuses, perhaps allowing scientists to sidestep some ethical dilemmas.

Led by Dr. Sarah Du and Dr. Andrew Oleinikov, the chip will first be used to examine the effects of malaria on placentas and fetuses. Malaria accounts for over 10,000 maternal and 200,000 neonatal deaths per year, and contributes to perinatal morbidity and mortality in developing nations. The infectious disease can cause higher rates of miscarriage, intrauterine demise, premature delivery, low birth weight, and neonatal death. Du and Oleinikov received a $400,000, two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop the technology and ultimately devise new treatments to reverse the effects of congenital and maternal malaria.

Dr. Sarah Du, Dr. Andrew Oleinikov.
Dr. Sarah Du and Dr. Andrew Oleinikov.

Gisele Galoustian

Du and Oleinikov’s malaria-infected Placenta-On-a-Chip will test vascular cell wellbeing and nutrient circulation between mother and fetus to see how it responds to various drug treatments. By using embedded microsensors, the chip will be able to simulate actual blood flow in vitro, and create a lifelike microenvironment that mimics infected red blood cells as they adhere to the placenta. Oleinikov, who has studied infectious diseases since 2004, believes that using microfluidics to study cellular and pathological events in pregnant women and fetuses will “advance the understanding of human diseases down to the single cell level.”

Malaria: Infected red blood cell (right), uninfected blood cell (left)
Malaria: Uninfected blood cell (left), infected red blood cell (right)

Gisele Galoustian

Emerging technologies like OOCs and the collaboration between bioengineering and microbiology give us reason to be optimistic about an eventual path toward malaria eradication. The United Nations and the Gates Foundation believes that if leaders continue to invest in their commitment to eliminate the disease, we could see large-scale eradication by 2040.

Beyond malaria studies, the Placenta-On-Chip also fulfils a crucial need when it comes to pregnancy studies.

“There are a number of challenges in studying the biology of the human placenta in its natural form or in situ because of ethical reasons as well as accessibility,” Du told me. Du and Oleinikov explained that once their Placenta-On-Chip completes its two-year study, the chip could be used to study a variety of issues facing women and fetuses without having to test on human subjects or animals.

“Because it’s not possible to do many things in vivo this would be a nice model to explore many issues which exist in vivo. And see if we can find treatment for many other disorders with no fetal interaction,” Oleinikov told me.

The placenta and by proxy, fetal growth can also be affected by myriad pathologies. Placental abruption (which affects 1 in 100 pregnancies), sexually transmitted diseases, the ZIKA virus, rubella, chicken pox, and common bacterial diseases can all cause placental abnormalities during pregnancy. With placenta-on-chip technology, researchers can have a deeper understanding of the inner workings of many fetal disorders that millions of families face each year.

Until then, the closest we civilians can get to these bioengineering breakthroughs is by viewing them at the MoMa. The Museum of Modern Art of New York City added an Organ-On-Chip to its permanent collection in 2015.



Star Wars ‘Force Friday II’ kicks off ‘Last Jedi’ marketing push

Image result for Star Wars 'Force Friday II' kicks off 'Last Jedi' marketing push

Disney is kicking off the marketing blitz for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” this week with the second edition of “Force Friday,” which marks the global release of the film franchise’s newest toys and memorabilia.

Dubbed “Force Friday II,” this year’s event features a massive augmented reality (AR) “treasure hunt” that will allow fans to use the Star Wars app to search for new and old characters at more than 20,000 store locations around the world. Several top retailers and toy companies, including Walmart, Toys “R” Us and Target, are set to participate in the event, which runs through Sept. 3.

“Star Wars has always championed new technology, and we are excited that augmented reality will allow fans to experience the universe in a whole new way,” said Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy in a statement about the promotion.


The first “Force Friday” event in 2015 was a major boon to Disney and licensing partners like Hasbro and Lego ahead of the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which kicked off a new trilogy of films for the venerable franchise. “Star Wars” toy sales generated more than $700 million in U.S. sales in 2015 alone, according to NPD Group.

The projected total global sales haul for “Force Awakens” merchandise was expected to approach $5 billion, according to various estimates. The film itself earned more than $2 billion at the worldwide box office.

FOX Business breaks down how some of the top retailers are approaching Force Friday II. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” hits theaters on Dec. 15.


The Arkansas-based retail giant is planning exclusive #BeJediReady “Force Friday II” events at midnight in 10 cities, including Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles. Fans will be able to train with lightsabers, play Star Wars-themed games and try out new toys exclusive to Walmart, the company said in a press release. More than 4,000 locations are participating in the AR treasure hunt.

Exclusive product offerings include a “smart” version of the iconic R2-D2 droid for $75.


Target is opening more than 500 store locations nationwide at midnight to kick off Force Friday II. The company says it will unveil “hundreds of new toys, collectibles, apparel, books and more” and have interactive activities for both children and adults. The retail chain’s Star Wars promotions are highlighting Rey, the new trilogy’s heroine, played by actress Daisy Ridley.

The Hollywood Reporter notes that Target will exclusively sell the First Order Stormtrooper Executioner toy for $19.99.

Toys “R” Us

Toys “R” Us is pulling out all the stops for “Force Friday II,” opening all of its U.S.-based store locations at midnight, as well as select stores around the globe. The toy retailer is participating in the “Find The Force” treasure hunt, with five “triggers” that unlock special Star Wars content in every store, according to a press release.

The chain also has several exclusive product offerings, including a battery-powered, kid-sized version of Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder for $499.99.

Best Buy

Aside from participating in the “Find the Force” treasure hunt, the electronics retailer is offering Star Wars product demonstrations at select stores and selling franchise movies, video games, toys and other merchandise. For example, a complete set of the first six Star Wars films on Blu-Ray is on sale for $69.99.

This little gadget turns any headphones into wireless headphones

Apple just reported its financial results for the holiday quarter this past week, and it confirmed that it sold more iPhones during that three-month period than it has ever sold before. It goes without saying that the company’s tremendous feat is thanks in large part to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Apple’s latest iPhones are awesome, but all those new iPhone 7 handsets mean there are millions of wired headphones out there that are going unused. Fix that problem and use your old wired headphones with your new iPhone 7 (while charging at the same time!) with the Mpow Bluetooth Receiver Adapter, which is on sale right now on Amazon.

  • ADVANCED CSR 4.0 CHIP: Get high quality audio sound than the Bluetooth 3.0 version, both in playing music and answering calls.
  • EXTRA-LONG PLAY TIME: Built-in battery provides up to 10 hours’ play and talk time, 120 hours’ standby time, only takes 1.5 hours to fully charge it.
  • TWO-LINK: Can connect two bluetooth devices at the same time. Bluetooth range reaches up to 30 feet in open space without obstacles.
  • WIDE COMPATIBILITY: Compatible with most Bluetooth enabled devices like smartphone, MP3, tablet, etc, ideal for home or vehicle audio systems.
  • EASY CONTROL: You can answer phone calls or control music on the receiver. Change volume, play/pause/skip music, answer calls, redial the last called number with ease.( NOTE: This receiver doesn’t turn on automatically,Please long press the “Multifunction Button”button about 3 seconds,when it turned on the blue light will flash,then connect it with your Bluetooth devices.)

Large asteroid to pass by Earth today

NASA, Asteroid Florence, asteroid Earth pass-by, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, near-earth asteroid detection, NASA asteroid mission, asteroid studies, asteroid imaging

A near-Earth asteroid about 4.4 km in size will pass safely by our planet on Friday, at a distance of about seven million km, NASA has said. Asteroid Florence – named in honour of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the founder of modern nursing – is set to pass by Earth at 8.05 a.m. ET.

“While many known asteroids have passed by closer to Earth than Florence. They were estimated to be smaller,” said Paul Chodas, Manager of NASA’s Centre for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“Florence is the largest asteroid to pass by our planet this close since the NASA programme to detect and track near-Earth asteroids began,” Chodas said. The 2017 encounter that will occur around 5.35 p.m. on Friday (India time) is the closest by this asteroid since 1890 and the closest it will ever be until after 2500.

Florence will brighten to ninth magnitude in late August and early September, when it will be visible in small telescopes for several nights as it moves through the constellations Piscis Austrinus, Capricornus, Aquarius and Delphinus, NASA said. This relatively close encounter provides an opportunity for scientists to study this asteroid up close.

Asteroid Florence was discovered by Schelte “Bobby” Bus at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia in March 1981. Florence is expected to be an excellent target for ground-based radar observations. Radar imaging is planned at NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar in California and at the National Science Foundation’s Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

The resulting radar images will show the real size of Florence and also could reveal surface details as small as about 10 metres.

A near-Earth asteroid about 4.4 km in size will pass safely by our planet on Friday, at a distance of about seven million km, NASA has said. Asteroid Florence – named in honour of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the founder of modern nursing – is set to pass by Earth at 8.05 a.m. ET.

“While many known asteroids have passed by closer to Earth than Florence. They were estimated to be smaller,” said Paul Chodas, Manager of NASA’s Centre for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“Florence is the largest asteroid to pass by our planet this close since the NASA programme to detect and track near-Earth asteroids began,” Chodas said. The 2017 encounter that will occur around 5.35 p.m. on Friday (India time) is the closest by this asteroid since 1890 and the closest it will ever be until after 2500.

Florence will brighten to ninth magnitude in late August and early September, when it will be visible in small telescopes for several nights as it moves through the constellations Piscis Austrinus, Capricornus, Aquarius and Delphinus, NASA said. This relatively close encounter provides an opportunity for scientists to study this asteroid up close.

Asteroid Florence was discovered by Schelte “Bobby” Bus at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia in March 1981. Florence is expected to be an excellent target for ground-based radar observations. Radar imaging is planned at NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar in California and at the National Science Foundation’s Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

The resulting radar images will show the real size of Florence and also could reveal surface details as small as about 10 metres.