We report on the latest in technology breakthroughs:personalized cancer treatment; smartphone
technology making waves in China; and something for Star Wars fans (but if you’re not a Star
Wars fan, we hope you will enjoy it too).
Immune Engineering and Curing Cancer
The world of personalized treatment is undergoing major changes with advances in gene
editing. Today’s gene editing tools allow doctors to essentially alter genes that are unwanted.
Instead of making changes to cells still in the body, cells are removed, modified and re-inserted.
The engineered cells, now containing cancer detection properties, are inserted and
programmed to attack cancerous cells. For one British girl, this breakthrough has been life
changing as re-inserted cells stamped out her Leukemia. (1) However, the success of this new
technology for the young girl is still pending, as doctors will need to wait a year or two to make
sure she does not relapse.
While this technique is useful for leukemia, because cancer cells need be taken out and
reinserted, it may prove more difficult with other body parts such as the heart or kidney. Using a
slightly different approach, MIT researchers today have a new programming language that
makes it possible to design biological circuits within living cells. (2) The programming language is
much like computer code and already allows the measurement of temperature, acidity, light, and
different environmental conditions. Researchers hope that as the advancements continue, the
biological circuit will also be able to detect cancer.
Has Smartphone Voice Technology Reached a Tipping Point?
In China, smartphones are more abundant than desktops and laptops. However, the chinese
language includes thousands of characters, and smartphones have not been able to account for
all these signs. Due to this, messaging and communication has not reached its full potential.
Voice recognition software made big strides in 2015 with Microsoft’s Cortana virtual assistant for
Windows 10 as well as Siri and Google in cars and TVs. However, only now has conversational
technology reached a tipping point in China.
In this huge market, Baidu’s Deep Speech 2 is becoming a major voice-recognition player with
higher reliability and accuracy in the noisiest of environments, such as the streets of Beijing.
Another of Baidu’s apps, DuEr, can assist users in finding movie show times and booking tables
at restaurants. As voice interface becomes more practical and useful, western world
smartphone users should also soon benefit from these speech technology advances.
“Help me Obi Wan Kanobi. You're my only hope”
For Star Wars fans, the above quote brings to mind the image of a hologram device in a galaxy
far far away. But, the use of such technology may be closer than we think. In late March,
Microsoft revealed the Holoportation, a device set to transmit 3D models of people anywhere in
the world. Wearing a virtual reality headset, you will see and interact with another person in 3D
within your space, while he or she is actually in a different location altogether. One cool aspect
of the technology is that one can record an interaction. You can then play it and walk around
your own 3D interaction with another person. This allows to capture the interaction from different
angles, giving a whole new perspective on memory.
Though currently the technology requires large headsets and quite a long setup of 3D cameras
surrounding the parties involved, Microsoft's step is significant in its alliance with home and
business environments rather than serving gamers. It encourages faster application with
companies showing interest in seeing the technology move to the next stage.
1 https://www.technologyreview.com/s/600763/10-breakthrough- technologies-2016- immune-
2 http://news.discovery.com/tech/biotechnology/code-written- to-hack- living-cells- 160401.htm
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