FactorDaily Year in Review: 2018

Factor The Future In

Team FactorDaily | 20 December 2018

May 10, 2018

Much of what we have in the real world was born in a lab. In our attempt to tell stories that help you understand what might be coming around the corner, our reporters spend time at research institutions across the country. This is one such story.

Researchers testing and tweaking machine learning algorithms used to control fully autonomous or self-driving vehicles have for long had to rely simulators that mimic real-life driving conditions while testing code that powers autonomous vehicles.

As much progress as these simulators have helped researchers, they have a wall or another around them: they are either proprietary, inaccessible products like those in use at Uber and Google or they simulate conditions for single-vehicle conditions on proprietary platforms (e.g.:Carcraft). That’s set to change courtesy of researchers from two Indian Institutes of Technology: IIT-Madras and IIT-Kharagpur.

May 28, 2018

Venkatesh remembers vividly the November afternoon when he first saw the flying object swooping over his locality in the Nolia Sahi slum in coastal Odisha. A black, bird-like creature was flying across and making a buzzing sound, he says. Others living in the slum, near the Konark beach and one of Odisha’s biggest with a few hundred households, were perplexed too.

Never did Venkatesh or his neighbours imagine that the drones flying over their settlement would be the answer to their decades-old problem of not having a permanent home. They are among some one million slum dwellers in Odisha, who like elsewhere in India live under the constant threat of eviction in the absence of land rights – no matter how long they have stayed in the hutment. The drones were a key instrument in what is being billed as the world’s largest slum titling project. In this story, Pankaj and Anand bring you an inside look at how drones are helping.

June 19, 2018

The Indian government is set to launch a massive blockchain project that will operate as a platform – similar to the unified payments interface, or UPI, a layer of software that makes it easy to transfer money in real time.

The IndiaChain with its platform characteristics, it is envisaged, will allow both government and private entities to take advantage and build large scalable solutions.

This story brings you the details of the plan India has to deploy blockchain technology in some key projects.

August 14, 2018

Understanding how the human brain functions and replicating it has been a lifelong quest for the scientific and research community. Enter neuromorphic computing, a concept developed by American scientist and researcher Carver Andress Mead in the late 1980s – which tries to emulate certain functions of the human brain in silicon.

And, why should you care about neuromorphic computing? Because it is a subset of the larger artificial intelligence hardware industry and one of the limiting factors for the growth of AI has been the processors that deliver the computing.

A professor at Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi may have the latest answer in the quest for neuromorphic computing. Manan Suri’s invention is the result of a finding he made that certain types of storage devices displayed properties that allowed them to emulate certain functions of the brain in silicon.

September 8, 2018

To say that David Brin wears many hats would be an understatement. He’s a scientist and the bestselling author of many award-winning science fiction novels which predicted many of today’s problems and trends – from the worldwide web to e-mail spam to rising sea levels and eyeglass cameras to name a few.

David Brin is also a transparency expert who wrote the classic non-fiction book The Transparent Society in 1998, highly regarded for its accuracy in predicting current concerns about surveillance, online security and privacy. He is also a futurist counted as amongst the world’s best, a tech advisor who has consulted with companies such as Google and Microsoft and widely cited as being in the top writers that AI elites follow.

FactorDaily has always been about giving you, our readers, ‘signals that help you read the future’. And this New Worlds Weekly column has always made the case for SF being more than just another genre of literature, and how good science fiction can also give us glimpses of the future(s) we could be hurtling towards.

November 21, 2018

Your phone indeed has ears that you may not know about

Have you ever felt that your phone is listening to you?

Have content recommendations occasionally been too good to be true?

What about that product pushed at you before you finally buy it the fourth time?

Ever wondered about any or all of these?

The answers: No, your phone is not “listening” to you in the strictest sense of the word. But, yes, all your likes, dislikes and preferences are clearly being heard by apps in your phone which you oh-so-easily clicked “agree” to the terms of which while installing.

In this story, Anand brings you a deep dive on a company that makes it possible for advertisers to target you based on the voice samples it picks up from your phone. The future is many things, but it is also in which surveillance capitalism will thrive.

Design: Rajesh Subramanian