1. NASA’s Electric Dreams
NASA has finally begun testing their electric dream, the X-57 Maxwell. It’s an all-electric plane, with 12 motors, that is being developed to provide data to the private sector. They plan to experiment with the plane in different conditions and assist other companies to use this information in their own research. Airbus has been working on a multitude of electric aircraft since 2010, successfully crossing the English Channel in 2015. Whereas they exist for commercial purposes, NASA can think about how their work can push others forward. $3.7bn of their $22bn budget goes to earthly issues rather than space exploration. They were the first to develop aircraft to break the speed of sound and then go to the moon. Who knows where these electric dreams will take us.
Are NFTs a bubbling phase of innovation that will pass into the realms of crypto history? Or will the crash open the door for disruptive innovation in the space? One of the founders of the Ethereum blockchain is daring to reimagine the application of NFT technology. He has been working on a white paper called; ‘Decentralizing society: Finding Web 3’s Soul’. It developed the idea of Soulbound Tokens (SBTs). Their core technology works on the same principle as NFTs, except there’s one major difference. They are permanent, untradeable. Once you own one, it will always be yours. Vitalik Buterin explains that this could pave the way for verifying achievements across the real world. He’s thinking of Diplomas, work certificates, and medical history. Imagine if we could prevent fraud because everyone’s blockchain would store their milestones. There’s a lot of work to be done before this breaks into a large-scale application, security and privacy being the top priority, and working to prevent the marginalization of certain groups is also important. It’s an interesting twist on the current use of NFTs, which is predominantly for trading purposes.
The LIbrary of Things (LoT) is trying to reimagine community spaces in connected cities. Where do you go if you need a pressure washer, none of your friends have one for you to borrow, and you don’t want to shell out $65 from Screwfix? The all-female founders of the LoT believe there should be a place to rent or borrow high-cost items like these. Their interesting business model attracts partners to sell their products at a lower cost in exchange for consumer use data. They believe that these community spaces can be part of a high-street revamp. In a time where shopfronts are struggling, new ideas like this could bring a new life to plazas and roads in cities and towns. Leaning on the pillars of the Sharing Economy, one hope of the team is that inviting, open spaces may end up stimulating collaboration between citizens. Over 5,000 Londoners are already signed up for the initiative and they hope to expand to other major European hubs soon.
Empowering individuals from across the rainbow of sexual identity, Fast Company has collaborated with Lesbians Who Tech & Allies to release their third edition of Queer 50. They highlight the standout thinkers, entrepreneurs, movers, and shakers of the tech space. COO of Reddit Jen Woong features top of the list for her outstanding contributions to the online community facilitator. Reddit features in Chapter 8 of our Next-Gen Report, ‘Empowered Communities’, where we explore how their platform is facilitating strong and meaningful communities who are making changes in the real world. Other notable entries this year are Debra Charapty, VP and COO of Alexa Amazon, Avantha Arachchi, COO of A-Frame Brands, and musician, Brandi Carlile.
This month sees the biggest convention for NFTs take place in NYC. ‘How to Onboard the World to NFTs’ will explore the social barriers to pushing NFTs into popular use, While ‘NFT art for good with MAPS and Christie’s, will explore how this technology can create a positive social impact. Looking at the implementation of the technology in other continents, ‘The Impact of NFTs in Africa’ promises to be a standout talk, alongside ‘Future of Film and NFTs’. Esteemed speakers from the creative, tech, and finance industries will discuss their latest breakthroughs, white papers, and drops. As tends to happen when excellent minds converge, we can expect some consequential ideas from the conference.
Strangely, Spain’s solar energy industry is greatly underdeveloped when you compare it to Germany. It’s illogical, as Spain enjoys far more hours of sunlight in the year than their EU mainland counterpart. Ready to jump on this missed opportunity, start-up Samara wants to stoke the fire of home-use solar panels in Espana. They have been developing ideas for technological innovations such as 3D mapping to plan how and where to install the panels. These ideas will simplify the installation process and cut costs, which can be a barrier for the Spanish market. They’ve just secured €2m in seed funding to manifest their vision, and we’re excited to keep an eye on where they take this. We are at a major tipping point globally, and projects like Samara’s could help to make sure we roll over the right edge of our climate crisis.
Where do you go right now if you want to buy one of the latest NFT drops from your favorite musician or Basketball team? OpenSea? Rarible? Crypto.Com? It’s a handful of players who essentially control how NFTs are sold and what your collection will look like to interested buyers. Bravely, Rarible is making the case that they should have less power in this relationship. As fans of decentralization, it makes sense that Rarible would push for this. But it’s still surprising when monopolies call for innovation in direct competition to themselves. They argue that the NFT scene would benefit from more Community Marketplaces. Do you want to buy one of the Bored Ape Club tokens? Head over to their customized website. A Jetpack for your Mirrorverse avatar? Go to Jadu.ar. Rarible suggests that this can lead to more personalized and engaging UX for buyers as well as help to distribute the power.
Afropolitan is a shining beacon of hope for the scattered African Root community across our planet. Stemming from the innovative use of Bitcoin to support protests in Nigeria in 2019, a group of 25 investors is supporting Afropolitan. The original research and ideas come from crypto philosopher Balaji Srinivisan. He has been a dreamer in the crypto space for years and was formerly the CTO of Coinbase. His dream is to build a digital nation that will connect people with African roots across the globe. Afropolitan would support them with a shared currency, underpinned by shared values, which celebrates their heritage. They plan to build an online country with real nationality and then develop that into a physical city or nation in the future. According to SafetyWing, you need a piece of physical land, with borders to be able to establish yourself as a nation in the first place. It’s an exciting idea that could stimulate more virtual nations to be established. Will this lead to stronger communities that believe in shared values or work to exacerbate the already polarized state of identity politics? Will these new nations become universally accepted or be niche communities without weight in global socioeconomic discussions?
Researchers from the University College of San Diego have made an interesting discovery about how they can use technology from old and disused smartphones. Using the near-infrared cameras inbuilt in some old Pixel phones, their software can scan your eye for signs of neurological conditions, Alzheimer’s, for example. Measuring in micrometers, it will analyze the Iris and pupils for changes in size in response to certain neurological tasks. How much they change can signal that various cognitive impairments are present in the patient. Why the old phones? Well, the near-infrared cameras in this phone give a more accurate picture of the variations in the submillimeter changes in Iris size. Newer versions have forgone this camera feature. Standard Pupilometer devices cost upwards of $10,000, which limits their widespread use. The fantastic possibilities for this technology include home and self-use to send data to doctors, as well as an earlier diagnosis for patients.
Digimentality 2022 was commissioned by Crypto.com and the Economist Report. It takes a look at perceptions of digital currencies and the crypto space. Our standout finding was that 80% of citizens still see digital currencies as an investment rather than a method of payment. Perhaps this is a surprise to you, perhaps not. For some of us who are engulfed in the crypto revolution, the terminology and technology have become so casual and day-to-day. It can be easy to forget that the majority of the world doesn’t understand why cryptocurrencies will be a foundational part of our future. While global financial systems are forever readjusting for digital currencies, this shows how there are barriers to overcome regarding consumer mentality. Many artists, businesses, and creators are accepting payments in cryptocurrency. Some choose to use existing blockchains while others create their own. Crypto circles are looking for them to become the underpinning technology of all of our finances. Let’s see if consumer mentality changes enough for the transition from just an alternative method to a core financial tool.
Epimonia is invested in a buoyant new way of changing the lives of refugees. They’re taking discarded life jackets that have been worn across the Mediterranean Sea and discarded in Greece. From this, they are making a line of clothing that included caps, shirts, and hoodies. So far over 500 life jackets have been had their purpose reimagined and been recycled into clothing. As part of its mission, Epimonia is supporting refugees by donating to help with housing, scholarships, and more. So far $45,000 has been donated to organizations that support refugees. It’s not just the products that support refugees as they start a scary new life in Europe. They also have 12 refugee employees! Seeing a business model that is creating a positive social impact in every business activity is invigorating. It’s more proof that business for good is possible at all sorts of scales.
Mining is a tainted industry worldwide. We need minerals, metals, and oil to keep the world turning, yet extractivistism can lead to irreparable damage to the ecosystems where they explore. Impossible Mining wants to reimagine how we mine, dig and dive. Looking at the ocean floor as their target, they are proposing non-invasive, non-disruptive techniques to mine without disturbing the ecosystem. Is this counterintuitive? Can you leave the ecosystem undisturbed if you are exploiting and extracting parts of it? Well Oliver Gunasekara, CEO believes that it is possible. The technology that has got them this far is called bacterial respiration, which frees metals from rocks without being destructive. Currently, the mining industry leads to huge pollution and ecological disruption. Even if we could create all of the wind turbines and solar panels we need to power the world with green energy, the current mining techniques would be catastrophic. Impossible Mining wants the mining industry to have a fresh start and set the bar higher. They’ve got the idea and they’ve got a wide range of support. For the next steps of their mission, they will be developing the robotic extraction system that will be deployed under the water.