Scientists design ‘decoy platelets’ that reduce risk of blood clots

Scientists design ‘decoy platelets’ that reduce risk of blood clots


Wyss Institute at Harvard University

Heart disease, stroke, sepsis and cancer are incredibly serious conditions which together cause the greatest number of deaths around the world. They’re unique illnesses, but they have something in common — they’re all associated with activated platelets, which play an important role in healing, but for some can also contribute to dangerous blood clots and tumors. Now, scientists think they’ve found a way to mitigate the risks associated with these platelets, thereby “outsmarting” the catalyst for these diseases.

There are already a number of antiplatelet drugs on the market, but their effects are not easily reversible, which means patients are at risk of uncontrolled bleeding if injured. And if they need to undergo surgery for their condition, they have to stop treatment up to a week before their operation, which increases their risk of developing blood clots. But researchers at Harvard University have created a drug-free, reversible antiplatelet therapy that uses deactivated “decoy” platelets, which can be initiated and reversed immediately.

The decoys are made from existing human platelets which have been stripped clean via centrifugation and detergent, while retaining adhesive proteins on their surfaces. They bind to other cells that naturally occur in the bloodstream, but because they’ve been deactivated are unable to initiate the clotting process. So when they’re added to normal human blood, the overall clotting process is essentially diluted, allowing normal healing processes to take place without the risk of excessive clotting.

As Anne-Laure Papa, the paper’s first author, explains, “The decoys, unlike normal intact platelets, are unable to bind to the vessel wall and likely hinder the normal platelets’ ability to bind as well. A way to imagine this would be that the decoys are fast-moving skaters skating along the wall of an ice rink, and their high speed prevents other skaters from getting to the wall, thus limiting them from slowing down and grabbing onto it.”

The team also believes the therapy could play an important role in treatment for tumors. Platelets are known to bind to cancer cells, protecting them from the body’s immune system and thereby helping them form new tumors. But the researchers found that by adding decoys along with normal platelets in microfluidic channels, the platelets were almost completely prevented from helping the cancer cells invade the channel wall, suggesting that they could prevent the formation of new tumors. Papa says it’s possible that one day these decoys could be deployed during chemotherapy to prevent existing tumors from spreading, or new ones from forming.

So far, the therapy has only been tested on rabbits and mice, but the team is confident the results could be replicated in humans. Papa’s lab is now working on ensuring the decoys can last longer in the bloodstream for enhanced effectiveness, and studying whether they can be loaded with drugs to help deliver therapies directly to the sites of blood clots and tumors, or possibly even kill circulating tumor cells in the bloodstream altogether.

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The ‘Captain Marvel’ site revisits classic 90s web design

The ‘Captain Marvel’ site revisits classic 90s web design


Marvel

No matter your level of excitement over the first Disney+-exclusive Marvel movie, if you remember web browsing in the days of 28.8 dial-up and web rings then the official Captain Marvel site will be an unexpected treat. The movie is set in 1995, and appropriately its official website looks like something made for viewing via Netscape Navigator (even if its code is a little too hefty to access without a modern broadband connection).

If you’re wondering how they pulled it off, then the answer is apparently not that someone at Disney had an old Geocities template laying around. In a tweet, Marvel software engineer Lori Lombert said “We built this in FrontPage and host it Angelfire.” We can only say, complimentarily, that it looks like that’s what they used.

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Elon Musk: Model 3 price now starts at $35k — after incentives

Elon Musk: Model 3 price now starts at $35k — after incentives


Roberto Baldwin / Engadget

If you visit Model 3’s “Design Your Car” page, you’ll notice that it looks a bit more affordable than before. Tesla has lowered its price across versions by $1,100, so you can now get the mid-range battery option for $42,900 before incentives. Meanwhile, the car’s long-range version now costs $49,900, while the performance option will set you back $60,900 before savings. Elon Musk said that means Model 3 now has a starting price of $35,000, though that’s after you apply tax credits and fuel savings — you’ll have to wait a bit more for a Tesla car with a $35,000 base price. “We’re doing everything we can to get there,” Musk tweeted. “It’s a super hard grind.”

Tesla

A spokesperson told Electrek that the price decrease was enabled by the cancellation of the “referral program, which cost far more than [the company] realized.” The automaker’s referral scheme allowed Tesla owners to give five friends six months of free Supercharging with the purchase of a new vehicle. Apparently, the free charging and other benefits drove up costs too much, compelling the company to end the program on February 1st.

This the second time Tesla slashed Model 3’s prices after its federal EV tax credit has been cut in half. In January, it took $2,000 off the prices of all its vehicles to offset the new reduced tax incentives.

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Audi bets you’ll pay extra for the A7’s design and tech upgrades

Audi bets you’ll pay extra for the A7’s design and tech upgrades

Logically, you should buy the lower-cost Audi A6. I made an argument that when it comes to the A6 and A7. They share the same powertrain. They handle nearly identically. The problem is, we don’t buy cars based on logic. Which is good news for the wonderful looking A7.

Gallery: 2019 Audi A7 first drive | 14 Photos

The Audi A7 (starting at $68,000) looks spectacular. When you look at the A6 and A7 together, the A7 is just a cooler car. The low-slung Sportback design looks like it slices through the wind with ease. The four-door sedan resembles a coupe. Sort of like Mercedes CLA but without the “coupe” moniker. But it’s also a hatchback — it actually has a hatchback for the trunk. The entire rear window and rear of the vehicle swing up. It’s huge and it’s also part of the A7’s charm.

It needs those bits of luxury and wonderment to stand out from the A6 since it shares quite a lot of performance specifications with the less expensive vehicle. The A7 has the same turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine found in the A6. Like its more cost efficient sibling, it outputs 335 horsepower and 369 foot-pounds of torque. But that extra styling (and giant hatch) adds weight. The A6 will go from zero to 60 in 5.1 seconds. The A7 does the same in 5.2 seconds. In other words, you won’t notice.

You also probably won’t notice the hidden adaptive wing that appears at speeds above 75 miles per hour. If you’re not breaking the speed laws of most states, you wouldn’t even know that it was there. Sure you want to look like you’re ready to go fast at a moments notice, but it’s also important to play it James Bond cool.

2019 Audi A7

The interior also conveys a bit of tech chic. Audi says it removed 43 buttons that were found on the previous generation A7. The result is a cleaner cabin that’s comfortable while leaning towards a minimalist aesthetic that tilts the controls and displays towards the driver. My only real issue with the physical interior is Audi’s continued use of an almost hidden stalk for adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist.

The screens are just as well thought out, like the A6 it has Audi’s latest MMI infotainment system. I’d already written about the impressive system in the A6 but as a reminder here goes (again). The system uses two displays. The top touchscreen serves up all the usual infotainment system information: Navigation, media, vehicle settings. The bottom screen houses the climate controls and favorites. It also now has better voice control so you can say things like “I’m cold” and it’ll turn up the temperature. Or you can tap yourself warm.

Typically I’d want physical buttons to adjust the temperature in a car, but Audi does a commendable job placing the touchscreen ahead of the gear shift so you can rest your wrist while navigating climate controls.

2019 Audi A7

When I wasn’t trying to find the right temperature I was whipping the A7 around Napa’s backroads. I drove the European spec version earlier in the year and it felt like the steering was tighter in the US-ready vehicle I drove. I also spent a lot of time on the Autobahn with the European A7 so that might have had something to do with it. Regardless, the steel suspension lends itself to not-quite-as-aggressive-as-BMW handling coupled with an understanding that most folks that buy this car want to feel pampered while cruising through town.

Overall the A7 luxury sportsback sedan hits all the right marks. It handles well at speed without sacrificing the polished luxury ride buyers expect from a car in this segment. Audi’s latest MMI pairs nicely with the exterior design that again, looks outstanding. And yes, the A6 is about $9,000 cheaper for the same engine, MMI, interior and handling. That’s the logical choice. But have you seen the A7? Because it’ll quickly make you throw logic out the window.

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Google cleans up Gmail app with an all-white redesign

Google cleans up Gmail app with an all-white redesign

Google first unveiled its Material Design language back in 2014 (now called Material Theme), and last year saw an update to those design rules that removed the bold colors in favor of an almost entirely white look. A number of Google’s most prominent apps and services have been redesigned over the last year, including Tasks, Photos, Calendar and Gmail — the latter only on the web, though. That changes today: a redesigned Gmail for mobile starts rolling out today and will be available to all Android and iOS users in the coming weeks.

Functionally, the new Gmail mobile app isn’t wildly different than what came before. There’s a button in the lower-right corner to compose a new email, just like before — it’s just white with a multi-colored “plus” sign, the same glyph that shows up in Gmail and Drive on the web. The iconic top red bar is now white, and the whole top area is a search bar; the old app required tapping a smaller target to get into search. Finally, there’s a shortcut right to the account switcher on the main page. Previously, switching accounts required opening the sidebar, but now that option is front and center.


Google

A few features that came to the web version of Gmail make their way to mobile today. Probably most recognizable is that attachment previews will show up below the messages, making it easier to both find messages with attachments and get a sense of the content. For those that prefer to see more messages, Google also has “comfortable” and “compact” density options that remove attachment previews and avatars, respectively. The large red phishing warnings that Gmail on the web shows also now show up in the app

Visually, it looks just like you’d expect if you’ve tried any of Google’s recent mobile apps — it’s basically all white, with the new Google font throughout. The change is somewhat ironic given that Google itself recently encouraged developers to use dark modes in their apps as a way to save battery life. As most redesigns are, we figure that plenty of people will complain a bit about this and then move on with their lives — while the all-white appearance might be a little off-putting at first, the more accessible search and account switcher are both handy additions. And if the rumors are true about Android Q having a system-wide dark mode, there might soon be an official way to tone this redesign down a bit.

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Pinterest’s diverse workforce helped it design a better skin tone filter

Pinterest’s diverse workforce helped it design a better skin tone filter

Last April, Pinterest began testing a search feature that allows users to filter results by skin tone. The idea being that those looking for beauty tips will be able to find relevant makeup and hair advice, regardless of their race. Today, the company is announcing that this feature will roll out more broadly across its user base, and that it’s also coming to its mobile app. Not only is it a particularly useful feature, it’s also emblematic of Pinterest’s ever-growing efforts at increasing the diversity and inclusion within the company.

In fact, Pinterest outright said that the skin tone search feature is a direct result of the Diversity and Inclusion team working closely with the technical and engineering teams within the company. “By combining the latest in machine learning and inclusive product development, we’re able to directly respond to Pinner feedback and build a more useful product,” said Pinterest in a statement.

Like many other prominent tech companies, Pinterest is no stranger to the difficulties in hiring a more diverse staff. But it’s also one of the more outspoken in its desire and efforts to do so. Pinterest was one of the first tech companies to not only publicly release annual company diversity reports, but also set yearly public hiring goals.

In 2018, the company achieved two out of the three goals it set for itself in 2017. Pinterest wanted to increase hiring rates from people from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds in non-engineering roles (this went from 12 percent to 14 percent), in engineering roles (it wanted to hit 8 percent but only reached 7 percent), as well as the hiring rates for full-time women engineers (it hit its goal of 25 percent). What’s more, Pinterest also reported that women now make up 47 percent of the company, and 30 percent of those working in technical fields are also women. This makes it one of the most gender diverse companies in the industry, especially when compared to companies like Apple, Google and Facebook.

Pinterest

This progress is reflected in the product, which has been tweaked over the years to serve a more diverse audience. According to Wired, the idea of diversifying the search results came, in part, from Pinterest’s head of diversity and inclusion Candice Morgan, who was using the search engine to look for black hair ideas but couldn’t find anything that fit her own tightly coiled curls.

“It was a poignant realization,” said Morgan to Engadget. “Our mission is to help everyone find information, and create the life they love. But we were somehow not as inclusive as we should’ve been.” Based on feedback from both users and co-workers, it turns out she wasn’t the only one frustrated, and a cross-functional group from all parts of the company came together to help solve the issue.

Importantly, even though Morgan was hired to oversee diversity and inclusion programs, her role has evolved over the years to include having a say in how the site works. She now works closely with Product and Engineering teams on a regular basis, and the result is more inclusive features, such as the aforementioned skin tone ranges. According to Pinterest, the diversity team worked with the product team from the beginning to “create potential tags around skin tone and hair textures, and choose the skin tone range palettes and colors.”

“Pinterest is a visual discovery engine that serves billions of recommendations to hundreds of millions of people in areas like beauty and style, and so we need to offer a personalized and relevant product, otherwise it just won’t be useful,” said the company in an emailed statement. “A more diverse company is good for Pinners and our business.”

Candice Morgan

Candice Morgan, Pinterest’s head of Diversity and Inclusion

A diverse workforce seems prudent when you look at the various mishaps that have befallen other tech companies. Google, for example, got into trouble a few years ago when its Photos algorithm mistakenly identified black people as gorillas. It has since apologized for this, though Google’s solution to the problem appears to be only superficial — it has blocked “gorilla”, “chimp”, “chimpanzee”, and “monkey” from the recognition algorithm, instead of addressing the real problem of misidentification.

One wonders if the initial mistake might not have even happened, had Google tested its recognition algorithm with a more diverse set of people in the first place, and if a more diverse workplace might’ve helped (as of 2018, just two and a half percent of Google’s overall workforce identify as Black or African-American).

The lack of diversity in tech has other ramifications, too. Facebook, for example, has had to deal with a rise of hate speech and hate groups on its platform in recent years, and seems to have been ill-equipped to handle them. Civil rights activists, on the other hand, have had their accounts suspended for speaking out against racism. Seeing as Facebook has over 2.27 billion users from all walks of life, it should stand to reason that it should have a workforce as diverse as the populace it’s trying to serve.

“There is a bias to what kinds of problems we think are important, what kinds of research we think are important,” said Timnit Gebru, a technical co-lead of the Ethical Artificial Intelligence Team at Google, to MIT Technology Review. “If we don’t have diversity in our set of researchers, we are not going to address problems that are faced by the majority of people in the world.”

Morgan has a similar stance. “The potential for machine learning to take shortcuts or serve the masses as opposed to different groups within the user base is massive,” she said. For example, she said, if you just search for “best makeup”, a basic algorithm might only bring up the result for what’s the most popular, not what’s good for your particular skin tone. “We really have to use humans in every evaluation, to really understand how to really be relevant to users,” said Morgan. “The point is to be relevant. Not just regress to the mean.”

Even though Pinterest’s increased diversity is good, it’s not quite enough. The numbers of underrepresented minorities in its technical fields are still very low — four percent black, nine percent Latinx — as are their numbers in leadership — zero percent black, seven percent Latinx. But at least Pinterest acknowledges it.

“We still have a long way to go,” said the company in its diversity report. “That’s why we continue to make this work a top priority for Pinterest. We know it’s critical to building a great product and a strong company.”

Images: Pinterest

Raised in the tropics of Malaysia, Nicole arrived in the United States in search of love, happiness and ubiquitous broadband. That last one is still a dream, but two out of three isn’t bad. Her love for words and technology reached a fever pitch in San Francisco, where she learned you could make a living writing about gadgets, video games and the internet. Truly, a dream come true. Other interests include baseball, coffee, cooking and chasing after her precocious little cat.

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Honda may reveal the production design of its Urban EV in March

Honda may reveal the production design of its Urban EV in March


Honda

When Honda first revealed the Urban EV in September 2017, the car’s cute retro design generated a ton of interest. It wasn’t the final design, though it seems we won’t have to wait too long to find out exactly what the vehicle will look like when it goes on sale. The Japanese manufacturer has released a sketch of the current version, and it appears Honda will showcase a production model at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

It seems as though Honda is making a departure from the initial Civic-inspired design, as the Urban EV looks set to have a more modern look. It appears the car will also include rear doors, which weren’t present before. Honda, which may yet change the car’s name, had said pre-orders would open for the Urban EV early this year.

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Wood block connects you to coffee shop WiFi with a tap

Wood block connects you to coffee shop WiFi with a tap


Ten One Design

It’s not very fun to connect to WiFi at a cafĂ© or hotel. If you don’t have to ask staff for a password, they’ll have to print it somewhere — and it’s still a hassle when all you want to do is check your email. Ten One Design thinks it might have a friction-free answer. It’s releasing the Wifi Porter, an unassuming wood block that connects your handset to the local network with a tap. NFC-equipped Android phones and 2018 iPhones (the iPhone XS and XR) just have get near the block to get a connection prompt, with no app or password required. If your device doesn’t have those luxuries, you can still connect using a QR code on the bottom.

The device is shipping as of mid-January, and it’s not all that expensive at $40 for one block and $129 for a four-pack. It’s probably overkill if you just want to save house guests the trouble of punching in a code, and it won’t help much if you’re connecting your laptop. Still, it might be just the ticket for eateries that would rather spend more time serving food than answering technical questions.

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MIT, Stanford Academics Design Cryptocurrency to Better Bitcoin

MIT, Stanford Academics Design Cryptocurrency to Better Bitcoin

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MIT, Stanford Academics Design Cryptocurrency to Better Bitcoin

(Bloomberg) — Some of the brightest minds in America are pooling their brain power to create a cryptocurrency that’s designed to do what Bitcoin has proved incapable of: processing thousands of transactions a second.

Professors from seven U.S. colleges including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley have teamed up to create a digital currency that they hope can achieve speeds Bitcoin users can only dream of without compromising on its core tenant of decentralization. The Unit-e, as the virtual currency is called, is the first initiative of Distributed Technology Research, a non-profit foundation formed by the academics with backing from hedge fund Pantera Capital Management LP to develop decentralized technologies.

Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency and the first payment network to allow parties to transact directly without needing to trust each another or to rely on a central authority. Yet, while it has built a following among developers, anarchists and speculators, mainstream adoption remains elusive.

That’s in no small part the product of its design, where inbuilt restrictions have constrained its performance and scalability and, as a result, reduced its usefulness as an everyday unit of payment, DTR said in a research paper. The academics are designing a virtual coin they expect will be able to process transactions faster than even Visa.

“The mainstream public is aware that these networks don’t scale,’’ Joey Krug, co-chief investment officer at Pantera Capital in San Francisco, who is also a member of the DTR council, said in an interview. “We are on the cusp of something where if this doesn’t scale relatively soon, it may be relegated to ideas that were nice but didn’t work in practice: more like 3D printing than the internet.’’

DTR plans to launch Unit-e in the second half of the year and aims to process as many as 10,000 transactions per second. That’s worlds away from the current average of between 3.3 and 7 transactions per second for Bitcoin and 10 to 30 transactions for Ethereum. It’s also multiples quicker than Visa, a centralized network, which processes around 1,700 transactions per second on average.

Bitcoin’s scalability challenge is a function of its design: the frequency within which new blocks, as records of transactions are known, can be created and their maximum size are capped.

To achieve greater speed and scalability, DTR deconstructed the blockchain technology that supports most cryptocurrencies and sought to improve almost every element of it, said Pramod Viswanath, a researcher on the project and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The group first sought to understand the blockchain’s performance limits so as to design technologies that operate as close to these limits as possible, said Viswanath.

The academics have published research on all aspects of blockchain technology and are relying on new mechanisms they designed for reaching consensus, as well as new ways of sharding — a process whereby each node maintains only part of the blockchain, thus increasing speed — and new payment channel networks, to reach their targeted transaction speed.

The cryptocurrency industry is also very aware of the issue and a number of initiatives are underway to increase transaction speeds. Key efforts include the Lightning Network, which is to supposed to make crypto payments faster and cheaper by removing the need to record every transaction on the blockchain, while another, Segregated Witness, or SegWit, also aims to make transactions faster.

David Chaum, a pioneer of virtual currencies, is also working on a new platform that would allow digital money to be traded more quickly.

Success for Unit-e is far from guaranteed. While in the long-term the best technology should win out, in the short-term there is a risk that the new currency fails to gain traction, said Andrew Miller, head of the Unit-e independent technical steering committee and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The Swiss-based foundation brings together professionals from the fields of economics to computer science and cryptography, and its members also include academics from Carnegie Mellon University and the Universities of Southern California and Washington. It is funded by Pantera and some private individuals, said foundation council Chairman Babak Dastmaltschi, while declining to elaborate further.

Unit-e is the group’s first initiative and future work could cover so-called smart contracts, said Viswanath.

“Bitcoin has shown us that distributed trust is possible but its just not scaling at a dimension that could make it a truly global everyday money,” said Viswanath. “It was a breakthrough that has the capacity to change human lives but that won’t happen unless the technology can be scaled up.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Alastair Marsh in London at amarsh25@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sree Vidya Bhaktavatsalam at sbhaktavatsa@bloomberg.net, ;Jeremy Herron at jherron8@bloomberg.net, Dave Liedtka, Eric J. Weiner

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MIT, Stanford Academics Design Cryptocurrency to Better Bitcoin – Bloomberg

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MIT, Stanford Academics Design Cryptocurrency to Better Bitcoin  Bloomberg

Some of the brightest minds in America are pooling their brain power to create a cryptocurrency that’s designed to do what Bitcoin has proved incapable of: …

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MIT, Stanford Academics Design Cryptocurrency to Better Bitcoin

MIT, Stanford Academics Design Cryptocurrency to Better Bitcoin

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MIT, Stanford Academics Design Cryptocurrency to Better Bitcoin

(Bloomberg) — Some of the brightest minds in America are pooling their brain power to create a cryptocurrency that’s designed to do what Bitcoin has proved incapable of: processing thousands of transactions a second.

Professors from seven U.S. colleges including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley have teamed up to create a digital currency that they hope can achieve speeds Bitcoin users can only dream of without compromising on its core tenant of decentralization. The Unit-e, as the virtual currency is called, is the first initiative of Distributed Technology Research, a non-profit foundation formed by the academics with backing from hedge fund Pantera Capital Management LP to develop decentralized technologies.

Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency and the first payment network to allow parties to transact directly without needing to trust each another or to rely on a central authority. Yet, while it has built a following among developers, anarchists and speculators, mainstream adoption remains elusive.

That’s in no small part the product of its design, where inbuilt restrictions have constrained its performance and scalability and, as a result, reduced its usefulness as an everyday unit of payment, DTR said in a research paper. The academics are designing a virtual coin they expect will be able to process transactions faster than even Visa.

“The mainstream public is aware that these networks don’t scale,’’ Joey Krug, co-chief investment officer at Pantera Capital in San Francisco, who is also a member of the DTR council, said in an interview. “We are on the cusp of something where if this doesn’t scale relatively soon, it may be relegated to ideas that were nice but didn’t work in practice: more like 3D printing than the internet.’’

DTR plans to launch Unit-e in the second half of the year and aims to process as many as 10,000 transactions per second. That’s worlds away from the current average of between 3.3 and 7 transactions per second for Bitcoin and 10 to 30 transactions for Ethereum. It’s also multiples quicker than Visa, a centralized network, which processes around 1,700 transactions per second on average.

Bitcoin’s scalability challenge is a function of its design: the frequency within which new blocks, as records of transactions are known, can be created and their maximum size are capped.

To achieve greater speed and scalability, DTR deconstructed the blockchain technology that supports most cryptocurrencies and sought to improve almost every element of it, said Pramod Viswanath, a researcher on the project and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The group first sought to understand the blockchain’s performance limits so as to design technologies that operate as close to these limits as possible, said Viswanath.

The academics have published research on all aspects of blockchain technology and are relying on new mechanisms they designed for reaching consensus, as well as new ways of sharding — a process whereby each node maintains only part of the blockchain, thus increasing speed — and new payment channel networks, to reach their targeted transaction speed.

The cryptocurrency industry is also very aware of the issue and a number of initiatives are underway to increase transaction speeds. Key efforts include the Lightning Network, which is to supposed to make crypto payments faster and cheaper by removing the need to record every transaction on the blockchain, while another, Segregated Witness, or SegWit, also aims to make transactions faster.

David Chaum, a pioneer of virtual currencies, is also working on a new platform that would allow digital money to be traded more quickly.

Success for Unit-e is far from guaranteed. While in the long-term the best technology should win out, in the short-term there is a risk that the new currency fails to gain traction, said Andrew Miller, head of the Unit-e independent technical steering committee and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The Swiss-based foundation brings together professionals from the fields of economics to computer science and cryptography, and its members also include academics from Carnegie Mellon University and the Universities of Southern California and Washington. It is funded by Pantera and some private individuals, said foundation council Chairman Babak Dastmaltschi, while declining to elaborate further.

Unit-e is the group’s first initiative and future work could cover so-called smart contracts, said Viswanath.

“Bitcoin has shown us that distributed trust is possible but its just not scaling at a dimension that could make it a truly global everyday money,” said Viswanath. “It was a breakthrough that has the capacity to change human lives but that won’t happen unless the technology can be scaled up.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Alastair Marsh in London at amarsh25@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sree Vidya Bhaktavatsalam at sbhaktavatsa@bloomberg.net, ;Jeremy Herron at jherron8@bloomberg.net, Dave Liedtka, Eric J. Weiner

bloomberg.com” data-reactid=”52″>For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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MIT, Stanford Academics Design Cryptocurrency to Better Bitcoin

MIT, Stanford Academics Design Cryptocurrency to Better Bitcoin

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MIT, Stanford Academics Design Cryptocurrency to Better Bitcoin

(Bloomberg) — Some of the brightest minds in America are pooling their brain power to create a cryptocurrency that’s designed to do what Bitcoin has proved incapable of: processing thousands of transactions a second.

Professors from seven U.S. colleges including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley have teamed up to create a digital currency that they hope can achieve speeds Bitcoin users can only dream of without compromising on its core tenant of decentralization. The Unit-e, as the virtual currency is called, is the first initiative of Distributed Technology Research, a non-profit foundation formed by the academics with backing from hedge fund Pantera Capital Management LP to develop decentralized technologies.

Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency and the first payment network to allow parties to transact directly without needing to trust each another or to rely on a central authority. Yet, while it has built a following among developers, anarchists and speculators, mainstream adoption remains elusive.

That’s in no small part the product of its design, where inbuilt restrictions have constrained its performance and scalability and, as a result, reduced its usefulness as an everyday unit of payment, DTR said in a research paper. The academics are designing a virtual coin they expect will be able to process transactions faster than even Visa.

“The mainstream public is aware that these networks don’t scale,’’ Joey Krug, co-chief investment officer at Pantera Capital in San Francisco, who is also a member of the DTR council, said in an interview. “We are on the cusp of something where if this doesn’t scale relatively soon, it may be relegated to ideas that were nice but didn’t work in practice: more like 3D printing than the internet.’’

DTR plans to launch Unit-e in the second half of the year and aims to process as many as 10,000 transactions per second. That’s worlds away from the current average of between 3.3 and 7 transactions per second for Bitcoin and 10 to 30 transactions for Ethereum. It’s also multiples quicker than Visa, a centralized network, which processes around 1,700 transactions per second on average.

Bitcoin’s scalability challenge is a function of its design: the frequency within which new blocks, as records of transactions are known, can be created and their maximum size are capped.

To achieve greater speed and scalability, DTR deconstructed the blockchain technology that supports most cryptocurrencies and sought to improve almost every element of it, said Pramod Viswanath, a researcher on the project and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The group first sought to understand the blockchain’s performance limits so as to design technologies that operate as close to these limits as possible, said Viswanath.

The academics have published research on all aspects of blockchain technology and are relying on new mechanisms they designed for reaching consensus, as well as new ways of sharding — a process whereby each node maintains only part of the blockchain, thus increasing speed — and new payment channel networks, to reach their targeted transaction speed.

The cryptocurrency industry is also very aware of the issue and a number of initiatives are underway to increase transaction speeds. Key efforts include the Lightning Network, which is to supposed to make crypto payments faster and cheaper by removing the need to record every transaction on the blockchain, while another, Segregated Witness, or SegWit, also aims to make transactions faster.

David Chaum, a pioneer of virtual currencies, is also working on a new platform that would allow digital money to be traded more quickly.

Success for Unit-e is far from guaranteed. While in the long-term the best technology should win out, in the short-term there is a risk that the new currency fails to gain traction, said Andrew Miller, head of the Unit-e independent technical steering committee and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The Swiss-based foundation brings together professionals from the fields of economics to computer science and cryptography, and its members also include academics from Carnegie Mellon University and the Universities of Southern California and Washington. It is funded by Pantera and some private individuals, said foundation council Chairman Babak Dastmaltschi, while declining to elaborate further.

Unit-e is the group’s first initiative and future work could cover so-called smart contracts, said Viswanath.

“Bitcoin has shown us that distributed trust is possible but its just not scaling at a dimension that could make it a truly global everyday money,” said Viswanath. “It was a breakthrough that has the capacity to change human lives but that won’t happen unless the technology can be scaled up.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Alastair Marsh in London at amarsh25@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sree Vidya Bhaktavatsalam at sbhaktavatsa@bloomberg.net, ;Jeremy Herron at jherron8@bloomberg.net, Dave Liedtka, Eric J. Weiner

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Peloton Tread motivated me to keep running

Peloton Tread motivated me to keep running

The Peloton Tread is an excellent treadmill. Its modern design, complete with simple controls and a 32-inch 1080p high-definition touchscreen, makes it incredibly simple to use (and nice to look at). 

My only issue with it is its price. It costs $3,995 up front — and that doesn’t include the $39 monthly fee for the large database of  classes designed to keep you motivated when you’re working out at home. If you are a serious runner who’d rather skip the gym on bad-weather days, the Peloton Tread could still be worth it to you, despite its high price.

Getting to know the Peloton Tread

Delivery and installation is included with your purchase of the Peloton Tread. This thing weighs over 450 pounds with the display, so it isn’t something you ever want to move yourself.

Once it’s installed, the setup is simple. You’ll have to sign up for the $39 monthly service that gives you access to Peloton’s guided classes. Without that, the touchscreen is essentially useless, since it unfortunately doesn’t directly link up with Netflix, YouTube or any other third-party media streaming services. Fortunately, everything you need to access from signing into your account to selecting a class is right on the touchscreen display. 

The Peloton Tread has a slotted aluminum belt, a carbon frame and room enough up front for two water bottles, your phone and pretty much anything else you’d ever need while running. Simple knobs on the right and left control speed and incline and a safety clip in the front stops the treadmill if your legs get away from you. A simple stop button just above the safety clip stops the treadmill too. The speed goes up to 12.5 miles per hour and the incline goes up to 15 percent. 

There’s also something called “free” mode. When the treadmill speed and incline is turned off, press the free button next to the stop button and you can drag the belt with your body weight, rather than running at a specified belt speed.

Zippers on each side of the treadmill reveal compartments where you can store a yoga mat, resistance bands, your heart rate monitor and other equipment.

Using the Peloton Tread

Once you’ve created your account and have signed up for the $39 monthly service, you are ready to get started.

Navigating around the touchscreen is similar to using any other tablet or touchscreen device. Go into settings and update your profile information as needed, scroll around to search for different classes from a beginner’s guide to training for a 5K to more advanced classes.

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GM will make Cadillac its ‘lead’ electric vehicle brand

GM will make Cadillac its ‘lead’ electric vehicle brand

Mark Adams, Executive Director of Cadillac Global Design stands next to the Cadillac ELR after its unveiling during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

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While Chevrolet launched the Volt plug-in hybrid and pure-electric Bolt, Cadillac has taken a backseat in GM’s electric vehicle push. Now as it attempts to find profits in that segment, the company’s electrification plans will put luxury first. In an update for investors released on Friday (PDF), the company said:

Cadillac will be GM’s lead electric vehicle brand and will introduce the first model from the company’s all-new battery electric vehicle architecture, GM’s foundation for an advanced family of profitable EVs.

The flexible platform will provide a broad array of body styles and will be offered in front-wheel, rear-wheel and all-wheel configurations. Its most critical components — including the battery cells — are being designed for maximum usability across all programs. The battery system will also be adjustable, based on vehicle and customer requirements.

For a few years Cadillac sold an ELR hybrid coupe that was criticized for being overpriced at $75,0000 — $35,000 more than the Volt that shared its powertrain. Its follow-up CT6 Plug-In Hybrid hasn’t fared much better. The “flexible platform” referred to is called BEV3, a replacement for BEV2 (Battery Electric Vehicle 2), which the Bolt is based on.

It appears that the next phase of its plans will roll out with a more carefully-considered plan and an eye toward growing sales in China. Other areas it’s focusing on include commercializing autonomous vehicles (see its efforts with Cruise) and pushing trucks in North America.

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Lenovo’s eccentric product design is winning over powerful friends

Lenovo’s eccentric product design is winning over powerful friends

Lenovo has evolved in the past few years to become much more than just a PC company. It’s launched multiple connected home devices, like Alexa-enabled speakers, as well as the first Google Assistant-based smart display and smart clock. But it’s also brought us more, shall we say, unique products like the Yoga Book and a dock to turn your tablet into an Echo Show. These more-unexpected devices are examples of how Lenovo innovates, but there’s more to them than a simple desire to try new things. It turns out the company being able to bring novel ideas to market helps show partners like Google and Amazon why Lenovo is a good launch partner. The company’s director of consumer products Wahid Razali joined us on stage at CES 2019 to discuss its innovations and plans for 2019.

Follow all the latest news from CES 2019 here!

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