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11 / 16 / CONTENTS / 007



WIRED and photographer Benedict Redgrove take an exclusive tour of Nasa's vast space-travel collection and reveal its ambitious plans

Nasa's R2 robotic hand can turn a knob, operate a drill and hold soft materials

11 / 16 / CONTENTS / 009




START Humanity’s last hope…

R&D Scientific progress

FEATURE Hype machine

…well, Stephen Cave’s Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence may at least tame the odd rogue AI

Emoji and human evolution; Spaun; xenotransplantation; Google’s quantum computing lab; creating microtumours

Two companies are racing to build Elon Musk’s hyperloop. Whether it’s physically possible is only the start of their worries




START Rwanda’s gas valve

FEATURE Where Nasa goes next

FEATURE Third life

Lake Kivu’s KivuWatt power station isn’t just harvesting methane – it’s also averting a huge national disaster

Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, introduces a special photographic exploration of Nasa’s past and future missions

Philip Rosedale created Second Life. Now, with High Fidelity, he wants to build infinite shared worlds – this time in VR

047 IDEAS BANK Brain food and provocations Aggregation depreciates your mind; big data is no replacement for a scientist; the not-so-secret weapon of simplicity

061 GEAR Rated and reviewed Ducati Scrambler; retro games console; future drinking; luxury leather. Tested: builder’s radios; low-light cameras


PLAY Fuji, filmed Charles Emerson spent three weeks taking photos of Japan – then combined them into a single, multi-layered image

Above Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker and producer Annabel Jones (p79)




PLAY Stop. Scanner time

FEATURE Africa offline

FEATURE The digital Justice League

New Movement Collective and ScanLAB Projects are turning dance moves into a series of 3D-printed still lifes

As African governments confront online dissent, the accused are finding themselves cornered – guilty or not

Google is on a mission to protect the internet’s most vulnerable. But doing good is a lot harder than “Don’t be evil”

Creative director Andrew Diprose Managing editor Duncan Baizley

Deputy editor Greg Williams Digital editor Victoria Woollaston

Science editor João Medeiros Product editor Jeremy White Associate editor Rowland Manthorpe Assistant editor Oliver Franklin-Wallis Intern Ruby Lott-Lavigna Director of photography Steve Peck Deputy director of photography Dalia Nassimi Deputy creative director Phill Fields Art editor Mary Lees App producer Pip Pell App designer Ciaran Christopher Chief sub-editor Mike Dent Deputy chief sub-editor Simon Ward Deputy editor Liat Clark Acting deputy editor James Temperton Staff writer Matt Burgess Intern Amelia Heathman Contributing editors Dan Ariely, David Baker, Rachel Botsman, Russell M Davies, Ben Hammersley, Adam Higginbotham, Kathryn Nave, Daniel Nye Griffiths, Tom Vanderbilt, Ed Yong Director of editorial administration and rights Harriet Wilson Editorial business manager Stephanie Chrisostomou Human resources director Hazel McIntyre Finance director Pam Raynor Financial control director Penny Scott-Bayfield Deputy managing director Albert Read Managing director

Nicholas Coleridge

WIRED, 13 Hanover Square, London W1S 1HN Please contact our editorial team via the following email addresses: Reader feedback: General editorial enquiries and requests for contributors’ guidelines: Press releases to this address only please: Advertising enquiries: 020 7499 9080 Chairman and chief executive, Condé Nast International Jonathan Newhouse

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Directors Jonathan Newhouse (chairman and chief executive), Nicholas Coleridge (managing director), Stephen Quinn, Annie Holcroft, Pam Raynor, Jamie Bill, Jean Faulkner, Shelagh Crofts, Albert Read, Patricia Stevenson


Editor David Rowan




Manchester-based Burton turns xenotransplantation into a comic strip for R&D. “I think my style is very geometric – more designed than drawn,” he says. “I tried to introduce a bit of charm into an important and complex subject – I wanted it to be easy to ‘get’.”


Author of The First Signs, von Petzinger sees a connection from early cave art to the emoji on your phone: “Geometric signs from Ice-Age Europe may have been one of the oldest systems of graphic communication – and a precursor to those cute little symbols.”



It took us several years to co-ordinate, but regular WIRED photographer Benedict Redgrove finally got access to Nasa’s top-secret labs to capture their latest designs, plus a few classics: “Nasa is the greatest organisation in the world – it mixes science, art, design, passion and technology. Here, I’m in a training model of the Manned Manoeuvring Unit, used by astronauts in 1984. Standing there, it was easy to imagine myself in the vastness of space.”

WIRED’s assistant editor reports on the pending hyperloop projects – and finds the journey far from straightforward. “It seems to attract ‘colourful’ characters,” he says. “The story has a lot of turns and twists – and I still have no idea if the hyperloop will ever happen.”


MacDougall writes about the current crackdown on online dissent in Africa. “Governments are becoming a big market for online surveillance software,” says the Liberia-based journalist. “So citizens are going to face a battle to secure their online space.”



WIRED associate editor Rowland Manthorpe reports back from the virtual worlds being built on the digital ruins of Second Life: “On my last day at High Fidelity, a group of beta testers were meeting in simulated space (above). It was amazing – incredibly lifelike, but it’s also better than real life, because you have superhuman powers. We teleported to a virtual world where someone had built a VR version of Manchester. Then we threw some simulated cows around, just because we could.”

Cialdini, author of Pre-suasion, explains why preparation is the key to getting others to say “yes”. “The best persuaders become the best through pre-suasion,” he says. “The process of arranging for recipients to be receptive to a message before they encounter it.”





A MEASURED RESPONSE TO MICRODOSING An email from Ro Atkinson: “I thought I ought to point out in regard to your Startup fuel feature (09.16) that the lower quantities that David Nichols was giving rats in his research on LSD (0.08mg/kg) would be the equivalent in a 79kg male of a dose of more than 6mg, while the sort of dose that a person might typically use is about 0.1mg, or, in the amounts being used by microdosers, 0.01mg. Whilst it is probable the efects would be realised completely diferently in small rodents, it seems that given the dosage is 60 times a typical dose, or 600 times a microdose, it’s not surprising that there would be a negative psychological reaction. After all, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, ten are a few too many, but after 600 apples a day and I might start throwing them at people out of frustration.”


THE WEEKLY VIEW FROM WIRED Now approaching its 300th episode, the WIRED Podcast is the only regular digest of ideas, technology, design and business stories you need. Hear the WIRED world’s stories come to life – among the subjects covered in recent episodes: the dangers of microbeads to the world’s oceans; Amazon’s Dash button; Raspberry Pi’s global success; and giant flying buttocks that crashland in a field. Intrigued? You’ll have to hear for yourself to find out more. Listen at, or search WIRED UK on iTunes.

Catch up with our latest stories via the Apple News feed. Select WiredUK in Apple News WIRED AWAKE

DAILY BRIEFING Sent at 8am every weekday, it’s your daily round-up from the WIRED world. Subscribe at wired.


MAKE IT, BIG Showing now on our exclusive film with recent cover star Bjarke Ingels. In the video, the premierleague architect and BIG founder explains, among other things, his concept of “hedonistic sustainability”: new approaches to sustainable projects that increase quality of life, rather than take elements away. Have a look:


WANT MORE WIRED? Facebook wireduk

MEDICINE’S NEXT BLACK MARKET? On recently was a report on the continuing global shortage of human organs. Nearly 50,000 people in the UK alone have languished on the transplant list in the past decade – but there is hope in the prospect of 3D-printed organs and medical devices. However, this could encourage criminals to fill gaps in the market with unreliable, low-quality alternatives. For those in the developing world, these knock-ofs could be the only option, so it’s a race against time for regulatory bodies to put a structure in place. Read the story here:

Twitter @WiredUK video Instagram @wireduk Tumblr wireduk podcast


BIG DIPPING Hate busy swimming pools? Spare a thought for these bathers. This pool, at the “Dead Sea” resort in Suining, China, recently squeezed more than 6,000 dippers into the water. For more amazing images from WIRED, follow @wireduk





Left-right: Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd and co-founders Shervin Pishevar and Josh Giegel


You might call this our crazy-big-ambition issue. Start with an audaciously unproven idea from Elon Musk, ignore its potential impossibilities, from economics to physics, and allow anyone bold enough to attempt to build a business around it – while creating an entirely new form of inter-city transport. The hyperloop, Musk’s conceptual vacuum-tube-based elevated people-mover, became so hot in Silicon Valley for its 1,000kph capability that VCs clamoured to write cheques and magazines cleared covers. There were meetings with heads of state and utilities CEOs, and the year 2018, even 2017, was whispered for a public launch. But what, exactly, was happening on the ground? This month, WIRED associate editor Oliver Franklin-Wallis tells an extraordinary story of two rival companies vying to be first to launch – if the lawsuits, personal vendettas and colourful technological claims don’t get in the way first. Hyperloop One, co-founded by a prominent Valley investor and stafed with former SpaceX talent, is building heavy infrastructure and high-profile test launches – but also a reputation as a workplace whose acknowledged toxicity has led to a number of allegations involving a “noose”, industrial espionage and a current $250 million (£188m) lawsuit. Its rival, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, meanwhile, has made limited practical progress for all its claims of near-readiness – although that has not stopped its co-founders, a former Italian rapper and a one-time Uber driver, cultivating a “movement” of crowdsourced collaborators. It’s a gripping story that’s ultimately not about technology, but our growing assumption that the startup entrepreneur’s unrestrained self-confidence will inevitably deliver. Even if the reality can prove more complex.


Californian Philip Rosedale had similarly bold ambitions when he launched Second Life as a pioneering virtual world back in 2003. Since then, his immersive universe has stalled in growth, while keeping a loyal core of users – a result partly of the behaviour changes wrought by the smartphone revolution. But now that virtual reality has hit the consumer market, Rosedale is back to reinvent his original project. Can accessible VR make his new venture, High Fidelity, the open-source shared virtual world that he always dreamed of? Rowland Manthorpe spent a week with Rosedale’s team – both in person, in their oices and as an in-world avatar. His feature in this issue is an inspiring reminder that we will always need these obsessive individuals – whether a Rosedale or a Musk – to help us dream bigger.

David Rowan

REVENGE OF THE GREEN SLIME This green gunk is alive and dangerous. In July 2016, Utah Lake was struck by an algal bloom, affecting more than 384km2 of fresh surface water. The cyanobacteria releases toxins such as microcystin, which can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, skin rashes and even liver damage. Utah Lake was closed for 13 days, with a period of “caution” for swimmers after that. Even so, almost 200 people reported adverse effects. Utah’s was only the latest bloom to hit American waters. According to 2015 UNESCO estimates, countering the phenomenon now costs the US more than $4 billion (£3bn) annually. “Globally, there has been an increase in the incidence of harmful algal blooms,” says Anna Michalak, a researcher at Stanford’s Department of Global Ecology. “But there are factors in the US making waters more prone to this problem.” The blame is often pinned on phosphorus use in farming, which feeds the algae when it percolates to the water. Yet Michalak explains that it is difficult to find a single cause: “What’s going on is an interplay between what we’re doing on the land locally and what’s happening with the climate globally,” she says, as warmer temperatures provide the micro-organism with a cosier habitat, and heavier rains boost farm run-offs. “Changing weather patterns are compounding the impact of the extra phosphorus reaching the water. It’s the perfect storm.” Gian Volpicelli



IN PARTNERSHIP WITH RAYMOND WEIL is proud to be supporting Swiss sailing team Realteam as its Official Timing Partner and to introduce a new freelancer able to support the crew in the most extreme sailing conditions. A nice little tip of the hat to Mr Raymond Weil who was a member of the Geneva Yacht Club. Join the discussion #RWRealteam

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LINA BERGLUND HELPED FIND the Higgs boson particle. But when the Large Hadron Collider finished its first run in 2012, the Swedish particle physicist felt ready for a change. “It’s impossible to top that,” she says. “So I thought, why not try something completely diferent?” That something was fertility app Natural Cycles. Berglund, 32, began working on the app while still at CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research). “I wanted to give my body a break from the pill,” she says, “but I couldn’t find any good forms of natural birth control, so I wrote an algorithm for myself.” Berglund’s algorithm – based on advanced statistical methods from her time at CERN – uses body temperature to determine fertility. After ovulation, increased levels of progesterone make women’s bodies up to 0.45°C warmer. Input your daily temperature into her app, and by comparing the readings with those in its data set, it lets you know when you can have unprotected sex (shown as a green day in its calendar) and when to use contraception (shown as red). Natural Cycles has conducted two clinical trials, the second of which analysed the data of more than 4,000 women aged 20-35. Over the course of one year, there were 143 unplanned pregnancies, ten of which occurred on green days, giving the app a 99.5 per cent eicacy rating – the same as the pill. Natural Cycles is currently the only app of its kind to be regulated as an approved medical device, putting it in the same category as condoms and IUDs – albeit in a diferent class. In June, the company received $6 million (£4.5m) in series A funding lead by Bonnier Growth Media, and its app has 100,000 users paying £6.99 per month. Berglund’s next aim? For it to be classified as a contraceptive, not a fertility monitor. “We are a natural alternative to the pill – with no side efects.” Daniela Walker

BIRTH CONTROLLER Elina Berglund has gone from helping discover the Higgs boson particle to creating Natural Cycles, an app-based alternative to the pill

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hold as much platinum as has ever been mined on Earth, but the real value of these deep-space treasure troves might be in their less glamorous contents. Hydrogen, oxygen or ammonia extracted from asteroids could be used to refuel spacecraft or provide radiation shielding for deep-space missions far beyond the asteroid belt. “The idea is to set these [asteroids] up as gas stations, and grow the economy in space so that we no longer need to carry up everything out of Earth’s gravity well,” says Ian Webster, the creator of Asterank, a database that charts over 600,000 known asteroids. Efforts are already under way to claim this prize. Asteroid mining startup Planetary Resources secured $21 million (£15.7m) in funding in May to build a satellite system to monitor the use of the Earth’s resources. Another US company, Deep Space Industries, is partnering with the government of Luxembourg to launch a test asteroid prospector in 2017. One spacecraft is looking for samples already. In December 2014, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) sent the spacecraft Hayabusa 2 to land on the asteroid Ryugu. If everything goes to plan, in 2020 it will return to Earth with material worth $95 billion (£71bn), according to Webster’s estimate. WIRED assesses the most lucrative mining destinations in space. Matthew Reynolds INFOGRAPHIC: VALERIO PELLEGRINI


ASTEROID Real diameter (km)

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the Torre Reforma, posed a tricky design challenge for London engineering firm Arup, thanks to the city’s predisposition to earthquakes. The 246-metre-tall skyscraper’s triangular structure has a tendency to twist when hit with seismic activity and wind. So Arup devised a new model for constructing concrete structures in earthquake-prone locations. “The core provides resistance to How does Mexico’s earthquakes using reinforced concrete newest skyscraper sheer walls, connected by smaller concrete elements known as coupling beams resist earthquakes? which dissipate energy during a large earthquake,” explains Tom Wilcock, an associate principal engineer at Arup’s Advanced Technology and Research practice in New York. Using historical earthquake data, and information from statistical and physical earthquake models, Arup’s structural engineers simulated representative earthquakes and their efects on the building’s structure during the design process. Now, Wilcox says, the Torre Reforma can withstand the full range of earthquake activity predicted for the next 2,500 years. Fingers crossed. Tina Amirtha

A series of spaced gaps within the concrete façade allow the walls to bend without breaking

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…well, Stephen Cave’s new Cambridge think tank may at least tame a rogue AI


ICTURE A SELF-DRIVING CAR THAT DETECTS A PEDESTRIAN IN THE ROAD and has to swerve to avoid them. Now imagine there are cyclists on both sides of the car – and only the one on the right is wearing a helmet. Should the car veer right, even if it means punishing safer cycling? Stephen Cave chuckles ruefully. “At least since Socrates we’ve been worrying about moral philosophy and how to describe what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says. “Now suddenly we’ve got to program this into artificial systems and it’s like, damn, we haven’t got very far.” Cave, 43, is executive director of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, which opens in Cambridge on October 17. Funded with a £10 million grant from the Leverhulme Trust, the centre is intended to unite thinkers and practitioners from diverse disciplines to address the questions posed by AI, from simple definitions (what exactly is AI?) to moral and legal conundrums (when AIs kill, who should take the blame?). The list of researchers leading each of the nine projects is a roll call of AI luminaries: Nick Bostrom, director of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute; Imperial College’s Murray Shanahan; and Berkeley’s Stuart Russell; but it

STEPHEN CAVE ON… General AI “There’s an assumption we’re moving towards human-like intelligence, and it just isn’t going to work like that. We’re going to see a lot of narrow AI before we see general AI (AGI), and when we do get AGI it’s not going to be one thing – it will be a menagerie of systems, some dangerous, some useful.” The kill switch “We need to be able to control these systems. The diiculty comes when they become so sophisticated they can efectively start enhancing themselves and influencing their environment, even changing their goals. But if we’re creating tools, we need to know where the of button is.” Job losses “It’s clear we’re going to face huge transitional problems as AI enters the workplace. My worry is that universal basic income isn’t progressive: it’s going to involve giving money to a lot of people who don’t need it. You can take that away in tax, but that tends to be very unpopular.” Autonomous weapons “Although we don’t want killer robots roaming the streets, there are advantages to weapon systems that don’t get angry, tired or vengeful. But they would have to comply with international law, so we need a global approach to this now, before we find ourselves in an AI arms race.” Privacy and AI “Many benefits of AI, for example in healthcare, will only come with large data sets, so privacy shouldn’t mean a lockdown on all personal information. However, we need greater awareness of the real value of our data, and to demand transparency about who is using it and how.”


AN IDEA SPARKED Detecting lightning is hard. The electromagnetic waves emitted by strikes move in concentric circles that are rarely parallel to the ground. So current systems – groundbased antennas that locate strikes using radio waves – underestimate the number of flashes, fail to record weak strikes and can’t process data fast enough to solve the real problem: predicting a storm. Vienna-based weather-service provider UBIMET is hoping to fix this. It has a system that measures lightning at a third of a millionth of a second, using five groundbased antennas to detect the electrical discharge of a strike. Once lightning hits, the electromagnetic waves travel through two copper coils at right angles, inducing a current. This is then registered by an embedded device, transferred to UBIMET’s central processing unit and transmitted to

meteorologists or paying companies within 30 seconds. “We can distinguish individual signals originating from different lightning strikes,” explains UBIMET co-founder Manfred Spatzierer, 39. “Every strike has its own characteristic pattern.” UBIMET already has detectors in place in Europe, the US and parts of Central and South America, and Southeast Asia. Now the company has partnered with The United Nations Development Programme to expand to central Africa, where it hopes to prevent natural disasters that can affect agriculture, health, energy and water supplies. Amateur weather watchers can download its free MORECAST app – but for more specific information, you’ll have to pay for the data, or set up your own sensors (London, for example, would need five sensors, costing £40,000). Striking stuff. Ruby Lott-Lavigna


also includes specialists in law, politics and psychology. One project is being led by Marta Halina, an expert in the cognition of chimpanzees. “That’s a project with a theoretical element that’s also practically very relevant,” says Cave, whose 2012 book Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilisation investigated attitudes towards dying. “Those worrying about risks can use these milestones to think, well, if we reach that point, then such-and-such a response needs to be triggered.” Some of the centre’s publications will come in the form of code. Leading computer scientists Zoubin Ghahramani and Adrian Weller are creating machine learning systems designed to be transparent and trustworthy – which Cave says could be adopted by Google DeepMind. He also expects to work closely with policymakers – “they are really asking for this kind of expertise”. Here his experience will come in handy: he previously spent eight years at the Foreign Oice, working mainly on EU treaty negotiations. So will our confrontation with AI be any less tense than Britain’s with the EU? “There will always be problems,” Cave says. “We’re not going to solve them once and for all. It’s more about creating the right kinds of forums, communities and vocabularies so people can talk to each other.” Today people, tomorrow machines. Rowland Manthorpe

You’re Better Than This

Listening Fail #30 “Cable Nightmare”

Listen Better at




POWDERING Scales are used to measure powders such as oxidisers, binders, colour enhancers and colour generators like strontium carbonate. These make up the firework’s star-like exploding core.


COATING After the stars have dried (a process that can take four days – too much heat and light can cause an explosion), they are coated in a priming composition and placed in these bombettes.

BIG BANG THEORY At the UK’s last surviving firework factory, preparations are underway for November 5. WIRED pays a visit to watch a Roman candle’s creation

THE WAREHOUSE Kimbolton Fireworks’ 16,000-square-metre warehouse in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, is where it all begins. Eleven employees produce 750 products here, making around 25,000 fireworks every year.


THE COMETS These 30-millimetre-wide blue cylinders are comets, one of a Roman candle’s most vital components. Made of fine titanium powder, they are responsible for producing the firework’s spectacular silvery tail.


MORE POWDERING This is where it gets hot. Fire transfer powder is laid on top of each bombette. This will take the ignition round and under the bombette to light lifting powder and propel the candle into the sky.



BINDING The powders are combined and moistened to activate the binder. Much of the work at Kimbolton is done by hand to avoid unwanted sparks – sensible in a factory full of gunpowder.

MERGING The Roman candle press takes two cardboard tubes at a time, where it consolidates stars, comets and other components to ensure the perfect burn (and explosion) when lit. Bangin’. RL-L

You’re Better Than This

Listening Fail #33 “Just Can’t Let Go”

Listen Better at

COSMETIC LIFT Online make-up company Glossier understands how to talk directly to you ON A WALL IN GLOSSIER’S NEW YORK CONFERENCE ROOM HANGS A FRAMED napkin with the beauty brand’s guiding principles scrawled in red lipstick: Inclusive, Innovative, Clever, Fun, Thoughtful. Not the most radical words, per se, but they begin to explain how this completely digital company has built an online following so rabid that, for a period of time last year, its eyebrow product had a 10,000-person waiting list. Glossier doesn’t rely on celebrity ads or department store placements. Employees talk to customers directly – via email, social media, the company’s site – in a casual voice that young people understand. If there’s such a thing as designing a millennial Founder Emily Weiss approach for selling a product, this gets pretty close. realised that tone of Its founder, 31-year-old Emily Weiss, worked at US Vogue voice is key to her business’s success in 2010 when she launched the beauty blog Into The Gloss.

As women flocked to the site to talk about their routines, Weiss realised that beauty companies had no idea what their customers were up to. “If I want to know how to do a black cat eye, I don’t drive to a department store,” Weiss says. “I’ll go on YouTube, cross-check reviews of a product, and then maybe talk about it on Instagram. There wasn’t a brand that encouraged me to take ownership of my routine – and understood that everyone is their own expert.” Glossier launched in October 2014 with the Phase 1 Set, four skincare products in blush-pink packaging. True to Weiss’ philosophy, the tone was engaging and non-judgemental, even when Glossier added concealers to the Phase 2 line. “We’re not telling you that you need a concealer. We’re providing a concealer in case you want it,” Weiss says. “We’re trying to give you the tools to be able to make whatever decision you want.” That breezy approach works for Glossier. When Annie Kreighbaum, the company’s executive editor, trains new copywriters, “the first thing I tell them is to forget everything,” she says. “And pretend you’re writing to your best friend.” The brand’s voice is that of your coolest friend who knows that trying too hard is antithetical to being cool. And it’s about pictures and vibes as much as words: photos of Gisele Bündchen, Georgia O’Keeffe paintings, glitter. Followers know that if they leave a comment, Glossier will respond directly. Asked if she feels competitive, Weiss shrugs. “How many lip balms do you own? Zillions,” she says. “We’re not saying we make the best of everything for everyone.” Yet many people love what they do, from teenage girls who show of Glossier face masks on Snapchat to thirtysomethings who tag the brand in selfies (the brand has more than 250,000 followers). In the first quarter of 2016, Glossier sold as much as it thought it would in a year, which made for five-figure waiting lists and impatient fans. The next logical step would be retail, Weiss concedes, though she’s intentionally vague. “I think about the Apple Store,” she says. “About creating hubs where you can touch and experience a product, but you can also connect with like-minded people.” Glossier does have a penthouse in its SoHo offices, where it occasionally hosts pop-ups. “We’ve had girls stay upstairs for hours and order pizza. And we have to be like, ‘OK, that’s a little too much’.” She says that, but you can tell it’s a point of pride. This is a woman who enjoys letting you do what you want. It’s paying off. Marisa Meltzer


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Prisma harnesses deep neural networks to reinterpret your smartphone photos as works of art. Current graphical starting points include Roy Lichtenstein, Edvard Munch and Katsushika Hokusai, with new artists added regularly. Results can be hit-and-miss, but are always surprising. iOS and Android, free SCRIVENER The beloved writing software, which splits manuscripts into multiple blocks, is finally available for iPhone and iPad. All the desktop features cherished by writers – scriptwriting, different trash cans for different documents, etc – are there. It’s not cheap, but serious wordsmiths will love it. iOS, £14.99 EXPONENT This Y Combinator-funded developer tool is an app for making apps. Its opensource framework enables you to build native apps for iOS and Android while coding in JavaScript and React Native. Founder Charlie Cheever is one of the co-founders of knowledge-market Quora. iOS and Android, free AUXY This pocket mixing-studio makes it easier than ever for wannabe producers to create their own beats. Its clever interface breaks tracks into small chunks which can be layered up and have effects applied. Auxy’s simple, visual way to make music also won it the Apple Design Award at WWDC 2016. iOS, free LOOK UP Nigerian-American artist Ekene Ijeoma wants New Yorkers to engage with their city instead of looking down at their phones. His app runs in the background and, once you reach a busy street intersection, alerts you to “look up” and allow something serendipitous to happen. Android, free BRICKSHOTS


Ever wondered what your favourite portraits would look like as Warhol-esque works of LEGO art? Brickshots imports your pics and creates brick-by-brick instructions. You’ll have to provide your own LEGO, but you can tweak the colour scheme and number of pieces. iOS and Android, free Alex Jordan

RWANDA’S GAS VALVE Lake Kivu’s KivuWatt power station isn’t just harvesting methane – it’s also averting a huge natural disaster

EEP BENEATH THE WATERS OF LAKE Kivu in Africa’s Rift Valley lies enough gas to power neighbouring Rwanda for the next 50 years – or to poison the two million people who live along its shores. “Deep springs carry CO2-rich water from volcanoes to the bottom of the lake, where bacteria turns some of it into methane,” explains Jarmo Gummerus, country manager for Rwanda at US energy firm ContourGlobal. “In ordinary lakes, this gas would disperse slowly into the atmosphere; Kivu is so deep, all the gas is trapped under pressure at the bottom.” ContourGlobal’s KivuWatt power station (below), inaugurated in May, now extracts and burns this methane to provide 25mW of power to an energy-starved Rwanda. The company is working to expand operations to 100mW – over half as much the current energy capacity of the country’s entire national grid. Stored safely underwater, Lake Kivu’s methane reserve represents Rwanda’s best hope for an energy-secure future. However, if the lake’s pressure balance destabilises, it could become the country’s greatest natural disaster. Over the next few hundred years, Kivu’s gas reserves will continue to accumulate, until a tipping point is reached and millions of tonnes of sufocating CO2 is released.



Destabilising events such as volcanic activity or earthquakes could trigger an eruption well before then. In 1986, at Cameroon’s Lake Nyos – one of only two other lakes to share Kivu’s unusual geochemistry – a landslide triggered just such an eruption, asphyxiating 1,700 people within a 25km radius. Kivu is 2,000 times greater in size. Given the scale of the hazard, not interfering with Kivu’s gas-water balance seems like a good idea. But, Gummerus says, inaction could be even riskier. “We re-pump the de-gassed liquid back down to 240 metres to ensure that the two layers are not disturbed,” he explains. “But if nothing is done, the gas pressure will, eventually, exceed the water pressure. By reducing the concentration of gas we’re actually making the lake safer.” Kathryn Nave


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“The truth is, we don’t know what tomorrow’s society will involve. We only know that some skills – speaking, listening, compromising – have been useful to help us cope with changing circumstances. Educating children with these skills could be done in our homes, but most people believe in a minimum standard of education for everyone, and the economy relies on parents being free to work. Schools ensure children gain the knowledge that has created productive societies so far. For now, a bog-standard THE BIG QUESTION school is probably the best answer.” PB

“Most education policies are based on old images of schooling. There’s innovation, but no system to take ideas and scale them up. By contrast, China has a reputation for rote learning, but is moving towards a model based on critical thinking and problem solving. Our young will have to work with knowledge that hasn’t been discovered yet, using technologies that haven’t been invented yet. This cannot be based on curriculum from the 20th century.”


“Educators are underequipped at preparing students for an uncertain future, leading tomorrow’s society to be shaped by yesterday’s tools. Wired from the crib, future citizens speak technology by default. Schools can’t afford to keep pace. Technology makers should have a fiduciary duty to education, offering unrestricted training, cuttingedge equipment and fiscal percentage points. Consider it a privately funded, publicly beneficial R&D investment.”


“The adage ‘Learning to learn’ still holds true. As teachers, we have to create environments conducive to exploration – because children are curious and we must make the most of this. The internet has changed things dramatically. When a group of children interacts via the cloud, they realise that they have much in common. They all have similar dreams and hopes. The challenge is placing before them questions that will trigger curiosity and search.”


“Students need to have agency over their learning. First, by mastering the core skills of reading, writing, maths, sciences and critical thinking – these require a solid foundation that can’t be learned in an industrial model of education, where they’re encouraged to be passive. Instead of a grade-point average, students should have a portfolio of achievements: computer programs, musical compositions, speeches given. These would be powerful credentials.”





Below: Carnegie Airborne Observatory’s hyperspectral camera is housed in a Dornier 288 aeroplane


OW CAN YOU TELL IF AN avocado’s gone bad just by looking at it? By examining it through a hyperspectral (HS) camera. These devices – also known as imaging spectrometers – see things the human eye cannot by scanning the world across multiple channels of light. Where humans see three wavelengths in the colour spectrum (red, green and blue), hyperspectral sensors can detect as many as 480. Trained at an avocado – or any of a range of objects, from eyeballs to trees – they can make visible the item’s traits, by using the reflective spectra created in the image’s pixels. Nasa developed the cameras 30 years ago for use in aerial imaging. “We’re often in the business of trying to understand what things are made of without touching them,” says Robert O Green, senior research scientist at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Lab. “Spectroscopy is a powerful analytical tool that enables remote measurement for scientific discovery and other applications.” These cameras once cost millions and weighed hundreds of kilograms – now, San Jose-based BaySpec sells 250g ones for $5,000 (£3,800). Sure, the quality isn’t the same, as smaller devices tend to cover less spectral range, but as their price and size continues to fall, startups are sniffing an oportunity. Bérénice Magistretti

RGB X 160 / START / 041

POINT, SHOOT AND CHANGE THE WORLD Hyperspectral cameras can spot diseases and rotten food – and keen startups are circling



CARISSA FLOCKEN Co-founder and CEO, Entry Point

FIVE WAYS HYPERSPECTRAL PHOTOGRAPHY IS IMPACTING THE WORLD ENVIRONMENT Carnegie Airborne Observatory, US This California-based scientific conservation programme is mapping out the chemical properties of forests to help predict tree mortality and determine vulnerability to drought (WIRED 03.12). Two imaging spectrometers are fixed on an aeroplane to measure the amount of water and nitrogen in each tree. “The hardware is stable enough to achieve a global mapping capability,” says project leader Greg Asner.


RORY CELLAN-JONES Technology correspondent, BBC





Gamaya, Switzerland Gamaya’s drone-mounted hyperspectral camera flies over farmland to map crops. The aim, according to co-founder Igor Ivanov, is to correlate spectral data with crop physiology to detect disease, weeds and nutrient deficiencies. So far, the team has mapped around 30,000 hectares of farmland in Brazil.

Optina Diagnostics, Canada Quebec-based Optina Diagnostics is screening patients for early signs of Alzheimer’s disease by taking hyperspectral images of their retinas. The team developed a metabolic hyperspectral retinal camera, which is being applied to identify beta-amyloids, a key biomarker of the disease. “The eye is a window into systemic illnesses,” says David Lapointe, the company’s CEO.

ImpactVision, US ImpactVision uses hyperspectral imaging to predict the shelf life of food. The startup, a product of Singularity University, is collaborating with the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany on a pilot to determine the pH and tenderness of beef. “There is a strong correlation between the pH value of red meat and its freshness,” says CEO Abi Ramanan.

Rebellion Photonics, US Based in Texas, Rebellion Photonics’s spectral video cameras search for gases such as methane and hydrogen sulfide to prevent explosions on oil rigs, refineries and pipelines. When emissions exceed a certain threshold, the camera raises the alarm. “Our clients don’t usually choose to [get the] alarm until a few thousand parts per million,” says CEO Allison Lami Sawyer. rebellion

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MADISON MAXEY Founder, The Crated

“I’m geeking out over Rimmel’s Get The Look app, which lets you virtually try on other people’s makeup styles. For busy people like me who have no time to consider what to wear, let alone perfect a new makeup look, this is amazing. And the best part... no makeup remover required.”

“I love the Flic smart button. You connect it to your smartphone via Bluetooth then choose from a menu of actions – it can control your music, trigger your camera, even find your phone. Having got one, I keep losing it – maybe I need to stick it to my forehead and invite people to press it.”

“I’m fascinated by the way JavaScript libraries such as Paper.js can change how patterns are designed. Writing a simple parametric algorithm can generate countless variations on a design, turning a laborious process into something scalable. I’ve been using Paper.js to make graphics for textiles.” RL-L

INDIA’S WEB WARRIOR ACEBOOK LAUNCHED ITS FREE BASICS programme in India in February 2015, promising to give millions of people free access to the internet. The ofer sounded irresistible – but New Delhi-based media entrepreneur Nikhil Pahwa thought it too good to be true. And he was right: the social network’s programme gave free access not to the whole web, but only to certain, preselected sites. “If there are 100 or 1,000 sites on Free Basics, then most people would not go outside that system to explore the open web,” says Pahwa, 35. “It limits competition and undermines the neutrality of the web.” Pahwa had formed Save the Internet two months earlier, after internet and mobile provider Bharti Airtel decided to charge customers more for making voice over IP phone calls – made through services such as Skype and WhatsApp – than for internet browsing. “It was about preventing anyone – large corporates, small service providers or government – controlling what you and I get to access,” he says. So when Facebook launched Free Basics, later called, Pahwa saw this as an extension of the same battle. “Facebook was playing kingmaker,” he says. Save the Internet, now known as the Internet Freedom Foundation, waded through complex consultations on web law and produced explainers, policy suggestions and a website that let anyone email the regulator. “We simplified the 118-page regulatory consultation paper into 24 pages,” says Pahwa. “I had MPs tell me

Nikhil Pahwa took on Facebook and big telcos – and won. Now he’s taking his campaign global

they read my version, not the regulators’.” His initial target for the petition was 15,000 signatures, which he says he hit in three hours; over the next 12 days, more than one million people sent submissions. “We realised through this entire process that people care about internet access and restrictions being placed on them.” In February 2016, the Indian telco regulator ruled in the protesters’ favour and banned all telecoms providers, including Facebook, from ofering “discriminatory tarifs for data services”. For Pahwa, the owner of the news website MediaNama, victory was sweet – but the fight was far from over. Now he is turning his attention to defending open-web principles in other countries. “There needs to be one internet for the whole world,” he says. “All should get access to the same internet as I do in India. The one space that unites us all is the internet.” Matt Burgess




Apollo 11 on GitHub

Nested emulators

Doom ports

Quantified meditation

Quantised beats

Qualified polls





Facebook buying Experian


McQueen leather

Belly button cheese

Personalised medicine



I want to be unhackable.

That’s why I want a solution that protects me from online threats and keeps me worry-free. Nothing guarantees complete protection, so please exercise caution online. Š 2016 Kaspersky Lab. All rights reserved. Registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.




AGGREGATION DEPRECIATES YOUR MIND “Would you throw your pet off a cliff for £1 million?” I posed this dilemma in a recent survey. Seven per cent of the British public said yes. The same survey also included a quiz of general knowledge and current events. I found that there was a correlation between how well people did on the quiz and how they answered the clif question. The least knowledgeable were most likely to sacrifice their pet for cash. This was not an isolated finding. In scores of surveys conducted in the UK and the US, general knowledge correlated not only with socially responsible behaviour, but with income (even allowing for educational level and age), self-reported health and happiness. Knowledge matters, even in the mobile device age. That’s why it’s important to make the most of the many hours we spend following the news online or elsewhere. Now you can let your friends crowdsource your news, choosing which stories appear in your news feed. You can configure news aggregators and your TV remote to deliver a bespoke version of the day’s events, one tailored to your interests, tastes and prejudices. It’s The Daily Me, the news purged of anything personally irrelevant or dull. Visionaries have long touted customisable media, but it’s now claimed that our surfeit of media choices actually drives political polarisation and is to be blamed for phenomena ranging from Brexit to Donald Trump. But there’s another effect of customised news that gets little attention and

William Poundstone is a bestselling American author. His latest book is Head in the Cloud: The Power of Knowledge in the age of Google (Oneworld)

may be equally as disturbing: narrowcasting makes us stupid. At least, it makes us less informed. My knowledge survey asked participants questions about the news, history, geography, literature, science, the arts and pop culture. The questions were roughly what you’d encounter in a trivia game: What is the capital of Canada? What is the religion of the Dalai Lama? Locate Antarctica on an unlabelled world map. Which is correct, “veil of tears” or “vale of tears?” The surveys also asked people which news and information sources they followed. In general, those who got their news from TV news channels, social networks or internet news aggregators were less informed than those who get their news from radio or newspapers. Most people in the survey followed more than one news source and the average number was 4.5. I didn’t average people who said they got all their news from Facebook, but rather an average of everyone who reported getting some news from Facebook. My averaging is a simple, though ham-handed, methodology that detected a lot of diference between news sources. People who followed one high-scoring news source tended to follow other high-scoring sources. Likewise, audiences for low-scoring sources followed other low-scoring sources, helping account for the substantial diferences in average scores. It’s worth noting that any given news source has its own audience demographics. As advertisers are aware, readers of The Times are better educated than the youthful one of Tumblr. Thus it’s not surprising that certain news sources have better-informed audiences. Yet when you look past individual sources and at the overall pattern, new media audiences know less than old media audiences. I believe this is in part because these legacy media are more diicult to customise.

Newspapers and radio newscasts ofer a fixed encapsulation of the day’s news, with a beginning, middle and end. Editors decide what’s news – the audience doesn’t. The audience tends to absorb the full survey. They may be half-listening or skimming much of the time, but they’re less likely to be changing the channel or being tempted by clickbait. They learn what the news editors think they should learn. This defies the anti-elitist ethos of our digital culture. We extrapolate the virtues of free choice to conclude that more choice is always better. But maybe that’s the wrong way to think of it. Ulysses had himself tied to the mast of his ship, so he could hear the music of the sirens without succumbing to their fatal lures. Today a “Ulysses pact” describes a vow or contract that restricts freedom of choice for one’s own good. You make one big decision not to let yourself make many little, dumb decisions. That’s essentially what audiences of high-scoring media do. They delegate news professionals to assemble a balanced view of the day’s news and expose themselves to ideas that they might not have sought out, acquiring the rarest commodity in the mediascape: the big picture. Customisation is like a McDonald’s burger: OK in moderation, as long as you get a balanced diet otherwise. You are what you know.



I n 2008, Chris Anderson, theneditor of WIRED’s US edition, wrote a provocative article entitled “The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete”. He envisaged how scientists would take the ever-expanding ocean of data, send a torrent of bits and bytes into a great hopper, then crank the handles of huge computers that run powerful

statistical algorithms to discern patterns where science cannot. Anderson dreamt of the day when scientists would no longer have to think. Eight years later, the deluge is truly upon us. Some 90 per cent of the data currently in the world was created in the last two years. There are high hopes that big data will pave the way for a revolution in medicine. But we need big thinking more than ever. With two co-authors in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, I just published a paper outlining how biology is too complex to rely on blindly harvested data. Today’s huge data sets still aford us an impoverished view of living things. Our largest land animal contains around 1,000 trillion cells, has a genome consisting of 3,000 million letters of genetic code, some 30,000 proteins, endless microbial passengers and so on. It takes a bewildering amount of data to fully capture the complexities of life.

Roger Highfield is director of external affairs at the Science Museum Group

The usual response is to put faith in machine learning, such as artificial neural networks inspired by biological ones. But no matter their “depth” and sophistication, these methods merely fit curves to available data. Blind data dredging is most likely to produce false leads. Spurious correlations are a familiar problem to those who use machine learning to identify promising new drugs. The same goes for linking genes to disease. A recent study of 61,000 exomes (the parts of their genetic code that make proteins) found only nine of 192 supposedly “pathogenic variants” had a strong disease association. The overestimate of peak influenza levels by Google Flu Trends reminds us that past success in describing epidemics is no guarantee of future performance: we have to take particular care when extrapolating from existing data. Researchers still need to ask the right questions to create a hypothesis, design a test and use the data to determine whether that hypothesis is true. We have seen the power of this approach at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, which generates one petabyte of data every day – the equivalent of around 210,000 DVDs. Although the discovery of the Higgs boson required a deluge of data, physicists used theory to initiate and guide their search. In the same way, we do not predict tomorrow’s weather by averaging historic records of that day’s weather. Mathematical models do a much better job with real-time data from satellites. That is why a team at Los Alamos National Laboratory is using theory to help guide the development of new materials. They direct data collection using Bayesian probabilistic methods, with experimental design driven by theoretical insight. A blend of theory and measurement is how to make progress in medicine, too. My co-author, Peter Coveney at UCL, has shown how to design a drug based on a person’s genetic make-up, and within a matter of hours. He uses Newtonian dynamics and heavyweight computation to explore how candidate drug molecules interact with a target protein in the body. In the long term, we need mathematical models of the human body (we already have a pretty good beating heart). Then, in a few decades, a doctor will be able to create a virtual model of you, based on your own data. She will be able to treat, dissect and explore your digital doppelgänger before she experiments on you. When that day dawns, we will have truly personalised medicine.




SADIE CREESE Creese is director of the world renowned Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre at the University of Oxford.

MUSTAFA AL-BASSAM UK-based Al-Bassam is a former LulzSec hacker. He is now security advisor at Secure Trading and a PhD researcher.

CAMERON COLQUHOUN The former intelligence analyst founded London’s “ethical” intelligence firm Neon Century in 2014.


TROY HUNT Sydney-based Hunt has received six Microsoft MVP awards and created data breach awareness site Have I Been Pwned?

PATRICIA LEWIS At Chatham House, Lewis focuses on global security, WMDs and international non-proliferation and disarmament efforts.

ALEX RICE Rice founded San Francisco’s HackerOne, a vulnerability and bug bounty platform with security teams from leading tech firms.








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THE NOT-SO-SECRET WEAPON OF SIMPLICITY arly on in my advertising career, I slowly began to understand the power of simplicity. It happened when I went to work at Apple’s ad agency, Chiat/Day, in LA. Not that I had anything to do with Apple’s award-winning ads – I was a glorified file clerk. But I was struck by the simplicity in Apple’s advertising, and that inspired me to try my hand at writing. I never imagined that years later I would return to the same agency (then called TBWA\ Chiat\Day) as creative director on the Apple account – and Steve Jobs would become my client. Working with Steve was an adventure, but it was also an education. I could see that simplicity had the power to transform a business in the most profound ways. The year was 1997. Steve had just returned to Apple after 11 years in exile, and Apple was teetering near bankruptcy. With the world eager to see what Steve would do, we created a brand campaign to lay the foundation for things to come. Steve was not your typical ad agency client. He hated advertising that sounded like advertising and demanded something that was authentic and that captured the essence of Apple. The result was “Think different”. Those two words described what the company had always been about, all the way back to its first days in the Jobs’ family garage. The ads featured nothing more than a single image of a person who had changed the world for the better accompanied by the words “Think different”. And the Apple logo, of course. It was stark and simple, and became the inflection point from which the reignited Apple would emerge. After six months of the ads, the first new computer model to follow this campaign would also have to be proof that the slogan wasn’t just advertising hype. We needed a name for this computer, and Steve already had one that he loved:

Ken Segall worked with Steve Jobs as his ad agency creative director for 12 years, and he created the now-ubiquitous Apple i-suffix. He is author of THINK SIMPLE: How Smart Leaders Defeat Complexity (Portfolio Penguin)

MacMan. Unless we could come up with something better, that would be it, he said. This was a terrifying prospect. We were determined to save the world from MacMan. When I went to work on it, the name iMac actually came quickly. That’s because the concept of that machine was “the easy way to the internet” – at a time when non-techy people were unsure how to get there. It was simple logic: internet + Macintosh = iMac. H o w e v e r p e r f e c t t h e a ge n c y believed it to be, Steve didn’t like it at all. A week later, we shared new names, and tried to bring back iMac once again. But Steve would still have no part of it. It was only after he’d shared a mock-up with his inner circle, that the positive reactions changed his mind. Given his minimalist sense of design, Steve came to love how the name looked on the machine. It was concise and tasteful, and didn’t distract from the shockingly different shape and colour of that first iMac. He appreciated that the i-format created a simple naming framework for future products – even though none of us imagined what lay ahead for that little character. For one simple letter, it sure did a ton of work.

As Apple continued its recovery in the following months, Steve’s love of simplicity became more visible in hardware and software design, packaging, and even the design of Apple’s retail stores. Simplicity was a powerful competitive advantage. Ben & Jerry’s co-founder talked about how the company maintained simplicity as it went global. The CEO of Whole Foods talked about culture as the most powerful simplifier. But simplicity isn’t simple. It takes commitment and energy – and complexity will creep in at any moment. Apple, in particular, knows this. Despite its history, the critical voices among its customers are growing louder. Some people feel that the company’s product choices are becoming less distinct, its software has become more complicated (Apple Music), even the product naming feels less simple (iPhone 6S, 6S Plus and SE). Because Jobs led Apple to such success, some people have a kneejerk reaction when they perceive that something is different. The truth is, Apple experienced a number of similar moments in Steve’s time. The revolutionary iPod, for example, expanded into a line of four products. The company’s early cloud service, MobileMe, was plagued with problems. Personally, I don’t worry that Apple has “lost its way”. Simplicity is in the company’s DNA. Both Tim Cook and design chief Jony Ive speak of it often. The simple fact is that today’s Apple faces challenges that Jobs’s Apple did not. Its audience has matured and diversified. It must expand its product line accordingly or lose customers to competitors. (Just as it lost customers to Samsung for a couple of years by not having a large-screen iPhone.) As Apple continues to grow, what it needs most is a “Simplicity Czar”. It became the most valuable company in the world by building products people can fall in love with. When that is the goal, simplicity is one place where there can be no compromise.



L ike a kind of secret agent, I once infiltrated the training programmes of a broad range of professions dedicated to getting us to say “yes”. For almost three years, I recorded the lessons taught to aspiring automobile salespeople, direct marketers, TV advertisers, front-line managers, charity fundraisers, public relation specialists and corporate recruiters. I’d expected that the aces of these professions would spend more time than the inferior performers developing their requests for change: the clarity, logic and desirable features of them. That’s not what I found. The highest achievers spent more time crafting what they did and said before making a request. They set about their mission as skilled gardeners who know that even the finest seeds will not take root in stony soil or bear fullest fruit in poorly prepared ground. They spent much of their time toiling in the fields of influence, thinking about and engaging in cultivation – ensuring that the situations they were facing had been pre-treated and readied for growth. Of course, the best performers also considered and cared about what, specifically, they would be ofering in those situations. But much more than their less-effective colleagues, they didn’t rely on the legitimate merits of an ofer to get it accepted; they recognised that the psychological frame in which an appeal is first placed can

Robert Cialdini is the author of Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade (Random House Books)

carry equal or even greater weight. Besides, they were frequently in no position to tinker with the merits of what they had to ofer; someone else in the organisation had created the product, programme or plan they were recommending, often in fixed form. Their responsibility was to present it most productively. To accomplish that, they did something that gave them a singular kind of persuasive traction: before introducing their message, they arranged to make their audience sympathetic to it. There’s a critical insight in all this for those of us who want to learn to be more influential. The best persuaders become the best through “pre-suasion” – the process of arranging for recipients to be receptive to a message before they encounter it. To persuade optimally, then, it’s necessary to pre-suade optimally. But how? In part, the answer involves an essential but poorly appreciated tenet in all communication: what we present first changes the way people experience what we present to them next. It can be exposure to a number, the length of a line or a piece of music; it can be a brief burst of attention to any of a variety of selected psychological concepts. These are things that enhance persuasion, the concepts that most elevate the likelihood of assent. It’s important here to take note of my choice of the word likelihood, which reflects an inescapable reality of operating in the realm of human behaviour – claims of certainties in that province are laughable. No persuasive practice is going to work for sure whenever it is applied. Yet there are approaches that can consistently heighten the probability of agreement. And that is enough. A meaningful increase in those odds is enough to gain a decisive advantage. In the home, it’s enough to give us the means to get greater compliance with our wishes – even from that most resistant of all audiences: our children. In business, it’s enough to give organisations that implement these approaches the means to outpace their rivals – even rivals with equally good cases to make. It’s also enough to give those who know how to employ these approaches the means to become better, even the best, performers within an organisation.

Researchers have been applying a rigorous scientific approach to the question of which messages lead people to concede, comply and change. They have documented the sometimes staggering impact of making a request in a standard way versus making the identical request in a different, better-informed fashion. Besides the sheer impact of the obtained efects, there is another noteworthy aspect of the results: the process of persuasion is governed by psychological laws, which means that similar procedures can produce similar results over a wide range of situations. And, if persuasion is lawful, it is – unlike artistic inspiration – learnable. Whether possessed of an inherent talent for influence or not, insightful about the methods or not, a gifted artisan of the language or not, it is possible to learn scientifically established techniques that allow any of us to be more influential. Importantly different from my previous book, Influence, is the sciencebased evidence of not just what best to say to persuade, but when best to say it. From that evidence, it is possible to learn how to recognise and monitor the natural emergence of opportune moments of influence. It is also possible (but more perilous, ethically) to learn how to create those moments. Whether operating as a moment monitor or a moment maker, the individual who knows how to time a request, recommendation, or proposal properly will do exceedingly well.



On November 9, we will announce the winners of the 2016 WIRED Audi Innovation Awards. Here are the nominees in our final categories: Scientific Breakthrough and Leadership in Innovation

A scientific breakthrough can unlock long-standing problems and have the potential to have a long-term impact on human wellbeing. But which UK project thrilled and amazed us in 2016?

spearheaded a scientific revolution in the 17th century is, of course, the birthplace of Isaac Newton, DNA pioneers Crick and Watson, and inventor of the web Tim Berners-Lee. Looking back, 2016 will likely be remembered as a thrilling year in science. In February, researchers at the LIGO project announced that they had detected gravitational waves – likely produced by two merging black holes – confirming a century-old Einstein hypothesis. Less than a month

later, the Hubble Space Telescope spotted the farthest galaxy ever detected (GN-z11), some 13.4 billion light years from Earth. But it’s not all been space news. German physicists have turned on the Stellerator – a device to help study nuclear fusion. US biologists have frozen a rabbit’s brain, and then thawed it without damage, in a breakthrough for cryopreservation. Graphene has been mooted as a way to build neural implants, and a new cancer-spotting microscope has been designed. We asked a team of science experts to nominate which were the most relevant UK scientific discoveries that have happened in 2016. Each nominee has worked tirelessly to unlock problems or scientific endeavours that have the potential for positive impact on human well-being. Which of them will be awarded WIRED’s Scientific Breakthrough award?


CATEGORY 6: SCIENTIFIC BREAKTHROUGH Science is the scaffolding on which innovation is built. From quantum computers to 3D-printed organs, genetic tweaking and super-strong materials, the future is being cooked up every day in university labs, R&D units and experimental institutions. Scientific innovation – from astrophysics to zoology – is exciting and it’s happening all the time in the UK, as proven by the number of British science-related biopics released in recent years. The nation that

Athene Donald

Roger Highfield

Imran Khan

Gail Cardew

Catharina Paukner

A physicist and author of over 250 papers on soft matter and the physics of biology.

Highfield is a prolific scientific writer and ex-Daily Telegraph and New Scientist editor.

Khan promotes science as the head of public engagement at the Wellcome Trust.

Professor of science, culture and society at London’s Royal Institution.

At Cambridge Nanosystems, Paukner’s team can turn methane into graphene.





Henry Snaith

Sheila Rowan

Snaith is currently researching how to develop low-cost energy harvesting concepts, focusing on sunlight as the power source. He is the group leader of Oxford University’s Photovolatic and Optoelectronic Device Group.

Rowan’s research at the University of Glasgow contributed to a significant breakthrough in 2016, detecting gravitational waves for the first time. It proved a 100-year-old theory conceived by Albert Einstein.

Magdalena ZernickaGoetz

Guillem AngladaEscudé

Using molecular and cellular mechanisms, Zernicka-Goetz is building new tools to enable the study of embryonic development. Cell differentiation in human embryos is being understood better by working with mouse tissue.

With the Pale Red Dot project, Anglada-Escudé is showing the public “definitive evidence” of a new, habitable, Earth-like planet in orbit around Proxima Centauri – Earth’s second nearest star after our own Sun.

Waseem Qasim

Demis Hassabis

At Great Ormond Street, Qasim is working on new forms of leukaemia treatment. His approach – which creates immune cells and kills drug-resistant forms of the disease – has cured two children with leukaemia.

Hassabis is the co-founder of Google DeepMind, the firm closest to producing true AI. DeepMind Health is working with the NHS to apply machine learning to new cancer treatments at University College London Hospital.

Peter Kazansky

Kathy Niakan

Kazansky’s team of scientists at the University of Southampton is using specially nanostructured glass to store information. The technique allows for up to 360TB of disc data capacity, with stability at temperatures of up to 1,000°C.

In February, the HFEA granted Niakan a licence to edit the genes of human embyros for research at the The Francis Crick Institute. It’s the first time such work – studying differentiation during human development – will have taken place.

Leadership in Innovation allows talent in organisations to thrive – whether it’s the coach of an Olympic athlete, or a bold CEO inspiring leaders and paving the way for others to succeed


CATEGORY 7: LEADERSHIP IN INNOVATION and his tough leadership style, are far more than Apple’s motto – they have become part of the modern lexicon and consciousness. In the same way, the current rush of enthusiasm for learning about the lives and opinions of other technology A-list executives – from founders such as Richard Branson and Eben Upton, to Nobel Prize-winners like Paul Nurse – is revealing of innovators’ huge potential to bring about meaningful discussion and change. That’s why one of the categories in the WIRED Audi Innovation Awards had to focus on Leadership in Innovation – to acknowledge and celebrate the individuals and teams who have inspired their personnel and the public to greater heights. A panel of judges (right) assisted with pointing out who – in private enterprises, public institutions, establishments of higher education and beyond – has distinguished themselves in 2016, bringing about innovation and kindling other people’s ambitions. But who or what will eventually deserve WIRED’s title of innovator-in-chief?


Mike Lynch

Reshma Sohoni

As CEO, Lynch has helped Invoke Capital raise more than £1bn to invest in tech ventures.

Sohoni’s Seedcamp is a European accelerator that’s invested in over 200 companies. ILLUSTRATION: MARCUS MARRITT

To move forward, we sometimes need people to show us the way. Although technology projects and science research are often team eforts, just as often groups of innovators achieve their best when rallying behind a leader who is able to inspire and motivate them with a visionary idea or an exciting master plan. Such leaders can come in many guises: a maverick academic in charge of a cutting-edge science lab; an experienced businesswoman at the helm of a company building groundbreaking tech; a young entrepreneur inventing an entire sector; a celebrated institution or university that has kept successfully embracing new challenges throughout the decades. In all those cases, a clear vision and a will to improve the world have helped leaders make a diference and triggered significant change. Leadership in innovation is not just about setting – and attaining – corporate goals, either. The influence of leaders often extends beyond their company’s boundaries, reaching out to society. Steve Jobs’s unforgettable “stay hungry, stay foolish” mantra,

#WiredAudiAwards THE NOMINEES

Rory Cellan-Jones

Madhumita Murgia

Sarah Drinkwater

Bill Thompson

Cellan-Jones is a journalist for BBC News, specialising in economics and technology.

Former WIRED staff, Murgia is now the FT’s European technology correspondent.

Drinkwater heads up Google’s Campus in London, a space dedicated to entrepreneurs.

Earlier this year, Thompson began leading Make It Digital, the BBC’s creativity initiative.

Eben Upton

Paul Nurse

Upton founded Raspberry Pi, the manufacturer of small, cheap, customisable computers. It’s sold more than ten million units globally, helping inspire a new generation of coders, creators and makers.

Nobel Prizewinner Paul Nurse launched the Francis Crick Institute, a biomedical research facility, in early 2016. He is its chief executive and director, with around 1,500 scientists working across many fields.

Matt Clifford & Alice Bentinck

Martha Lane Fox

Clifford and Bentinck’s Entrepreneur First is a six-monthlong accelerator programme. It’s helped more than 50 startups, including Magic Pony, which was bought for £102m.

Earlier this year Lane Fox joined the board at Twitter. She established the digital inclusion organisation DotEveryone in 2015 and is a House of Lords crossbencher.

Sheila Rowan

Demis Hassabis

After proving Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves, Rowan was made chief scientific adviser for Scotland. She remains director of the Institute for Gravitational Research.

With DeepMind, acquired by Google in 2014, Hassabis aims to “solve intelligence”. The London-based company has been nominated for four out of the seven WIRED Audi Innovation awards.

Dave Brailsford

Kathy Niakan

Brailsford was knighted following the success of Team GB in cycling at London 2012. He now leads Team Sky, which – implementing his “marginal gains” methodology – has won the Tour de France four times in the last five years, most recently with Chris Froome.

In February this year, Niakan became the first biologist to be permitted to genetically modify human embryos, using the CRISPR-Cas9 technique. She is a group leader at the Francis Crick Institute and was named as one of the 100 most influential people by TIME magazine.



THE FUTURE OF FUELS: E-GAS ver the course of the next 24 years, fossil fuel consumption is set to increase by 13.4 percent. To help reduce emissions and increase fuel efficiency, car manufacturers are looking for alternative energy solutions, as drivers are becoming more aware of their impact on the planet. One such smart solution is Audi e-gas. The fuel, which is produced through a combination of electrolysis and methanation, is being developed by two of Audi’s plants in Germany. In the Audi e-gas plant in Werlte in the German state of Lower Saxony, renewably-generated electricity is used to break water into hydrogen and oxygen. In the second step, the hydrogen is reacted with CO2 to yield synthetic methane – or e-gas.

Its similarity to natural gas means distributing Audi e-gas to filling stations and into vehicles on a large scale is easily viable. Audi says fuel from the plant can power 1,500 Audi A3 Sportback g-tron cars for 15,000km of CO2-neutral transport annually. In contrast to Werlte, at a facility in Allendorf, methanation occurs via biological means. Elsewhere, Audi is teaming up with partners to produce Audi e-diesel and Audi e-ethanol. These fuels are virtually climate-neutral, as they only release as much CO2 during combustion as was chemically bound during production. Audi predicts that a car operated on e-diesel will achieve a carbon footprint similar to that of an electric car using electricity produced from renewable sources.

At the end of 2016, the Audi A4 Avant g-tron is due for European release, with the newly announced A5 Sportback g-tron following. Drawing on the success of the A3 Sportback g-tron, they’ll bring CO2-free driving to even more consumers. Add to that a range of up to 400km using gas alone – and more with the petrol engine’s assistance – plus the usual benefits of Audi ownership, and e-gas looks increasingly compelling. See wired-audi-innovation-awards

AUDI’S GOALS FOR 2025 In addition to its g-tron range, Audi aims to release a standard fuel-cell model, and wants electric cars to account for over a quarter of its production by 2025. Audi is also planning a closed sustainability loop, to reduce the environmental impact of its manufacturing.


DUCATI SCRAMBLER ICON A modern take on Ducati’s 70s bikes, the Scrambler Icon keeps the ride simple while adding design flourishes such as a teardropshaped tank. Usually available in red or yellow, we’ve added some

WIRED extras to this model. Alongside the vintage “W” logo, there’s a pop of fluorescent colour on the mudguard to stand out against the metallic grey paint. From £7,487




HOW WE TESTED WIRED got access to the cavernous Millennium Mills in London’s Royal Docks, where work has started on the £3.5bn redevelopment by The Silvertown Partnership. Armed with a hydraulic cherry picker and site managers Paul Fawcett and Steve Timperly, WIRED dropped each radio on to rubble at one-, two-, three-, four- and five-metre intervals. If the radio still worked after five drops, the height was increased to ten and 20 metres. Sound quality was rated in office and workshop conditions.






HERE COMES THE DROP WIRED tossed four brutish builder’s radios from a cherry picker to find out which ones are site-worthy or skip-ready

Spec Takes 14.4 and 18V Li-ion batteries Drop-rated to 3m

Spec Compatible with 10.8-18V Festool batteries IPX3 splash-proof

Spec 5.5-19hr battery life IPX4 water resistance

Spec Built-in 5V/1A USB charging Compatible with 12V and 20V DeWalt MAX batteries (10hrs)

Makita DMR104

Compatible with many slide and cluster batteries, this is a flexible choice that also charges via mains power. Its rugged, compact design was a hit with tester Steve Timperly – who was “gutted” when it smashed at the ten-metre-drop mark. Despite his insistence it could be Gaffer-taped back together, its fragile casing was a disappointment. Audio is unrefined, but loud enough for a busy site. 6/10 £109

DeWalt DWST08810

Designed to stack with other DeWalt ToughSystem cases, this hefty IP54- (dust- and splash-proof) rated boom box features FM/DAB and Bluetooth, plus a scaffoldshaking downfiring subwoofer. Audio is big but balanced, and it still played after a 20m drop, but operation was hindered by the smashed LCD screen. 8/10 £189

Hitachi UR18DSDL

The springmounted cage is visually reassuring, but in practice is puny compared to the Bosch: its components creak when grabbed. Despite the cheap plastic casing – which, predictably, shattered at the first sign of rubble – the radio was robust. Bluetooth, USB, AUX-in, DAB and FM/ MW complete a decent feature list, but the sound and build quality are better suited to the site office. 6/10 £132

Festool SYSROCK BR10

Festool is known for its high-quality woodworking tools, so WIRED didn’t expect much from its palm-sized, 700g BR10. How wrong we were. The lack of DAB will put some off, but the 10W neodymium speaker sounded great. And, despite the battery popping off during the drop test, the radio bounced imperviously off the rubble way beyond our 20m limit. 9/10 £130









Metres 0

Besides the IP54-rated FM/ MW radio, this spring-mounted unit packs in two 230V standard plug sockets, a battery charger, 12V socket, USB, SD card slot and an iPhone 5-sized cavity with audio connections. Clear 360° sound filled WIRED’s workshop, despite the background noise. After the 20-metre drop, externally, you could barely tell it had been thrown seven times. Sadly, the internal electronics failed the last test. 8/10 £260

Bosch GML50



Spec 7.2 – 18V battery compatibility AUX-in 4.5-17hr battery life

Digital extra! Download the WIRED app to watch the radios tested on-site


Relax & Unwind Introducing PowerView™ Motorisation from Luxaflex® A remarkable new system that moves your shades throughout the day, so you don’t have to. Create personalised settings with your smart phone or tablet, or use our uniquely designed Pebble™ remote control to activate your favourite pre-set program. Beautifully stylish, brilliantly innovative - smart shades that simplify your life. See PowerView™ in motion at

F E T I S H LOVE HULTÉN R-KAID-R This luxurious solid-wood portable arcade console with a detachable eightway joystick offers a nostalgiaenhanced look at early 80s gaming. Handmade by Swedish designer Love Hultén and limited to 50 units per case material, the R-Kaid-R contains sufficient storage space for up to 10,000 games, from Pac-Man and Space Invaders to Asteroids. €2,499



The R-Kaid-R is available in walnut, maple or green ash

IMITATION GAMING Relive the glory days of arcade action, albeit in a far more refined setting

R-T YPE / GEAR / 065

TESLA GOES BACK TO THE FUTURE Elon Musk launches his latest all-electric car – the Model X. But does it offer more than DeLorean-style doors and a hefty price tag?

The Falcon Wings rise up before spreading out, and are high enough that an adult can stand under them without stooping

The Model X 90D has 259hp motors at front and rear, with a range of 487km; the P90D has 259hp at front, 503hp at rear, and a range of 466km




THE MODEL X MARKS STAGE THREE OF Elon Musk’s masterplan for Tesla. First the Lotus-based Roadster seduced early adopters, then the Model S saloon lured eco-friendly technocrats. Now, the Model X, an SUV with up to seven seats, is targeting (wealthy) families. Like most things Tesla, the Model X has been a long time coming. Unveiled in 2013, it targeted an early 2014 launch date. The first right-handdrive UK cars won’t arrive until the end of this year, but WIRED was given a preview of the European model at a Tesla event in Munich. The delay is understandable: this is an exceptionally complex car from a company that, in automotive terms, is minuscule. Even Musk admitted that, “I’m not sure anyone should have made this car,” nor does he dispute that the “Falcon Wing” rear doors were problematic. Double-hinged and electrically powered, they’ve been designed to open with as little as 28cm of clearance either side, and ultrasonic sensors stop the action if there’s something in the way. Their birth has not been trouble free, with early customers complaining of doors that stick and faulty sensors. Tesla’s head of sales and service Jon McNeill told WIRED that software updates will fix these issues before UK deliveries roll out, admitting that US early adopters had efectively been used as test drivers. Assuming he’s right, there’s no doubt the Falcon Wings will prove an instant hit on the school run. They have a practical benefit too, allowing easier access to the adult-friendly third row of seats. Although the X comes as standard with five seats, most will be sold with three rows of chairs in either a 2-2-2 or a 2-3-2 formation. Individually mounted on a monopost, the middle row of seats can independently recline, and the third row tips and folds when not in use. There’s an additional 187 litres of luggage space in the nose, which Tesla calls a “frunk” (front trunk). The rest of the cockpit will be familiar to Model S owners. Attention focuses on the 17-inch touchscreen. Android powered, it controls everything from satnav to the electronic door releases. This system has the advantage of being easily updated – and the disadvantage of putting huge reliance on one piece of tech: if the screen fails, there’s little redundancy.

CONVERTIBLE ATMOSPHERE The Model X can be supplied with Tesla’s new Bioweapon Defense [sic] Mode. Tesla claims this features the industry’s first medical-grade HEPA air-filter system which removes 99.97 per cent of particulate exhaust pollution. On its most potent setting, it creates positive pressure inside the cabin to protect the occupants. In use it’s airlinercabin noisy, and although WIRED was unable to test its efficacy against a militarygrade bio attack (as Tesla claims), it did prove useful in combating a bout of hay fever.

The X uses a variation of the aluminium chassis found in the Model S. There are electric motors front and rear, delivering de facto all-wheel drive, with the lithium-ion battery pack between. On the flagship P90D model, the front motor develops 259hp and, on the rear, 503hp. The combined system power – limited by the battery pack – is 532hp. There’s also 1,061kg/m of torque, which is available instantly. Opt for the “Ludicrous” mode and you have a 2,468kg family car that’s capable of accelerating from 0-100kph in a shade over three seconds – that’s supercar fast. It’s wonderfully addictive, but use it regularly and the claimed range of 466km will tumble dramatically. The low-slung batteries help lower the centre of gravity, but the Model X is no sports car. You never quite escape the feeling you’re sat in a giant SUV, and its sheer bulk can be a problem in the UK (at 227cm, it’s fractionally wider than a Range Rover). The ride on the air suspension is also quite stif, and for all its SUV aspirations, the Model X isn’t built for going of-road. Better to sit back and enjoy the view through the largest panoramic glass roof in production. Model X life begins at £64,100 for the 60D rising to £100,000+ for the P90D. Add extras such as Tesla’s autonomous driving (autopilot) system, and that figure can easily rise to more than £120k. It’s far from cheap, but despite its late arrival, the Model X still has the electric SUV market to itself. No one else ofers such pace, practicality – and cool doors. 8/10

HOW WE TESTED Chaperoned by a Tesla representative, WIRED test-drove the Model X on a pre-determined route of around 30 minutes in Munich. We also accumulated additional unsupervised time behind the wheel of a Model X in Los Angeles.


IMPERIAL LEATHER Four desirable products that make the most out of this material’s luxurious qualities



1. B&W P9 SIGNATURE Crafted with soft Italian Saffiano leather, B&W’s latest signature P9 headphones are as technically adept as they are visually arresting. They feature new piston diaphragm speaker drivers that serve up a crisp midrange and solid bottom end for studio-like sound reproduction, and the hinged design means you can easily stash them in their bundled protective pouch. £700



The new Mod Pro has magnetic modular inserts to accommodate all manner of accessories and tablets, as well as your iPad Pro. It also features a magnetic slot for Apple’s Pencil stylus, and a built-in Tile Bluetooth tag, making the bag easy to track if it (and your tech) goes walkabout. £305

Patek Philippe’s new timepiece for globetrotters boasts a 24hour day/night indicator for each time zone, which can be changed to align with each city found on its face. The 239part automatic mechanism with 48-hour power reserve runs at 21,600 vibrations per hour for supreme accuracy, and its chocolate-brown alligator leather strap seals the deal. CHF 42,300






4. NATIVE UNION TAG CABLE The scourge of smartphone addiction is charging: it’s a must if you want to avoid a catastrophic end-of-day loss of communications. Native Union’s sharp tan leather Tag loops on to bag straps, hiding Apple Lightning and USB connectors beneath a small flap. You’ll need a power source to charge, but this smart cable means you need never resort to Low Power Mode again. £40



SEBASTIAN BERGNE HOT MILK LAB London-based industrial designer Sebastian Bergne’s Hot Milk Lab is inspired by a combination of 18th-century hotchocolate houses and 21st-century milkshakes. Its glass beakers, carafes and jug with built-in thermometer make mixing liquid lactoprotein into a social activity. £poa sebastian


This appconnected smallbatch roaster gives precise control over the entire process, with up to 20 temperature points and ten fan adjustments. A custom-designed hand-luggagesized Peli Storm case makes the Ikawa Pro easily transportable for coffee testing on the go. £2,200 (+VAT)



Each segment folds back into the next, creating a pleasing display of engineering as it opens and closes

SPLINTERWORKS DIME Constructed from 12 curving American walnut segments, each edged with sycamore veneer, the hemispherical Dime cabinet echoes the effect of a spinning coin. Inside, there’s a wine rack with storage for 14 bottles, a minibar for mixing drinks and a shelf for storing glassware. £1,950 (+VAT)

This hornshaped travel mug pays tribute to a popular legend that the energising property of coffee was first discovered by a herd of Abyssinian goats. Unlike

the traditional drinking horn, however, there’s no expectation to quaff your brew in a single go – the insulating grip flips upside-down to act as a stand. From $29.50


WIRED quenches your thirst for innovative imbibing

RIEDEL CRYSTAL AYAM DECANTER The farmyard fowl may be an unusual inspiration for luxury wineware, but the curved shape of the Indonesian Ayam hen translates to a surprisingly graceful hand-blown crystal decanter. Designed by Maximilian J Riedel, this piece celebrates the firm’s 260th anniversary and comes in clear (below), or with a white or black stripe. £316

The curling tail enables the decanter to be hung from the edge of your table


The Ayam decanter speeds up the aeration of your red wine by gurgling air through the liquid as you pour



A SHOT IN THE DARK WIRED pits three big-brand full-frame digital cameras against each other to see which one comes up trumps in the low-light stakes


THERE USED TO BE CERTAIN UNIVERSAL TRUTHS when it came to digital cameras. The bigger the unit, the better it was, and the higher the pixel count, the greater the impetus for you to buy it – until the numbers rose again. Neither of those sentiments necessarily rings true any more, however, with high pixel counts being the exact opposite of what you need when shooting in low light. The more pixels you cram on to a sensor, the smaller each one has to be – and that’s bad news for light capture. This is why the three cameras in this test have modestly low pixel counts – in one case as low as 12.2 megapixels. First up, the Sony A7S II, which has been wooing low-light shooters for some time, and also has an expanded top ISO speed of 409,600. Next, the Nikon D5, which grabbed headlines at launch for its incredible expanded ISO setting of 3,280,000. This is very, very, very high and means it’s super sensitive to light. Finally, the Canon EOS 1DX Mark II is not as specced as the Nikon, but still boasts a pretty good sensitivity of ISO 409,600 (expanded).

HOW WE TESTED WIRED used each camera in low-light situations to assess focusing speeds and image quality. These included dimly lit rooms and subjects lit only by moonlight, to an almost pitchblack situation. All images were reviewed for the test, but only the Sony A7S II focused and produced an image (of varying quality) in all situations.

Digital extra! Download the WIRED app to read extra and extended reviews





You will likely want your camera to do more than perform in low light, and each of these cameras has pros and cons. The D5 sports a battery which can last for a superlative 3,780 shots (the A7S II is only good for 310). The A7S II, however, is much smaller, lighter and cheaper. Canon’s 1DX II party trick is that it can shoot at 14 frames per second.

The first problem you’ll encounter when attempting to shoot in dimly lit conditions is likely to be with autofocus. If your camera can’t focus on what’s in front of it, the image is going in the bin. Although all three cameras are great at focusing in good lighting conditions, the more challenging aspects of lowlight shooting start to separate them. In a dimly lit room, all three cameras locked easily on to a target with a fraction of back and forth from the Canon. When it was only the Moon illuminating the subject, the Sony was the clear winner. Simply put, the Canon can see in the near-dark, while the Nikon and Sony can go a little further. However, the Nikon loses out simply by virtue of not having a focusing assist light like the Sony.

While the Nikon wins in terms of technical capability, being able to capture an image at ISO 3,280,000 doesn’t mean you’ll want to use it. Images shot at this level are grainy, noisy and in some cases barely recognisable. Meanwhile, at Sony and Canon’s top speed of 409,600, images are usable at very small sizes, revealing subjects you may not have even noticed were in front of you. For the average user, it’s the midrange ISO speeds that are of most interest, since you’ll be using these in situations where there is some – if not a lot – of light. Think dark street scenes, a party or rooms lit by candlelight.

Score 7/10 Sensor 20.2MP full-frame CMOS ISO range 100 - 51,200 (native), 50 - 409,600 (expanded) Focus points 61 points, including 41 cross-type sensors Price £5,199

SONY A7S II Score 8/10 Sensor 12.2MP full-frame Exmor CMOS ISO range 100 - 102,400 (native), 50 - 409,600 (expanded) Focus points 169 points Price £2,499

NIKON D5 Score 8/10 Sensor 20.8MP FX (full-frame) CMOS ISO range 100 - 102,400 (native) 50 - 3,280,000 (expanded) Focus points 153 focus points, including 99 cross-type sensors Price £5,199





Watson – come here – I want to see you.” That Watson was not IBM Watson, of course, or even Watson’s namesake Thomas J Watson, but Thomas A Watson, assistant to Alexander Graham Bell, and subject of the first phone call. Since then, communication has continued to become more conversational, be it voice-to-voice or social-media posts.

By bringing a cognitive, learning approach to the absorption of data, IBM Watson has made it possible for computer systems to understand spoken language and the more natural, colloquial way we express ourselves in text. However, “language” does not just mean English. And, since the unique value of Watson lies in the ability to identify context and nuance, mastering another language is a far more complex undertaking than loading up a new dictionary. Salim Roukos is an IBM Fellow and translation technologies CTO at IBM’s Thomas J Watson Research Center in New York state. He has been focused on helping computers understand human language for more than a decade. Now, he is helping to bring Watson, and the age of cognitive computing, to ever more speakers across the world.

THE COGNITIVE DIFFERENCE Rather than pattern matching, Watson is taught to understand the structure of languages, using a combination of natural language processing and machine learning. The next stage after building the language capability is to establish domain expertise. Using Q&A pairs, Watson learns the details of a specific domain within the new language – currently, Watson’s domain specialisations across multiple languages include insurance policies, patent documentation, news reporting and conversation. Watson is now able to translate documents across multiple languages, but can also bring the power of its understanding of natural language to bear. So, for example, Watson could use its Speech to Text along with Language Translation and English text analytics to extract huge amounts of unstructured conversational information from different languages in multilingual call center operations to detect emerging trends based on customer calls.




LEARNING JAPANESE Working with Softbank, IBM Watson made six cognitive services available in the Japanese language. Thanks to IBM Watson’s corpus of a million Japanese words, Softbank’s partners are now able to apply Watson’s ability to understand questions, recognise speech, hold conversations and retrieve information relevant to their businesses, opening up new possibilities for innovation. INTERNATIONAL TRADE Watson learned Spanish – in the context of foreign trades – in a partnership with Barcelona-based CaixaBank, to support its customers in international markets. In the future, one can consider the scenario where a question asked in Spanish may have an answer discovered in English, which can then be returned in Spanish using machine translation. This “cross-linguistic” support has many potential applications, such as catering to an increasing Spanish-speaking population in the United States.

IBM WATSON HAS MADE IT POSSIBLE FOR COMPUTER SYSTEMS TO UNDERSTAND SPOKEN LANGUAGE AND THE MORE NATURAL, COLLOQUIAL WAY WE EXPRESS OURSELVES BANKING IN BRAZIL Banco Bradesco, one of Brazil’s largest banks, has partnered with IBM Watson to add cognitive applications to a range of their departments and services, beginning with its call centres. With a large IBM research and development facility outside São Paolo, Brazilian Portuguese was a natural choice for Watson’s expanding language understanding. Initially, Watson is providing support to call-centre workers, helping them to access information and answer customer queries more effectively. In the longer term, Watson is intended to interact directly with customers calling Bradesco’s telephone services.

KOREA: THE NEXT STOP FOR WATSON Following French, Italian and Arabic, IBM Watson is learning Korean – it’s particularly challenging, as it combines multiple concepts in a single word, and pronouns are left out of written Korean, removing the number of “clues” Watson has. Still, this will give one of the most sophisticated technological economies in the world native-language access to Watson’s cognitive capabilities. LEARNING HOW THE WORLD SPEAKS With close to 7,000 spoken languages in the world, there is certainly room to grow. However, those Watson has learned and is now learning, will represent more than 90 per cent of the world’s business communications. When Watson launched in English, it was accessible to 700 million people. Now, Watson can reach over two billion people in their native languages. And, as the number of languages spoken by Watson grows, new possibilities for applications will emerge. For more, see


ANOUSHEH ANSARI The first privately funded female space traveller, Ansari’s family helped fund the Google XPRIZE for suborbital spaceflight.

MUSTAFA SULEYMAN Co-founder of Google DeepMind and head of applied AI, Suleyman oversees projects to simulate brain-like neural networks.

THOR BJÖRGÓLFSSON The Icelandic investor who made billions, lost everything, then made it all back, shares his philosophy.


DAVID HORNIK Hornik is an early stage venture investor at August Capital, which has invested in Splunk, Evite and many more.

ANDREW MCAFEE A best-selling author and principal research scientist at MIT, he studies the impact of machine labour replacing humans.

ROYA MAHBOOB Afghan educator and entrepreneur, Mahboob has created nine IT centres for girls and plans to expand the project.








2 0 1 6












WIRED meets Black Mirror’s creator Charlie Booker, and his producer Annabel Jones, to discuss the shady side of technology – and people >

Black Mirror (continued )

Black Mirror has an uncanny knack for premonition. Apps that ask you to “rate” everyone you meet; social-media startups bringing the dead back to life; alleged political-porcine dalliances – all real-world storylines seemingly ripped from its darkly comic take on technology. After achieving cult status on Channel 4, the show was catapulted into the global zeitgeist by Netflix in 2014. Now, like so many of the most daring TV shows, Black Mirror is going Netflix-only, with six new episodes starting on October 21. As a writer, Charlie Brooker digs up our dystopian fears, but he is just as addicted to tech as the rest of us. “The other day, there I am in my garden with my kids, pushing one of them on a swing and I’m trying to check my phone,” he says. “My son is two and he wants daddy to push him, and I’m like, ‘Stop it, I’ve got to look at this GIF!’” WIRED sat down with Brooker and Black Mirror executive producer Annabel Jones to talk Silicon Valley, luddism, and what Twitter has done to our brains. James Temperton

Below: Annabel Jones, executive producer on the new series of

Black Mirror. Jones is a long-time collaborator with Charlie Brooker

WIRED: Black Mirror is obsessed with how technology is changing our lives, for better or worse. Is there an irony in your signing up with Netflix? Charlie Brooker: There’s definitely something fitting. There’s all sorts of fucking weird, wall-bending odd stuf that you could do. Somebody watching an episode of Black Mirror who’s also watched House of Cards, you could show them a diferent scene.


How is working with Netflix different from working with traditional TV? CB: I’d say it’s not hugely different. Practically, there are a couple of liberating things. One is you don’t feel beholden to ratings. Often in broadcast television you worry that maybe there’s going to be a football match on the other side. It feels like you get one shot to make an impression. Annabel Jones: Even though TV networks in America admired Black Mirror, they wouldn’t have commissioned it because it’s a very unusual show. When Netflix finally picked it up in 2014 we had a lovely gestation period. It’s a very word of mouth show – people want to talk about it.

How did that episode go down, particularly in America? CB: I’d say the reaction of Americans was the most divided. It’s not like they’re appalled by it, it’s just they think it’s ridiculous – which it is. Others just get it and go with it. You tend to find that people overseas think I’m like the Unabomber or something – this angry anti-technology person shaking his fist at the internet, which I’m not.


Netflix gives you a global audience. How do you think it will be received? CB: [Earlier seasons] went down quite well in places like Spain. China seemed to pirate us a lot. AJ: The themes resonated with people. We thought it was a very British show, but actually everyone around the world was experiencing technology at the same speed we were, and so it dramatised things that no other shows were at that time. CB: And a prime minister fucking a pig is amusing in any nationality, evidently.

Autonomy. Not everyone who works here knows what it means. But they’re welcome to find out any way they like.

We hire people and we give them problems. Then we let them solve them in the best way they know. Some people call it autonomy. We call it common sense.

We’re hiring for UX, BA, Front end, Back end, PM, operations, support and beyond. Right now.

Find out more at

Black Mirror (continued )

In this series, two episodes are set on America’s West Coast. Was it a conscious choice to place your characters closer to Silicon Valley? CB: There wasn’t ever a thought about placing it near Silicon Valley or immersing characters in that environment. We try not to look at the tech pages and go: “VR is a thing, what can we do about that?” With [series two episode] “Be Right Back”, where Domhnall Gleeson dies and Hayley Atwell brings him back from his social media profile, there was going to be a beat where you realise what a moneymaking scheme it is. There was a point where she runs out of credit and has to top it up. I think that was even shot, but it felt a bit weird. I always shy away from that side of things. AJ: The show tends to tap into fears we have about the modern world. And technology just happens to be the big driver of that. Take [series one episode] “National Anthem”: it dramatises the shifting powers of big institutions, so police and government suddenly feel powerless, and social media is driving the narrative. That’s a very global theme, rather than being a specific tech company theme. What are you trying to achieve when you start writing an episode? CB: My take is probably different to the average viewer. I try to look at it as quite a popcorn show that’s a bit like Alfred Hitchcock Presents or Tales of the Unexpected. In my head I’m writing something mainstream and schlocky. AJ: You want this to be fun and thrilling and scary. Once the scripts come out, we try to make it as grounded as possible.

CB: Something like “Be Right Back” is a ghost story, really. AJ: There’s also the theme of a discrepancy between your online persona and who you actually are. CB: Yes, and she’s lucky in that. His online persona is a bit bland when he comes back and that’s the problem. But she could’ve got a fucking maniac. Or nothing but hot takes. It’d be insufferable. She’d bludgeon him to death. One of the episodes in the new series is quite touching. Are you going soft? CB: That was the first one written for this season, so I was thinking: what are people going to expect? I’ve also become a bit more confident about writing. One thing people said about the show was that they liked it, but it was so fucking depressing: every week a guy finds an app that kills him. I thought, what’s a more hopeful take? Black Mirror often takes technology to its logical conclusion, so what happens when VR becomes better than actual reality? CB: Ten years from now it will just be 13-year-old boys committing war atrocities while getting sucked of in VR. It’ll be that, constantly. Getting sucked of and shooting. And we’ll go: “What the fuck is happening to this generation?” You’re often accused of being a bit of a luddite. How obsessed with technology are you? CB: I participate in social media to a degree, but I don’t really use Facebook any more. I’ve stepped back from things like Twitter for the same reason I stopped writing columns – I just felt

BLACK MIRROR’S REFLECTIONS Despite only having aired six episodes and a special before the third season, Black Mirror has a startling knack for prescience…

“The National Anthem” (S1:Ep1) The UK Prime Minister is compelled to have sex with a pig on TV. David Cameron laughs nervously…

“Be Right Back” (S2:Ep1) A social-media network raises the dead; Facebook has enabled “legacy” logins for relatives of deceased users.

“The Waldo Moment” (S2:Ep3) A foul-mouthed cartoon bear ascends to political power – still, not as outlandish as Donald Trump…

like there was so much fucking yap going on. I’m playing No Man’s Sky at the moment and there’s an idea for the second season that’s sprung from a procedurally generated universe. It’s hilarious to me that people are moaning about the game: “Oh, it’s a bit boring, this infinite universe…” Fifty quid to fly around an infinite fucking universe and it’s still not good enough for them? AJ: I find it increasingly hard to engage with social media when making this show. Once I’m in, I’m so sucked in. I feel as if I’m sacrificing my life a little bit too much. What was that lovely line in “Be Right Back”? CB: She says it’s a thief. AJ: I feel it’s a bit like that with my time. I think we both love technology and we both embrace it. The technology in the show always tries to be as seductive as possible and also as simple as possible. The reason we’ve embraced technology so much in our lives is because it makes life easier, and it is like a drug. CB: With “Be Right Back” I was thinking a lot about how authentic people are on social media. I found myself being inauthentic on there and it reminded me of writing columns for a newspaper. It’s gamified; you are rewarded for being entertaining on a very surreptitious level, in a way that afects absolutely everyone. And if they say it doesn’t, they’re lying. So the contrast is turned up. It’s a bit like a pub near closing time, where it’s all a bit emotional. AJ: It’s so emphatic. Everything has to be: “This is one of the best articles I’ve ever read!” And you go: “Really? Is it really the best article?” CB: “You’ve won the internet!” The notion of turning up the contrast is interesting. What effect do you think that’s had on politics? CB: If you look at Corbyn or Trump, it feels like a side effect of being encouraged to heighten our own opinions. There’s never been a point in human history when this many thoughts were being publicly expressed. It reminds me of being a columnist: if you wrote something, you had to stick by it. It was humiliating to change your mind because it’s a public U-turn. Now everyone’s committing everything in print in some way, it’s harder to roll back. It feels like no one can retreat.


If you're too busy to get to Tate Modern’s Switch House, or the V&A is too far away, never fear – virtual reality has you covered. Not only are big-name museums recreating their exhibits in 360°, but new, digital-only VR venues are showcasing artists old and new. Here are three galleries worth the price of immersion. (And no touching, please.) OF-W

THE MUSEUM OF STOLEN ART Created by Israeli artist Ziv Schneider, this Cardboardviewable app shows pieces lost to heists, or destroyed or looted in conflict. An ongoing project, the space hosts regular curated exhibitions: from the FBI’s stolenphotograph archive to pieces lost in the Afghan wars. THE DIGITAL MUSEUM OF DIGITAL ART Created in 2013 by Alfredo SalazarCaro and William Robertson, this space gives digital art its own exhibition world. The fantastical space shows newly commissioned works from digital artists, including Claudia Hart and Tim Berresheim. INSTAMUSEUM Created by 3Dmodelling startup Sketchfab, this app lets you turn your Instagram feed into its own digital museum. Type in the account details and the app will generate a virtual space, hanging your snaps on the walls of a trad or contemporary gallery. Better get curating…




oes this shot of Japan’s Mount Fuji look familiar? That’s intentional. Taken by Bristolbased photographer Charles Emerson, the picture is a modern-day recreation of the 18th-century ukiyo-e (woodcut) art responsible for some of Japan’s best-known imagery. “I wanted to pay homage to Hiroshige, a woodcut master,” says Emerson, 34, “while trying to create a new kind of photography.” Emerson, whose photographs often play with layers and multiple exposures, shot the Ichi Yama (“One Mountain”) project over the course of three weeks. Each photograph builds upon the Japanese concept of meisho – the inclusion of references to landmarks associated with other artworks or literature, just as Hiroshige did with his prints. In ukiyo-e, prints are built up in layers on paper; ink is applied using intricate woodcut blocks. Emerson, using a 5 x 4-inch slide

Charles Emerson spent three weeks taking photos of Japan – and then combined them into a single, multi-layered image

camera, similarly built up the images over multiple exposures, “overlaying elements of traditional and contemporary Japanese culture,” he says. First he captured dozens of frames of the mountain. The contemporary scenes, from roller coasters to neon street lamps, were then shot in low light over the top, to avoid overexposure. “I would have to shoot cherry blossoms with a flashlight, so I could just pick that out,” Emerson says. Several pieces in Ichi Yama play on Hiroshige works; in another, a tsunami

defence wall references Hokusai’s famous The Great Wave off Kanagawa. “I found it interesting we’ve had to build a concrete wave to block the real waves,” says Emerson. The series will be shown in Shizuoka, Japan in November. “I wanted to use Fujifilm,” Emerson says. “It would almost have been rude not to.” OF-W This scene looks like twilight, but it combines both day and night shots. It will feature in an exhibition at Shizuoka City Tokaido Hiroshige Museum of Art

PAINT: A POTTED HISTORY Drying paint just became more interesting. In The Secret Lives Of Colour, out October 20, journalist Kassia St Clair outlines the weirdly fascinating history of your favourite hues. From the unwittingly deadly arsenic-tinged Scheele’s Green to Van Gogh’s favoured chrome yellow, St Clair takes in art history, chemistry and anthropology – even as it doubles for a Dulux swatch book. “The richness in the histories of black shades surprised me,” says St Clair, 31. “But the biggest shock was ‘mummy brown’: who would guess that for centuries artists used a pigment made from powdered human bodies?” Steve Fentiman

Cixin Liu, author of The Three-Body Problem: “China’s new generation has broader horizons”

WHEN ZUCK AND OBAMA WANT TO READ SCI-FI Cixin Liu is leading a new wave of Chinese writers finding western fans

hen Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem was published in English in 2015, it became the first Chinese sci-fi novel to win a Hugo award. President Obama took it on holiday. Mark Zuckerberg recommended it on Facebook. Yet even as his reputation spread, Liu, 53, continued to work in a power plant in Shanxi Province. “I’ve been working in that power plant for nearly 30 years,” he says. “I’m relatively lucky, because my work is not busy and I’ve got lots of time for writing.” Set in post-war Communist China, The Three-Body Problem tells the story of an alien civilisation which learns of the existence of Earth. Facing destruction, the aliens invade (detailed in the sequel, The Dark Forest). Death’s End, the trilogy’s concluding volume, out on September 20, explores the two societies’ attempt to co-exist, despite apparently irreconcilable differences. “It covers a time period that lasts until the death of the universe,” says Liu’s translator – who happens to be the award-winning fantasy author Ken Liu (no relation). Like many of his books’ protagonists, Cixin Liu grew up during the Cultural Revolution, when sci-fi was almost unknown in China. His first encounter with the genre came via Jules Verne. “I thought what was written was true,” he says. “Later I knew that it was not, but that made me fall in love with sci-fi.” Liu’s taste for “hard” sci-fi – he often says that his novels are poor imitations of Arthur C Clarke’s – puts him at odds with the genre’s recent trend towards bleak, contemporary themes. He attributes this difference to the positivity of China’s recent technologyenabled acceleration. “China’s new generation has broader horizons. They view themselves as part of humanity instead of being just Chinese,” he says. “They think over ultimate questions concerning the whole universe.” He adds: “Today’s western sci-fi has gradually lost that vitality.” RM Death’s End by Cixin Liu (Head of Zeus) is out on September 20




so you always feel you’re in complete control while on the road. New and exclusive to this latest Renault Mégane is MULTI-SENSE technology *, which allows you to feel connected to your drive like never before. By using the 8.7-inch illuminated touchscreen**, drivers can engage one of the four individual modes that are available. Each offers a unique motoring experience, as well as a distinct interior lighting ambiance to suit the driving style. Enjoy lighter steering in Neutral mode, improved engine response in Comfort mode, or the most dynamic per formance in Sport mode – the choice is entirely yours. Combining exquisite at tention to detail with new, exciting technology, the latest Renault Mégane is set to provide exciting journeys on the road while redefining driving expectations. Book your test drive today to be one of the first to get behind the wheel of the A ll-New Renault Mégane, and feel the drive. For more info, visit


NEW TECHNOLOGY FOR A NEW DRIVE THE ALL-NEW RENAULT MEGANE BLENDS SPORTY LOOKS WITH INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGIES – INCLUDING FOURWHEEL STEERING AND MULTI-SENSE TECHNOLOGY After much anticipation, the All-New Renaul t Mégane is f inall y here. Renault’s aim for its latest hatchback is simple: to create a landmark in luxury and innovation that takes driving pleasure to another level. With its low and spor t y stance the A ll-New Mégane ’s drama tic exterior appears to strike a balance between dynamic flair and seductive design. The distinctive front and rear lighting signatures and thought fully craf ted interior showcase the very best of Renault’s design ethos – inside and out.

This design upgrade gives the All-New Mégane its unmistakable on-road personality, making every mile an exciting drive. Beyond the aesthetics, the All-New Mégane is equipped with premium technology and driving aids. Available at your finger tips, these tools create an exceptional driving experience for every journey. With innovative 4 CONTROL fourw h e e l s t e e r in g – d e v e l o p e d b y Renault Sport engineers – the Mégane GT offers poised agility and precision handling, even around tricky corners,

Above: the All-New Mégane on the road Right: a light, spacious interior greets the driver

The official fuel consumption figures in mpg (l/100km) for the All-New Renault Mégane GT: Urban 36.2 (7.8); Extra Urban 57.7 (4.9); Combined 47.1 (6.0). The official CO 2 emissions are 134g/km. EU Directive Regulation 692/2008 test environment figures. Fuel consumption and CO 2 may vary according to driving styles, road conditions and other factors.


MUZOON ALMELLEHAN An 18-year-old Syrian refugee, now resettled in the UK, Almellehan is an activist and Malala Fund campaigner.

ED BARTON Barton co-founded Curiscope, which creates immersive VR and AR experiences, such as Virtuali-Tee, an AR biology app.

ALICE BENTINCK Champion of young founders and getting girls coding, Bentinck’s Entrepreneur First helps build startups from scratch.


KRTIN NITHIYANANDAM At 15, Nithiyanandam created an Alzheimer’sdetecting test which won a prize at the Google Science Fair.

SAMANTHA PAYNE Payne’s Open Bionics turns amputee children into superheroes by building robotic hands inspired by movies such as Iron Man.

TED NASH A serial entrepreneur since the age of 12, Nash founded the Tapdaq ad exchange and social platform Little Gossip.








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WESTWORLD Jonathan Nolan gives Michael Crichton’s 1973 Wild West theme-park robots an existential angst upgrade. October, Sky Atlantic

MY SCIENTOLOGY MOVIE Louis Theroux takes on the celebrity “church”. E-meters, Thetans and Xenu? Now that is crazy. Out on October 7 ’S D T D A O H T ST U J

BLACK MIRROR Charlie Brooker’s cult techno-dystopian series moves to Netflix with 12 newly unsettling episodes. Netflix, October 21

TROLLS A movie based on the latest iteration of the 60s toy? This must have been the influence of a curse… Out on October 21 R E L H A T U A S R U N U

DOCTOR STRANGE By the crimson bands of Cyttorak! Marvel movies are getting magical (and we don’t mean Benedict Cumberbatch’s eerily high cheekbones). Out on October 28 IT A B LI A CU R E

Upcoming pop culture, ranked by weirdness Blame dark forces or a conjunction of the spheres, but the zeitgeist has turned rather occult of late. Netflix’s gloriously nostalgic Stranger Things was only the beginning – pop culture is about to get even more arcane: dimension bending! Dark magic! Scientologists! Here’s WIRED’s guide. (Or is it?) OF-W





CLASS spinThe Doctor Who hool off is set in the sc y that featured wa back in Who’s first ffy, episode. Think Bu ewith added spac time weirdness. ree October, BBC Th


We Happy Few is an unusual survival game. Set in the fictional English village of Wellington Wells in a parallel-history 1964, its retro details – mini-dresses, egg chairs – hide a crumbling society. Rather than face reality, the locals have turned to a drug, Joy, which makes the present feel perfect. “Our main character stops taking Joy, because he wants to remember something,” says narrative director Alex Epstein, 53. “But if you’re not taking your Joy, you’re a ‘Downer’.” High on Joy, the grinning villagers will turn on anyone they suspect is of their meds. So, the player has to act like a dosed-up denizen of the pharmaceutical paradise: greeting passers-by and giving bouquets of flowers to old ladies. “We wanted to create a survival game that uses social blending,” says Epstein. “It’s not a zombie game – you aren’t attacked just because you’re there; it’s if you’re not fitting in.” The unusual mechanic is a complex meditation on mental health, addiction and happiness. “One of our inspirations is Facebook,” says Epstein. “All your friends seem happy and are doing wonderful things. But really, they just aren’t telling you about the sadness.” We Happy Few turns survival into an unlikely meditation on mental health Daniel Nye-Griiths We Happy Few is released this autumn


Stop. Scanner time New Movement Collective and ScanLAB are turning dance into 3D-printed still life

This sculpture depicts a dancer frozen in time. Collapse, a collaboration between 3D-scanning startup ScanLAB Projects and dance organisation New Movement Collective (NMC), uses a technique called “slow life scanning”. Regular 3D scanning, which uses lasers to create a map of nearby surfaces, is typically used for spaces, not movement. ScanLAB Projects’ previous works include mapping glaciers and reconstructing underground ruins for BBC One show Rome’s Invisible City. To capture the materials for Collapse, NMC’s performers danced in front of a laser scanner. “The movement takes

NMC describes Collapse as “celebrating the imperfect and accidental in today’s technology-dependent world”

up to a minute to scan, when we would ordinarily take half a second,” says ScanLAB Projects Londonbased founder Matthew Shaw, 33. “You get these hypertrails. What came out was always unexpected.” As Shaw’s team experimented with the scanner – or, as he calls it, “our instrument” – the dancers worked with slow, sweeping movements to produce the finished work’s distorted, ghost-like images. “It was quite awkward to begin with as we got used to how the scanners worked and created a way of moving that would allow the technology to capture the body effectively,” says NMC choreographer Joe Walkling. Using the scans, ScanLAB created six sculptures, assembled using slices of MDF and 3D printers.




THE DANCE The dancers choreographed slow moves to suit the 3D scanner’s capture rate.

THE SCAN Captured over 45 seconds to several minutes, the scans create surreal trails.

“[They] gave us a new perspective on what was actually happening – perfectly capturing, morphing and stretching a particular moment in time, giving it new meaning,” says London-based Walkling, 32. The pieces debuted at the Southbank Centre in London in August, accompanied by a live score from composer and cellist Oliver Coates. “We simultaneously created music, choreography and structure, allowing each to influence the other,” says Walkling. The group plans to continue its collaboration, with further live performances planned next year. “We could never have designed these sculptures,” says Shaw. “You can’t guess what you’re going to get.” OF-W

THE SCULPTURE The trails were translated into slices using modelling software and CNC-cut.

Late-night server crashes are rarely a cause for celebration, but Alex Zhu, the co-founder of, is happier than most about it. Its app, which allows you to record 15-second snippets of you miming along to pop songs and share the results with friends, has grown so prodigiously – it now has 100 million registered users – that for the first half of 2016 its server architecture couldn’t keep up. It’s that committed user base – 75 per cent of whom are female, and 54 per cent aged under 24 – which is the secret to the app’s success, suggests Shanghai-based Zhu, 37. “They have time, they’re creative, and they’re socialmedia addicts.” And they also lap up videos produced by's own celebrities (known on the


site as “musers”) including 14-yearold Jacob Sartorius, a singer with 8.7m fans on the app. Zhu and co-founder Louis Yang, 35, conceived as a way to distribute short-form educational videos. That idea didn't take off, so the pair pivoted and rebranded in 2014. It proved an instant hit. Now is moving away from its roots – and has YouTube in its sights. The average age of users is increasing – showing growth beyond its teen core – says Zhu, and the types of videos musers are creating are changing. In addition to lip-

syncing to the latest Meghan Trainor hit, users can now record their own audio. The app has set up sections for question-andanswer sessions, and a comedy zone, and has also launched a separate livestreaming app,, which Zhu hopes will become “an entirely new communication platform”. He has global domination in mind: starting with expansion into southeast Asia. “The good thing right now is we have momentum,” he adds. Oh, and a new set of servers that can cope with his app’s popularity. Chris StokelWalker



WIRED SECURITY Last chance to get your ticket to WIRED Security – the oneday exploration of the cybersecurity sector. Main Stage speakers include cyberwar specialist Mikko Hypponen, University of Oxford security professor Sadie Creese, and co-founder of Recorded Future, Christopher Ahlberg. October 20, 2016

Events, new products and promotions to live the WIRED life Compiled by Cleo McGee

WIRED 2016 A two-day event showcasing the best of the WIRED world – the greatest innovators, the most radical thinkers and the newest technologies. Expect more than 50 speakers, including the WIRED Innovation fellows, plus hot new products. November 3-4, 2016 1




WIRED2016: NEXT GEN This one-day event is designed specifically for 12to-18-year-olds, with a mix of inspiring talks from pioneers, plus practical workshops and Q&A sessions on how digital technology is shaping the world they’ll inherit. Featuring Heston Blumenthal and bionic-arm builder Samantha Payne. November 5, 2016

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WIRED Retail returns in November to gather those at the forefront of change in the industry – individuals, startups and large established companies – to explore the future of retail. The event will cover frictionless payments, virtual reality, drones, the blockchain and personalisation. November 16, 2016 Follow us on Twitter and Instagram: @WIREDINSIDERUK





mergency shelters are mainly designed to provide just that – protection. But the Cricket Shelter, by New York-based design studio Te r r e f o r m O N E , p r o v i d e s a n additional benefit: “We thought we could combine shelter and food,” This emergency-shelter-cum-urban-cricket-farm hybrid says co-founder Mitchell Joachim, hums to the sound of tens of thousands of edible Gryllidae 44. The modular structure contains 224 22-litre chambers for producing edible crickets – the insects being an increasingly fashionable source of dietary protein. “We created a multi- has collaborated with local food entrelayer structure based on the life cycle of the crickets,” says Joachim. preneurs in Brooklyn, and is exploring Terreform ONE, which specialises in environmentally friendly ways to spin the design into its own projects including future city plans and tree-houses, created the company. “This is a giant trend in shelter for the nonprofit Artworks for Change. Built into the walls are cuisine,” says Joachim of sustainable “sex pods” for breeding, and seven birthing pods, where female crickets entomophagy. “I’m looking at making lay their eggs. After hatching, the crickets move through tubes into the cricket bagels.” OF-W mesh-lined living habitats, where they grow until ready for harvesting. “We’d get about 50,000 crickets within six weeks,” says Joachim. Designing the shelter had its challenges. “If they have too many After copulation friends near them, the crickets go into a frenzy and swarm,” says in the tubular “sex Joachim. “We killed thousands of them by accident.” However, the pod” (far left), finished structure, he says, is far more humane than traditional sources female crickets of edible insects – typically large industrial farms in countries such as lay eggs. The Thailand. “There has been interest from big cricket farms,” he says. hatchlings live in After harvesting, the crickets are ground up into powder. Terreform the mesh cones.

Sleep playlists on Spotify are becoming the go-to destination for insomniacs: more than three million people are listening to them every night on the music-streaming service, making it one of its most popular genres. Such high demand for soporific songs is prompting the creation of original works centred around sleep. From British composer Max Richter’s eight-hour composition “Sleep” (described by Richter as “an experiment into how music and the mind can interact in this other state of consciousness”) to Thom Yorke’s (pictured) recent “Radiohead Bedtime Mix” for Radio 1 and Jon Hopkins’ 2015 Late Night Tales mix album, artists of all genres are embracing songs to snooze to. And where there’s a trend, there’s money: countless insomnia startups have sprung up in recent years, hoping to crack the issue – from cognitive behavioural therapy options such as Sleepio, which has its own music function, to wearables that vibrate when you snore and headphones with EEG brainwave sensors. Let’s skirt over the smartphone’s detrimental role: studies have shown that the blue light emitted from screens disrupts the body’s circadian rhythms, making a good night’s rest more elusive. Software such as Apple’s Night Shift mode helps, but perhaps the real solution is an early bedtime for our devices. Ruby Lott-Lavigna



Four Tet “Gillie Amma, I Love You”


Nils Frahm “Went Missing”

3 Max Richter “Path 5 (delta)” 4

Brian Eno “An Ending (Ascent)”

5 Luke Abbott “Dumb” 6 Chilly Gonzales “Armellodie” Listen (and nod off) to the WIRED Lullabies playlist on Spotify



The market for sleep aids in 2013, according to BCC Research. This is expected to rise to £57 billion by 2019

The number of user-generated playlists on Spotify with the word “Sleep” in the title




094 / PL AY /


Smart cities need to become intelligent cities with proactive cybersecurity solutions. Cylance is revolutionizing cybersecurity with artificial intelligence and machine learning—for advanced threat prevention on the endpoint—wherever the endpoint may be. Learn more at

©2016 Cylance, Inc.

Silence the Threat


he connected home is fi nally taking shape. Today, Hive lets you control your heating remotely, monitor your home from afar, and schedule lighting and electronics to switch on or off automatically. Plus, if you want to join the dots and start connecting other products, services and tools, you can, thanks to If This Then That (IFTTT) support. Hive’s ease of use and apparent simplicity masks the huge task of its development. Perhaps the biggest surprise is how the UK’s most popular smart thermostat isn’t from a hip new startup, but from within British Gas. But that doesn’t mean Hive isn’t built on a startup ethos – a strategy supported by Kassir Hussain, director of Connected Home at British Gas (opposite page). Rather than situate the brand in a tech park, Hussain pushed to site the company in central London. “One of the best locations for talent is London,” he says from the offi ce. “We needed to have access to product

managers, developers, data scientists – people who love to play around with open source technology.” The Hive workspace looks the part. Littered with props from its T V ad campaign, modular desks are clustered in communal areas – and on a hot August day, staff juggle ice-creams with mice and MacBooks. Hussain began his career in the early 90s as a telecoms engineer, “When two per cent of people had mobile phones and they were still classed as a tool for yuppies.” He spent time at O2 Telefónica, helping to launch Giffgaff, and working on NOW TV at Sky. It was in these roles that he found creating ventures and businesses within larger companies could be a smart way of pivoting into new sectors. Hive launched its first product – the Hive Active Heating Thermostat – in September 2013, a year after Hussain

Below: Seb Chakraborty, Hive chief technology oicer. Right: Kassir Hussain, director of Connected Home, British Gas



joined the company. Seb Chakraborty, Hive’s CTO ( below ), was hired at a similar time – when the vision had been set, but Hive had yet to be created. “One of the things about development and design is to not be frightened to throw it away, even when it works,” says Chakraborty, discussing the first year building Hive. Both advocates of the “fail fast” ethos, Chakrabor t y and Hussain worked closely to build Hive as a separate business and a product development-centric organisation. “It was a brilliant move for British Gas to say, ‘OK, we understand that this is a completely different space to distributing electricity and gas to 12 million households’,” says Chakraborty. Hive’s first thermostat – the 2013 model – enabled people to control their heating and hot water remotely. The next step was to iterate and improve the experience, to help recognise the three principles of Hive: beautiful industrial design, frictionless UX and constant customer feedback. To achieve this, Hive required a total redesign – from the back end to the app’s structure. “Moving from a single app experience to a multi-product app is not trivial,” says Chakraborty. “Customers might have dozens of lights, motion sensors and smart appliances. How to show those in a way that makes sense and is easy to navigate is infinitely harder.” The result works. The redesigned app – launched in summer 2015 with the Hive Active Heating Thermostat, which boosted Hive’s reputation significantly in tech and design – allows for users to move between managing their heating, flicking on lighting and making sure appliances are switched off. The “Honeycomb” interface was created to mirror what Hussain calls “the Hive way” – an approach that informs the end-to-end experience, from the design language of the products to how customer-facing staff engage the public. “Our customer support team has phenomenal NPS [net promoter score] ratings,” says Hussain. “We ripped up all the scripts and said, ‘Your job isn’t to be reading off a screen and worrying about a script; your job is to resolve customers’ problems in a human way.’” Continuing to do so will ensure that Hive – a perfect blend of startup vigour and commercial and strategic ventures – continues to thrive. “I’m not advocating ours is the better way,” says Hussain. “I’m just saying it’s the right way for the thing we’re doing.” For more info, see



IDRISS AL RIFAI Al Rifai founded Dubaibased Fetchr, an app that uses mobile geolocation to deliver packages in the Middle East and North Africa.

NICK BRACKENBURY The former Ogilvy account director founded NearSt in London, connecting shoppers with nearby high street inventory.

JEFF CHAPIN Chapin co-founded Casper, a US mattress firm that has embraced radical design and delivery methods.


RANDY DEAN Dean is chief business officer of Sentient Technologies, a Silicon Valley firm using AI to tackle problems faced by large retailers.

MICHAEL FEINDT Blue Yonder, Feindt’s UK- and Germanybased startup, builds forecasting tools that allow retailers to optimise supply chains.

JODY MEDICH Director of design at Singularity University Labs in San Jose, Medich’s AR and VR tools have potentially huge retail applications.








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What is an emoji? We often think of these cute little characters as a way to add a graphic element to a tweet or Facebook post, but these simple images are powerful symbols. Emoji are, in fact, compact characters that, because of their visual nature, can communicate an amazing amount of information, such as the subtleties of human emotion. It’s not just emoji: we use this type of graphic communication constantly in our daily lives – everything from a stop sign to the Christian cross – all are methods for conveying information (sometimes quite complex) using simple abstract shapes. The reason this works is that, as a society, we

FROM CAVE WALLS TO SMARTPHONES Paleoanthropologist Genevieve von Petzinger explains where emoji fit into human evolution


Experimentation with visual marks paved the way for the development of writing – and, more recently, the creation of modern symbols, including emoji

have created agreed upon meanings for these symbols. So when we see one, we instantly know how to interpret it, without even thinking. And we certainly can’t forget about symbolic systems such as the written word or computer coding. You could make a pretty good argument that the making of graphic marks underpins the foundation of modern society. But what people don’t often think about is how long ago this practice was invented, or that if you go back far enough, you will reach a point in our prehistory where this ability did not yet exist. This time is known as the Paleolithic, or Stone Age. The Paleolithic was a time of great innovation on many fronts – new tools, new technologies, new territories and, of course, a new species, Homo sapiens, that appeared for the first time on the African landscape about 200,000 years ago. And although these distant ancestors were similar to us in terms of physical appearance and brain size, what we don’t know is when they started thinking like us. Because when it comes to brains, it’s not just the size; it’s also the wiring. In this case, the wiring that allowed the development of cognitive abilities such as abstract thought and imagination. But how do you study something soft like the brain that doesn’t survive long in the archaeological record? The answer is indirectly, through abstract activities such as the creation of art. Associated with the first arrival of modern humans in Europe and dating to between about 10,000 and 40,000 years ago, the (Ice Age) cave art of Paleolithic Europe is some of the oldest in the world. This art is probably best known from sites such as Chauvet in France, with its masterful black horse and rhino paintings, or Altamira in Spain, with its famous ceiling of bison. These painted and engraved animal images account for

1. Some important exceptions to this oversight include the work of French scholars such as Andre LeroiGourhan and Georges Sauvet, who did recognise the potential of the geometric signs; A. Leroi-Gourhan (1992) L’art Pariétal. Langage de la Préhistoire. Paris: Jérômee Millon; G Sauvet (1993). L’art pariétal Paléolithique. GRAPP: Techniques et Méthodes d’étude. Éd. du CTHS. 2. G von Petzinger (2016). The First Signs: Unlocking the Mysteries of the World’s Oldest Symbols (Atria Books). 3. G von Petzinger and A Nowell (2011). A Question of Style: reconsidering the Stylistic Approach to Dating Paleolithic Parietal Art in France. Antiquity, vol 85.4. S Ripoll; V Baldellou; F Munoz, P Ayuso (2001). La Fuente del Trucho. Bolskan 18: 211-224.

Negative hands A stencil technique popular between 20,000-40,000 BCE.

The tectiform A geometric rooflike or dwellingshaped symbol.

Lines and dots Not abstract marks, but precursors to written characters.

Typology Ice Age signs seem chaotic, but an order can be detected.

Emoji A direct descendant of cave art, emoji are highly complex.

the majority of figurative art (works that look like something from the real world), along with a smaller number of human representations. And then there are a large number of non-figurative (abstract) images, known as geometric signs. These include everything from dots and lines to circles and triangles. At many sites these signs outnumber the animals and humans – and yet they have not received the same amount of attention as their figurative counterparts.1 This is now starting to change, and the results are intriguing. As described in my book, The First Signs, the most startling discovery is how few types of these signs there are. Barring a handful of one-ofs, there are 32 main geometric signs used throughout the late Paleolithic in Europe.2 Considering this spans 30,000 years of prehistory and an entire continent, it’s a very low number. And they’re not all being used in the same way – each sign has a distinctive pattern of use – making it unlikely that these were doodles or random decorations. For example, negative hands (those that were stencilled as opposed to having paint applied on them) appear at fewer than 20 per cent of sites and they are at their most popular in the early part of that time period – between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago – before fading out of use towards the end of the Ice Age.3 On the other hand, we have a sign such as the tectiform (“roof-shaped” in Latin), which only appears in the Dordogne region of France between 13,000 and 17,000 years ago. Unlike other signs that tend to move across the landscape, the tectiform seems to have been a local invention and may have “belonged” to the people in that region (some researchers suggest it is a clan sign). Except, that is, for one site 400km to the south across the Pyrenees in Spain. This is the site of Fuente del Trucho in the Huesca province, and here too we find the same tectiform shape made in the same manner.4 So how did it find its way from the Dordogne to this one other site – but none in between? It may be that this sign either moved with people (say, through intermarriage) or there could have been trading between these groups. We know there were already extensive trade networks in place during the Ice Age in Europe – everything from flint to exotic goods like amber or obsidian – so it would make sense that they also sometimes traded ideas or cultural information. Even simple signs such as lines or dots appear less than 75 per cent of the time, suggesting that each sign on a cave wall had a known meaning within that cultural group and was being purposefully selected by the artist. We’re not talking about writing yet – there are just not enough characters at this point to fully represent a spoken language the way early writing systems like Egyptian hieroglyphs or Sumerian cuneiform could (and alphabets don’t come around until even later), nor is it organised enough. However, the repetition and patterns we’re seeing with the signs tells us that there was definitely some sort of typology in place. This is the kind of experimentation with visual marks that paved the way for the development of writing – and, more recently, the creation of modern symbols, including emoji. Those geometric signs from Ice-Age Europe may well have been part of one of the oldest systems of graphic communication in the world, as well as being the distant precursors to those cute little symbols on your phone. Genevieve von Petzinger is a paleoanthropologist and author of The First Signs: Unlocking the Mysteries of the World’s Oldest Symbols (Atria Books)




















Muhammad Mohiuddin, a surgeon at the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Maryland, explains how animals can end organ donation shortages

















For how long have you been able to maintain qubits in a coherent state? About 50 microseconds or so. That sounds small, but it’s the ratio between coherence time and operation time that matters. We can run an operation in about ten nanoseconds, so the ratio is about 5,000 – quite a large number of o p e ra t i o n s b e f o re w e l o s e t h e coherence. That 50 microseconds is the result of ten years of research in how to build the integrated circuits. Next is to learn how to properly control the qubits to extend the lifetime further.


THE QUANTUM MECHANIC Google’s John Martinis outlines how he’s building his qubit computer and what it will do

John Martinis, University of Santa Barbara physics professor and head of Google’s quantum computing lab, is less concerned with the well-being of Schrödinger’s infamous cat than with how he can train it to solve complex maths problems. Last year, Martinis achieved the first step towards building a quantum computer with a working group of nine quantum bits (qubits) able to perform error-checking 1. Now he’s begun scaling this up, with the aim of demonstrating a 100-qubit group within the next couple of years. WIRED talked to him to him about the challenges involved. Kathryn Nave

WIRED: Just how powerful does the kind of quantum computer you’re building have the potential to be? John Martinis: Classical computation is based on the storage and manipulation of simple bits of information, which can be either a 0 or a 1. With quantum computing, we use the laws of quantum mechanics to build bits that are both 0 and 1 at the same time. This allows us to create a parallel processing machine where, instead of an algorithm running the case 0 and then running the case 1 and so on to get an answer, we can run 0 and 1 simultaneously. With a single bit that parallelisation speeds things up by a factor of two to the power of one – you’ve doubled the speed – but this power increases for every additional quantum bit you add, so the speed increase is exponential. So once you get to 300 qubits, you’ve sped things up by a factor of two to the power of 300, which is greater than the number of atoms in the entire universe. You can’t achieve that with a classical computer.

How are you building your qubits and why did you chose that method? We build ours out of superconducting aluminium wires, cooled to 20 millikelvins (-273.13°C), which are oscillating at about five or six gigahertz – mobile-phone frequencies. Then you can write wave functions such that there is current flowing in the oscillator wire in two directions at the same time. That doesn’t make sense under classical mechanics, but quantum mechanically it gives us a simultaneous 0 and 1 state. The advantage is that we can use microwave engineering concepts to design and operate these, which ties into existing technology. We can put them into integrated circuits2, so once we learn how to do this with a few qubits, we can scale up using current semiconductor fabrication. How diicult is it to engineer qubits that can maintain both 0 and 1 states? You can build a classical computer so that it has tiny error rates, but you cannot build that stability into your quantum bits. Take the energy decay process, for example. The 1 state of the qubit has more energy than the 0 state and the difference in energy is very small, so if the qubit loses a tiny bit of energy it falls into the 0 state and you’ve lost the information it held. That’s called decoherence. Because imperfect materials can absorb energy we have to develop a whole new way of building our qubits. Typical microprocessors use silicon dioxide as an insulator between wires for example, but it’s really lossy at low temperatures, so we can’t use it. Instead, we have to make a freestanding air bridge whenever we’re crossing wires over, so there’s no materials to absorb the energy.

1. & 3. Kelly, J., Barends, R., Fowler, A. G., Megrant, A., Jeffrey, E., White, T. C., & Chen, Z. (2015). State preservation by repetitive error detection in a superconducting quantum circuit. Nature, 519. 2. Devoret, M. H., & Martinis, J. M. (2005). Implementing qubits with superconducting integrated circuits. In Experimental Aspects of Quantum Computing (pp. 163203). Springer US.

Can you give an indication of the scale of the challenge that the errors caused by decoherence pose in making your quantum computer reliable? As with classical computing, there’s a threshold for how often you can get an error – if you have too many, you’re making errors faster than you can correct them. You need 1,000 qubits to store one bit of information, so you need the error rate to be less than one error in 1,000 operations. For that, we need to improve the error rate by a factor of 1018 (a quintillion). We’ve been able to show error checking with a factor of ten improvement in two qubits, and we’re looking at scaling up to tens or hundreds of qubits. So we can just add more and more qubits and the error correction should get better and better.3


How many qubits are you working with and how will you scale this up? We’re still working at about the nine qubit level, but we’re building up the infrastructure for 100 or 200 qubits. The core problem is that you cannot copy quantum information and everything is tied up with everything e l s e. S o, u n l i k e w i t h c l a s s i c a l computing, you can’t break up the task among diferent groups of engineers and put it all back together again.


You’re developing a quantum annealer, like the one built by Canadian startup D-Wave that Google purchased in 2013. What this does this do? A quantum annealer allows you to solve optimisation problems by finding the minimum energy solution for a system, given how the qubits are interacting together. That’s going to be very useful for machine learning, where you’re trying to find the minimum of some function for a neural net that gives you the best fit for a large data set. This takes a long time with classical algorithms; with quantum algorithms we should be able explore the entire possibility space all at once to find this minimum. We’re taking a different approach from D-Wave. They’ve built up lots and lots of qubits without worrying too much about coherence time, so we think it’s not going to get much more powerful than a laptop. What else are you working on? I view the quantum annealer as the analogue approach, but we’re also trying to create a digital quantum computer – you could theoretically program any problem you wanted on it. We’re also planning a quantum supremacy experiment, which would involve performing a calculation on a quantum computer that would require the biggest supercomputer in the world to check. Maybe no classical computer could check it. A classical computer can compete up to about 40-45 qubits, so we’d need at least that many with good coherence time. Then, in the next five to ten years, maybe longer, we hope to to solve a useful real-world problem with it. Lots of people speculate on the timescale for this, and there’s a lot of different numbers, but I’m actually trying to build it – and that’s a really, really hard thing to do.

Cancer cells on the move This image shows microtumours – seen as blue clusters of metastatic cancer cells – moving through a white thicket of collagen. Instead of observing individual cancer cells, scientists at MIT’s Koch Institute created these clusters, along with a 3D matrix to move in, to study how metastases interact with cells in the body. This lifelike environment enables realistic testing of treatments such as drug-loaded nanoparticles. Emma Bryce


NEURON POWER WITH A PURPOSE Chris Eliasmith’s Spaun is smarter than your average simulated brain Chris Eliasmith, the director of the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience, Canada, is trying to build a brain. Eliasmith’s artificial model, Spaun, currently has just 2.5 million neurons to the human brain’s 100 billion. But unlike more computationally demanding simulations, which have run for only a few simulated seconds, it’s

actually capable of doing something with them. “There’s been an attitude of scale for scale’s sake,” Eliasmith explains. “But for us, the focus was discovering how neurones can be organised to produce behaviours, such as solving simple intelligence tasks.” Spaun is much closer to actual brain structure than a typical artificial neural network, yet it still

lacks biological plausibility. So this year, Eliasmith’s team finished upgrading the model’s highly simplified artificial neurons from just two equations per neuron to 90. “That’s allowed us to start simulating the effects of drugs and diseases,” he

explains. “If you have a hypothesis about the mechanism of Alzheimer’s, you could test that, and if you have a drug that you think would have some particular impact, you can simulate it to see the effects on the brain and its behaviour.” KN





“It’s dangerous to think that space offers an escape from Earth’s problems. There’s no ‘Planet B.’” Martin Rees, p106

M A R T I N R E E S, A S T R O N O M E R R O YA L , I N T R O D U C E S A S P E C I A L 1 6 - PA G E P H O T O G R A P H I C E X P LO R AT I O N O F N A S A’ S N E X T M I S S I O N S – A N D R E F L E C T S O N W H A T S P A C E T R A V E L W I L L O F F E R O U R C Y B O R G S E L V E S



My favourite childhood reading was a comic called the Eagle, especially the adventures of Dan Dare – Pilot of the Future – with the brilliant artwork of Frank Hamson depicting orbiting cities, jetpacks and alien invaders. When space flight became real, the suits worn by the Nasa astronauts (and their Soviet “cosmonaut” counterparts) were therefore familiar, as were the routines of launching, docking and so forth. My generation followed the heroic exploits. The first orbital flight, the first spacewalk, the iconic picture Earthrise taken by William Anders from Apollo 8, and of course the Moon landings. And the near-disaster of Apollo 13 reminded us just how great the risks were – and the precarious dependence on technology that was primitive by today’s standards. Only 12 years elapsed between the first Sputnik and Neil Armstrong’s “one small step”. And this was a long time ago – in 1969. Had that momentum been maintained, there would surely be footprints on Mars by now: that’s what our generation expected. But the Apollo programme was a “space race” against the Russians. Once that race was won, there was no motive for continuing massive expenditure. It’s nearly 45 years since Apollo 17, the last lunar mission, returned to Earth. Today’s young people know the Americans landed men on the Moon. They know the Egyptians built pyramids. But both seem ancient history, motivated by almost equally bizarre national goals. Hundreds more have ventured into space in the ensuing decades – but, anticlimactically, they have done no more than circle the Earth in a space station. The International Space Station (ISS) is probably the most

expensive artefact ever constructed. Its cost, plus that of the shuttles that until recently serviced it, ran well into 12 figures. The scientific and technical pay-of hasn’t been negligible, but it’s been immensely less cost-effective than unmanned missions. Nor are these voyages inspiring in the way that the heroic pioneering Russian and US space exploits undoubtedly were. The ISS only makes news when something goes wrong – when the loo fails, for instance – or when astronauts perform “stunts”, such as the Canadian Chris Hadfield’s guitar-playing and singing. Space technology has of course burgeoned: we depend routinely on orbiting satellites for communication, satnav, environmental monitoring, and weather forecasting – some of these satellites are large, but there is a growing market for cheap miniaturised ones. Telescopes have beamed back data from the remotest parts of the cosmos; spacecraft have journeyed to all the planets of our Solar System. Nasa’s New Horizons probe beamed back amazing pictures from Pluto, 10,000 times farther away than the Moon. And the European Space Agency’s Rosetta has landed a robot on a comet. These spacecraft took five years to design and build, and then ten years journeying to their remote targets. We’re aware how mobile phones have changed in the last 15 years – so imagine how much more sophisticated today’s follow-ups to these missions could be. During this century, the entire Solar System – planets, moons and asteroids – will be explored and mapped by flotillas of tiny robotic craft. The next step would be space mining and fabrication. (And fabrication in

space will be a better use of materials mined from asteroids than bringing them back to Earth). Every man-made object currently in orbit has had to be launched from Earth. But later this century, giant robotic fabricators will be able to construct, in space, huge solar-energy collectors and other artefacts. The Hubble Space Telescope’s successors, with huge gossamer-thin mirrors assembled under zero gravity, will further expand our vision of stars, galaxies and the wider cosmos. It is robots, and not humans, that will build giant artefacts in space, and


explore the outer planets. Moreover, these robots won’t be humanoid in size and shape. Humans are adapted to the Earth’s environment. Something more spider-like would be better suited to the weaker gravity of Pluto or the asteroids. But what role will humans play? There’s no denying that Nasa’s Curiosity, now trundling across Martian craters, may miss startling discoveries that no human geologist could overlook. But machine learning is advancing fast, as is sensor technology, whereas the cost gap between manned and unmanned missions remains huge. The practical need for manned space flight gets ever weaker with each advance made in robots and miniaturisation. Nonetheless, I hope that some people now living will walk on Mars – as an adventure, and as a step towards the stars. But Nasa will confront political obstacles in achieving this goal within a feasible budget. The American public is risk-averse. The Shuttle’s two catastrophic accidents (out of nearly 140 launches) were national traumas in the US – each led to a three-year stalling of the programme as near-futile attempts were made to ensure even greater safety. The US public regarded a two per cent risk as unacceptable. That’s why I think the best future for Nasa is to share expertise and collaborate with outfits like SpaceX and Blue Origin – indeed, to let the private sector “front” the missions. These private ventures can tolerate higher risks than a western government could impose on publicly funded civilians; they can thereby cut costs compared to Nasa (or the ESA). There would, nonetheless, be many volunteers – accepting high risks and perhaps even “one-way tickets” – driven by the same motives as early explorers, mountaineers and the like. These opportunities should be promoted as adventures or extreme sports – the phrase “space tourism” should be avoided. It lulls people into unrealistic confidence.

y 2100, courageous pioneers in the mould of (say) Felix Baumgartner, who broke the sound barrier in free fall from a high-altitude balloon (or Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who, among many feats, dragged a sledge to the South Pole in the Antarctic winter), may have established “bases” independent from the Earth – on Mars, or maybe on asteroids. Elon Musk (aged 45) says he wants to die on Mars – but not on impact. Development of self-sustaining communities remote from the Earth would also ensure that advanced life would survive, even if the worst conceivable catastrophe befell our planet. But don’t expect mass emigration from Earth. Nowhere in our Solar System ofers an environment even as clement as the Antarctic or the top of Everest. It’s a dangerous delusion to think that space ofers an escape from Earth’s problems. There’s no “Planet B”. Indeed, space is an inherently hostile environment to which humans

are ill-adapted. For that reason, even though we may wish to regulate genetic and cyborg technology on Earth, we should surely wish the space pioneers good luck in using all such techniques to adapt to different atmospheres, different g forces, and so forth. This might be the first step towards divergence into a new species: the beginning of the post-human era. To find an environment as clement as our Earth, we need to look far beyond the Solar System to the exoplanets orbiting other stars. But the transit time to other stars, using known technology, exceeds a human lifetime. And it will remain so even if futuristic forms of propulsion can be developed and deployed – involving nuclear power, matter-antimatter annihilation, or pressure from giant laser beams. Interstellar travel (except for unmanned probes, DNA samples, and so on) is therefore an enterprise for post-humans. They could be organic creatures (or cyborgs) which had won the battle with death, or perfected the techniques of hibernation or suspended animation. A journey lasting thousands of years is a doddle if you are near-immortal and are not constrained to a human lifespan. Th e re m u s t b e c h e m i c a l a n d metabolic limits to the size and processing power of “wet” organic brains. Maybe we’re close to these already. But fewer limits constrain electronic computers (still less, perhaps, quantum computers). And there’s no limit to how widely such machines could spread. Earth’s biosphere, in which organic life has symbiotically evolved, is not essential sustenance for advanced AI. Indeed, it is far from optimal: interplanetary and interstellar space, a hostile environment for humans, will be the preferred arena where non-biological “brains” may, in the distant future, far surpass human capabilities. Martin Rees has been Astronomer Royal since 1995



ROCKET SCIENCE DOCUMENTED You are about to witness the future of Nasa. WIRED has been given exclusive access to document the space agency’s next products – as well as some classics that boldly took us here. These never-before-seen photographs are part of an eight-year project that took us deep inside its facilities. They show that, although shifts in funding priorities and the rise of commercial space travel are changing Nasa’s focus, its Journey to Mars project exemplifies how it's as dedicated as ever to pushing the boundaries of space travel. The photographs were taken by Benedict Redgrove, who visited three Nasa sites. He uses Alpa MAX and 12 STC cameras, stitching together multiple images to create photographs with an epic quality. “I shoot about 40 images,” he explains, “then layer them to achieve the highest definition.” Redgrove's project won’t be complete until 2018, but for now, immerse yourself in WIRED’s epic space journey. Ruby Lott-Lavigna


SPACE SHUTTLE ATLANTIS STS-135 Responsible for delivering supplies and parts to the International Space Station (ISS), Atlantis was the last orbiter to be launched in Nasa’s 30-year space shuttle programme. It was also the penultimate space shuttle to be built; its final mission was in July 2011. Atlantis had exterior tiles that could withstand temperatures of up to 1,648°C. The nose cap, where the heat is most extreme, consists of reinforced carbon-carbon coating, a material that’s able to withstand the extreme conditions experienced during launch, ascent, re-entry and landing. The orbiter’s surface is covered by a low-cost thermal protection system designed to be reusable and lightweight.







The Vehicle Assembly Building at Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is home to these two rocket assembly bays, 11.5 metres long and weighing 150 tonnes apiece. The facility was used to construct each of the Apollo spacecraft and is being extended to accommodate the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft, both to be used in Nasa’s Journey to Mars mission. Its new configuration will also allow commercial space companies such as SpaceX to use the site. “We’re upgrading fire systems and data lines,” says Nasa public affairs specialist Lisa Fowler. “Platforms will correspond to where workers need access to assemble their rockets.”

Costing $38 million (£28m – the equivalent of more than $225 million today) on its completion in 1971, this battery-powered rover is one of the most expensive vehicles ever built. It weighs 210kg and was designed to hold a payload of 490kg when travelling on the surface of the Moon. Another Lunar Rover Vehicle was transported into space in the Lunar Module, and is still sitting on the Moon today. It was constructed within just 17 months and was used in three Apollo programmes during 1971 and 1972. The wheels are constructed of zinccoated woven steel strands designed to withstand the Moon’s unique atmosphere, terrain and pressure.

Introduced in 1981, this spacesuit was designed and produced by ILC Dover (an offshoot of the bra company Playtex) in Frederica, Delaware, and it’s still being worn by Nasa astronauts today. Its weight (49.5kg) and bulk makes looking down impossible, so controls mounted on the chest are positioned in reverse and can be viewed using a wristmounted mirror. The helmet has a visor coated in a thin layer of gold to deflect harmful rays from the Sun. To maintain a comfortable core body temperature, a liquid cooling and ventilation system circulates water through 91.5 metres of narrow tubing in a layer beneath the suit.







Designed to work in environments deemed too hazardous for astronauts, R5 is the third and newest iteration of Nasa's robonauts. Whereas the first two, R1 and R2, are used to perform repetitive tasks on the ISS, Valkyrie – with its three fingers and thumb – is being developed to mine resources, build habitats autonomously on the surface of Mars, complete disaster-relief manoeuvres and work alongside astronauts. The electric humanoid has on-board computing and sensing, a 1.8kWh battery, 44 degrees of body freedom and is currently being developed at various universities around the world to allow collision-free movement.

Looking like a futuristic centaur, R1 is the first of the three robonaut models to be developed by Nasa. Available in various forms (the partvehicle iteration is pictured), R1 was completed in 2000 to carry out tasks usually undertaken by humans, but controlled by astronauts via a telepresence control system. It addresses the issue of astronauts’ limited movement in spacesuits, with Nasa’s design brief to build a robot with dexterity exceeding that of a suited human. Its helmet, unusual in robot design, consists of an epoxy resin created at the Johnson Space Center (where it currently resides, having never travelled to space) to strengthen it against collisions.

The module shown here is based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. It's an exact replica of the US laboratory on the ISS and is used as a training facility for astronauts before they embark on space travel. Measuring 8.5m by 4.2m and weighing 14.5 tonnes, Destiny was brought up to the ISS during the STS-98 mission and is continually being developed (this photo doesn’t reflect recent changes to the ISS version). When introduced to the station, the lab consisted of five International Standard Payload Racks – shelf-like areas where research projects would take place. Over time these have increased; there are now several racks for experiments and Earth observations.





Never mind the Lake District – why not holiday in space? Designed by Boeing in collaboration with Bigelow Aerospace, the CST-100 Starliner crew capsule will for be the first Nasa-associated craft to be used for commercial trips. Like the Orion, the capsule is reusable, and it will be able to hold up to seven passenger en route to private space locations such as the proposed Bigelow Aerospace Commercial Space Station. Comfort for paying customers whilst travelling will be a priority, so the CST will offer Wi-Fi and LED “Sky Lighting”. Its first crewed flight is scheduled for 2018, where it will transport two astronauts to the ISS.

Currently in production, this reusable capsule cell will house four to six astronauts in deep-space missions for up to three weeks as part of Orion's first manned mission in 2023. The capsule will be eight metres tall once a cylinder – providing water, oxygen and power propulsion – is affixed to the crew module. When complete, the 5m-wide module will weigh about 8.5 tonnes and be constructed from the same aluminium-lithium alloy used in the Delta IV and Atlas V rockets, and will be covered by Nomex thermal blankets in areas not exposed to ultra-high temperatures. It is currently being built by Lockheed Martin, an American security and defence company.


SPACE EXPLORATION VEHICLE This is Nasa’s newest in-space transportation vehicle. Used for traversing the surface of solid planets, the Space Exploration Vehicle can house two astronauts (or four in an emergency) for up to 14 days, travelling at speeds of up to 10kph. It can drive forwards and sideways, and, unlike the Apollo rover, has a pressurised cabin, dispensing the need for spacesuits. With wheels that pivot 360°, the rover’s main function is exploration, allowing astronauts to inspect objects outside the vehicle as well as pick up and move items using attachable tools such as cranes and bulldozer blades. It is being developed at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.





These engines, along with Atlantis's solid rocket boosters, provide the thrust needed to accelerate the space shuttle from 4,800kph to more than 27,400kph within six minutes. The small dents on its tiles are created by debris kicked up by the force of the launch. In order to reach the desired takeoff speed, its main engines burn up more than two million litres of propellant, made up of liquid nitrogen – the second coldest liquid on Earth, with a boiling point of -195°C – and liquid oxygen, which creates an exhaust of water vapour. According to Nasa, the rate of fuel use would drain the averagesized family swimming pool within 25 seconds.

This glove, found at the Johnson Space Center, is detachable from the spacesuit and comprised of three parts: an inner comfort glove and two pressurised layers. It is reinforced to allow interaction with sharp rocks or tools which could otherwise damage the material, and has integrated wire cables for extra support without sacrificing flexibility. The external material is Chromel-R, a fabric made from ultra-strong and flexible chromium steel fibre. A silicon dispersion coating is applied to the palm and fingers to help astronauts grip objects, and the hard shells on the fingertips are made of highstrength, silicone-rubbercoated nylon tricot.





First used in 1965, it's the Crawler-transporter’s job to move completed shuttles from the Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad. Having transported rockets such as the Saturn V, the 40m by 35m vehicles – there are two of them, called Hans and Franz – were mothballed after the Space Shuttle programme ended in 2011 but are expected to return to work when the era of commercial shuttles begins. It takes a team of nearly 30 engineers, technicians and drivers to operate the vehicle at a steady speed of 1.6kph when fully loaded, and it uses hydraulic suspension to maintain a level platform when transporting heavy loads.

Every Space Shuttle astronaut has operated the Trainer Flight Deck in their training programme. Last used in the STS-135 mission in 2011, this cockpit and lower storage area of the flight deck was originally found in the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility in Houston but, now decommissioned, is now on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. Prior to deployment on a mission, crews would spend years training in the flight deck – the wear and tear on the control stick and main panel bear testament to the thousands of hours would-be astronauts spent here. The cockpit holds five people –the two seats in this photo accommodate the commander and the pilot.


SATURN V STAGE II ROCKET ENGINES These five J-2 engine s are part of the second stage of Saturn V, the rocket responsib le for Nasa's Apollo missions between 1966 and 1973. It's the most powerful hydrogen-fue lled rocket ever produced, able to deliver 453,000kg of thrust. During ascent, Stage II's boo sts take

over from Saturn V ’s first rockets at around 185,000 metres. At this stage, the craft’s velocity would increase from around 10,000kph to 25,000kph. The motors shown here will eventually be separated from the rocket, after six minutes of driving the ascent of the payload. Used motors are jettisoned into space, the examples pictured here are unused.

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P H O T O G R A P H Y : B E N E D I C T E VA N S





the allegations and initially didn’t ta k e t h e p o l i c e to o s e r i o u s l y. Shaka’s official online pseudonym is Maverick Blutaski, a careful government critic with a more modest following and ambition than TVO. In August 2015, two months after Shaka appeared in court, he received a strange typewritten letter that he says was given to him by a security oicer at his workplace late one Friday night, when no one else was around. It read: “An unspecified Ugandan oicial has threatened your life in relation to your suspected political activities”. Below this message was a yellow handwritten note reading: “Please pass to Robert Shaka”.



sedan through the dark alleyway. He had switched of his car headlights and scanned the scene as he crept away from his home in Kampala and towards his office. Shaka sensed something was wrong as soon as he hit the main road. A sports van was parked in the shadows near some bushes; the faint light from a security compound revealed the silhouettes of seven men inside, along with the outlines of their Kalashnikovs. He had to move quickly. It was a Monday morning in June 2015, and Shaka, a middle-aged father of two, who worked in IT at the US embassy in Kampala, knew that his movements were being monitored: in February 2015 he had been charged with “Issuing ofensive communication” – a vaguely worded violation listed in the Computer Misuse Act that’s used by the Ugandan authorities to intimidate internet users – and placed on police bond. Shaka was charged with being Tom Voltaire Okwalinga, the name given to an anonymous Facebook profile more commonly known by Ugandans as TVO, a widely read government dissenter. The charge sheet accused him of “disguising as Tom Voltaire Okwalinga” between 2011 and 2015 and “wilfully and repeatedly using a computer, with no purpose of legitimate communication, disturbing the right of privacy of H.E. [His Excellency] Yoweri Kaguta Museveni by posting statements as regards his health condition on social media, to wit, Facebook.” Shaka, along with other government critics, had been accused of being TVO as early as 2013. He dismissed

in two long sessions over Skype, he sits in his neat, grey-walled bedroom. (He has asked us not to disclose his location.) He has curly hair and a thick moustache and recounts the story of his arrest in a long-winded fashion with a husky, rolling voice and emphatic hand gestures. The government still does not know his whereabouts, he says. He is due to make a court appearance in a matter of days and is concerned about the safety of those who are his sureties. The IT specialist seems an unlikely online hero. A quiet, middle-class father of two young boys and a baby girl, Robert Shaka is a man who can stay indoors for days on end reading, playing games on his PlayStation and watching news and political debates on television. Having been a diligent worker for the US embassy for 15 years, he is anything but revolutionary and far from a radical figure. He simply supports economic equality, liberty and freedom of expression. Shaka has a big personality and a theatrical manner, and pays close attention to intricate details when he tells a story. But he can also come across as a quiet guy who got caught up in a paranoid government’s obsession with a controversial online character. Shaka never imagined that his arrest would become symbolic of how repressive states throughout the region are clamping down on freedom of expression online. Ugandan journalists liken TVO to Edward Snowden, whereas Shaka sees the former CIA contractor in more basic terms – an employee who




betrayed the trust of his employer, rather than a patriot fighting for the freedom and ideals of his home nation. He sees TVO in a very diferent way: a legendary firebrand who can “break news, break secrets and publish anything that he can land on,” in a pseudo dictatorship whose western allies have ignored the depredations of its leader because he is an ally in the so-called war on terror in Africa. The evidence against Shaka is yet to be presented in court, but many theories about TVO have been posed: that he is a government insider or a composite group of activists with high-profile sources rather than an individual, for one. This is the case with Baba Jukwa, a blogger well known in Zimbabwe, who is said to be the work of a group of defectors from Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party. Individuals have been arrested in the hunt for Baba Jukwa but, like Tom Voltaire, the blog has continued. WIRED asks Shaka whether he is TVO. “I’m not TVO.” A long, solemn pause. “I’m not TVO.” Uganda’s most bombastic and audacious Facebook personality is followed by more than 10,000 citizens, politicians, members of the media and the diaspora. Drawing on the irreverence of Voltaire, the 18th-century French philosopher known for his acerbic attacks on the establishment, TVO leaks

Above: Shaka’s lawyer Nicholas Opiyo founded humanrights organisation Chapter Four Above, right: Ugandan security services lunch in Constitutional Square, Kampala


state secrets, breaks corruption scandals and airs wild rumours in a distinctly Ugandan way: he’s brash, vulgar, no-holds-barred and very funny. He openly attacks and mocks the Ugandan political elite and calls for revolution, and the overthrow of Museveni, a former rebel leader and military strongman who has been Uganda’s commander in chief for 30 years, and who recently extended his mandate in widely disputed national elections held in February 2016. TVO is unabashedly pro-opposition. He writes in capitals, airs secret recordings, unveils political plots and posts mocking, home-made memes of the nation’s most powerful oicials. News teams trawl the page for leads as it breaks stories before the mainstream media and laugh when it routinely humiliates government spokespeople. The state has already arrested other people for being TVO, but has released them all due to lack of evidence. According to Charles Bichachi, managing editor of Uganda’s leading daily newspaper, the Daily Monitor, the fate of the person behind TVO will be grim. “He will be dead,” he tells WIRED. “I don’t think he would survive even for one day because he has stepped on a lot of toes.”



southern regions. In Uganda, internet penetration has increased fourfold in the past five years, growing from 7.9 per cent to 37.4 per cent – and it is expected to reach at least 50 per cent in the coming years. The widespread availability of the internet, the low price of data and cheap Chinese devices flooding the market has made social media suddenly widely

accessible. This growth hasn’t always been greeted with enthusiasm by some governments. Countries including Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda continue to assert control over the burgeoning virtual space and silence online dissidents. Weasel-worded laws and “computer misuse” acts define ofences in broad strokes, as does interception of communications legislation. Governments say these laws have been drafted to fight terrorism, cybercrime, child pornography and encouragement of genocide and political violence. But many of the laws are vague, contain loopholes and have little judicial or independent oversight, giving governments the power to stifle freedom of expression, spy on opponents, arrest pundits and oblige ISPs to block sites and shut down social channels. The State of Internet Freedom in East Africa 2015 report, released in September 2015 and sponsored by the Collaboration of International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa, found a pattern of laws being passed that “threaten the right to freedom of expression, both online and oline.” It cited a “rise in abuses and attacks on internet freedom”. There has been a pattern of crackdowns on social media during elections in many African countries. In two elections this year alone, President Museveni ordered the shutting down of social media, as did 32-year-serving President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo, who issued a blanket blackout o f c o m m u n i c a t i o n s, i n c l u d i n g internet, telephone and SMS, due to “reasons of security and national safety” during the March 20 presidential elections. Other nations, such as Tanzania, Burundi and Kenya, have passed repressive laws related to the internet in the run up to elections. Whereas real-world physical abuses remain the focus for human rights defenders, there is a growing legal and moral recognition within institutions such as the United Nations regarding the right to privacy and freedom of expression and assembly online. In 2015, the UN appointed Joseph Cannataci as its first special rapporteur on the right to privacy. Activists point to a growing consensus that censorship and abuses online are often linked to broader attacks on human rights and civil liberties.


Left: Robert Shaka, who spoke to WIRED via Skype from an undisclosed location


W I R E D M E E T S S H A K A ’ S L AY W E R


Nicholas Opiyo, a stern young man who answers in complete sentences as if he is in a courtroom speaking to a clerk. He says he took on Shaka’s case because the team saw it as a “watershed, trend-setting case for free expression on social media”, one that violates the constitutional right to freedom of expression. “On every occasion they have refused to give us the basis of their case,” he says. In Uganda, the crackdown of online dissidents comes off the back of new legislation restricting freedom of expression and assembly. The Non-governmental Organisations bill passed in 2015, allows the government to shut down organisations that engage in acts “prejudicial to the interests of Uganda and the dignity of the people of Uganda”. The Public Order Management Act, passed in 2013, requires that Ugandans who gather in groups of more than three to discuss political issues seek permission from the government. Uganda’s presidential elections in February 2016 sharply illustrated this. The government tightly controlled and shut down public gatherings. Soldiers were camped out around Constitutional Square in the capital city of Kampala, where locals have gathered and voiced dissent for decades. Now the square is typically empty. Nearby is a lonely sculpture of a man raising his arms to the sky in an empty patch of concrete. Uganda’s leading opposition candidate Kizza Besigye was denied access to parts of the city and was arrested before the inauguration, and his supporters are routinely arrested and tear-gassed.

realities of the Ugandan political sphere. But the region’s governments are increasingly buying surveillance technology that is used without adequate legal oversight. Reporters a n d c i v i l s o c i e t y ex p e r ts h av e called into question the ethics and legality of the invasive surveillance technology of companies such as the UK- – and Germany-based Gamma International that sells software called FinFisher, and Milan-based Hacking Team, which sells what it describes as “offensive security”. Both companies have been investigated for selling their products to repressive governments – Uganda and Ethiopia to name but two. Hacking Team’s products can mine and export all data on devices and gain access to webcams and c a m e ra s to c o n d u c t re a l - t i m e surveillance. Once it is installed on a hard drive the software is difficult to detect. In April 2016, the Italian government revoked Hacking Team’s export licence to sell its technology outside of the EU following the disclosure that the company was selling to Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government and other authoritarian regimes. This coincided with a rise in tensions between the two countries when, two months earlier, Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni was found dead on the outskirts of Cairo. His body showed signs of extreme torture and Egypt’s security services were suspected to be involved. Spyware has long been used by regimes in the Middle East and North

SILENCING CIVILIANS ACROSS AFRICA ETHIOPIA In 2006, the government began requiring internet cafés to register the names and addresses of their customers, and submit the lists to the police. BURUNDI In 2010, JeanClaude Kavumbagu, editor of Net Press, was arrested and threatened with life imprisonment for reporting on terrorist attacks in Uganda. TUNISIA In the wake of social unrest in 2010, the Tunisian government used malicious code in an attempt to access the entire country’s online passwords.

Africa, and is now gaining ground in sub-Saharan Africa. An investigation by human rights NGO Privacy International was sparked by allegations that the Ugandan government was using FinFisher malware. According to the group’s report, For God and My President: State Surveillance in Uganda, the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence and the Uganda Police Force “acting on presidential orders, used an intrusion malware, short for malicious software, to infect the communications devices of key opposition leaders, media and e s ta b l i s h m e n t i n s i d e r s,” i n a n operation known as “Fungua Macho” – “open your eyes” in Swahili – following a disputed election in 2011. Researchers also claimed that the government issued bribes to get access to the phones and c o m p u te r s o f k e y m e m b e r s o f the opposition and created fake hotspots to ensnare others. The Ugandan government denies the allegations, and has threatened to sue the BBC for publishing an article on the findings. However, in a letter to Privacy International, Gamma refused to either confirm nor deny that it had sold malware to Uganda, adding that it “does not supply in contravention of UN sanctions” nor did it encourage “misuse” of its product. The statement also stressed that its p ro d uct had been effe ct iv e against drug cartels, organised crime and paedophile rings. Invasive software that is diicult to trace – like that provided by Hacking Team – can be used to target dissidents beyond national borders. Bill Marczak, a senior research fellow at Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, an organisation that focuses on the relationship between technology, human rights and global security, uncovered the first known case of an African country attempting to access digital accounts across continents. According to Marczak, the Ethiopian government made three attempts to target the Skype and email accounts of exiled journalists and human-rights activists at a Virginia-based television station, ESAT. Unlike most African countries, Ethiopia has a monopoly over the telecommunications network and can easily tap lines and monitor calls – which could prove fatal for on-the-ground sources.

SHAKA BECAME SUSPICIOUS about his arrest and the fact that he had to report to the Criminal Investigations Division for more than six months, but he kept quiet, hoping that it would go away. But, after a tip-off from an old school friend that a senior member of the military intelligence unit was trying to track down Shaka’s address, Opiyo advised his client to go public to protect himself. The evening before Shaka’s arrest, broadcaster NTV Uganda aired an interview with him in which he denied being TVO and called on the government to stop cracking down on its online critics. Shaka expected a backlash, but not to be ambushed outside his house early one morning. When that happened, he acted decisively. He turned right and sped of to a petrol station down the road. He pulled up by a petrol pump, got out of his car and folded his arms across his chest to make sure his hands were visible. Police oicers dressed in plain clothes and armed with AK47s informed Shaka that they would be taking him to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU). The police searched his car and found his mobile phone. As the officers milled about, Shaka took a second phone from the inside pocket of his brown suede blazer and sent an SMS to his brother, a work colleague, a friend in London and a

friend in Washington: “They have taken me to SIU. Please come and rescue me. Inform others.” At SIU he was escorted into a large hall full of prisoners, many of whom Shaka says had been detained without charge: defectors from the Rwandan army; terror suspects; people accused of violent ofences. The grey cell blocks had mats on the ground instead of beds. The prisoners felt a sense of fatalism – many were held without the knowledge of their family members and some said they had been tortured. Shaka says that one man in his late thirties who was accused of stealing scrap metal from his boss limped into the cells weeping after what he said was a thrashing with a metal bar that left bruises all over his body. Shaka was afraid, but unlike the other inmates his family, lawyer and the US embassy at least knew where he was. Within a few hours, news of Shaka’s arrest broke, not on mainstream media, but on the Tom Voltaire Okwalinga Facebook page. “You must release Robert Shaka with immediate efect… He is not even TVO… I advise you to continue looking for TVO until you grow grey hair, and by that time it will be TVO looking for you,” read the post. At the time of writing, the case has been under way for a year, but the state has yet to make public the evidence against Shaka.



Below: the Kampala petrol station where armed police officers ambushed Shaka before taking him to the Special Investigations Unit

DEVELOPER WHO HAS helped OFFICIALS set up Twitter accounts, says he doubts the government has any evidence against Shaka and whether it has the capacity to unmask TVO. The government has written to Facebook requesting the identity of Tom Voltaire Okwalinga. It denied the request. Owino himself was arrested in October 2014 and detained at SIU after being accused of hacking the president’s Twitter account. He spent the night in jail and was released without charge. “I see more efort to muzzle people’s voices,” says Owino, who adds that messaging apps and social media are spreading beyond the Kampala middle class and elite. He believes the government’s capacity to conduct surveillance is limited, but he is still concerned by its appetite to monitor online activity. During the elections, the inspector general of police, Kale Kayihura, ordered the Ugandan Communications Commission to shut down social media, citing undisclosed security threats, by using “black holing”, a technique whereby traic is directed away from the IP addresses of specified platforms. To get round this, many Ugandans downloaded virtual private networks to bypass the system. Opposition party the Forum for Democratic Change was able to release its own tally of votes even as its headquarters was tear-gassed and blocked by police, and its leader Kizza-Besigye was under house arrest. During the 2011 elections, the Ugandan government ordered mobilephone networks to intercept text messages containing words associated with the Arab spring, such as “Egypt,”

“Tunisia,” “Mubarak” and “people power”. The same year, it also ordered the shutdown of social media during the Walk to Work demonstrations, orchestrated by the opposition after security forces killed nine bystanders. Back then, many of the internet and mobile service providers ignored the government’s request. In 2016, they complied. James Saaka heads Uganda’s National Information Technology Authority, part of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. He tells WIRED about the Ugandan government’s plan to build an IT park that would create thousands of jobs. Coverage of the court case contesting the election results flashes across a TV in the corner of his oice. WIRED steers the conversation towards the socialmedia blackout. “Freedom of speech doesn’t mean that I should abuse you,” he says. “We can have diferent views but put them in a proper way.” The division that investigated Shaka’s case is Uganda’s Media Crimes Department, part of the Criminal Investigations Directorate. The agency is led by Simon Kuteesa – an amiable man in his fifties and a former state prosecutor who laughs like a jester. When asked to define what “ofensive communication” is, he reads from his smartphone in a playful sing-song tone, that “it is illegitimate communication over a phone, computer or other electronic device that undermines a person’s right to privacy and also causes annoyance”. W h e n W I R E D a s k s f o r a m o re detailed explanation, the response is evasive and ambiguous. “Ofensive communication” appears to have no distinct definition; it’s whatever the authorities decide it is.

doing something wrong, am I going to be charged with undermining?” he asks. “Alai is a necessary voice: we may not agree with what he says, but he has a right to say it,” says Boniface Mwangi, a photographer and human rights activist as he sits in his office in PAWA254. A collective of artists, film-makers and photographers in Nairobi, it works for social change. “Every society needs an Alai.” But Mwangi, who photographed Kenya’s post-election ethnic violence in 2007, is fearful that the government will try to censor and shut down social media in the lead up to next year’s elections. His belief is that Kenyans, Africa’s most tech-savvy and politically engaged online community, won’t let a socialmedia blackout happen without a fight. As internet penetration continues to grow and social platforms become more integrated in the lives of Kenyans, so


too does online surveillance. In 2013, Citizen Lab found three BlueCoat PacketShaper installations – software that monitors users’ interactions on services such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Mail and Skype – in countries including Kenya, Afghanistan, Bahrain, China, Kenya, Malaysia, Qatar and Russia. Publicly available information on surveillance in Kenya is scarce. The rise in terrorism since 2011 means that security is a subject oicials don’t want to discuss on the record. In March, WIRED met Joseph Mucheru, the minister for information communications who used to work for Google in Kenya, at a Nairobi hotel.





pundit in Kenya with 492,000 Twitter followers. He has been arrested more than 15 times in response to comments he has made on radio, blogs and social media. Alai is in many ways an unmasked Tom Voltaire Okwawalinga: he says outrageous things online and sometimes his leaks are spot on. He was charged with “undermining the authority of a public officer” for calling President Uhuru Kenyatta an “adolescent president” in a tweet on December 13, 2015. Kenya must hold elections before August 2017 and Alai is concerned that some activists will have to leave the country. “If I see the president or a policeman

“We’ve had a lot of issues with terrorism and there are sensitivities in what we do,” he says. “I don’t want to comment about what we are doing with security.” When asked about the government’s capacity to conduct online surveillance, he replied: “We are suiciently covered.” He refused to elaborate.


Below: Joseph

only known one president for 30 years, Robert Shaka blogs about government repression and the need for change. For him, the internet is a means by which citizens can fight back. He says the government’s tactics will lead to more online critics setting up anonymous profiles. But online

Owino helped

dissidents can still be silenced if the government develops greater online surveillance capabilities. “More people are coming online,” he says. “The government is feeling it because it cannot win the propaganda war on social media, that’s why they want to shut it down.” He’s optimistic, though, that online African dissidents will win the battle. “It may not be in the next five years, but the conversation is so rich, is so deep, is so pertinent, and nobody wants to walk away from it.” Clair MacDougall is a journalist and writer based in West Africa

to streamline Ugandan president Museveni’s socialmedia profiles – before being arrested for hacking his Twitter account



135 < HYPERLOOP TRANSPORTATION TECHNOLOGIES A wooden, life-size replica of a cabin outside its LA headquarters


v HYPERLOOP ONE The team built this pressurereduced wind tunnel in ten days


IN 2013, irked by the $68 billion (£51bn) cost of California’s high-speed rail project, Elon Musk proposed an alternative. He called it the hyperloop: levitating pods that would travel in near-vacuum tubes at close to the speed of sound. By his calculations, a hyperloop from Los Angeles to San Francisco would take just 36 minutes at a build cost of under $6 billion – a tenth of the train’s cost. “Short of figuring out real teleportation, which would be awesome,” Musk declared, the hyperloop was “the only option for super-fast travel.” Musk being Musk, the internet went crazy. Proponents argued hyperloop routes could transform economics in a way comparable to air travel, turning far-flung cities around the world into stops on a continental tube map. Others thought the idea a sciencef iction fantasy. Either way, Musk declared himself too busy running SpaceX and Tesla to build it himself, and instead invited anyone ambitious enough to try. Today, two startups – Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies – are racing to be the first. Between them, they employ hundreds of engineers and have raised millions of dollars in venture capital. They have met world leaders, signed deals with sovereign nations and partnered with global engineering firms. Earlier this year, WIRED set about to document their progress. It did not go as we expected.

HYPERLOOP ONE / A visualisation of a hyperloop station that predates the company’s rebranding. Before May 2016, it was Hyperloop Technologies

On a cloudless morning in May, a convoy of coaches drove out to a test site belonging to the transportation startup Hyperloop One. A sweeping, fenced-of cluster of low container buildings, the facility lies less than an hour north of Las Vegas into the Nevada desert. Fighter jets soared overhead. Sections of steel tubing, painted white, lay in the dirt. Next door, a solar farm dazzled in the Sun. As the coaches approached, kicking up dust plumes, the site thrummed with activity. Music blared over loudspeakers. Jumbo screens broadcast the company logo (the company, formerly Hyperloop Technologies, had rebranded the night

man who is actually in the arena”) before previewing the company’s “Kitty Hawk moment” – the future date, named after the first Wright brothers flight, when the company says it will demonstrate its first fully operational hyperloop. But trouble was stirring. Unknown to the audience, the generators to power the test had failed with just minutes to go. (In a case of pre-show nerves, the team later surmised, an engineer had turned them on early, causing them to overheat.) Now its first demonstration was in jeopardy. On stage, Brogan BamBrogan, Hyperloop One’s co-founder and

before). Disembarking, the passengers – more than a hundred journalists, investors and dignitaries – filed up on to an observation deck erected for the occasion. The event had the atmosphere of a rock concert: in fact, the audience was gathered to see a test of the propulsion system that would power the company’s hyperloop design. The platform overlooked a raised bank, topped with 300m of steel track. At one end waited a metal sled, rigged with sensors and cameras. Beneath it, thick cables snaked from the magnets that would propel it down the line. On stage, Shervin Pishevar, Hyperloop One’s venture capitalist co-founder and executive chairman, welcomed the audience. Among them sat partners from engineering giants Arup and AECOM and the architect Bjarke Ingels. Pishevar has dark, thinning hair and a wide smile, and was dressed casually in a navy blazer and jeans. He quoted Teddy Roosevelt (“It is not the critic who counts… The credit belongs to the


137 chief technology oicer, took over. As BamBrogan – a former SpaceX rocket engineer with a handlebar moustache and a cap hanging from his belt – stalled, his team rushed to find a solution. They hurriedly wrote new parameters to run the demonstration using one generator. It wouldn’t reach the speeds planned, but it might save the presentation. A public failure for such a basic piece of its technology could be disastrous for a nascent startup. With the hurried solution in place, BamBrogan signalled the control room. After a dramatic ten-second countdown, the electric motor kicked in. It worked: the sled fired down the track at 186kph, into a bank of sand. (Like much of the Hyperloop technology, the company hasn’t perfected brakes yet.) In the control room, the engineers embraced; the audience whooped and applauded. “I’d really love to note that all of that happened on purpose,” BamBrogan said. The technical glitch went unmentioned. In the distance, telephone poles stretched into the scrub, marking an approved route for a test hyperloop, “Devloop”, that the company plans to build by early 2017. Although the first commercial route has yet to be decided, BamBrogan said, it hopes to have hyperloops moving cargo by 2019 and people by 2021. The test generated headlines around the world. Hyperloop, it seemed to say, isn’t just real – it’s almost here. But generators weren’t the only things failing within Hyperloop One. Weeks later, BamBrogan would resign, and the two co-founders would find themselves locked in a $250 million legal battle. Still, for now, they put their arms around each other’s shoulders and smiled for the cameras.

HTT HYPERLOOP / A concept illustration for the HTT hyperloop cabin. It is yet to publicly demonstrate

Shervin Pishevar was born in Iran in the any of its designs early 70s. When he was six, the Pishevar family fled the revolution and developing Iran-Iraq war to live in Washington, DC. His father found work as a taxi driver (the inspiration, Pishevar says, for his later investment in Uber). His mother was a housekeeper. “I saw them working really hard,” he recalls. After graduating from Berkeley, he launched a series of internet startups. In 2011, he sold one of them,, to Vistaprint for $117.5 million, and moved into investment. He joined Menlo Ventures – where he was involved with Tumblr, Warby Parker and Uber – before co-founding his own firm, Sherpa Capital.

In Silicon Valley, Pishevar built a reputation as a networker and socialite. He would often post pictures partying with celebrity acquaintances: Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Kanye West. An earnest sharer, he has been known to post his own poetry. “He could get a hug out of anybody, instantly,” says BamBrogan. “He always leads with that.” He is also politically engaged: a campaigning Democrat, he sits on the board of the Fulbright scholarship. When George and Amal Clooney hosted a $353,000-per-couple private fundraiser in San Francisco for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, they did it at Pishevar’s house.

open-source it.’” Pishevar – who, like many in the tech industry, idolises Musk – volunteered. He pushed Musk to make his plans public. That August, Musk released his proposal in a white paper. The hyperloop, he wrote, would be a steel tube, with most of its air removed. With drag reduced, passenger pods propelled by electric motors could travel at speeds of over 1,200kph. The remaining air would be compressed beneath the pods, like an inverted air-hockey table, letting them levitate inside the tube. It would be powered by solar panels and, because it was so lightweight, could be elevated on

One friend who shares Pishevar’s political interest and financial means is the actor Sean Penn. In 2011, the pair flew to Egypt to witness the protests in Tahrir Square. During the Libyan civil war, they flew into Benghazi to meet the rebels who had liberated the city. “This was during the bombing of Sirte,” says Pishevar. “We had to get the NATO general to allow us to fly in, because all commercial flights were cancelled.” One fighter gave Pishevar a Libyan flag wristband, which he later passed on to President Obama at the White House. I t w a s t h i s L i b y a s to r y t h a t convinced another friend, Elon Musk, to join the pair on a trip to Cuba in January 2013. (Musk declined to comment for this story.) The group had hoped to negotiate the release of an American prisoner. It was on Musk’s jet, en route to Cuba, that they first discussed the hyperloop. “He said, ‘you know, I’m a little busy trying to get to Mars and doing Tesla, and raising five boys. I think I’m going to

concrete pylons along existing highways, reducing the cost of acquiring land. Newspapers quickly proclaimed that the hyperloop would heal regional divides. Some argued that the hyperloop would transform the economy, moving packages across continents in hours. Others were more sceptical. “There’s a concept in mathematics, which is known as ‘trying to prove too much’,” says transportation blogger Alon Levy, who wrote a widely cited post disputing Musk’s cost projections. “It’s such a pointless idea it’s not worth print space or even talking about,” Rod Smith, an engineering professor at Imperial College London, tells WIRED. But generally, engineers were cautiously optimistic. “I didn’t agree with his figures, but I found myself closer to his ideas than I expected,” says John Miles, an engineer at Arup and a Cambridge University professor, who is now consulting for Hyperloop One. It could be done. Pishevar just needed an engineer to build it.






W hile Pishevar searched, another entrepreneur launched into the race: Dirk Ahlborn, a plain-speaking German with a wave of dark hair and the chin of Mr Incredible. Ahlborn, 39, had run pellet stove and barbecue businesses in Italy before moving to Los Angeles, where he worked for the Girvan Institute, a non-profit business incubator once funded by Nasa but which by then, he says, “was struggling a little bit”. Ahlborn proposed an idea for a new, online-only incubator. The project, called JumpStartFund, would let individuals suggest business ideas; the crowd could then volunteer its time and invest. Ahlborn drove for Uber part-time as he worked to get the idea of the ground. When Musk released the hyperloop paper, Ahlborn posted it on the website. Hundreds of believers signed up. They began sharing pod designs in forums and on Facebook, discussing the physics and suggesting potential routes. Ahlborn formalised the group into a company: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT). He was joined by an Italian entrepreneur and investor who calls himself Bibop Gresta. (His real first name is Gabriele.) An exuberant showman with a Tony Stark beard and a Muppet’s rhythmic laugh, Gresta had aspired to be a rapper in his youth, and toured briefly as a stage performer with the popular Italian dance group Mato Grosso. After a short TV career presenting on Italian MTV, where colleagues remember him rollerblading around the office, he moved into startups. The pair met at a tech event in Los Angeles, where Ahlborn pitched his idea. “I said, ‘You’re completely crazy, just to think about this’,” says Gresta, now HTT’s chief operating officer, chairman, and “chief Bibop

HYPERLOOP ONE / Top: a security camera image of Afshin Pishevar Below: Brogan BamBrogan with the knotted rope found on his office chair

oicer”. “This will change humanity if you do it well. But you need my help.” HTT now lists more than 400 volunteers, including engineers from Nasa and Boeing. Unlike most startups, its employees are not paid, instead dedicating at least ten hours a week contributing to the project remotely – suggesting materials, building simulations, designing marketing materials – in exchange for stock options. Ahlborn and Gresta were soon travelling the world, pitching their vision: Germany, Slovakia, Dubai. Companies began to sign up as partners, offering patents or suggesting manufacturing techniques. “It’s big enough and crazy enough to be a viable solution,” says Lloyd Marino, one volunteer. Ahlborn puts it another way: “We realised that we had to build a movement, not a company.” Asking around at SpaceX, Pishevar found his engineer: Kevin Brogan. (BamBrogan fused names with his wife Bambi Liu in 2013.) A gregarious Burning Man devotee from Michigan, BamBrogan had helped design the space startup’s Falcon 1 rocket and Dragon capsule. “A brilliant guy,” according to two former SpaceX colleagues, if “a little eccentric”. He flew to San Francisco, where Pishevar pitched the idea: BamBrogan would build the technology, Pishevar would take care of the money. They called the startup Hyperloop Technologies, and set up shop in BamBrogan’s garage on a leafy street in Los Feliz. BamBrogan quickly approached a former SpaceX colleague and friend, Josh Giegel, then working at Virgin Galactic. Pishevar, meanwhile, used his connections to line up $8 million in Series A funding and an all-star board of executives, including former White House deputy chief of staf Jim Messina, XPRIZE founder Peter Diamandis and Snapchat’s Emily White. Joe Lonsdale, an investor and co-founder of big-data firm Palantir, signed on as deputy chairman. Pishevar used a private audience at the White House to pitch the idea to President Obama. Around this time, Pishevar ’s 18-year-old nephew Abraham died in a plane crash. Pishevar flew in to help collect the body. Afshin Pishevar, Abraham’s father, was racked with grief. “I felt like I was going to lose my brother,” Pishevar recalls. He encouraged Afshin, a lawyer in Maryland, to move to the

West Coast and join Hyperloop One. “He thought this could be a legacy for Abraham,” Pishevar says. He messaged BamBrogan to ask if Afshin could stay with him in LA. While the BamBrogans visited friends over Christmas, Afshin lived in their guest room. The company moved into a former factory space and began construction, replicating the industrious culture Musk preached at SpaceX: “Build fast, test faster.” Pishevar meanwhile stayed in San Francisco, working at his VC firm. To run Hyperloop One, he appointed Rob Lloyd, a Canadian former Cisco executive, as CEO. The pitch, by text, was typical Pishevar: “Come change the world with me”. But there was trouble from the start. BamBrogan and Afshin didn’t work well together. Although BamBrogan was popular among the engineers, others found him intimidating, quick to anger. Meetings could descend into shouting matches. Some thought Pishevar wasn’t taking the company seriously. When he did drop by Hyperloop One, he would bring guests: Katy Perry, In early July this year, WIRED visited Hyperloop One’s headquarters in a gentrifying neighbourhood in downtown LA (Soho House is moving in a block down, opposite a strip club). Retro train posters lined the walls. Staf at standing desks worked on simulation models. The company has grown to more than 150 employees; in reception, an engineer sat waiting for a job interview. One noticeable absence: BamBrogan. In late June, the company announced he had resigned, citing “personal reasons”. Giegel was appointed president of engineering in his stead. (He was also, belatedly, made co-founder). “It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for the company,” Lloyd said. “Our team is much closer together than it was.” In the yard, engineers were pouring concrete inserts to guide the test pod down the tube. Others were redesigning the motor. The hyperloop’s low pressure and high speeds can stretch physics in bizarre ways, so the site includes a low-pressure wind tunnel, for testing against its digital simulations. “I called up a place and said, ‘We want a wind tunnel that can do this’,” recalled Giegel. “They said, ‘We can get you a design in 90 days’.” Instead, the team built it themselves in ten.

Hyperloop One’s design now difers substantially from Musk’s proposal. For one, it has ditched air bearings for passive magnetic levitation. (Unlike Japan’s maglev trains, which require super-cooled, superconductive magnets, passive systems are considered cheaper: levitation is created by the pod’s movement.) “Air bearings have tiny clearances. With this new maglev system, we’re riding somewhere between 25 to 40mm, which is more sustainable,” Giegel said. It has also dropped the solar panels. “That limits the amount of through-put, because if you wanted more pods, you don’t have more solar panels,” he said. He added that a grid-powered hyperloop would be far more energy eicient than high-speed rail. Building a hyperloop still presents major engineering challenges. Accelerating and braking at such high speeds requires vast distances. Any route would need to be as straight and level as possible, in order to avoid uncomfortable g-forces. “We don’t want this to be a rollercoaster,” said Giegel. “We’re aiming to keep the experience similar to what you’d feel on a plane: take-of, landing, banked turns.” One way to address this is to tunnel underground. Another is to build underwater. Both would add to the hyperloop’s cost. Much of Hyperloop One’s work is focused on reducing that expense. Inside its “robot training school”, a machine was being programmed to weld tube joints “way faster and more repeatably than humans can,” Giegel enthused. In another, it was stresstesting alternative materials to cut the cost of steel tube and concrete pylons. “There’s an engineering challenge in getting the system to work, but I don’t see why we couldn’t overcome it,” said Miles. Besides, he said, the risks are worth it: “Even if hyperloop’s cost escalated to the cost of high-speed rail, its performance is in a diferent league.” One cost proved too high: both companies have abandoned the idea of a hyperloop from LA to San Francisco. The land is simply too expensive – and even Musk couldn’t work out a way to build stations close enough to the cities’ centres. Hyperloop One is instead exploring an LA-Vegas route, but more likely the first hyperloop will be outside America, in emerging markets, or somewhere with a long stretch of privately held land.

H yperloop Transportation Technologies’ headquarters, a 30-minute drive away in LA traffic, has a more homespun feel. A small hangar with an upstairs office, it is filled with promotional posters and models of its design. When WIRED visited, two workmen were knocking together a life-size hyperloop capsule from wood. What looked like car seats stood in for the real thing. Gresta, dressed in a waistcoat and tie over leather trousers and high-tops, showed WIRED around. At one point he produced a metal tube and a puck-sized magnet to demonstrate magnetic levitation. He dropped the puck, which slowly hovered down the tube. “Wow, right?” he enthused. “Magic.” Gresta is a gifted entertainer with infectious enthusiasm. HTT’s

hyperloop, by his telling, sounds almost too good to be true: in addition to using solar panels, its hyperloop – “the real hyperloop,” he says – will also harness wind, kinetic energy and, where relevant, geothermal power. “This combination generates up to 30 per cent more than we consume,” says Gresta. Its pylons will be vertical gardens, he says, designed by “the biggest Chinese vertical garden company”. It will be so transformative that landowners will welcome hyperloop routes across their property. “All the critics who say how difficult it is to take the right of way? Yes, if you are disrupting everything and not giving a shit, like we are building our roads and highways,” he says. “You are the farmer. I come to you and say listen: I put one pylon every 200ft on your land, OK? In exchange I give you electricity, water, and I give it to you, and you can do whatever you want and make a profit of it. You can collect dew from the air, and it’s almost a pity to use it to farm because you can bottle and sell it – that’s how pure it comes. I can give you bandwidth. It’s completely silent. And it’s beautiful to see – not a pipeline, as you saw in the middle of the desert.” HTT is considering offering tickets for free, instead monetising passengers through advertising. He says the company will build its first hyperloop by 2018. HTT has yet to demonstrate any of this. Its design lab, Gresta says, is of limits. “They are copying everything,” Gresta says, referring to Hyperloop One. “Whenever we disclose it, it will be too late to copy.” He sounded bitter. “They copied the name – they were Hyperloop Technologies, if you remember. They copied the logo,” Gresta says, angrily. “Every time we announce something, every nation we go and speak with the government, they go there. So the strategy is very clear.” (Pishevar denies this and says the name was inspired by Uber Technologies – “I’d never heard of them.”) Some of HTT’s technology is public: its hyperloop will also use maglev, via a patent licensed from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and will use vacuum pumps supplied by Leybold, the manufacturer that supplies CERN. Other elements sound almost fantastical: HTT says its pods will be coated with “Vibranium”, a touch-sensitive carbon fibre made in Slovakia and named after the fictional metal that makes up

Captain America’s shield. (The Marvel fandom runs deep: in emails, Gresta uses an AI assistant called J.A.R.V.I.S., like Tony Stark’s in Iron Man.) “Very honestly, the technology is not very difficult,” said Ahlborn. “Everything is existing. You have to put everything together and they have to work well together. We are now m o s t l y f o c u s i n g o n p a s s e n ge r experience, new business models, alternative monetisation strategies.” The company has already signed a deal with the government of Slovakia to explore potential routes in the country. HTT has also agreed a contract with Deutsche Bahn, the German rail company, to develop an “innovation train” using hyperloop features such as augmented-reality windows (these were also not available for demonstration). As for Hyperloop One? “They did a stunt on a rail.” Gresta shrugged. “They created a rollercoaster. Good luck.” The morning after WIRED visited Hyperloop One, BamBrogan and three former senior employees – Knut Sauer, then-VP David Pendergast, and William Mulholland – filed an explosive lawsuit against the company. In it, they alleged that “those in control of the company continually used the work of the team to augment their personal brands, enhance their romantic lives and line their pockets (and those of family members)”. Among their most remarkable claims: that Pishevar had begun dating an employee of the Pramana Collective, a PR firm employed by the company. They later became engaged. During this time, the suit claims, Pishevar “increased her salary from $15,000 to $40,000 a month, more than any employee in the company”, terminating the contract when the engagement fell through. (Hyperloop One and the Pramana Collective say the increase reflected a change from a discounted rate to its standard retainer, and call the claim “sexist and demeaning”.) It alleges that Pishevar pressured potential Hyperloop One investors to do so via Sherpa Capital (Pishevar denies this), and that Pishevar and Lonsdale hoarded control over the company by issuing themselves shares with 20-to-1 voting rights. They also claim employees were m a d e to s i g n c o n t ra c ts w h i c h stipulated that the company could buy back their shares at below market rates and to cancel un-exercised options if the firm was ever acquired. Days later, Hyperloop One responded by filing its own lawsuit. The 46-page document reads like an airport thriller:


HYPERLOOP ONE / The sled that was demonstrated in the Nevada desert in May 2016. It reached a speed of 186kph

BamBrogan, Pendergast, Sauer and Mulholland are referred to throughout as “the Gang of Four”. Their suit is rebranded “the Sham Complaint”. BamBrogan, the company now says, is “a slightly below average engineer”, an “egomaniacal and greedy” and sexist man who “often appeared inebriated at the oice”. (BamBrogan denies this.) The company angrily denounced the allegations made against it. Instead, it said, the “Gang” had been “secretly plotting a coup” and planning to launch a rival company, Hyperloop Two. Alleging numerous breaches of contract, it filed for damages in excess of $250 million.

part of a joke among colleagues. “If I was going to start another Hyperloop company,” he says, “I sure as hell wouldn’t call it Hyperloop Too!” Hyperloop One’s lawyers also assert that and have also been purchased, “ p r e s u m a b l y b y B a m B r o g a n ”. BamBrogan denies this. And the timing is odd: those addresses were registered on May 9 and May 11. Hyperloop One announced its rebranding on May 10. (Asked to confirm that neither it nor anyone working on its behalf had actually registered the addresses, Hyperloop One said: “No current oicer

The legal battle revealed infighting going back months. Just days after the test in Nevada, 11 senior employees, including BamBrogan and Giegel, signed a letter to Pishevar and Lloyd, demanding that Pishevar step down as chairman and grant employees voting control of Hyperloop One. Over weeks of tense negotiations, the company agreed to several demands, including adding engineers to the board and removing the share buyback clause in its contracts. But Pishevar refused to step down. Over the following days, according to Hyperloop One, the “Gang” considered leaving to form a rival hyperloop company. The signatories of the letter met back at BamBrogan’s garage to discuss their options. There, the lawsuit alleges, they discussed how to get around Hyperloop One’s patents, and drew up a list of potential hires on a whiteboard, if Pishevar stayed. At one point, the company maintains, BamBrogan registered the domain hyperlooptoo. com. This, BamBrogan now says, was

of the company directed that those domain names be purchased”.) The breaking point came in mid-June. BamBrogan was scheduled to travel to Russia to meet high-profile investors, including the billionaire Ziyavudin Magomedov. The trip also involved an event with President Putin. But, with Pishevar still in control of the company, BamBrogan told the investors he wouldn’t be coming. Pishevar went alone. When he arrived, the investors – alarmed by what BamBrogan had told them – expressed their concern. What happened next is a matter of legal dispute. This much is clear: while Pishevar was in Russia reassuring the investors, Afshin, upset by BamBrogan’s actions, procured a length of rope with a slip knot tied at one end, went back into the oice late at night, and left it on BamBrogan’s chair, to send a message. Discovering the rope the next morning, BamBrogan took the message to be a death threat. Believing the rope to be a “noose”, he called the police. “He

had lived with my family. Still had a key to my house. I was extremely fearful. I’ve got a pregnant wife at home, and my life is being threatened,” BamBrogan says. Hyperloop One maintains the rope was a “lasso” intended “for someone acting like a cowboy”. Either way, Afshin Pishevar was immediately fired. Meanwhile, Shervin Pishevar was in St Petersburg at the city’s Economic Forum, an annual gathering for the global elite hosted by President Putin. Ahlborn was also in town, talking up HTT’s hyperloop: the event, hosting billionaires and world leaders, is a potentially lucrative one for infrastructure startups. In a grand ballroom at the Konstantinovsky Palace, Pishevar pitched the hyperloop to Putin and the heads of China, Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s sovereign wealth funds, collec-

tively worth trillions. Putin cracked jokes about the hyperloop. “He actually said he believes hyperloop will fundamentally change the global economy and the world,” Pishevar says. The two posed for a picture together. Back in Los Angeles, BamBrogan was incensed. The group gathered with their families at the company’s oice for emotional showdown talks. Pendergast, accused by Hyperloop One of undermining the company’s position with investors, was fired in front of his wife and daughter. During the meeting, the four former employees allege, the company threatened “economic and legal warfare by millionaires with extensive networks”. Seven signatories of the letter, including Giegel, stayed with the company. BamBrogan, Sauer and Mulholland resigned.



H yperloop Transportation Technologies says it’s working towards its 2018 opening. The company has announced plans to build an 8km route in Quay Valley, a proposed new urban development in Kings County, California. “We start construction this year,” Gresta says. “We are not building a test track in the middle of nowhere. We are building a full-scale hyperloop in a city that will have ten million people riding on it.” The Quay Valley hyperloop is projected to cost between $100 million and $150 million. How will HTT pay for it? “The money is not really an issue,” says Ahlborn. “The moment we pull the trigger, the money will be there.” Gresta explains that HTT has “several offers on the table” from investors, and that some volunteers have also

HYPERLOOP ONE / Below: a 3D topographic model of the proposed West Coast route

invested money. One German company has committed $1.7 million. Pushed for more specifics, Gresta becomes unsettled. “You can say the company has $70 million in assets,” he says – counting land, engineering and its vacuum pumps. (The manufacturer, Leybold, says the pumps are on loan.) Again pressed, he says $30 million amounts to engineering talent – that is, the value of the time being donated by its volunteers in return for stock options. (Ahlborn and Gresta are paid a salary through JumpStartFund.) Gresta’s theatrical tendencies are entertaining, but his comments can occasionally overstretch reality. For example, he said that he made his name in Italy through selling a 40 per cent stake of an online media company, Bibop Research, to a subsidiary of Telecom Italia. “I sold it for 11 billion lira,” Gresta said, repeatedly boasting this amounted to “$50 million”. Except: at 1999 exchange rates 11 billion lira was worth just over $6 million. And, according to financial statements, the actual figure was four billion lira. (Responding to this, Gresta says that the contract included an additional seven billion lira in “services”, but that shortly after, the company which had acquired the stake began “not honouring the contract” and sold it on. He continues to use the 11 billion figure in company statements.) Gresta also said that prior to joining HTT he worked for an company called ClearLeisure, which owns amusement parks. “Looking how to create crazy engineering projects, not killing anyone – that was my job,” Gresta said. “Trust me, if you build amusement parks? Hyperloop, it’s easy.” Except: according to company filings, Gresta only worked there as a non-executive director for 13 months, during which time the company had no parks under construction. In mid-August, the Kings County planning department told WIRED it had yet to receive a completed planning application from the company for the Quay Valley project, and that approvals can take six months to several years. At one point, unsettled by WIRED’s questioning, Gresta seemed to snap. “You want to talk out of your ass and do some sensational title? Do it!” he said, angrily. “But you are not doing a service to your community or to humanity. Whatever you write, it’s bad for me now, but it will be bad for you in a year.”

He calmed down a few minutes later. “Everybody who is working here is really passionate about what we are doing,” he said. “We don’t give a shit they don’t take us serious. They will.” As this story went to press, the Hyperloop One lawsuit was making its way through the courts. By email, Giegel says the company is “stronger than ever”. Construction on the Devloop is under way in the desert, with a public demonstration planned for early 2017. BamBrogan remains distraught. He has made no future plans, but says the experience helped him clarify his personal ethos, “to build rad shit with rad people, that changes the world for the better.” “It’s bigger than Shervin, it’s bigger than Brogan, it’s bigger than Rob,” Josh Giegel had said, back at Hyperloop One. Something else he said: “We don’t fly on Wright brothers airlines. After they were the first ones, they spent their time litigating, suing people they thought were stealing their ideas.” Elon Musk’s idea still inspires belief. Hyperloop projects are springing up from Germany to Canada. SpaceX is building a track for university students to test their pod designs. “It can be built,” says John Sullivan, an engineering professor at Purdue University, home to one competing team. “But on the scale of decades, not years.” Perhaps the hyperloop will be built on day. Perhaps not. Perhaps we just want to believe it. As Dirk Ahlborn says: “We have been in meetings with David Cameron, with Angela Merkel, with princes and kings.” Just before WIRED left HTT, Gresta decided, at his assistant’s urging, to perform a magic trick. He produced two matchsticks, which he crossed lightly between his two forefingers. Staying perfectly still, he paused for dramatic effect. Then, all of a sudden, the uppermost match leapt dramatically into the air of its own accord. It clattered on the table. “How is it possible?” Gresta laughed. He didn’t seem to have done anything at all. Oliver Franklin-Wallis is WIRED’s assistant editor. He wrote about Bjarke Ingels in issue 10.16. Additional reporting by Gian Volpicelli





ne day around Thanksgiving 2011, Philip Rosedale had a vision of a virtual world. He was sitting in the San Francisco oices of Cofee and Power, the job-listings startup he’d co-founded the previous year, playing with a circuit board attached to a gyroscope. Such sensors are an integral part of virtual reality (VR) headsets: by following head movements, they help give a wearer the impression of being inside a computergenerated environment. Rosedale, 48, has been dreaming of VR his entire life. He knew that, to be efective, gyroscopes must have extremely low latency for the lag between movement and response to feel natural. Holding the tiny circuit board between his fingers, Rosedale tilted it back and forth, watching the output on his MacBook screen. The latency was almost non-existent. When VR had last attracted attention, back in the late 80s, the headsets contained trackers, but they were jittery and expensive. This modern, $15 (£11) sensor traced Rosedale’s movement faster and more accurately than the naked eye. All at once, Rosedale’s VR dream came flooding back: a virtual world made up of millions of connected spaces, like a three-dimensional version of the internet. A world which he would build. For Rosedale, this was no idle consideration. In 2003, his company Linden Lab launched Second Life, an online world which its residents could alter in any way they saw fit. He believed he was creating the next internet – and, as Second Life thronged with a million avatars, building everything from jazz lounges to full-scale cities, it seemed he might be right. Ford, Sony and Dell invested in real estate. Reuters appointed a Second Life correspondent. At its peak, the site’s GDP – residents traded in Linden Dollars – was bigger than that of many small countries. Then, in 2006, Second Life stopped growing. No matter how many people registered, the number of users remained stuck at around a million. In 2008, Rosedale stepped down. The following year he left. Now, as Rosedale examined the output from the gyroscope, the hopes he’d had for Second Life resurfaced. He called over the seven employees of Cofee and Power, the “stretching exercise” he’d embarked on to cleanse himself from his disappointment at Linden Lab. Together, the team stared at the output fluctuating on the screen. “Look at this,” Rosedale told them. “We’ve got to shut the company down and go back into VR.”

Nine months later, on August 1, 2012, a 19-year-old named Palmer Luckey posted a VR headset on Kickstarter using the same gyroscope Rosedale had been testing. Oculus VR raised $2.4 million; in March 2014, it was acquired by Facebook for $2 billion. The VR revolution was ready to roll. Today, however, almost everything about VR remains unclear. What is its best use? What is it for? Rosedale believes it should be for as much as possible. His new world, High Fidelity, which launched its open beta on April 27, 2016, is like Second Life, only more realistic and much, much bigger: “As big as Earth and beyond,” he predicts. “We are about to leave the real world behind.” High Fidelity has rivals. Chief among them: Linden Lab, the company Rosedale himself founded in 1999 (and in which he retains a large stake), and which to this day owns and maintains Second Life. Under new CEO Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab is building a VR world which goes by the name of Sansar. Whereas High Fidelity is radically open, not only in its code but also in its player, Sansar is closed-source, built for stand-alone experiences. Open vs closed. Creation vs control. This is how the future of VR turns on a decade-old debate about a world called Second Life.


Above right: Inside High Fidelity’s clubhouse-style games room


The demo room at Rosedale’s oice is a large, open space on the less salubrious side of San Francisco’s trendy South of Market district. The room is set up for HTC’s Vive headset, with motion sensors in each corner and pistol-shaped controllers on the desk. Rosedale boots up High Fidelity, which opens in a VR games room. Inside, Chris Collins, High Fidelity’s director of product development, is showing of his basketball skills to me. “Look,” he says. “I’m passing the ball behind my back.” As Collins speaks, his voice comes from his location, bouncing of surfaces as it would in the real world. His avatar – a handsome young man named Matthew – moves its lips in time with the words. He waves. Our eyes meet. Contact. In VR, this feeling of being “there” is called presence. Presence is made up of a thousand tiny details – the way a basketball bounces, the way leaves rustle in the wind, the way skin glows as light passes through it – and each one comes with a specific technical fix. Skin, for example, is simulated by a “subsurface scattering efect”. The way a face moves is recreated by an algorithm trained on thousands of videos of actors speaking to camera. One day, headsets will be packed with sensors able to detect facial expressions directly. For now, these approximations have to do the trick. But the thing about presence is that you know it when you see it. High Fidelity has presence. It isn’t lifelike exactly – but it’s not so far away. When Second Life stopped growing, Rosedale could see from the user analytics what the people who stayed had in common. “There was something about them,” he says. “The one thing they all had was a huge amount of time to invest in it.” Second Life was a retreat for escapists, an outlet for pent-up creativity – a place, as Rosedale once

put it, for “smart people in rural areas, the disabled, people looking for companionship”. But for less motivated visitors, with limited time and patience, it was hard, confusing and alienating. Inside High Fidelity, Rosedale enters, wearing the same “Matthew” avatar as Collins. My avatar appears as a ghost-like alien. We head outside to a garden to have a go at Tetherball. The movements for the game come easily, if a little clunkily. “One of the things that’s cool about our system is that the physics of it allow us to interact naturally,” says Rosedale. VR’s ease of use, says Rosedale, is perhaps the most important thing about it: “A big part of our focus is to make it possible for people to build anything.” He had the same goal for Second Life – but there, it took users 40 or 50 hours to become familiar with complex keyboard-mouse commands. In VR proper, you do more or less what you’d do in real life. For Rosedale, the diference is fundamental. “That is the only reason why Second Life has a million people using it today and not a billion.” Still, the experience is far from perfect. High Fidelity may have hands, but it isn’t able to simulate the movement or feeling of fingers. To pick up an object, you shoot a laser-beam at it, then manoeuvre it clumsily into range, where it floats weightlessly on your palm as if it were made of gas. For Rosedale, this is a problem. Without true dexterity, how would people build things? High Fidelity has 26 full-timers and $15 million in funding, but it can’t do everything, so it is forced to leave many crucial details to third parties. Still, Rosedale is certain a solution will arrive: “Somebody’s going to figure out how to build rapidly in here. Once they do that, the sky’s the limit.” His belief in virtual worlds is absolute. He saw one, in a vision, and he has believed in it ever since.

Above: This cinema is one of Sansar’s many small-scale destinations


Second Life version one, 2003

Second Life version two, 2010

High Fidelity, 2016

As a boy, Rosedale dreamed of virtual worlds. Born in 1968 in San Diego, California, the son of an English teacher and a Navy pilot, his parents moved six times before he was 13. When they divorced in 1981, he returned to San Diego, where, as a shy, technology-obsessed teenager, he built custom, pre-internet networks and sold them to car dealerships. He imagined himself floating in virtual space, his toolkit on his belt, calling structure into being with a wave of his hand. Aged 16, his fantasy took a more concrete form. Sitting with a friend at his aunt’s Windows computer, he pulled up an image of a Mandelbrot set, a never-ending intricate pattern created by a few mathematical rules. He began to zoom in, following starfish and curlicues until he ran out of resolution. He had gone so far, he calculated, that the screen he started from was now the size of the surface of Earth. A thought struck him: if a computer could contain a world, it could also make a world. “That was the thing that drove me,” he says. “This obsession. I’ve got to see that place.” Rosedale realised how he would make his world in 1994. After studying physics and computer science at the University of California, San Diego, he moved to San Francisco and discovered the internet. He instantly saw its potential, not only for communication, but also for a single vast space, created by the processing power of millions of connected computers. But this place would have to be in 3D, which computers couldn’t do yet, so instead he founded a video compression startup, which he sold in 1996 to streaming firm RealNetworks (then known as Progressive Networks). “It was cash plus stock, and the stock ended up being quite valuable,” says Rob Glaser, CEO of RealNetworks. Rosedale was a millionaire by the age of 28; in 1998 he was made RealNetworks’ CTO. But the lure of virtual reality was ever-present. “Philip talked about the idea the first time I met him,” says Glaser. In 1999, Rosedale went with a group of friends to see The Matrix. Afterwards, while his companions gushed over the film’s brilliance, he was slumped in a corner, depressed. “That was my dream,” he told them. “I wanted to build that.” A few months later, he took $1 million of his own money and started Second Life. Rosedale’s obsession animates every aspect of High Fidelity – above all its ambition. Whereas Second Life ran on servers owned and run by Linden Lab, High Fidelity is peer-to-peer. By downloading its Sandbox software, anyone with a computer can host their own VR domain. The company plans to make money by charging a fee for domain registration, making it what Rosedale calls “a GoDaddy for VR”. More importantly, this software allows High Fidelity to tap into a vast pool of processing power – enough, Rosedale claims, to have all the world’s internet users in-world at the same time. High Fidelity is not simply a cool way of interacting in VR; it is a connected server system, built for huge virtual worlds. As Rosedale puts it: “High Fidelity is the internet. High Fidelity is not a company or a thing. High Fidelity is the net.” High Fidelity’s structure is intended to resolve two of Second Life’s most persistent problems: scale and latency. Because Second Life was built on Linden Lab’s servers, there

Left: Philip Rosedale in the real world. Right: Public meetings are different in High Fidelity. This one takes place in a Burning Man-style desert landscape

was often a lag between action and response, and no more than 40 or so avatars could be in one place at any time. But Second Life was built before cloud computing. Why doesn’t High Fidelity use Google Cloud or Amazon Web Services? Because these giant server farms are too small for what Rosedale has in mind. “In the next ten years we’ll see the internet become VR,” he says. “That’s not a hosted service. The internet is not a hosted service.” High Fidelity’s investors like its ambition. “Every now and then there is a longer-term, riskier but bigger-vision bet that has a hundred-billion potential, and this is clearly one of them,” says Steve Hall, managing director of Vulcan Capital, the lead investor in its $11 million Series B round. So do its hundred or so beta testers. At a virtual public meeting in June, they discuss their hopes for the platform. “The problem I had with Second Life is you can build there, but if you want to build big, it costs a fortune,” says a man whose avatar has large, dark rabbit ears protruding from the side of his head. Michelle, a former Second Life player with a brown-haired avatar, sums up the mood. “We saw what we could do before, and we want to do more.”


But openness comes at a price. High Fidelity’s meeting is being held on the Playa, a Burning Man homage littered with shipping containers and neon signs, including one reading “Rosedale”. It is very artful, but amid the intentional mess are signs of genuine disarray. One user is running a script that summons ghosts to float across the sand. Another has added a herd of cows to the plains. Like Second Life before it, High Fidelity is distinctly strange.


The physical home of Second Life is a large, wood-framed oice near the old dock area of San Francisco. Altberg, the company’s third CEO since Rosedale stepped down in 2008, meets WIRED outside the VR demo room. Inside, the walls are covered with framed press reports from the glory days of Second Life: Philip Rosedale in the Washington Post, Philip Rosedale in Newsweek, Philip Rosedale on the cover of Inc. Altberg is tired: he’s been in New York on a Linden Lab awayday. Still, he perks up quickly. Earlier, he promised: “Without trying to sound harsh or anything like that, but you haven’t seen the best yet.” When Altberg, 52, arrived at Linden Lab in early 2014, Sansar consisted of “three or four people futzing with some low-level stuf out of frustration with Second Life”. The game still has a sizeable community and a GDP of “half a billion”. Using the proceeds from this “moneygenerating machine”, Altberg has invested heavily, building the team up to 75, more than a third of Linden Lab’s staf. The moment he committed completely to VR was when he heard that Facebook had bought Oculus. “As soon as that sold, we were just like, Sansar is going to be fricking awesome for VR. We knew that people were going to want to create content in massive quantities – right now it’s too damned diicult.” WIRED dons an Oculus Rift headset and Sansar starts up in a landscape borrowed from the film The Martian. Bjorn Laurin, Linden Lab’s VP of product, is waiting there, wearing an avatar of a cuddly green dinosaur with a woman’s face. “You’ll notice the lips moving in time with our voices,” he says with pride. WIRED looks down. Instead of hands, Oculus controllers float in mid air. “We’re getting round to hands,” says Altberg. Realism, it seems, is less of a priority here than at High Fidelity.

Above, top: In Sansar’s immersive world, players don dragon and robot avatars. Above bottom Despite falling out of the public eye in recent years, Second Life still attracts around 900,000 monthly players Right: Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg: “High Fidelity is some geeky shit; it’s incomprehensible to normal human beings”

We cycle through a series of small “scenes” created by Linden Lab’s team – an Egyptian tomb; a 3D surfing video; a flat filled with IKEA mock-ups. Each is beautiful, impeccably produced and very empty. With the Second Life players apt to “get twisted around in knots about what it means”, as Altberg puts it, Linden Lab has kept Sansar under strict wraps before its 2017 release. A burly, forthright Swede who was a champion slalom skier in his youth, Altberg started his career at Microsoft, where he remained throughout the 90s. He worked on Word, Word 2.0, Word 6.0, Word 95, Word 97. “When I left Microsoft, we were dominating Earth,” he says. In 2000, he went to a startup ofering a marketplace for telephone services, before moving to Yahoo! in 2008, where he ended up running media engineering. He makes products that consumers like to use, he says, in contrast to Rosedale’s “geeky” style: “Philip is taking a technology approach, not a consumer-facing approach. That was true with Second Life as well.” Like High Fidelity, Sansar is intended as a place for players to create their own VR content. Yet its scenes will be replicated, not connected. One school group visiting the Egyptian tomb won’t bump into another – they will be in separate, identical spaces. These spaces, Altberg expects, will be largely owned by big corporations, just as they are online. “There will be Facebooks and Amazons and all these diferent things,” he says. For Rosedale, this segmentation makes Sansar something less than a virtual world. “Linden is still providing curated hosted experiences,” he says. “So Sansar will still be kind of a game world.” He means that it will be artificial, not in its interaction, but in the scope it provides for novelty and unpredictability. “It will even be more of a game world unless it’s editable like Second Life,” he adds. Unlike in High Fidelity, editing in Sansar won’t be in-world: instead, players will make changes in a separate mode. According to Altberg, by keeping editing separate, Sansar can optimise content to reduce memory usage, scaling up quickly and easily without the need for complicated server structures. “You install a server,” he says incredulously of High Fidelity. “Who the fuck installs servers?” Besides, in his view, only professionals want to edit. “Most people are just consumers of experiences as opposed to creators,” he says. “It’s the same in VR as it is in any other medium, especially when you come to creating quality content.” The biggest diference concerns openness. High Fidelity is radically open, from its code base to its server structure. Sansar is not, and Altberg doesn’t care who knows it. “You will have the freedom people, the anarchists, whoever, who will say I want 100 per cent control and it should be open,” he says. “Then you will have the vast majority of users that obviously don’t give a shit – because how many billions of them are on Facebook every day? “For years, Second Life ran what I would call organisational anarchy,” he continues. “Philip’s like, ‘Open source, involve everybody’. The idea was that everybody could work from anywhere and participate in this thing. Yet I’ve seen that you can, with a small team, impact billions – if you do it right.”

Rosedale and Altberg meet regularly to discuss their projects. “We’re frenemies,” says Altberg. “What we agreed to do is just kind of have a friendly competition,” says Rosedale, who still holds “lots of stock” in Linden Lab, which in turn is one of the “small investors” in High Fidelity’s $2.4 million seed round, along with Google Ventures, Kapor Capital and lead investor True Ventures. The two companies can coexist. “I don’t believe there will be a single VR platform, although there will certainly be market leaders,” says Jason Jerald, author of The VR Book. “Apple iOS versus Google Android is very much the model here,” adds Jamais Cascio, a San Francisco-based futurist who has written extensively on virtual worlds. “Android is more open, more flexible and more extensible – but also less consistent, less reliable and less secure because of the mish-mash of conflicting open and controlled aspects.”



Perhaps none of these diferences will matter. After all, it is far from certain that VR will ever reach a mass audience. (To date, around a million headsets have been sold, according to Forrester Research, a sign of low interest or budding enthusiasm, depending on your perspective.) “Both Sansar and High Fidelity are operating under a very shaky premise,” says Wagner James Au, author of The Making of Second Life. “They’re gambling their whole companies’ futures on the premise that there’s going to be a large market consisting of tens of millions of VR owners.” At High Fidelity’s oice, it’s easy to forget the ambition and urgency of the project. The greycarpeted room, its curtains drawn to keep out the summer Sun, has an air of stillness. Developers work quietly at wire-tangled desks, slipping on headsets to gesture unintelligibly in VR. During WIRED’s week-long visit, a group of four or five play Overwatch during their lunch break. To the outside observer, it is sometimes hard to tell where the whole project is heading. There’s a sense of looseness, of enquiry for its own sake. One developer, a pale man who comes in every day wearing a “Slytherin Quidditch Team Captain” T-shirt, is building a scale model of the Tardis in High Fidelity. Another has constructed a realistic representation of his flat. “All of us within the VR community are fumbling around right now,” says High Fidelity co-founder Ryan Downe Karpf. It’s analogous to the early days of the web. It’s hard to even know what we’re… what we will become.” Towards the end of the visit, WIRED asks Rosedale what he thinks could go wrong with High Fidelity. He pauses, considering the question. “One of the points I’ve always made about Second Life is that it was well named in a way, in that it was fundamentally competitive with real life. If the real world for your human life, for your love and play, if the real world is there for you – if you live in London, or New York, or San Francisco – why wouldn’t you enjoy all this?” It seems a good question, but for Rosedale it is merely a passing consideration. In the darkened oice, there are tasks needing his involvement. And out there, in a land beyond the horizon, there are virtual worlds, waiting to be built. Rowland Manthorpe wrote about co-living in 06.16




AROUND MIDNIGHT ONE SATURDAY IN JANUARY, Sarah Jeong was on her sofa, browsing Twitter, when she spontaneously wrote what she now bitterly refers to as “the tweet that launched a thousand ships”. The 28-year-old journalist and author of The Internet of Garbage, a book on spam and online harassment, had been watching Bernie Sanders boosters attacking feminists and supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement. In what was meant to be a hyperbolic joke, she tweeted out a list of political caricatures, one of which described the typical Sanders fan as a “vitriolic crypto racist who spends 20 hours a day on the internet yelling at women”. The ill-advised late-night tweet was, Jeong admits, provocative and absurd – she even supported Sanders. But what happened next was the kind of backlash that’s all too familiar to women, minorities and anyone who has a strong opinion online. By the time Jeong went to sleep, a swarm of Sanders supporters were calling her a neo-liberal shill. By sunrise, a broader, darker wave of abuse had begun. She received nude photos and links to disturbing videos. One troll promised to “rip each one of [her] hairs out” and “twist her tits clear of ”. The attacks continued for weeks. “I was in crisis mode,” she recalls. So she did what many victims of mass harassment do: she gave up and let her abusers have the last word.

Jeong made her tweets private, removing herself from the public conversation for a month. And she took a two-week unpaid leave from her job as a contributor to the tech news site Motherboard. For years now, on Twitter and practically any other freewheeling public forum, the trolls have been out in force. Just in recent months: Trump’s anti-Semitic supporters m o b b e d Je w i s h p u b l i c f i gu re s with menacing Holocaust “jokes”. Anonymous racists bullied African American comedian Leslie Jones on Twitter with pictures of apes and Photoshopped images of semen on her face. American blogger and Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti quit Twitter after a horde of misogynist attackers resorted to rape threats against her five-year-old daughter. “It’s too much,” she signed of. “I can’t live like this.” Feminist writer Sady Doyle says her experience of mass harassment has induced a kind of permanent selfcensorship. “There are things I won’t allow myself to talk about,” she says. “Names I won’t allow myself to say.” M a s s h a ra s s m e n t o n l i n e h a s proved so efective that it’s emerging as a weapon of repressive governments. In late 2014, Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro reported on Russia’s troll farms, where day labourers regurgitate messages that promote the government’s interests and inundate

opponents with vitriol on every possible outlet, including Twitter and Facebook. In turn, she’s been barraged daily by bullies on social media, in the comments of news stories and via email. They call her a liar, a “NATO skank”, even a drug dealer, after digging up a fine she received 12 years ago for possessing amphetamines. “They want to normalise hate speech, to create chaos and mistrust,” Aro says. “It’s just a way of making people disillusioned.” All this abuse, in other words, has evolved into a form of censorship, driving people offline, silencing their voices. For years, victims have been calling on – clamouring for – the companies that created these platforms to help slay the monster they brought to life. But their solutions generally have amounted to a Sisyphean game of whack-a-troll. Now a small subsidiary of Google named Jigsaw is about to release an entirely new type of response: a set of tools called Conversation AI. The software is designed to use machine learning to automatically spot the language of abuse and harassment – with, Jigsaw engineers say, an accuracy far better than any keyword filter and far faster than any team of human moderators. “I want to use the best technology we have at our disposal to begin to take on trolling and other nefarious tactics that give hostile voices disproportionate weight,” says




Jigsaw’s Jared Cohen: “I want us to feel the responsibility of the burden we’re shouldering”

Jigsaw founder and president Jared Cohen. “To do everything we can to level the playing field.” Conversation AI represents just one of Jigsaw’s wildly ambitious projects. The New York–based think tank and tech incubator aims to build products that use Google’s massive infrastructure and engineering muscle not to advance the best possibilities of the internet but to fix the worst of it: surveillance, extremist indoctrination, censorship. The group sees its work, in part, as taking on the most intractable jobs in Google’s larger mission to make the world’s information “universally accessible and useful”. Cohen founded Jigsaw, which now has about 50 stafers (almost half are engineers), after a brief high-profile and controversial career in the US State

Department, where he worked to focus American diplomacy on the internet like never before. One of the moonshot goals he’s set for Jigsaw is to end censorship within a decade, whether it comes in the form of politically motivated cyberattacks on opposition websites or government strangleholds on internet service providers. And if that task isn’t daunting enough, Jigsaw is about to unleash Conversation AI on the murky challenge of harassment, where the only way to protect some of the web’s most repressed voices may be to selectively shut up others. If it can find a path through that free-speech paradox, Jigsaw will have pulled of an unlikely coup: applying artificial intelligence to solve the very human problem of making people be nicer to each other on the internet.

igsaw is the outgrowth of an earlier effort called Google Ideas, which Google’s then-CEO Eric Schmidt and Cohen launched in 2010 as a “think/ do tank.” But aside from organising conferences and creating fancy data visualisations, Ideas didn’t actually do much at first. “People would come around and talk a bunch of bullshit for a couple days,” one Google Ideas conference attendee remembers. “Nothing came out of it.” But slowly, the group’s lofty challenges began to attract engineers, some joining from other parts of Google after volunteering for Cohen’s team. One of their first creations was a tool called uProxy that allows anyone whose internet access is censored to bounce their traic through a friend’s connection outside the firewall; it’s now used in more than 100 countries. Another tool, a Chrome add-on called Password Alert, aims to block phishing by warning people when they’re retyping their Gmail password into a malicious look-alike site; the company developed it for Syrian activists targeted by government-friendly hackers, but when it proved efective, it was rolled out to all of Google’s users. In February, the group was renamed Jigsaw to reflect its focus on building practical products. A program called Montage lets war correspondents and non-profits crowdsource the analysis of YouTube videos to track conflicts and gather evidence of human rights violations. Another free service called Project Shield uses Google’s servers to absorb government-sponsored cyberattacks intended to take down the websites of media, election-monitoring, and human rights organisations. And an initiative, aimed at de-radicalising ISIS recruits, identifies would-be jihadis based on their search terms,


then shows them ads redirecting them to videos by former extremists who explain the downsides of joining an apocalyptic cult. In a pilot project, the anti-ISIS ads were so effective that they were 70 per cent more likely to be clicked than typical search results. The common thread that binds these projects, Cohen says, is a focus on what he calls “vulnerable populations”. To that end, he gives new hires an assignment: draw a scrap of paper from a baseball cap filled with the names of the world’s most troubled or repressive countries; track down someone under threat there and talk to them about their life online. Then present their stories to other Jigsaw employees. At one recent meeting, Cohen leans over a conference table as 15 or so Jigsaw recruits – engineers, designers and foreign policy wonks – prepare to report back from the dark corners of the internet. “We are not going to be one of those groups that sits in our oices and imagines what vulnerable populations around the world are experiencing,” Cohen says. “We’re going to get to know our users.” He speaks in a fast-forward, geeky patter that contrasts with his blue-eyed, broad-shouldered good looks – like a politician disguised as a Silicon Valley executive, or vice versa. “Every single day, I want us to feel the burden of the responsibility we’re shouldering,” he says. We hear about an Albanian LGBT activist who tries to hide his identity on Facebook, despite its real-names-only policy; an administrator for a Libyan youth group wary of government infiltrators; a defector’s memories from the digital black hole of North Korea. Many of the T-shirt-and-sandal-wearing Googlers in the room will later be sent

to some of those far-flung places to meet their contacts face-to-face. “They’ll hear stories about people being tortured for their passwords or of state-sponsored cyberbullying,” Cohen tells WIRED. The purpose of these field trips isn’t simply to get feedback for future products. They’re about creating personal investment in otherwise distant, invisible problems – a sense of investment Cohen says he himself gained in his twenties during his four-year stint in the State Department, and before that travelling in the Middle East and Africa as a student. Cohen reports directly to Alphabet’s top execs, but in practice, Jigsaw functions as Google’s blue-sky, human rights-focused skunkworks. At the group’s launch, Schmidt declared its audacious mission to be “tackling the world’s toughest geopolitical problems” and listed some of the challenges within its remit: “money laundering, organised crime, police b r u ta l i t y, h u m a n t ra c k i n g a n d terrorism.” In an interview in Google’s New York oice, Schmidt (now chair of Alphabet) summarised them to WIRED as the “problems that bedevil humanity involving information”. Jigsaw, in other words, has become Google’s internet Justice League, and it represents the notion that the company is no longer content with merely not being evil. It wants – as difficult and even ethically fraught as the impulse may be – to do good.

n September 2015, Yasmin Green, then head of operations and strategy for Google Ideas, the working group that would become Jigsaw, invited ten women who had been harassment victims to come to the oice and discuss their experiences. Some of them had been targeted by members of the anti-feminist Gamergate movement. Game developer Zoë Quinn had been threatened repeatedly with rape, and her attackers had dug up and distributed old nude photos of her. Another visitor, Anita Sarkeesian, had moved out of her home temporarily because of numerous death threats. At the end of the session, Green and a few other Google employees took

Jigsaw’s projects The incubator is dedicated to geopolitical moonshots, tackling issues from online censorship to violent extremism. Here are a few of its efforts. Gregory Barber

uProxy A Chrome browser buddy system that lets any censored internet user route around the firewall by using a friend’s unblocked connection.

Project Shield Free protection for media, election monitors, and human rights groups to defend against cyberattacks aimed at taking down websites.

Montage Crowdsourced analysis of YouTube videos to help journalists and humanitarian groups document conflict and human rights violations.

Password Alert Warns people when they type a Gmail password into a phishing website mocked up to look like one of Google’s.

The Redirect Method Identifies would-be jihadis based on search terms and redirects them to anti-ISIS videos featuring former extremists.

Conversation AI A filter for online discussion that uses machine learning to automatically detect insults or hate speech.

Digital Attack Map A real-time visualisation of DDoS cyberattacks around the world, including those where freedom of expression is being limited.

a photo with the women and posted it to the company’s Twitter account. Almost immediately, the Gamergate trolls turned their ire against Google itself. Over the next 48 hours, tens of thousands of comments on Reddit and Twitter demanded the Googlers be fired for enabling “feminazis”. “It’s like you walk into Madison Square Garden and you have 50,000 people saying you suck, you’re horrible, die,” Green says. “If you really believe that’s what the universe thinks about you, you certainly shut up. And you might just take your own life.” To combat trolling, services including Reddit, YouTube and Facebook have for years depended on users to flag abuse for review by overworked staffers or an offshore workforce of content moderators in countries such as the Philippines. The task is expensive and can be scarring for the employees who spend days on end reviewing loathsome content – yet often it’s still not enough to keep up with the real-time flood of filth. Twitter recently introduced new filters designed to keep users from seeing unwanted tweets, but it’s not yet clear whether the move will tame determined trolls. The meeting with the Gamergate victims was the genesis for another approach. Lucas Dixon, a wide-eyed Scot with a doctorate in machine learning, and product manager CJ Adams wondered: Could an abuse-detecting AI clean up online conversations by detecting toxic language – with all its idioms and ambiguities – as reliably as humans? To create a viable tool, Jigsaw first needed to teach its algorithm to tell the difference between harmless banter and harassment. For that, it would need a massive number of examples. So the group partnered with The New York Times (NYT), which gave Jigsaw’s engineers 17 million comments from NYT stories, along with data about which of those comments were flagged as inappropriate by moderators. Jigsaw also worked with the Wikimedia Foundation to parse 130,000 snippets of discussion around Wikipedia pages. It showed those text strings to panels of ten people recruited randomly from the CrowdFlower crowdsourcing service and asked whether they found each snippet to represent a “personal attack” or “harassment”. Jigsaw then fed the massive corpus of online conversation and human evaluations into Google’s open source machine learning software, TensorFlow. Machine learning, a branch of computer science that Google uses to

continually improve everything from Google Translate to its core search engine, works something like human learning. Instead of programming an algorithm, you teach it with examples. Show a toddler enough shapes identified as a cat and eventually she can recognise a cat. Show millions of vile internet comments to Google’s self-improving artificial intelligence engine and it can recognise a troll. In fact, by some measures Jigsaw has now trained Conversation AI to spot toxic language with impressive accuracy. Feed a string of text into its Wikipedia harassment-detection engine and it can, with what Google describes as more than 92 per cent certainty and a ten per cent false-positive rate, come up with a judgment that matches a human test panel as to whether that line represents an attack. For now the tool looks only at the content of that single string of text. But Green says Jigsaw has also looked into detecting methods of mass harassment based on the volume of messages and other long-term patterns. Wikipedia and the NYT will be the first to try out Google’s automated harassment detector on comment threads and article discussion pages. Wikimedia is still considering exactly how it will use the tool, while the NYT plans to make Conversation AI the first pass of its website’s comments, blocking any abuse it detects until it can be moderated by a human. Jigsaw


will also make its work open source, letting any web forum or social media platform adopt it to automatically flag insults, scold harassers, or even auto-delete toxic language, preventing an intended harassment victim from ever seeing the offending comment. The hope is that “anyone can take these models and run with them,” says Adams, who helped lead the machine learning project. W h a t ’s m o r e , s o m e l i m i t e d evidence suggests that this kind of quick detection can actually help to tame trolling. Conversation AI was inspired in part by an experiment undertaken by Riot Games, the video game company that runs the globe’s biggest multiplayer world, known as League of Legends, with a claimed 100 million players. Starting in late 2012, Riot began using machine learning to try to analyse the results of in-game conversations that led to players being banned. It used the resulting algorithm to show players in real time when they had made sexist or abusive remarks. When players saw immediate automated warnings, 92 per cent of them changed their behaviour for the better, according to a report in the science journal Nature. WIRED’s own hands-on test of Conversation AI comes one summer afternoon in Jigsaw’s oice, when the group’s engineers show me a prototype and invite us to come up with a sample of verbal filth for it to analyse. Wincing, WIRED suggests the first ambiguously abusive and misogynist phrase that comes to mind: “What’s up, bitch?” Adams types in the sentence and clicks Score. Conversation AI instantly rates it a 63 out of 100 on the attack scale. Then, for contrast, Adams shows the results of a more clearly vicious phrase: “You are such a bitch.” It rates a 96. In fact, Conversation AI’s algorithm goes on to make impressively subtle distinctions. Pluralising the trashy greeting to “What’s up bitches?” drops the attack score to 45. Add a smiling emoji and it falls to 39. So far, so good. But later, after we’ve left Google’s oice, WIRED opens the Conversation AI prototype in private to try out the worst phrase that had haunted Sarah Jeong: “I’m going to rip each one of her hairs out and twist her tits clear off.” It rates an attack score of ten, a glaring oversight. Swapping out “her” for “your” boosts it to a 62. Conversation AI likely hasn’t yet been taught that threats don’t have to be addressed directly at a victim to have their intended efect. The algorithm, it seems, still has some lessons to learn.


or a tech executive taking on wouldbe terrorists, state-sponsored trolls, and tyrannical surveillance regimes, Jigsaw’s creator has a surprisingly sunny outlook on the battle between the people who use the internet and the authorities that seek to control them.

“I have a fundamental belief that technology empowers people,” Jared Cohen says. “It’s hard for me to imagine a world where there’s not a cat-andmouse game. But over time, the mouse might become bigger than the cat.” That sense of digital populism, as Cohen tells it, was instilled in him during his travels through Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq in the early 2000s as a Rhodes scholar. He recalls the two internet-savvy young Syrian women in Homs who acted as his hosts and wore make-up and short-sleeved shirts amid the burkas. “Unlike their mothers, these girls know what they’re missing out on,” he’d write in a book about his travels, Children of Jihad. “Society has changed and technology has opened their eyes in ways that their parents cannot begin to understand.” When Cohen became the youngest person ever to join the US State Department’s Policy Planning staff in 2006, he brought with him a notion that the internet could be a force for political empowerment and even upheaval. And as Facebook, then YouTube and Twitter,

started to evolve into tools of protest and even revolution, that theory earned him access to oicials all the way up to secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and later Hillary Clinton. Rice would describe Cohen in her memoirs as an “inspired” appointment. Former Policy Planning director Anne-Marie Slaughter, his boss under Clinton, remembers him as “ferociously intelligent”. In June 2009, when Twitter had scheduled downtime for maintenance during a massive Iranian protest against president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Cohen emailed founder Jack Dorsey and asked him to keep the service online. The unauthorised move, which violated the Obama administration’s non-interference policy with Iran, nearly cost Cohen his job. But when Clinton backed Cohen, it signalled a shift in the State Department’s relationship with both Iran and Silicon Valley. Around the same time, Cohen began calling up tech CEOs and inviting them on tech delegation trips, or “techdels” – to inspire them to build products that could help people in repressed corners

of the world. He asked Google’s Schmidt to visit Iraq, a trip that sparked the relationship that a year later would result in Schmidt’s invitation to Cohen to create Google Ideas. But it was Cohen’s email to Twitter during the Iran protests that impressed Schmidt. “He wasn’t following a playbook,” Schmidt says. “He was inventing the playbook.” The story Cohen’s critics focus on, however, is his involvement in Haystack – software intended to provide online anonymity and circumvent censorship. Cohen, it is claimed, helped to hype the tool in early 2010 as a potential boon to Iranian dissidents. After the US government fast-tracked it for approval, however, a security researcher revealed it had vulnerabilities that put users in grave danger of detection. Today, Cohen disclaims any responsibility, but two ex-colleagues say he championed the project. Former boss Slaughter describes his time in government more diplomatically: “At State there was a mismatch between the scale of Jared’s ideas and the tools the department had to deliver on them. Jigsaw is a much better match.” But inserting Google into thorny geopolitical problems has led to new questions. Some have accused the group of trying to monetise the sensitive issues they’re taking on; the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s director of international free expression, Jillian York, calls its work “a little bit imperialistic”. For all its altruistic talk, she points out, Jigsaw is part of a for-profit entity. And on that point, Schmidt is clear: Alphabet hopes to someday make money from Jigsaw’s work. “Why would we try to wire up Africa?” he asks. “Because eventually there will be advertising markets there.” Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has accused Cohen of being a de facto State Department employee, quietly advancing the US government’s foreign policy goals from within Google, and labelled him the company’s “director of regime change”. When we raise that quote with Schmidt, he rejects the notion. “We’re not a government,” he says slowly and carefully. “We’re not engaged in regime change. But if it turns out that empowering citizens with smartphones and information causes changes in their country… you know, that’s probably a good thing, don’t you think?” Despite Cohen’s optimistic digital interventionism, technology has unintended consequences. Haystack was meant to help Iranians, but could have put them in danger. Twitter, with all its revolutionary potential, enabled new forms of abuse. And Conversation AI, meant to curb that abuse, could take down its own share of legitimate speech.

During her worst days of targeting by misogynists last year, feminist writer Sady Doyle would get 100 new Twitter notifications an hour, many of them attacks. But when WIRED presents Conversation AI as a solution, she hesitates. “People need to be able to talk in whatever register they talk,” she says. “Imagine what the internet would be like if you couldn’t say ‘Donald Trump is a moron’.” (This scores 99 out of 100.) The example highlights Conversation AI’s potential for false positives or suppressing speech. Even without automated flagging, last year Twitter banned Politwoops, a feed that collected the deleted tweets of political figures to catch damning of-the-cuf statements. Sarah Jeong, the Motherboard writer who was silenced by Bernie bros, says she supports the notion of Conversation AI, in theory. “The internet needs moderation,” she says. “[But] these are human interactions.” Any fix for the worst of those interactions, she says, will need to be human too. “Automated detection can open the door to the delete-it-all option,” adds Emma Llansó, director of the Free Expression Project at the non-profit Center for Democracy and Technology, “rather than spending the time and resources to identify false positives.” WIRED’s tests of Conversation AI produces outright false positives: “You are a troll” – the go-to response for troll victims – gets an attack score of 93. Throwing out well-intentioned speech that resembles harassment


could be a blow to the open civil society Jigsaw has vowed to protect. When we ask Conversation AI’s inventors about its potential for collateral damage, the engineers argue that its false positive rate will improve as the software continues to train itself. But on the question of how its judgments will be enforced, they say that’s up to whoever uses the tool. “We want to let communities have the discussions they want to have,” says Conversation AI co-creator Lucas Dixon. And if that favours a sanitised internet over a free-wheeling one? “There are already plenty of nasty places on the internet. What we can do is create places where people can have better conversations.” On a muggy morning in June, WIRED joins Jared Cohen at one of his favourite spots in New York: the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, a tomblike dome of worn marble in sleepy Riverside Park. When Cohen arrives, he tells us the place reminds him of the quiet ruins he liked to roam during his travels in rural Syria. Our meeting is in part to air the criticisms we’ve heard of Conversation AI. But to the potential for false positives to actually censor speech, he answers with surprising humility. “We’ve been asking these exact questions,” he says. And they apply not just to Conversation AI but to everything Jigsaw builds, he says. And, for now, Conversation AI remains an experiment. “When you’re looking at curbing online harassment and at free expression, there’s a tension between the two,” he acknowledges. “We don’t claim to have all the answers.” And if the tool ends up harming the exact free speech it’s trying to protect, would Jigsaw kill it? “Could be,” Cohen answers without hesitation. We start to ask another question, but Cohen interrupts, unwilling to drop the notion that Jigsaw’s tools may have unintended consequences. He wants to talk about the people he met while wandering through the Middle East’s most repressive countries. It wasn’t until after Cohen returned to the US that he realised how dangerous it had been for them to help him or even to be seen with him. “My very presence could have put them at risk,” he says, with what sounds like genuine throat-tightening emotion. “If I have a guilt I act on, it’s that. I never want to make that mistake again. Ten years from now I’ll look back at where my head is at today too,” he says. “What I got right and what I got wrong.” He hopes he’ll have done good.  Andy Greenberg is a New York-based senior writer for WIRED US


OVERHEARD AT WIRED THIS MONTH “What’s the longest conversation you’ve ever had with a robot?” “Well, if you think you’re the monkey expert, you style the photo shoot.” “The Nasa robot is named ‘Valkyrie’, so it probably counts as having a female on the cover…” Journalists: pitch stories to editorial PRs: contact us at Reader feedback:

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED Never mind the space race, what about the email trail? Chapeau to WIRED’s director of photography for navigating his way through 379 emails to ensure our Nasa feature landed safely.

“I’m a fan of anything that brings Craig David back. And I heard he lives in an airport now.” “How many times do you think about buying a car, versus how many times you think about buying a tap? Exactly.” FAREWELLS THIS MONTH Adieu and good luck to our brilliant managing editor, Duncan Baizley.

REJECTED HEADLINE THIS MONTH Don’t believe the hype! A SMASHING TIME WAS HAD BY ALL WIRED product tests are nothing if not thorough – so to prove we really did destroy a batch of rugged radios ( see p62 ) here we are at the Millennium Mills in London’s Royal Docks, lobbing electronics off a 20-metre-high cherry picker. Sometimes, it’s the simple things in life that give you the most pleasure…

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The Frenchie Co. As shown on the right side, The Frenchie Co. Key is an elegant game changing key holder that cleverly organizes your keys into a flat credit card size leather design, which also incorporates a discreet pocket to place an access card or any type of card you need to have handy. Priced at $49 USD. On the left side, The Frenchie Co. Cardholder is one of the slimmest and most functional accessories on the market. Made of pure calfskin, it is designed to hold 9 cards. Priced at $59 USD. To see them for yourself visit

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With a focus on heritage, culture, craftsmanship and design it is unsurprising that Toronto-based brand Venque has such an impressive bevy of bags, luggage and accessories to offer. Ready to equip even the most stylish of gentlemen, each piece is designed specifically to accommodate techy gadgets and will suit your daily needs to a T. Visit to explore the handsome selection.

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The number of instructions per second that can be processed by the Kilocore, a new 1,000-core microchip designed at the University of California, Davis.

$101 MILLION Percentage of Greenland’s territory where the night sky is adversely affected by light pollution, according to an international study that is researching “artificial skyglow”, published by Science.

Percentage of Singapore’s territory affected by severe light pollution. The paper says the sky over the city-state is so bright that the eyes of people living there “cannot fully dark-adapt to night vision”.

TERABYTES The size of the file containing the maths proof to the Boolean Pythagorean triples problem. Computer scientists found the solution in May 2016 – for the first time ever – using the University of Texas’ supercomputer, Stampede.

The amount of energy in joules per second unleashed by Superman’s “Super Flare” attack, first seen in Superman #38. This is according to a seven-year-long research effort by University of Leicester students, who created assessments of superheroes’ powers from a scientific perspective.

Amount cybercriminals stole from the Bank of Bangladesh’s account at the US Federal Reserve through the SWIFT network, in February 2016.

23.86 PER DAY


The average number of US patents – 3,628 overall – granted to IBM from January to May 2016. In June, the Armonk-based company’s patent count was ahead of Google’s, Apple’s and Facebook’s.

The duration of the hunger strike undertaken by Indian human rights activist Irom Sharmila, which ended on August 9, 2016. Sharmila had been repeatedly arrested and force-fed, as suicide is illegal under Indian law.

23.1% The percentage of Swiss voters who voted in favour of the Universal Basic Income (UBI) of £1,800 a month for all adults, in a referendum held on June 5, 2016. Finland will be trialling a UBI on a limited scale in 2017, as will Utrecht in the Netherlands.

The number of years that it has taken for an Easter egg, hidden within the 1983 Apple II video game Gumball, to be found. The feature – a secret message from the game’s creator, Robert A Cook – was finally discovered by the pseudonymous game cracker known as 4a.m., and revealed on June 8, 2016.



The average decline in fruit and vegetable intake of divorced British men, compared to when they were married, according to a study published in Social Science & Medicine. Women’s diets do not appear to change significantly after a break up.


Please turn the page to view Supplement






Mission statement

Welcome to WIRED Horizons , a special supplement that allows the WIRED team to highlight in-depth the technologies and innovations that are exciting us – from cybathlons to drone delivery, the blockchain to additive manufacturing. WIRED readers with specialist knowledge will discover new facts and trends here – and for those encountering these ideas for the first time, we hope to provide a useful entry point to some worldchanging technologies you’ll be seeing a lot more of in the near future. Still, this is just a glimpse at how our world is rapidly transforming. There will, of course, be many more barriers broken and groundbreaking cultural shifts than we have room for here. But the optimism and enthusiasm we hope you will take away from Horizons is part of WIRED’s mindset – we’re incredibly excited by these developments, and you should be too.

 Jeremy White


Editor Supplement editor Creative director Managing editor Chief sub-editor Deputy chief sub-editor Deputy director of photography App producer App designer Illustrators

Commercial director Associate publisher and head of advertising Head of corporate and event partnerships Partnerships director Senior account manager Commercial editor Commercial art director Production director Production manager Production controller Production and tablet co-ordinator Commercial senior production controller Commercial and paper production controller

Nick D Burton

David Rowan Jeremy White Andrew Diprose Duncan Baizley Mike Dent Simon Ward Dalia Nassimi Pip Pell Ciaran Christopher Sawdust, Nick D Burton, Oriol Vidal, Guy Shields, Señor Salme, David Doran, Anna Pan, Janne Iivonen, Jordan Cheung, Giovanna Giuliano, Don Davis, Rick Guidice Nick Sargent Rachel Reidy Claire Dobson Max Mirams Elaine Saunders Dan Smith Mark Bergin Sarah Jenson Xenia Antoni Alicia Shepherd Skye Meelboom Louise Lawson Martin MacMillan

Published by The Condé Nast Publications Ltd, Vogue House, Hanover Square, London W1S 1JU (tel: 020 7499 9080; fax: 020 7493 1345). Colour origination by Altaimage London. Printed in the UK by Wyndeham Roche Ltd. WIRED is distributed by Condé Nast & National Magazine Distributors Ltd (Comag), Tavistock Road, West Drayton, Middlesex UB7 7QE (tel: 01895 433600). A one-year (10 issues) WIRED magazine subscription is available to the UK, Europe, US and the rest of the world. Order at www. or call +44 (0)844 848 5202, Mon-Fri 8am-9.30pm, Sat 8am-4pm. Enquiries, change of address and orders payable to WIRED, Subscription Department, Lathkill St, Market Harborough, Leics LE16 9EF, United Kingdom. Change of address or other subscription queries: email or call 0844 848 2851. Manage your subscription online 24 hrs a day at www.magazineboutique. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is strictly prohibited. WIRED cannot be responsible for unsolicited material. Copyright © 2016 THE CONDÉ NAST PUBLICATIONS LTD, Vogue House, Hanover Square, London W1S 1JU. The paper used for this publication is based on renewable wood fibre. The wood these fibres are derived from is sourced from sustainably managed forests and controlled sources. The producing mills are EMAS registered and operate according to highest environmental and health and safety standards. This magazine is fully recyclable please log on to for your local recycling options for paper and board. WIRED is a member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (which regulates the UK’s magazine and newspaper industry). We abide by the Editors’ Code of Practice [] and are committed to upholding the highest standards of journalism. If you think that we have not met those standards and want to make a complaint please see our Editorial Complaints Policy on the Contact Us page of our website or contact us at complaints@ or by post to Complaints, Editorial Business Department, Vogue House, Hanover Square, London W1S 1JU.

Leveraging the ledger

 Stephen Armstrong

UNLOCK THE BLOCKCHAIN Bitcoin isn’t just reinventing money – its underlying platform is being used to build a huge and versatile trust network It’s easy to think we’ve reached peak Bitcoin, but the blockchain at the heart of cryptocurrencies contains the seeds of something revolutionary. The blockchain is a giant decentralised electronic ledger with duplicate copies on thousands of computers around the world. This ledger cannot be altered retrospectively, thereby allowing asset ownership and transfer to be recorded without external verification. Investors have now realised the blockchain is bigger than Bitcoin. In the first quarter of 2016, venturecapital investment in blockchain startups overtook that in pure-play Bitcoin companies for the first time, according to industry researcher CoinDesk, which has tallied $1.1 billion (£840m) in deals to date. Even governments have taken an interest. Sir Mark Walport, the UK

government’s chief scientific adviser, published a report on the blockchain in January this year, outlining how the massively distributed shared ledger is “a database that tracks who owns a financial, physical or electronic asset”. But it could also, say, monitor driverless cars. “A u to n o m o u s v e h i c l e s a re becoming a reality – cars are increasingly part of the internet of things,” Walport explains. “You don’t want your connected vehicle to be tampered with. So blockchain’s distributed ledger has the potential to monitor car operating systems, sensors, doors. You can baseline the known state of the device’s configuration and then check for tampering.” Many firms are already using the blockchain to trace and record ownership, and to cut out middlemen. In the first group, there’s London-

004 based Everledger, which uses the distributed ledger to track individual diamonds from the mine to the consumer, helping identify conflict diamonds and combat insurance fraud. More than 980,000 diamonds have been registered since Everledger’s 2015 launch. The company plans to expand into the art world, bringing it into competition with Berlin-based Ascribe, launched to help artists claim ownership of their work as it spreads online. Stampery, meanwhile, ofers creatives and startups an IP protection service – as well as ofering a document-stamping service to the legal world, allowing lawyers to certify documents without expensive court fees. Stampery’s next step is system and critical infrastructure security, working with Microsoft to allow developers to embed the blockchain in their systems and thus record the history of every file. “If the NSA had the blockchain in the heart of its system it would have been able to follow Edward Snowden’s trail and identify exactly which files he’d accessed and stolen,” explains Stampery co-founder and CTO Luis Iván Cuende. “Snowden was able to access files, then, as an administrator, remove his details. The blockchain would have prevented that – it’s immutable.” Stampery is now working with the

‘THE BLOCKCHAIN CAN CONFIRM IF A PRODUCT IS INDEED AUTHENTIC’ Estonian government and Telefónica on secure, tamper-resistant systems. These businesses work best, explains Provenance founder and CEO Jessi Baker, when they lock in to systems or markets where some sort of record already exists. Provenance, for instance, uses the blockchain to ensure supply chains are sustainable

Guy Shields The blockchain can authenticate the provenance of artworks or ownership of shipping containers and even diamonds

and trustworthy: “We can confirm a product is indeed authentic, where things were made, or if it’s got a certification, or if it actually is organic,” she explains. “It’s about helping to bring trustable facts to retail.” The peer-to-peer potential of the blockchain is at the heart of Arcade City – the so-called “Uber killer” launched in New Hampshire in 2015 by disgruntled Uber driver Christopher David, and the noisiest of the “cut-out-the-middleman” pack. David resented Uber’s control over pricing, and founded Arcade City as an open marketplace where riders and drivers can negotiate trips directly, cutting out middlemen “from Silicon Valley or the city council,” says David. It’s already aiming to fill the void left by Uber and Lyft’s withdrawal from Austin, Texas, in May this year. A similar

project, Israel-based LaZooz, operates ride-sharing based on a kind of digital karma. Each ride you give earns tokens, which you spend on rides for yourself. This may sound like an insurance nightmare, but the blockchain – inevitably – could be the perfect solution. Based in Canada, is a car-insurance startup using an automotive telematics platform combining blockchain variant Ethereum, machine learning and artificial intelligence to give insurance companies real-time, remote diagnostics on a car and its driver. Some urge caution. Cornell University professor and cryptocurrency expert Emin Gün Sirer points out that services such as Uber and Airbnb handle security checks, vetting of drivers and landlords and a variety of other safety issues that


BN Total VC

investment to date in startups that use the blockchain, as opposed to the bitcoin cryptocurrency

require human judgement. “These are not things we should trust to market forces,” he argues. The blockchain’s potential for removing the middleman has found enthusiastic supporters in the music industry. Singer-songwriter Imogen Heap released her lastest single, “Tiny Human”, on Ujo Music, which has its own currency and digitalrights registration, as well as song tracking and feeding back data to artists. Bittunes, meanwhile, uses Bitcoin to buy and share music, ofering artists increased earnings and buyers a form of cashback as songs become more popular. The wealth-creating aspect of Bittunes excites MIT Media Lab director of digital currency Brian Forde, who is investigating the blockchain’s possible social impact on developing-world economies. “Capitalism took of in countries such as the US with small-businessowners borrowing against property equity,” he says. “Where people don’t have a formal property title, as in Egypt, all this capital is tied up. But if you create a property title on the blockchain, even if there is a change of government, it’s proof: the government can’t say you don’t own the property. In Egypt alone, that unlocks $400 million (£304m) in capital overnight.” The idea that the blockchain could possibly add billions of dollars to the global economy is just the start, says Amos Meiri – co-founder of Tel Aviv’s Colu, which ofers blockchain-supported local currencies. “The blockchain brings safety to everything from online purchases to opening the front door of your holiday home,” he explains. “It’s not just a new way of thinking about money – it’s a new way of thinking about trust.” There are problems, of course – the technology may not scale up to handle an enormous number of frequent trades or updates. There’s also a very uneven response from regulators. And although to date hackers have struggled to break into the widely distributed network itself, recent high-profile attacks on dependent websites and services indicate that the more value stored on the blockchain, the greater their incentive to access it.



The BMW Group rad°hub in London was an event to explore the future of mobility The BMW Group rad°hub took place on June 16-17, 2016 in London. An eclectic mix of 95 innovators took part in the event – both from within the BMW Group and beyond – to discuss Digital Cultures and four satellite trend topics, from human augmentivity and autonomous multi-modal mobility, to clean transportation and new consumption models. Taking over London’s Roundhouse, the overall aim of the day was to uncover the routes to reinventing mobility and meeting the complex and multidimensional needs of the future. It began with an introduction from Peter Schwarzenbauer, member of the board of management at BMW Group. “The future of mobility couldn’t be more exciting!” he enthused.

“Digitalisation, in particular, has more and more impact on virtually all areas of our daily lives. And it will revolutionise the auto sector.” The attending “rad°influencers” then explored the BMW Group’s VISION Vehicles, with concept cars from BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce. These

future-facing speculations seek to define tomorrow’s driving tech, with features such as self-driving, artificial intelligence, reactive design, car-todriver communication and much more. Later in the day, WIRED’s deputy e d i t o r G re g W i l l i a m s c h a i re d a question-and-answer forum with Schwarzenbauer, handing the floor to the assembled rad°influencers. Topics included “Uberisation” of services to what the BMW group anticipates the impact of autonomous vehicles will be, Left: rad°hub sessions explored public and private transportation, additive manufacturing, collaborative consumption, multi-modal mobility, augmented reality and the human role.

FOCUSED ON THE FUTURE A conversation about innovation in motion

and shared ownership models to artificial intelligence, as well as the rapid increase of city sizes and individual finance. When quizzed about the future of safety, Schwarzenbauer commented: “We have to see that around 90 per cent of the accidents that occur today are from human errors. If you eliminate the human error, streets will become much more safe than at present.” Attendees were then split into eight groups to discuss future scenarios, such as human augmentivity, digitisation, and the potential mobility needs and products of tomorrow. Similarly, access between rural cities and urban environments was addressed, in the hope that tomorrow’s populations would have “more time to do the things that we love.”

fter the rad°hub, WIRED’s product editor Jeremy White met BMW Group’s Peter Schwarzenbauer to discuss topics such as vehicle personalisation, shared ownership and driverless modes of transport. “With the MINI VISION NEXT 100 we tried to foresee how this will happen,” explained Schwarzenbauer. “Over time, the car learns your moods, what settings you like, the colours you like and when you like them – and then it adapts immediately as soon as you approach the car.” While the BMW Group has attempted to predict the sector’s future, shared ownership models have emerged as a key topic.

“It doesn’t matter which MINI you enter, or where – it will be always be your MINI,” said Schwarzenbauer. “This is totally possible.” Although the vehicle will be shared, factors including facial recognition and behavioural analysis can be utilised by in-car assistants – such as those in the Rolls-Royce and BMW VISION NEXT 100 vehicles. But, as the BMW Group dips its toe further into emerging technologies – including driver recognition and personal AI – will it emerge as a tech company that manufactures cars, or a car company that manufactures tech? “We need to become a tech company,” said Schwarzenbauer. “There’s no alternative. So, this is our challenge. The other challenge, though, is for tech companies to learn to build cars”. The next 25 years will be fascinating, with huge changes expected in connectivity, propulsion and artificial intelligence. The BMW VISION NEXT 100 is just the beginning. See



Founder & CEO, Überzeugend-einfach

ince creating the marketing innovation consultancy company in 2009, Munichbased Meier has been explaining the communicative potential of new technologies to executives and civil servants. She now spends at least six to eight weeks in Silicon Valley every year and has pivoted from pure marketing to areas such as the building industry, customer experience, education and mobility. “Innovations of today and tomorrow are able to disrupt all kind of industries,” she says. “So, from my point of view, we should all start thinking interdisciplinary

and from any perspective available. That is why I loved to be part of the rad°hub. I worked in an ‘inter-modal mobility’ hub, together in a team with Ron Garan, a former astronaut who completely opened up my mind. Since then, my vision on future mobility has changed.” The extent of this change of vision can sound rather drastic. She hopes we will all have access to any kind of mobility – from earthbound transport to extra-planetary experiences. Meier stresses that mobility is already undergoing significant disruption, especially at the hands of the sharing economy and Uber-like companies. “I use DriveNow, Uber, Airbnb and several other great services, but there’s still a lot of opportunity in adding value to under-served communities,” she says. “But I’m also a proud car owner. I love driving around in my convertible and I love using all kinds of integrated tech and driving assistance tools. I’d also like to drive autonomously some day; to retain the option to still drive myself would make the most sense to me.”



The future of mobility will arrive in four ways, says BMW Group board member Peter Schwarzenbauer. All that you need to do is remember “ACES” – or autonomous, connected, electrical and shared. At the rad°hub, Schwarzenbauer argued we need to bring a new perspective to how we view mobility and transport, predicting that in the next decade, the industry will undergo greater transformations than in the last century. “We’re standing before the biggest transformation the automotive industry has ever seen,” he said. “Individual mobility will still play a major role. But how does this mobility look? Who will provide this mobility?” To help, Schwarzenbauer promised to digest ideas suggested by the rad°influencers, taking advantage of their insight to shape the strategy of the BMW Group. At the rad°hub, WIRED’s deputy editor Greg Williams chaired a Q&A with the influencers, fielding questions on subjects as diverse as autonomous vehicles, software integration and new ownership models. The future, he concluded, is connected.

Digital agriculture

 Richard Benson


TECH TO TABLE FARMS GO ROBOTIC How precision farming is optimising our food supply The SPREAD vegetable farm, currently under construction on a science park about 25km outside Kyoto, Japan, will occupy some 4,400m 2 – all enclosed in a vast, low-rise warehouse-like building. Inside, under LED lights, shelves will rise from floor to ceiling, each one a soil bed full of lettuces. The workforce will transplant seedlings, water and trim plants, and pick 30,000 lettuce heads every day. The striking thing, besides the scale of the operation, is that none of those workers will be human: people will plant the seeds, but after that, robots will tend the crops, control the temperature, humidity, light and CO2, and sterilise the water supply. This is not a vision of agriculture in the distant future: SPREAD’s “controlled-environment farm” will begin shipping lettuce in 2017. To feed a world population forecast to hit 9.6bn by 2050, global food production must increase by 70 per cent. The finite nature of land is the most obvious barrier to that, but there’s also a serious rural labour shortage; across the world, people are moving from the countryside to towns and cities. By 2017, it’s estimated that even less-developed countries will have majority urban populations. In the UK, a 2013 government report put the average age of farmer at 59.

Much land is already “precision farmed” – monitored by sensors, data-analysis and satellite mapping, and cultivated with machines that use that data and GPS technology to plant, spray and harvest more eiciently. Driverless tractors are already in use in Europe and the US, but at John Deere – the agricultural machinery manufacturer – the talk is of sensors and the internet of things enabling whole farms to run almost entirely unmanned. The application of fertiliser, for example, will be carried out not by large tractor-like machines whose weight increases soil compaction, but by fleets of drones. And forget broad use of dangerous herbicides – weed-recognition software could enable robotic devices to travel fields applying a laser, or single dots

You don’t need to be in a warehouse to precision farm – drones can plant, weed and water with pinpoint accuracy

David Doran o f c h e m i c a l s d i re c t l y to t h e offending plant. A prototype robo-weeder is currently being built at Harper Adams University, a specialist provider of agricultural education, in Shropshire. Livestock handling is also being automated. Robotic milkers – the first robots to make inroads on farms – are now afordable to even small-scale producers, and are able to imitate the milking action of a human. Dairymaster’s MooMonitor sensors detect when a cow is in heat and ready for insemination, and alerts the farmer via text message. Irish shepherd Paul Brennan, of Carlow, uses a drone to replace sheepdogs for round-ups. Of course, some of this farming technology will be redundant if lab-grown meat becomes a more affordable and appealing option. With Tel Aviv’s Modern Agriculture Foundation currently developing a process for growing chicken breast from stem cells that’s indistinguishable from the real thing, that “if” may soon become a “when”. Does all this mean that our green and pleasant countryside will become depopulated and tended only by droids, much like the Lars’ family farm on Tatooine? Simon Blackstone, head of engineering at Harper Adams, believes there will still be plenty of employment for humans as “Agricultural robots will replace semi-skilled drivers, but many new, highly skilled robot engineers will be needed.” And according to Ian Bell, chief executive of the Addington Fund, which supports farming families struggling to adapt to changing conditions, there could even be new opportunities for those with old-fashioned and traditional skills. “In reality, the more mechanised farming becomes, the more urbanites fetishise traditional farming and country living,” Bell says. “I think we’re already seeing a growing market of wealthy rural incomers willing to pay a premium for craftsmanship and artisanally produced foods. If you can work out how to use technology to minimise your overheads while providing services in that area, you can make a lot more money than you will growing lettuce.”


JEN HYATT FOUNDER, BIG WHITE WALL Hyatt has founded and helped to found over 30 companies, many of which bridge digital technology and social impact. Her venture Big White Wall is an online platform that ofers mental health support and is used by the Ministry of Defence and the NHS. In the future, she reckons our vehicles could recognise our mental state and current moods, using facial and behavioural analysis. This would allow tomorrow’s cars to adapt their settings to better suit our physical and mental states.

MAX MÖHRING Founder & CEO, Drop

RENÉE RICHARDSON GOSLINE SENIOR LECTURER AND RESEARCH SCIENTIST, MIT SLOAN SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT Exploring how technology influences decisions and how humans oload tasks to machines, Gosline believes “This is changing the way we make choices and what we perceive as rational or irrational,” and asks if this leads us to make better decisions. “If we understand that, we can then program for people to take better advantage of machines – when suitable,” she says. That’s smart and safe.


ax Möhring is a self-styled biohacker and serial entrepreneur whose interests span messaging apps, music, payment systems and, crucially, the future of transport. Which explains why he was such an enthusiastic participant at the rad°hub on June 16-17, 2016. “With the event, the BMW Group has started to form a community of open innovation and to cultivate a digital mindset for a company formerly exclusively focused on engineering,” Möhring says. “Working in interdisciplinary groups on topics like the future of green public

transportation, or the next generation ii h h the h BMW G off cities, shows that Group is preparing itself to break out of their purely physical garage.” Möhring values bringing people together to discuss relevant topics. The 29-year-old recently founded Drop – a messaging app that allows the creation of “guarded groups”. These forums can only be joined by people who have certain personality characteristics, gauged via a quiz, a screenshot, a text upload, location or gender, for example. In this way, Drop aims to sort the wheat of competent arguments from the chaff of online trolling. The same concept informs Möhring’s other venture, Year of the X. This annual festival requests attendees challenge their prejudices and inhibitions and join a wider community of change-makers to discuss the future. “New technology can lead us in two directions: empowering us or limiting ourselves,” says Möhring. “To ensure its real pluralism in enriching our life, it is key that we form new habits that make sure behaviour guides us towards this.”

Smarter city streets

 Luke Dormehl


THE ROADTO TOMORROW It’s not enough for future vehicles to be shared and self-driving – a smart upgrade of our cities and streets is also required

Flying-car enthusiasts may plan to make roads redundant, and virtual telecommuting evangelists seek to do away with the need to travel at all – but for now, it’s self-driving lorries or the smaller autonomous vehicles currently being tested in parts of the UK, including Greenwich, Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry, at the transportation vanguard. Autonomous vehicles promise to have a much bigger efect on our roads than simply giving individual

drivers an easier commute. “We are very interested in how autonomous cars could have an impact at the city scale,” says Carlo Ratti, director at MIT’s SENSEable City Lab, and co-author of The City of Tomorrow: Sensors, Networks, Hackers, and the Future of Urban Life. “Our position is that they promise to have a dramatic impact, because they could blur the distinction between private and public modes of transportation,” he says. “‘Your’ car could give you a

lift to work in the morning and then, rather than sitting idle in a parking lot, give a lift to someone else in your family, your neighbourhood, your social-media community, or city.” How much of an impact would this have on city congestion? More than you think. One recent paper published by MIT suggested that the mobility demand of a city such as Singapore could be met with 30 per cent of its existing vehicles, were there a publicly accessible fleet of

Smarter city streets

 Luke Dormehl

self-driving cars. That number could be slashed a further 40 per cent if passengers on similar routes shared a vehicle. “This implies a city in which everyone can travel on demand with just one-fifth of the number of cars in use today,” Ratti says. But whether or not families are willing to give up the status symbol of multiple cars in favour of a vehicular sharing economy (and over the next ten years this seems unlikely), there are still smart technologies which can – and will – drastically reduce traic levels. “Think of the street as a very complicated version of musical chairs,” says Anthony Townsend, a researcher whose work explores the intersection between technology and cities. “An urban street is the most scarce, expensive piece of land and resource. Everybody wants to be on it and they don’t want to share with anyone. There’s only so much of it, so the more you can co-ordinate it, the more benefits you can get.” Right now, Townsend points out, 30 per cent of traffic in cities is caused by people driving around looking for parking. That is a problem that the Alphabet-owned Sidewalk Labs hopes to solve. It recently ofered Columbus, Ohio – the winner of a recent $50 million (£37m) Smart City Challenge, organised by the US Department of Transportation – the use of cameraequipped vehicles similar to Google’s Street View cars, to count the number of available parking spaces in the city, as well as reading relevant parking signs. Aggregating this with data from Google Maps, it will then help direct drivers to empty spaces. Just like the internet of things – through which the combined

“smarts” of various simple devices working together represent the most exciting possibilities – so too will the ability of vehicles to communicate with the world around them transform the next decade. “The idea is pretty simple,” says Dean Pomerleau, an AI researcher who built one of the world’s first neural-network-powered self-driving cars (and drove it across America), all the way back in 1995. “The notion is that every car will be equipped with shortrange communication technology that allows it to learn about other vehicles in its vicinity – as well as upcoming construction zones or other road hazards that have either been programmed in or reported by other vehicles.” Vehicle-to-vehicle communication will ensure our roads run more smoothly. One idea being explored by the SENSEable City Lab is for sensor-laden vehicles to pass through intersections by communicating and remaining at a safe distance from each other, rather than grinding to a halt at traic lights. “In other terms, you move control from the traic flow level to the vehicle level,” says Ratti. “Doing that, you can create a system that is much more eicient and can significantly reduce queues and delays, because then you can make sure the vehicles get to the intersection exactly when they have a slot. This system will became possible when there is a certain level of intelligence in every car – and it will be a natural consequence of the driverless revolution.” As these technologies gain momentum, expect to see another new norm: smart roads. Like smart vehicles, smart roads will use a variety of embedded sensors, Wi-Fi connectivity, AI algorithms and other technologies that a traditional “dumb” road lacks. At present, we’re only beginning to see cities factoring this kind of smart infrastructure into their plans. For example, the city of Copenhagen has undertaken a number of pilot schemes to investigate the efects of smart roads – with a slew of environmental, safety and other benefits. Smart street lighting, for instance, becomes brighter when cyclists



30% Percentage of traffic in cities that is actually just drivers searching for an available parking space

are crossing busy road junctions: making motorists more aware of their presence, while saving power at other times by not having illumination running at full capacity. A system set up by the Copenhagen Intelligent Transport Systems, meanwhile, features Wi-Fi access points which anonymously detect road users’ mobile phones as they pass along the Copenhagen street on which they are located. By triangulating multiple access points, the position of road users’ phones can be pinpointed in a way that lets streets be mapped for mobility, safety and CO2 emissions. Another demonstration of smart roads is evidenced in Songdo, South Korea, where millions of sensors are deployed in the city’s streets, electrical grids and other key infrastructure elements. This allows the flow of people to be continuously tracked in a way that lets the city make “smart” decisions. There has also been investigation into technologies such as smart cameras equipped with algorithms for spotting pedestrians, or scanning the licence plates of passing cars with a view to both controlling features such as street lights, and monitoring and predicting traic flow. These notions of “smart lighting” which can adapt intelligently to traffic will become increasingly popular. Monitoring the collective batteries of electric vehicles opens up possibilities such as building charging points at exactly the right location – or even incorporating special lanes into certain roads so that electric vehicles can be charged as they travel along them. This ability to draw on data gathered by smart vehicles will also begin to dictate the work of town planners as they construct new roads or modify old ones. Last year, the Google-owned traic app Waze teamed up with the city of Boston to reduce local traic. In exchange for advance notice from city authorities about planned road closures, Waze agreed to share data gathered from its users with Boston’s traic management centre. In the short term, the collaboration made Waze a more valuable tool to Bostonians by letting them plan routes to reach

Giovanna Giuliano

their destinations quickly and more eiciently. Longer-term, this data exchange will help Boston to fine-tune its traic light timings and urban planning. The mass adoption of new technology has always impacted the development of cities and will continue to do so. The success of Henry Ford’s Model T car – introduced in 1908 – helped replace convoluted medieval or Victorian roads with gleaming motorways and

dual carriageways equipped for fast car travel. Expect to see a similar transition for the age of big data: one which will be cleaner, safer – and more pedestrian friendly. That’s not to suggest that there won’t be challenges. The big changes on our roads – whether it’s 2016, 2026 or further forward – will force governments, as well as private enterprise, to embrace truly smart vehicles and the possibilities they promise.

Smart cars will need smart roads that share data on traffic, parking and recharging

As Anthony Townsend points out, “It’s policy that’s going to affect these changes. Cars didn’t take over the city until cities put rules in place that allowed it. It was a choice that city governments made. That’s one of the things that’s often uninformed about speculation that’s coming out of Silicon Valley now. They think they’re going to solve all the problems the car created by just putting in some software. Its a lot more complicated than that.”

Nasaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sci-fi habitats

Ruby Lott-Lavigna

In the 1970s, we earthlings bemoaned our overcrowded, polluted planet. So Nasa planned an alternative: colonies in space. Here are its artistsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; original designs for our new Earth-orbit-based homes


Rick Guidice

Nasa’s sci-fi habitats

For as long as overpopulation of Earth has been a concern, space colonies have been punted as the solution. These illustrations, developed by Nasa’s Ames Research Center and illustrated by Don Davis and Rick Guidice, depict how setting up home in space might have looked, had the mindset (and funding) that brought us the Apollo missions continued. The illustrations were created by Nasa’s team in the 70s to explore what Earth-orbit-based living might look like, if technological progress continued and resource extraction from mining the Moon or nearby asteroids became a reality. Earlier in the century, John Desmond Bernal envisioned a space colony 16km in diameter that could house 20,000 to 30,000 people. Although the design gave little scientific description, it pre-empted the model on which the Stanford Nasa

Ruby Lott-Lavigna

summer school would develop the spherical Island One colony, in which humans would live around the equator. Along with physicist Gerard O’Neill, the team also designed Island Three – a counterrotating dual-cylinder colony that created its own gravity. In 1975, as well as those models, they also envisioned a hubcap-shaped rotating habitat called the Stanford Torus (or Island Two) that would be able to house 140,000 people. The three stations remain icons of speculative space design, but they’re no closer to reality now than when they were conceived. Transport of materials, weightlessness, radiation and life support still pose a few minor challenges (not to mention the huge expense). However, with Nasa planning to travel to Mars in the 2030s, and firms such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX developing re-usable rockets, space colonies might not remain out of this world.

Previous spread: Interior of an O’Neill Cylinder. Strips of human habitat alternate with strips of glass allowing starlight in. Above: Despite the impracticalities, visualisations often included landscaped wilderness and water features. Right:

Island Three and its two O’Neill cylinders. The outer rings, 16km in radius, hold dedicated agricultural areas.


Don Davis; Rick Guidice

Nasaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sci-fi habitats

Ruby Lott-Lavigna


Don Davis; Rick Guidice

Far left: Astronaut workers install mirrors around the Island One colony. This sphere would rotate 1.9 times per minute to create gravity. Above: The interior of the 1.6km-diameter sphere Island

One. The habitat would run around its equator. Left: The Stanford Torus was envisioned as a circular habitat that would rotate once per minute.

Makers move up

 Chris Stokel-Walker

THE NEW WAVE OF ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING 3D printing is moving from the hackspace to the production line It may have reinvigorated the maker movement, but beyond the hackspace, large-scale consumer uses for 3D printing have proved limited. But designers and inventors are expanding the boundaries of additive manufacturing beyond pushing plastic through a nozzle. Gerard Rubio, CEO of Londonbased Kniterate, built his first 3D printer in 2009, cobbled together with motors, drivers and parts from old paper-fed printers. That experience, plus an art project involving 3D-printing small figurines of passers-by on Barcelona’s La Rambla, led to Kniterate, an on-demand garment “printer” that knits clothes across two decks of 125 needles. “I call it additive manufacturing,” says Rubio, “but it’s not melting anything. You knit the garment with instructions from a computer.”

Kniterate, the initial prototype of which was itself 3D printed, can produce a sweater in a matter of hours and has the potential to upend fashion processes. “We want to ofer a better experience,” says Rubio, 31, who launched a Kickstarter for Kniterate in September. “It makes a garment to your measurements, in your pattern and design, on demand.” This is what excites Rubio the most: that the next generation of additive manufacturing can now produce a finished product, rather than just a model. And it’s what Kirk Phelps, a former Apple engineer who worked on the first-generation iPhone, sees as the diference between first-generation 3D printing and the new wave of additive manufacturing. “When we look at 3D printing up to this point, it hasn’t changed consumers’ lives because

From wholegarment knitting to printing threedimensional electronics, manufacturing is undergoing a transformation

it’s largely used for prototyping,” he explains. “We founded a company to make 3D printing not just about prototyping, but about production.” Phelps works for Carbon3D, which has developed a machine that uses continuous liquid interface production (CLIP) to create objects 100 times faster than standard 3D printers, and to a higher, more durable standard. “All 3D printers work layer by layer, building up an object by extruding materials on to a surface at increasing height,” Phelps explains. Layers can be brittle, and break under pressure – which is why 3D-printed objects are usually prototypes, rather than finished products. “So, we got rid of the layers.” The underlying science behind CLIP has been known for 30 years, but Carbon3D is the first company to realise its potential for additive manufacturing. The machine controls both light and oxygen input using complex physical modelling. This ensures a gradated change between liquid resin as it comes out of the machine’s nozzle and the solid state it will eventually set as. End products made of the most durable resin Carbon3D’s printer uses can withstand 55,000kPa of pressure – a durability that’s caught the eye of the automotive industry, which has contacted Carbon3D to make mesh structures that make a car’s plastic parts stronger but lighter. Phelps is bullish about 3D printing’s future, believing it will become a mainstream way to produce everyday items within three years. But it’s not only big parts for cars and aeroplanes that could soon be built by additive manufacturing machines: the humble printed circuit board is being upended by advances in 3D printing technology. The two-dimensional thinking of printed circuit boards is limiting the development of electronics, argues Michael Bell of Voxel8, a startup spun out of a Harvard University research laboratory. Everything is flat: flat-screen televisions; flat smartphones; flat laptops and tablets. “With our process, you can put the electronics in and wire them up in three dimensions, which frees you up from the constraints of flat printed circuit boards,” he explains.


Voxel8 prints electronics in a similar method to the way 3D printers make trinkets. A process called sheer printing turns microparticle silver from a peanutbutter consistency in a nozzle, to liquid as it is extruded, then back to a thicker state when needed. This allows the Voxel8 printer to lay out precise circuits in three dimensions, forming wires that can be as narrow as 50 microns (0.05mm) thick. Bell, 26, won’t disclose how many machines have shipped, but did say that demand has been healthy, and the first production run of machines has all sold. The feedback helps Voxel8 hone its technology, “helping us find the billion-dollar use-case markets and enabling us to tailor our development to that,” Bell says. Even on its home turf of prototype production and model making, 3D

printing has its downsides – namely speed and cost. At ETH Zurich’s department of computer science, Christian Schüller is reviving an old-school process for truly rapid prototyping: thermoforming. Long used in the production of packaging items and chocolatebox trays, thermoforming had previously been limited to the production of simple and flimsy single-colour items. By running highly detailed designs through a computer simulation of the thermoforming process first, Schüller’s process allows the deformations that occur when the thin sheet of plastic is pressed around a mould to be accurately modelled and accounted for. Colours and details – such as the numbers on a remote-controlled car chassis – can be printed in anticipation of the

Oriol Vidal

changes thermoforming will make them undergo, meaning the end product looks perfect. “If you want to do 20 or 30 copies of an object with a 3D printer, it will cost you a lot of money,” says Schüller. Thermoforming is much cheaper, particularly at scale. “On top of that, with 3D printers the surface finish is just not as good as we can get with thermoforming.” So how excited should we be by the developments in additive manufacturing? Very, argues Voxel8’s Michael Bell. “You see Boeing and Airbus starting to print many of the parts in their aircraft engines, and already the next generation of 3D printers are upending automotive and consumer electronics,” he says. “There’s so much work in 3D printing going on that there’s never been a better time to get into the field.”

Reinventing the wheel When Nasa began developing its daringly experimental X-planes during the Cold War, it was with a focus on high-altitude, high-speed flight with missile and reconnaissance technologies. As the world has changed, so have Nasa’s priorities, and when administrator Charles Bolden announced the “New Aviation Horizons” (NAH) series of X-planes in April 2016, the aim was not military capabilities but eco credentials. New Aviation Horizons is the centrepiece of the Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) project, which aims to develop technologies that allow the aviation industry to fly more people longer distances, while using less fuel and producing fewer emissions and noise. “A tall order,” Bolden concedes, but a challenge that he believes will inspire “a truly revolutionary era of aviation”, unlike anything seen since the dawn of the commercial jet age in the 60s. Nasa’s scientists claim that by 2050, new aircraft could be using half as much fuel, emitting 75 per cent less pollutants, and making just 12 per cent of the noise of 2016’s models. All that could save airlines $250bn (£190bn) between 2025 and 2050. The f irst NAH X-plane, the battery-powered X-57 Maxwell, is due to appear in 2017. An experiment in the distribution of propulsion, its 14 electric motors will be integrated into the long, thin wings, powering a large propeller at each tip for use when cruising, and 12 across the leading edges for take-of and landings. Whereas in conventional aircraft the greatest fuel eiciency is obtained by flying below top speed, electric propulsion allows pilots to cruise both eiciently and quickly,

 Richard Benson


Jordan Cheung

The space agency is applying its engineering know-how to kick-start a faster, quieter and cleaner era of aviation reducing energy use by a factor of five and cutting costs for small planes by up to 40 per cent. After this, other experimental craft – Nasa plans to build five X-planes between now and 2026 – will explore more propulsion possibilities, software systems and new composite materials. These new materials will reduce weight, and therefore fuel efficiencies, and also allow for radical new shapes. Wings will have very high aspect ratios – which is to say they will be long and thin – and fuselages will be completely transformed, as the new materials can withstand high pressure without the need for rounded shapes. One of the planes is likely to have a body integrated with its wings, so that it resembles a huge airborne blade. Such shapes and materials are likely to feature in the QueSST (Quiet Supersonic Technology) jet, perhaps the most attention-grabbing of the mooted planes. The QueSST, being developed with Lockheed Martin, is intended to be a new, “low-boom” supersonic craft, that could eventually fill the gap left by Concorde. Its engineers will seek to replace the severe sound-pollutant sonic boom with a soft thump, or “supersonic heartbeat”, which would mean it could attain its top

speeds over land, rather than having to wait until was over the sea. Will we really see these sorts of ideas crossing over into everyday life? That’s certainly the intention, says Rich Wahls, a Nasa aerospace engineer and strategic technical advisor for Nasa’s Advanced Air Vehicles Program, which is part of ERA. “Whether we’re looking at technologies for adaptive trailing edges, hybrid electric propulsion technology or lighter weight fuselages, our goal, in part, is to support companies in producing products that will benefit the public,” he explains. “The aim is to develop technology to a point that it reduces the risk to a level at which that industry can incorporate it into their designs. It’s meeting the markets’ need to produce better aircraft.”


Nasa plans to build five X-planes between now and 2026, each exploring new propulsion systems and radical shapes and materials



A century since its founding, the BMW Group continues to innovate


Rolls-Royce VISION NEXT 100


n 100 years, BMW has grown from its humble roots as a small Bavarian business entity, evolving into an aircraft engine and motorcycle manufacturer, and finally becoming an automotive icon. Its centenary marks an important milestone for the BMW Group and finds it looking to the future, analysing the present, and giving a whole new meaning to forward thinking. Encompassing BMW, MINI, Rolls-Royce and its motorcycle arm, BMW Motorrad, hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s how the group is aiming to make the next 25 years all about connected technology, efficient and pleasurable transport, and moving people.



A grand arrival, a bespoke build and ultimate sanctuary.

The ultimate luxury vehicle for the ultra-wealthy passenger

hat will luxury look like in the future? That’s the question posed by the VISION NEXT 100, created by the brand for the BMW Group’s centenary celebrations. For the creators of this machine, the ultimate luxury – which we never seem to have enough of – is time, supplemented by a grand sanctuary in which to enjoy it. Which is why this vehicle is incredibly spacious, offering a wrap-around Macassar wood interior with carpets, seats and cushions created using soft and refined silks. To ensure passengers are transported in effortless style and with minimal fuss, Rolls-Royce envisage the creation of Eleanor – a digital distillation of the Spirit of Ecstasy, which has adorned the bonnets of the luxurious marque for decades. Eleanor is an AI personal assistant, a guide to travel, and a concierge. When it’s time to arrive, Rolls-Royce VISION NEXT 100 allows one to do so in grand style. As the roof opens smoothly like the entrance to a luxury jet, the fulllength door sweeps outwards, projecting a red “carpet” of light. The effect is enhanced by the design of the vehicle’s bodywork – it appears to float, which won’t be far off the truth. Rolls-Royce predicts its future machines will be constructed using an unequalled lightweight architecture, coupled with hugely powerful drivetrains. It may well be time to start saving up.

DESIGN DYNAMICS In the future, each Rolls-Royce will be designed less like a car, and more like an individual work of art or sculpture. Every aspect of the vehicle could be altered for a bespoke build, so no two machines would have the same specification.

THE SILENT SILHOUETTE Rolls-Royce VISION NEXT 100 is almost six metres in length. One of the most imposing vehicles the marque has produced, it’s also a metre and a half tall – so passengers can stand upright as they gracefully exit the vehicle.

REBOOTED & REDEFINED It’s still that classic MINI shape, but the BMW Group’s vision of the future is a far cry from the 1959 original. Perhaps most radically, future MINIs might not have owners – anyone could utilise its shared ownership model.


PERSONALISED PROPOSITION Approach this concept MINI and it will beam a personalised greeting on to the road. Step inside, and it’ll adjust to your driving preferences and interior layout. Even the exterior can be changed to match your style.

MINI MAKING MOVES A familiar shape and a new concept in ownership

he MINI. It’s another element of the BMW Group that has a heritage that’s recognised globally. But today, MINI is more about looking to the future than it is looking backwards in time. This is the MINI VISION NEXT 100 – a car that’s not built for you; it’s built for anyone and everyone. Some exterior surfaces can transform to suit individual tastes and styles, and it projects a personalised greeting as a driver approaches. Key to the design is its translucent bodywork – useful to see if anyone is already taking advantage of the shared ownership model imagined by MINI’s future-gazing designers. Another neat touch is how the steering wheel can slide from one side of the dash to the other. And the wheels are adorned so that their rotation creates a mesmerising ombro-cinema effect. Perhaps the most radical feature is the instrument known as the “Cooperizer”. This circular display is the heart of the MINI VISION NEXT 100 concept, designed to communicate with the driver through changes in colour. The Cooperizer also allows the driver to control the style of motoring – offering a gentle, relaxed drive or a supercharged sporty experience. Touch the “inspire me” button and the MINI will navigate to a public space loved by people of a similar personality. It’s time to put the fun back into driving.



The BMW VISION NEXT 100 is a shape-shifting car of tomorrow.

Self-driving AI, sustainable materials and more

oncept cars might sometimes do little but outline a manufacturer’s future design language, but with its trio of VISION Vehicles, the BMW Group is making a clear statement: that driving pleasure and technology will be closely combined as we speed towards the connected future of mobility. Now, 100 years since BMW was founded, the company is looking to shape the future and seeking to understand what new technologies will mean for tomorrow’s mobility. The BMW VISION NEXT 100 is one of the physical and theoretical embodiments of this exploration. The BMW Group has always sought to bring enjoyment to driving. To help everyone become the “ultimate driver”, it now aims to redefine the automotive experience by connecting the human to the car. The car’s AI is designed to be the ultimate co-pilot. Dubbed the “Companion”, it can recognise the driver’s needs, enhance their perception and adjust its modes automatically, on the move. A touch of the steering-wheel logo allows the AI to take control of driving, and transforms the wheel into an element of the dash. The vehicle uses an array of sensors to identify dangers, presenting issues on a head-up display (HUD) for the driver to see. When not in control of the journey, Companion monitors its driver

LIGHT WORK Road users will be aware of how the vehicle is being driven – whether in self-driving Boost mode or in autonomous Ease mode – thanks to illuminated contours of the car, and the light signatures in the headlights.

MATERIAL INSTINCT The BMW VISION NEXT 100 showcases a totally new way of looking at automotive design. Its wheel arches move in sync with the wheels, creating a shape-shifting concept called “Alive Geometry”.


in order to intuitively and subtly support them in every type of on-road situation. The HUD – which removes the need for additional monitors – keeps the driver informed with real-time context-specific information. This might include showing optimal cornering lines or navigation markers integrated into the surroundings. Externally, the vehicle’s assertive design – with its front and rear gullwing doors – signals the potential for performance. Utilising “alive geometry”, the reptilian scales move and stretch apart as the wheels are turned. A similar design inside create a dash alert system, warning the driver of any dangers ahead. When feeling sporty, the driver can launch Boost mode – which makes helpful recommendations for optimised driving performance, addressing points such as acceleration, incoming bends and braking areas. If they want to relax, the VISION NEXT 100 can be switched to Ease mode for a comfortable and autonomously-chauffeured journey. The future is smart. The future is connected. And it’s closer than you think.

INNOVATIVE INTERIOR When driven by the Companion AI, the VISION NEXT 100’s steering wheel morphs into the dash. Red scales act as a physical alert system, while the HUD displays other warning and navigational information.

A POWERFUL PROFILE It might have the looks of a sporty coupe, but the VISION NEXT 100 has four doors and seats four adults. Short front and rear overhangs means it doens’t just look the part, but that it handles like a true drivers’ car as well.

Sailing into the future

 Kathryn Nave


NIck D Burton

RG EEN RIVERS With city roads and transport links ever more congested, waterways offer a low-carbon alternative route

London has a transit problem. As do San Francisco, Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai and just about every city where public-infrastructure spending can’t keep up with urban population growth. Jay Gardner, co-founder and president of Wind+Wing Technologies, says he has found a solution – or at least part of one. “In San Francisco, [commuter train] Caltrain is maxed out and the Bart [Bay Area Rapid Transit] is overloaded, but it’s a 20-year project and at least $10 billion (£7.6bn) to build a new line under the Bay,” he explains. “The ferries, however, have a number of possibilities for expansion and they can be implemented in just 18 months.” The downside: the average ferry in San Francisco achieves just 11 passenger miles per gallon (or 3.9kpl) of diesel. “You could take a Cadillac Escalade across the bridge by yourself and get 20 miles per gallon,” Gardner says. “Or you could take a bus with 300 passenger miles per gallon.” Gardner’s solution, picked up from 25 years as a sailing-tour operator around the Bay, is to harness the free energy that’s already all around – the wind. “About 95 per cent of our trips are done with wind only, and there’s a really regular supply around the Bay,” he says. Yet, as

the ferry operators see it, sailing is complicated; operating a motor is not. Wind+Wing Technologies’ answer is a motorised, rigid carbonfibre sail, based on those used in high-performance yacht racing, that automatically sets itself to the wind and moves to neutral position when not in use, meaning no additional training is required for captain and crew. For the first three months of 2014, a 12-metre demonstration vessel followed five main ferry routes. “The results confirmed our feasibility study that you can achieve a more than 42 per cent reduction in fuel use with wind assist,” says Gardner. “With wind assist and electric vessels we think we could achieve around 150 passenger miles per gallon.” A final demonstration is now in the works to convince the ferry company board members to adopt the technology. Gardner is just one of a wave of entrepreneurs looking to use the same technologies developed to get the likes of Ben Ainslie round the America’s Cup course to transport passengers from Greenwich to Westminster with minimal carbon emissions. In Paris, yachtsman and former speed sailing record holder Alain Thébault wants to take the hydrofoils that allowed his trimaran l’Hydroptère to fly 103kph above the water and incorporate them into a

42% The reduction in fuel Wind+Wing’s claims its fixed carbon-fibre sail technology would bring to Bay Area ferries

fleet of five-person electric water taxis, called SeaBubbles, with the first full-scale prototype planned for later this year. “The hydrofoils reduce drag by around 40 per cent compared to a traditional boat,” he explains. “That means we can achieve a range of up to 100km.” Investors include Partech Ventures and Henri Seydoux, founder and CEO of drone company Parrot. For Thébault, however, the motivation comes from a drive to pay his dues to the future for a life lived in the impulse of the present. “I sold our house to pay for l’Hydroptère,” he explains. “My daughters said I was crazy but they let me do it. Then, when I was recently sailing from Miami to LA with them, they asked why can’t I do something useful? Something about the pollution afecting cities like Paris?” Even with fuel improvements, ferries and water taxis have a further core cost: manpower. That’s another cost Thébault believes can be eliminated, with plans to introduce driverless versions of the SeaBubbles once they’ve been successfully tested under manned conditions. “We can use the same technology as in cars, but autonomous control should be much easier on the river than the road,” he says. “It’s a more controlled space, and you don’t have pedestrians emerging from every direction.”

Enhanced athletics

 Greg Williams

CYBATHLETES PUSH THE PEAK OF HUMAN PERFORMANCE Next-generation prosthetics aren’t mere replacements for lost or damaged limbs – they’re (competitive) game-changers


SeĂąor Salme



Co-founder, ElectricFeel

haring can be tough, but at least when it comes to transportation, Moritz Meenen believes it doesn’t have to be. “Our mission is using data intelligence to solve the problem that all bike-sharing systems have in common,” he says. “It’s often the case that when users come to a station they can’t find a bike, or they have one but can’t find a docking spot.” ElectricFeel uses predictive algorithms to anticipate demand and highlight where bottlenecks will form. “Currently, the system operator can look at the status of the system, but

they can only see what it’s like right now,” Meenen says. “They can’t see what people are going to be doing in the next few hours. That causes supply and demand problems.” Seven public and private bike-share systems use ElectricFeel’s system, as well as Barcelona’s Cooltra electric scooter rental service. But Meenen is looking to expand beyond two wheels and exploring shared ownership models. At rad°hub, Meenen explained how shared ownership systems could be a challenge for car manufacturers, but the delegation saw that the BMW Group is already preparing for a radical redefinition of automotive use. “People think of BMW as just a car manufacturer, but with Uber and selfdriving vehicles, the market is being shaken up and turned upside down,” says Meenen. “The fact that the BMW Group had workshops around things such as 3D printing and brought together people from all different areas – from education to culture – showed me that they’re looking at the future in a holistic sense.”



Just a few years ago, you might have wondered what a cybersecurity expert and internet of things consultant like Filip Maertens has to do with personal mobility. Then came the first few reports of connected cars being hacked, even as their owners were driving them in public. As our vehicles join the increasing number and variety of things being hooked up to a vulnerable internet connection, experts such as Maertens are increasingly in demand – as is the ability to spot the opportunities in smart objects. In 2011, he founded Sentiance, which uses the data collected by sensor-rich smart devices to build context-aware customer profiles – useful for tailored car insurance products, ride-share administration, or citywide mobility management. The BMW Group envisages that in the future, our vehicles will know their drivers intimately – understanding their preferences, driving styles and even strengths and weaknesses at the wheel. Furthermore, tomorrow’s cars won’t just understand us, they’ll support us, going beyond providing navigational help to ofer driving tutelage.

Enhanced athletics Kevin Evison takes a particular delight in spinning his right wrist around 360 degrees as he talks – the only one of his many hand gestures which, despite the carbon-fibre shell and exposed actuators of his prosthetic arm, doesn’t quickly start to seem almost natural. Evison is an experienced prosthetics user, having lost his arm in the 80s at the age of 22, just as the first generation of myoelectric limbs – controlled by the detection of electrical signals from the contraction of muscles – were beginning to be introduced to adult patients. But those early devices have nothing on the Bebonic arm. “This,” Evison proudly declares, “is the Rolls-Royce of prosthetics. With the old versions I could just contract the first two fingers together. With this I can type, I can use a mouse, I can, to the frequent surprise of waiters, cut up a steak.” Evison is speaking as one of a group of engineers, academics and athletes-in-training gathered in a small room at the back of Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the birthplace of the Paralympic movement, to formulate a vision for the future of disabled sport. A future in which there are no limitations on the technologies that can be used, in which even those with the severest of disabilities can compete, and in which powered prosthetics take their users to the same – or greater – ability level of the able-bodied. This October, that future makes its first appearance at the inaugural Cybathlon, a bi-annual bionic athletics event organised by ETH Zurich. There’s a sense in which the Paralympics hasn’t done enough, says Aldo Faisal, associate professor of neurotechnology at Imperial College


 Greg Williams

€4M Amount awarded by the European Commission to Aldo Faisal to develop a robotic exoskeleton

035 London, and leader of the university’s team. “They focus on elitelevel athletes,” he says. “It doesn’t cater to those with higher-end disabilities, or the promotion of new assistive technologies.” The Cybathlon’s six disciplines will focus not only on athletic challenges, but also the ability to overcome everyday obstacles, such as climbing stairs (in a wheelchair); opening a jar of jam (with a prosthetic hand); or controlling a computer (and being quadriplegic). And not only will tech teams compete and learn from each other to develop new solutions, so will the athletes themselves. “When I went to Zurich [for the Cybathlon rehearsal] I felt like, hey, there are other people that know the pain, that understand the struggle of doing the simplest things that others take for granted,” explains Team Imperial wheelchair pilot Sivashankar Sivakanthan. “We can bounce ideas off each other and learn from each other’s experience of dealing with it.” Though at f irst glance the Paralympics seems the obvious comparison, the Cybathlon, explains the event’s creator, Rob Reiner, will be altogether different. His preferred analogy, and one that occurs frequently when you talk to Cybathlon competitors, is Formula One racing. “We award a medal for both the pilots and the technology,” the ETH Zurich professor of sensorimotor systems explains. “It’s about the skills that they can have in combination.” Skills such as Evison’s ability to keep his wrist joint perfectly stable while rapidly spinning it through 360 degrees. That full rotation may not seem like much, but that’s how technologies are crossing the boundary from restoration into augmentation. At a recent Cybathlon rehearsal, Evison, a pilot for the Imperial team, was able to outperform even able-bodied users in a test of manual dexterity that involved guiding a loop of wire around another piece without touching. Faisal – who sounds mildly afronted when he explains that the obstacle is worth a mere two points – failed to complete it. And there could be real advantages

– for example, on production lines, suggests the Imperial team’s coordinator Ian Radclife, where attachments could allow a prosthetics user to screw bolts into a car. “Prosthetic designers are starting to face questions like, is it OK to have a hand that can spin, and spin and spin?” Evison says. “I’ve had people say to me that if that thing gets any better, I’m going to want to lose my normal limb and have one of those.” For participants with more extensive disabilities, such as Tom Nabarro, a software engineer for Intel who was paralysed from the neck down in a snowboarding accident in 2007, the competition gets even more interesting. In the brain computer interface (BCI) race, competitors must guide an avatar around a course with the power of their mind alone. An electroencephalography cap detects the electrical signals of activity across the brain, then deep-learning algorithms attempt to extract the small suggestion of an intention amid this noisy, buzzing confusion. “You think of natural actions, like clenching your hand, which comes quite naturally,” Nabarro explains. “The concentration is very intense, but you can train by pretending you’re playing the game and thinking through those actions every morning.” Whereas standard BCI devices can discriminate little more than the equivalent of an on/of switch, the BCI challenge requires the use of four separate controls for running, jumping and steering. “You can think of standard BCI technology as being like a mouse click. We want to give people a keyboard,” says Faisal. For Nabarro it’s more about moving beyond the standard computer peripherals, to the creation of whole new interfaces between humans and technology. “Working with BCIs is the future of technological interaction,” Nabarro says. “I use voice recognition, but it’s still based around a mouse or keyboard. And if you think about it, this may not be the most efficient way to interact with a computer.” Faisal agrees that human-computer interaction needs re-thinking, but he has something much cheaper


Cybathletes are pushing the capabilities of prosthetics to the point where they can outperform the able-bodied

than the £200,000 EEG cap in mind. Rather than extracting intentions in the muddled mass of brain activity, he’s created a £200 system to read them directly, the way we already do quite easily – in each others’ eyes. Combining a front-facing eye-tracking camera, attached to a powered wheelchair, and a forwardfacing Kinect that maps the landscape in front, Faisal’s system plots the location of the user’s gaze on to this landscape, and directs the chair to that direction. “It was really easy to use on the slalom or indoors. And I really loved the accuracy in being able to turn,” explains poweredwheelchair pilot, Sivakanthan. “It takes a bit of practice, but it doesn’t take that long to learn.” Beyond merely directional control, this simple eye-tracking system was sophisticated enough to allow the team to win a recent

competition in which its entrant painted a picture with a robotic arm while drinking cofee and eating a croissant with their natural upper limbs. “If you want to grab that glass, you will look at it in one specific way, but if you want to assess how full it is you will look at it in a diferent way,” explains Faisal, who has recently been awarded €4 million (£3.3m) by the European Commission Horizon 2020 programme to develop this system into a robotic exoskeleton for those with upper-arm paralysis. The one commonality in all of Team Imperial’s solutions is their non-invasiveness. This isn’t a requirement of the competition: one team in the functional electrical stimulation bike race, in which electricity is used to stimulate a paralysed person’s muscles, have a participant with surgically implanted leg sockets that carry

Señor Salme the current directly into muscle fibres for greater stimulation. But for Faisal, this non-invasiveness is essential. “It has to do both with the restorative method – many, many patients just won’t qualify for surgery. Psychologically less stable people will be excluded. Older people will be excluded,” he explains, “Then there’s the other aspect: when you talk about imbuing able-bodied people with new physical powers. You need to have technologies that you can just take off and you’re ‘normal’ again. The mobile phone is an amazing piece of cognitive augmentation – but how successful do you think it would have been if it had required surgery?” Grounded as he is in understanding the real needs of disabled users, Faisal doesn’t shy away from exploring the more fantastical implications of such noninvasive augmentative technologies. “If a device can control a wheelchair, then it should be able to help me drive a car,” he says. “If I can control a computer game with my mind, then I should be able to control my phone with it. Researchers are working on prosthetics that give you a sense of touch, but why should that be limited to the form of an arm? You could be an aeroplane and feel the wind on the wings. You could be cleaning up a nuclear spill while physically situated in a safe place thousands of miles away. And with noninvasive technologies, we don’t need a future of cyborgs running around, half cut-up. You could shrug on a rucksack and become like Shiva with six arms. It would make childcare a lot easier.” These are the kinds of applications more typically found in the files of Darpa’s big-budget investments, but the beauty of the Cybathlon, explains Faisal, is that its combination of collaboration and competition both pushes these technologies forward and showcases them outside a military context. There is one problem with the current course, at least according to Kevin Evison – it’s too easy. “This is just the start,” he says. “I’m all for the course getting harder. I want to be able to show off the super-hand, to compete at the level of superhuman abilities.”


MIKELE BRACK FOUNDING PARTNER, URBAN LIVING FUTURES Mikele Brack works with corporates and projects to build eicient urban areas in places where tech companies are looking for sustainable spaces. “It’s a positive step to see an automotive company reaching out to the innovation community,” she says, noting that an inspired idea from the rad°hub was getting businesses to stagger start times so there are fewer vehicles on the road, along with encouraging more vehicle-sharing schemes.


Entrepreneur & author, The Mobility Revolution


MANDEEP RAI BOARD MEMBER, CREATIVE VISIONS FOUNDATION Rai’s expertise ranges from finance and journalism to entrepreneurship. She examined what expanding populations will mean for mobility: “We chose to look at a Southeast Asian village – brainstorming what they would expect to see and what we can contribute.” The result? Linked transport and more information about the best routes, so travellers can make better mobility decisions. Essentially, a data revolution.

ukas Neckermann has what he calls an “intimate connection” with the BMW Group. He started his career there, before founding his consulting firm, Neckermann Strategic Advisors. His mobility credentials go further, as he sits on the advisory board of NEXT Future Transportation, a pod ridesharing startup, and is the author of The Mobility Revolution: Zero Emissions, Zero Accidents, Zero Ownership. At the rad°hub event, Neckermann’s group worked on the autonomous multi-modal transport foresight task,

discussing what such technologies might look like in the future. “The fleets of shared autonomous pods seemed to be the natural and obvious outcome,” he reports. Neckermann said it was encouraging to see the BMW Group admit it doesn’t necessarily have all the answers – that’s why it’s asking experts such as himself. “The event made clear that they have thought about this and have some interesting product interpretations,” Neckermann says. “But also that they are willing to bring in people from various, unrelated backgrounds to think about this on a much deeper, more philosophical level.” Transportation is already evolving, and that’s likely to bring changes in how we perceive driving. What used to be a dream has become a nightmare, Neckermann says. High traffic levels mean driving is a “road-rage inducing, time-wasting distraction.” But smarter cars and improved public transport could help shift driving “away from utility and mobility, back to driving for pleasure.”

Robots on the rise Although we often think about the researchers, designers and entrepreneurs who bring us the latest cutting-edge devices, it’s often easy to forget about the logistics chain which allows your California- or South Korean-designed smartphone to wind up in your local retail store. But that’s exactly the point. Like the editing in a movie, when the logistics chain works perfectly, the greatest compliment is, to paraphrase Steve Jobs, that it “just works”. But as with every other industry, this chain is in the process of being disrupted by changing demands. In 2016, consumers demand not only more choices, but also to receive products faster than before. And there are ever more of them demanding it – according to analysts at Forrester Research, the growth of online shopping is currently rising at ten per cent year-on-year, and faster than that in Asia. “Most companies are eager to improve and to squeeze all they can from optimised efficiency,” says Arne Viehmeister-Kerner of MULTIROTOR, a leading German company in the B2B drone industry. “Right now, we’re at a point where conventional technology is already at such a high standard there’s not much more room for improvement. As a result, companies are looking for new technologies they can use.” One of the biggest and most high profile step-changes in logistics over the coming years will be the arrival of autonomous delivery vehicles. Self-driving trucks – the big brothers of Google’s self-driving car – ofer a tantalising glimpse at the next generation of haulage vehicles. In April this year, a trial took place in which a


 Luke Dormehl

LOGISTICS: BREAKING THE CHAIN Smarter, more adaptable robots are about to transform delivery platoon of connected “smart” trucks drove themselves from Sweden and Germany to the port of Rotterdam, as an investigation into the potential of driverless vehicles. Even more significant than driverless trucks will be pilotless ships, says Ørnulf Jan Rødseth, a research scientist who has spent the past several decades investigating exactly this topic for Maritime Unmanned Navigation through Intelligence in Networks (MUNIN), a European Commission research project. “The eventual goal is to completely remove the human crew from ships,” Rødseth says. “It’s an idea that opens up entirely new possibilities in terms of new business models.” Rødseth notes that ship transport is responsible for an overwhelmingly large proportion of the goods that are shuttled around the globe. “Ninety per cent of imports and exports in the world take place by ship,” he says. “You cannot underestimate how important it is.” By removing humans from the role of ship operators, it will be possible

to develop new concepts – minus crew accommodation and safety equipment – that will transform merchant shipping with entirely redesigned, more eicient vessels. Of course, when it comes to the promise of revolutionised transportation, the most widespread dream is that of drone-based delivery. Widely publicised after a December 2013 television interview with CEO Jef Bezos, drone delivery (“Amazon Prime Air”) will rely on multirotor miniature unmanned air vehicles to autonomously fly individual packages to the doorsteps of customers within half an hour of them placing an order. Since then, other companies have investigated similar concepts. For example, in September 2014, the German delivery firm DHL tested a “parcelcopter” which autonomously delivered urgent packages such as medication to the 2,000-person island of Juist, 12km of the German coast. For now, drone delivery remains a “proof of concept” due to a combination of technical challenges, such

039 as battery life, and regulatory issues, including the insistence that drone operators can only fly drones within their line of sight. But although some of these technologies still have hurdles to overcome, drones are already playing an important role in other parts of the logistics chain – such as being item “scouts” which find or catalogue specific items in large warehouses. Already having significant impact are the industrial robots used in factories. Factory robots date back to 1956, but the kinds of machines being manufactured by companies such as Boston-based Rethink Robotics are as diferent as the modern iMac is from a 1950s mainframe. Traditionally, buying an industrial robot didn’t just mean shelling out for the machine itself; it also meant adapting warehouses and tasks to fit the new robot. Now some of these barriers are starting to come down. In most of western Europe, the cost threshold for robotic workers to become viable is currently around €100,000, yielding a positive return on investment in around three

years, based on productivity gains of 20-30 per cent. Robots are also becoming more and more afordable, whereas human labour costs continue to rise. But the biggest change will be qualitative. “The more traditional robot forms are custom-designed to do one task. They do it really well, but if they’re not doing it, then they sit there and idle,” says Jim Lawton, chief product officer at Rethink Robotics. “The newer types of robot, because of the smarts that are built into them, are like PCs with arms. If I buy a computer, I don’t necessarily know up front what I’m going to with it. Today I may be writing a paper, tomorrow I might be filling out a spreadsheet. The computer accommodates whatever it is that I need to do.” Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence mean that instead of simply programming robots to do one task for their whole working life, they can (and will increasingly) be capable of carrying out a broad range of tasks – with instruction being as straightforward as showing them a video.

Automation of logistics will stretch from the production line to delivery, thanks to a new generation of versatile, learning robots

Janne Iivonen Beyond speed, what will be the impact of this increasingly unmanned logistics chain? The answer lies in the amount of personalisation that they make possible. Henry Ford is erroneously supposed to have told Model T customers that they could have their car in any colour they wanted, so long as it happened to be black. Now, successful companies will be those that can most keenly sense marketplace demand and respond to it quickly, efficiently and at a reasonable cost – whether that’s car manufacturers allowing customers to choose custom modifications, sportswear brands letting shoppers design their own trainers, or simply the ability to package up different product combinations according to local demand. “For a long time you could get what you wanted when you wanted it, but that came with more costly systems which customers weren’t willing to pay for, or else they were mass-produced in a way that limits choice,” Lawton says. “Consumers today want more, and they also want to be able to change their mind.”

Reinvented interfaces From smartphones to satellite navigation, televisions to tax-return websites, the visual interface dominates our society. “A smartphone screen can represent anything because it’s pixels,” suggests Hiroshi Ishii, director of the Tangible Media Group at MIT’s Media Lab. “You can even make a pixel dance.” But, according to Ishii, our obsession with graphical user interfaces (GUIs) is damaging, removing us from millennia of human-object interaction. Worse, it stops us thinking: “Because GUIs are so well done and are so pervasive, people can’t think of a better way to present interfaces,” Ishii explains. Through the Tangible Media Group, Ishii is working to fill out our interactions with digital information by giving these pixels physical form. Platforms such as Skype and FaceTime connect us over long distances, but we have lost the physical presence in those communications. One of the group’s projects is inFORM, which aims to restore physicality to a Skype call, via dynamic pins that rise and fall in response to the participant on the other end. This “physical telepresence” attempts to bring tangibility back to technology-mediated interactions. “We have amazing skills to deal with the physical world that aren’t used at all in current computer interaction,” says Ishii. In the 4th century BCE, landscape designers would shape clay or sand to design their cities; today, we pull and poke computer-generated models around a series of pixels meant to represent a room. Ishii’s laboratory is combining both: moulding clay in real life is echoed in changes on-screen. The problem was that until recently it cost too much to build the hardware that’s required to inject tangibility into technology. Now 3D printing and the maker movement have allowed physical objects to be built more cheaply. But what if you didn’t need a physical object to hold? Haptic technology mimics solid items without requiring the space to store them or the materials to make them, and is becoming a popular alternative to the visual interface – particularly in the automotive industry.

 Chris Stokel-Walker

Haptic interfaces will use sound to create highly adaptable controls that are “felt”, but not seen, reducing driver distraction


Car dashboards groan with interfaces demanding attention. Yet for safety’s sake, it’s important drivers keep their eyes on the road. And the secondary tasks – such as turning on air conditioning or changing radio stations – use up mental bandwidth. “The less mentally demanding you make these tasks, the safer the car will be,” says Tom Carter, chief technology oicer of Ultrahaptics, a Bristol-based startup working to get rid of physical buttons and replace them with mid-air haptics. Ultrahaptics’ vision is simple: a driver can raise her hand in the air while driving. Of-the-shelf tracking devices such as Microsoft’s Kinect or the Leap Motion controller recognise the hand instantly and feed that information to Ultrahaptics’ system,

Anna Pan which uses speakers to concentrate ultrasonic waves on to the hand. These sound waves cause the skin to vibrate gently, mimicking the touch of a dial or a button. “We can make 3D shapes that you can touch and feel,” says Carter. So “pushing” an ultrasonic button in mid-air will make it “give way” in much the same way as its physical counterpart. Ultrahaptics’ technology processes these interactions so quickly – within 30-50 milliseconds – that they feel instantaneous. It sounds futuristic, but after seven years in development, it’s close to installation in cars. “We’re not planning on replacing the steering wheel,” Carter says. “But we can replace some of the interactions done regularly while driving.”

TOUCH THE FUTURE Physical sensations will upgrade the digital interactions of tomorrow

Wired - November 2016  
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