Aion launches first public blockchain network


If you believe blockchains will proliferate in the coming years, it stands to reason that you will need some sort of mechanism to move information between them, a network of blockchains with bridges and processes for sharing information between entities. That is exactly what The Aion Network is providing with a new blockchain network released today.

The company wants to be the underlying infrastructure for a network of blockchains in a similar way that TCP/IP drove the proliferation of the internet. To that end, the company, which originally began as a for-profit startup called Nuco, has decided to become a not-for-profit organization with the goal of setting up protocols for a set of interconnected blockchains. They now see their role as something akin to the Linux Foundation, helping third party companies build products and creating an ecosystem around their base technology.

Graphic: Aion Networks

“The core design of network we have been building is to connect various networks, and route data and transactions through a public network. We are launching that network today. It allows you to build bridges to other blockchain networks. That public network acts as relayer between blockchains,” Matthew Spoke, CEO and co-founder at Aion Networks told TechCrunch.

While there clearly could be security concerns with a public by-way for blockchain data moving between systems, Spoke says that can be minimized. Instead of transmitting a medical record between a hospital and insurance company, you send a proof that the person had an operation, which the insurance company can check against the coverage rules it has created for that individual and vice versa.

The idea behind this venture is to provide the underlying plumbing to encourage more highly scalable blockchain use cases. Spoke and his team once ran the blockchain practice at Deloitte before starting this venture, and they saw roadblocks to scaling first-hand. “When we were doing enterprise projects, our biggest realization was that the plumbing wasn’t sophisticated enough. The scaling wasn’t meeting specs that enterprise companies would need long term. Because of that, we were not seeing anyone moving beyond proof of concept projects. What we are doing is trying to mature the possible use cases,” he said.

In order to drive adoption, the company is introducing a token or cryptocurrency to be used to move data across the network and build in a level of trust. Spoke believes if the users have skin in the game in the form of tokens, that could create a higher level of trust on the system.

“Instead of paying for infrastructure, you are going to pay to be part of a common trusted protocol. It comes down to the mechanism of consensus and being incentivized to do business in an honest way,” Spoke said

This is probably not something that will get adopted widely overnight. Just because they have built it, they still require a level of utilization for it to really take off, and that will require more blockchain projects. “We still need a few years of pure focus on infrastructure to make sure we are getting these layers right. Every time you move data of any kind there are security vulnerabilities and we need to make sure there are good specs and comfort in using it,” he said.

from TechCrunch

YouTuber launches garlic bread into space just to eat it when it lands back on Earth


We’ve seen a man, a rocket, and so many other things go into space, so why not send some garlic bread as well?

YouTuber Tom Scott and a group of experts tied a loaf of garlic bread onto a weather balloon in attempt to launch it into space. Aside from sending it off, Scott wanted to test how the bread would taste once it’s been on the edge of the atmosphere for over two hours. 

But, the reason for garlic bread specifically? Scott just said, “Because it’s delicious.” Who could disagree with that?

The goal was to get the garlic bread at least to the edge of space (which is a third of 100 kilometers up [328,084 feet]) with the help of some fisheye lens, radio GPS, and a server box. They were able to track the landing of the bread and successfully capture it to test their theory.

So, what the difference between “earthbound bread” and “stratospheric bread?” Just imagine the bread you’ve launched in space was just taken out of the freezer, barely cooked in the microwave, and eaten. You may want to eat food already cooked on earth.

from Mashable!

A blockchain startup wants to let people buy tokens so they can pick which sites are worthy of ads



  • The startup MetaX wants to use blockchain technology to create a list of safe websites for advertisers.
  • Consumers and people in the ad industry will be able to purchase crypto tokens to vote on which publications are included on the adChain registry.
  • Dave Strauss, director, revenue operations & analytics at Hearst, believes the concept will resonate with professionals and regular people.
  • The hope is that this list is employed industry wide, which will make it harder for ad fraudsters to operate and send more business toward reputable publishers. 

Lots of startups has emerged in the past year promising to use blockchain technology to track digital advertising transactions.

MetaX says blockchain can actually keep brands out of trouble.

The company, which is working on a slew of blockchain-based products for digital ads, is introducing the adChain registry, which promises to help the ad industry establish a universal list of websites that are safe for everyone. 

Anyone, from consumers to ad tech executives to marketers themselves, can vote on which sites are included on the registry using tokens they purchase on the web, and their votes will be recorded automatically via the Ethereum blockchain.

There are 600 million such tokens available, with secondary market values starting at around 6 cents each, said Alanna Gombert, MetaX global chief revenue officer. There is a 1 billion token cap on adToken.

Even at that price, it’s hard to know whether the average person will open his or her wallet to pay to vote on which sites are brands safe. That’s if they even understand what cryptocurrency or blockchain is. It’s not always that easy to get people to pay for content on the web.

Still, Dave Strauss, director, revenue operations & analytics at Hearst, believes the concept will resonate with professionals and regular people. “This has potential to make significant strides for our industry as it pushes for transparency in the marketplace while including valuable input from the typical internet user," he said.

Over the past few years digital advertising has been plagued by scam artists selling tons of ads on bogus websites visited only by bots, and all sorts of other forms of fraud. That’s led to numerous big name brands either wasting money on ads that nobody sees or finding their ads next to inappropriate content.

As a remedy, many advertisers have employed either ‘black lists’ (sites they want to stay away from) or ‘white lists’ (a limited number of sites they want to run ads on) for their programmatic campaigns.

Theoretically, a universal lists of safe sites that the broader community manages collectively would have broad appeal. Particularly one using blockchain tech, so that the list can’t be manipulated by anybody.

Over time, if such a list became robust and widely used, it would make it harder for fraudsters to operate, as advertisers would restrict their spending on approved sites – so the thinking goes.

That is, if people care enough to buy virtual tokens and vote on who makes it.

Gombert believes that consumers are passionate enough about digital experiences that some will buy tokens and vote. Initially, she predicts that ad operations staffers from major publishers will pounce on this opportunity, since they are the people that live and breathe all of digital advertising’s ills.

"They don’t get to speak publicly often, and they’re so frustrated with these issues," she said.

But won’t publishers be able to buy up lots of tokes and rig the registry to favor their sites? Gombert says there are various safeguards built into the system to prevent this sort of thing. For example, there is deliberately a lag built into the system so that sites don’t get voted in instantly.

And people can get locked out of using tokens if they buy too many too fast. Plus, voters won’t be able to unilaterally kick any publishers off of the adChain registry.

"You can propose to vote someone out of the registry but the community needs to agree with you," said Gombert.

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from SAI

MIT researchers turn water into ‘calm’ computer interfaces


MIT Media Lab

Our lives are busy and full of distractions. Modern computing. with its constant notifications and enticing red bubbles next to apps, seems designed to keep us enthralled. MIT Media Lab’s Tangible Media Group wants to change that by crafting “calm interfaces.”

The Tangible Media Group demonstrated a way to precisely transport droplets of liquid across a surface back in January, which it called “programmable droplets.” The system is essentially just a printed circuit board, coated with a low-friction material, with a grid of copper wiring on top. By programmatically controlling the electric field of the grid, the team is able to change the shape of polarizable liquid droplets and move them around the surface. The precise control is such that droplets can be both merged and split.

Moving on from the underlying technology, the team is now focused on showing how we might leverage the system to create, play and communicate through natural materials.

“Water is a natural material that exhibits interesting phenomenon like bending light … It has the ability to merge, it happens naturally,” Udayan Umapathi said. A designer, engineer and experimental physicist, Umapathi is a researcher at MIT Media Lab, where he leads development on programmable droplets. “When we looked at various scenarios where you interact with water physically, and water has some physical information, a concrete example that stood out was an artist painting color.”

The first use-case for programmable droplets, then, is a kind of automated painters’ palette. An artist takes a photo on their phone, selects the object they’re focused on, and then sends a signal to the palette to mix various colors to recreate the hue they’re interested in. “In this specific use-case, the information the droplets carry is the color itself … The technology is integrated into a compact, real-world object.” Umapathi said.

Computationally reconfigurable materials, or “Radical Atoms” in MIT parlance, have long been a focus of the Tangible Media Group, and this latest project explores the subject through a new lens. By moving droplets precisely around a “leaf,” the team is able to tap into two natural properties of water: its ability to apply force and its ability to, well, make things wet. Umapathi explained that you could also “program the sequence by which water develops onto various petals” to control the way a flower blooms.

Umapathi generously describes the third project as a “gaming console,” but it’s better described as a single game. As you probably could’ve guessed, it revolves around water. You control a droplet by gently tilting the device to move it around a small tray. Your objective is to absorb the other droplets in the tray, which are controlled by a computer. It plays out something like Pac-Man, or perhaps more accurately Osmos.

The demonstration ends with something a little more conceptual, but potentially a lot more exciting. It shows a person leaving their house in the morning as they pause to send a message to their partner. As they click okay on their message (“Have a nice day <3”), the camera cuts to their partner brushing their teeth. In the fogged-up mirror of the bathroom, we see the message rendered in droplets.

“If you look around, there are water droplets around you, for example rain, or water condensing to droplets on umbrellas and cups,” Umapathi explained. “We’re working on a transparent programmable droplets display, so in this scenario what we’re illustration is that the droplets that are already present in your environment can be harnessed and used as an interface.”

The team does have a fully-working transparent display that can be used to display messages like this, Umapathi said, but it’s not quite developed to the point where it could be seamlessly mounted on a mirror.

It’s important to project forward like this, though. The conceptual scenario is definitely the strongest demonstration of the technology, and the easiest to see being integrated into our day-to-day lives. Umapathi says the team is “at least a year” from a working prototype of the mirror concept, but it’s clear that, unlike many concepts we see, this one is clearly grounded in the realm of possibility.

The Tangible Media Group is due to show off its work this week at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, which is thankfully abbreviated to “CHI 2018.” Following the conference, the team will continue to work on developing its programmable droplets, hopefully working towards bigger and bolder concepts in the future.

In addition to crafting its own concepts, the team has also put its technology in the hands of designers, in the hope of inspiring them to come up with new ways to use it. Umapathi detailed one designer’s idea to create a “micro cocktail machine.” By placing various liquids onto the surface, it would be possible to blend them precisely to make tiny alcoholic beverages. While it’s perhaps the idea with the least societal value, if MIT put its device in the right bar, they could probably make millions charging $5 for a drop of the perfect martini.

from Engadget