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.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: The 3 key words to use on your résumé to land the interview

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

This is the world’s first Sony E-Mount 35mm film camera – and it’s open source


This is the world’s first Sony E-Mount 35mm film camera – and it’s open source

Well, this is an interesting turn up for the books. It turns out that while many photographers are trying to adapt their old film cameras to their shiny new Sony cameras, one photographer, Alexander Gee, was doing the opposite. He wanted a film camera that would work with his modern Sony E-Mount lenses.

LEX, as the camera is called, is a one-man operation, and it seems to have come quite far already. Gee plans to make LEX fully open source, once complete, with much of the camera being easily 3D printable and easy to modify. Don’t have Sony lenses? No problem, just modify it for another camera mount and print that out instead.

3D printed cameras aren’t a new idea, but there’s a lot more thought and testing gone into this one than more primitive 3D printed cameras. Gee has documented the entire build process over on the LEX website. Some parts, obviously, can’t be 3D printed, and Gee has repurposed the shutter mechanism from a Sony A7. And a few parts of the body have made using cast ZA2 alloy.

Although the first working prototype looks, as Gee describes, “like a bomb prop from a movie”, he says that it actually worked. The camera contains some custom electronics, presumably to control things like the lens aperture, and shutter mechanism.

While it doesn’t support DX coding, Gee says you can tap in any ISO from as low as 6 all the way up to 512,000. Obviously, though, this is just for the meter. The actual ISO will still depend on the film you’re using and how you intend to develop it.

Once LEX is complete, Gee may consider crowd-funding to run up a small batch of completed cameras. There’s no word on exactly when that may happen or how much they’ll cost. But after this, the files are expected to be released for you to make your own.

Hopefully, by then, we’ll have a better source for shutter mechanisms than ripping them out of Sony A7 cameras.

Check out the complete development process on the LEX website, and don’t forget to check out the sample photos shot by LEX.

[via Sony Alpha Rumors]

from -Hacking Photography, One Picture At A Time

The Smart Scale Tackle’s a Designer’s Worst Nightmare: Human Error


The year is 1999, the month, September. There’s panic at the NASA headquarters because they’ve just lost contact with their Mars Climate Orbiter. The orbiter entered the Martian atmosphere, but the thrusters fired too late, resulting in a crash with a loss estimated at $125 million. The problem? NASA was working in conjunction with England-based Lockheed Martin. Lockheed sent over navigational commands for the thrusters to NASA in imperial units (pounds of force), and NASA’s software inputted that information assuming it was in metric units (Newtons). Singlehandedly the biggest dimensioning unit related blunder, the Mars Climate Mission is an example of how frustrating it is working with different units across different systems that are prevalent in different countries.

Inventor Joanne Swisterski has had her share of problems too. Often working with clients across the world, she’s had to work with data that was sometimes imperial or metric, or even worse, not to scale (I sympathize too; a client sent me blueprints that he said were to scale, but he happened to click on the “fit to page” option while printing, resulting in a small yet significant difference in output, resulting in a loss of time, material, and eventually money).

Dimensioning is such a major part of what we designers do, and accuracy is everything as far as it’s concerned, so why are we still battling such primitive problems? This pushed Joanne to design the Smart Scale, a scale with a screen and the smarts to help resize, convert, and divide, allowing you to work with alien data, but a system that you’re more familiar with. The Smart Scale works in three ways making your life as a designer, architect, engineer, or plotter INFINITELY easier while working with measuring units that you may be unfamiliar with, or may be of a different scale.

Designed to look just like the triangular scales we’ve worked with in the past, the Smart Scale comes with a slender, horizontal screen where you’d see the measurements, and a row of buttons on top. Switch it on, and its 12-inch e-ink display powers up showing you a scale in a measuring unit of your choice. Cycling between inches and millimeters is as easy as pushing a button… however, here’s where things get better. The Smart Scale allows you to create a custom scale depending on what you’re measuring. If you’re working with a scaled down set of prints, the Smart Scale allows you to input one reference measurement using a slider on the back, and it creates a brand new scale using that reference, allowing you to measure scaled up or scaled down models in their native unit without having to sit with a calculator, multiplying or dividing away to get accurate data. A simple convert button allows you to cycle between imperial and metric measurements, depending on a system you use, or your client uses, allowing you to collaborate with countries with varying national standards without having your own version of the Mars Climate Orbiter crisis. A third and rather interesting function is its ability to work as a divider. The slider on the back allows you to measure a given area, then simply use the keypad to choose how many divisions you want it in and the screen divides the given length into the inputted amount of divisions… while always presenting you with the data you need on the left-hand side of the screen, telling you exactly what unit you’re measuring in, etc.

The Smart Scale notices a problem we’ve never really worked on solving effectively. Looking and behaving exactly like the scales we’ve used in the past, it’s the equivalent of a digital vernier, albeit much smarter and definitely more useful. The screen on the Smart Scale comes with a beautiful contrast, and a high resolution making it accurate and legible, while its aluminum body keeps things classy and protects the electronics inside. The Smart Scale comes with a MicroUSB port for easy charging and an incredibly long battery life, given the e-ink display’s minimal energy footprint.

Speaking from personal experience, the Smart Scale is probably the most innovative step we’ve taken in the recent past in making sure our tools for problem-solving ‘don’t have any problems themselves’. The Smart Scale saves time, energy, material, and eventually money too, making work for designers, engineers, and architects much more efficient, whether you’re working across borders, or with someone who’s used to a different unit system than you. An absolute must-have for everyone who uses linear measurements in their day-to-day lives, the Smar Scale eliminates chances of human error, making you as a professional much more effective, efficient, and valuable!

Designer: Joanne Swisterski

Click here to Buy Now: $149.00 $159.00 Hurry, 8 days left!





This function allows you to take a drawing that was printed out of scale and measure it as though it was perfectly to scale. This is made possible by using the sliding pointer. Line up the start of a known dimension (point A) with the fixed pointer. Move the slider to the end of the dimension (point B). Input the distance it represents, your desired units and hit enter. The screen will regenerate itself to the new custom scale.


This function allows you to convert the screen between metric and imperial. For example, if you’ve received a drawing in imperial, and you’re more comfortable with metric, tap the convert button and the long screen regenerates to the metric version of whatever was on the screen previously, or vice versa.


This function is applicable when you need to divide a space into a number of equal sections. For example, if you have to make 4 equally spaced lines on a drawing, instead of working out the math separately you simply follow the same steps as the with the custom scale section above. Move the sliding pointer across the distance that requires dividing. Input 4 on the number pad and the ruler will display 4 equally spaced notches on the screen.

Click here to Buy Now: $149.00 $159.00 Hurry, 8 days left!

from Yanko Design

Bartenders Should Shush People


I like a quiet bar. I have since I was 21. This isn’t an unusual desire; any time I’m at a bar past 8, someone (sometimes it’s not even me!) eventually says “Sorry, I couldn’t hear you. The bar got so loud!” Even the quietest dive fills up now and then with people shouting to be heard, when each person individually wishes the place were quieter. Why, as a culture, have we failed to find a way out of this loudness war? Why are most bars so fucking loud?

As my colleague Kelly Stout recently noted at Deadspin, it only takes one person to make the whole place louder. And once that happens, it’s extremely hard to quiet the place down again. Even if one whole group of patrons quiets down, the whispering isn’t nearly as viral as the shouting. Quieting down takes an active command directed at the whole establishment. And only the most officious bar patron would have the nerve to ask all their fellow patrons to quiet down. The solution, then, lies with the bar’s staff. At any bar that isn’t actively cultivating a rager atmosphere, the staff should be shushing the customers.

The bartender is the only person in the place whom everyone must obey. While the owner can set policy, it’s the bartender who makes the decisions on the ground: who gets served first, who gets the good pours, who gets cut off. The bartender is the only one who can claim the authority to set the volume level. The bartender gives and the bartender takes, so the bartender will be obeyed.


Like the universal basic income, this revolutionary idea has been tested in a real-world experiment. At Burp Castle, in New York’s East Village, whenever the conversation starts getting loud, the bartenders (sometimes dressed as monks, don’t worry about it) will deliver a long, gentle shhhhhhhh. And it works. Everyone in the place settles down to a whisper. I’ve heard it happen many times, and most everyone enjoys it. They recognized the shushing as friendly, not chastising, a necessary check on an innocent human failing. Burp Castle has a 4-star Yelp rating and is, of course, my favorite bar. A few friends chafe at the shushing; they’re still my friends, but I’ve learned something about them.

This is, I’ll grant, a somewhat extreme and idealized example. Burp Castle only seats a couple dozen people, mostly at tables of two or three. It’s a beer-only bar, which encourages slower alcohol consumption, and it serves only a small craft selection, which encourages patrons to sip thoughtfully (or at least pretentiously) and empowers its bartenders as counselors and beer sommoliers. The music is sometimes jazz, sometimes actual Gregorian chants. The walls are covered in murals of monks behaving badly. Fine, it’s a theme bar. Everything about the place supports the shush gimmick.


But there are plenty of classic bars, heavy on the beer and the natural wood, where the occasional shush wouldn’t feel out of place. Wine bars, high-quality liquor bars, bars with multiple hokey signs about not pissing off the staff—all bars where the bartender/patron relationship gives off a whiff of the dom/sub—are ready for the shush. It’d work great in performatively secretive “speakeasies,” and give those places some reason to exist beyond pretending Prohibition wasn’t repealed.

The level of noise that triggers a shush will vary from bar to bar. In some places the shush will be a bell, or a word, or hell, an ear-shattering airhorn that scares the noise right out of people. And obviously, obviously not every bar should have the shush. Some places are meant to be rowdy. Maybe we’ll find that the ideal percentage of bars that shush is 90%—maybe it’s just 10%. But it’s absolutely more than one.

from Lifehacker

A stunning new video shows what it’s like to fly past a comet tumbling through space



  • A comet known as Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko was visited by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft for two years.
  • The agency released a new batch of photos of the comet in March.
  • A fan of the spacecraft animated some of those images into a stunning new timelapse video of Rosetta’s view as it flew past the comet.
  • The movie shows dust flying around Comet 67P as it tumbles against a field of stars.

In August 2014, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft pulled up to Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and studied the gritty, duck-shaped object for 2 years.

Today the ESA continues to publish new images taken by the probe, and it March it released a fresh batch of data.

Many of Rosetta’s photos were taken in sequence — so Twitter user "landru79" stacked and stitched the pictures into a stunning new timelapse movie, posted Monday.

"Amazing scene from #comet #67P," the ESA tweeted about landru79’s work.

The video clip (below) shows roughly 25 minutes of flight past Comet 67P on June 1, 2016. The scene looks like something out of a science-fiction film:

In the background, a field of stars moves behind Comet 67P as it tumbles through space.

Rosetta took the photos just a few months after the roughly 2.5-mile-long comet shot out a burst of material. So in the foreground, sunlit specks of ice and dust float near a cliff that stands thousands of feet tall.

Cosmic rays also hit Rosetta’s camera sensor, causing white streaks in the series of black-and-white images.

In addition to photographing Comet 67P, Rosetta also set down a probe called Philae on the comet’s surface — though the lander rolled into a shady crevice and was never heard from again.

On September 30, 2016, the ESA purposefully crashed Rosetta into the wad of ice, rock, and dust. The robot took a final and fateful sequence of images along the way.

SEE ALSO: Here’s how high you could jump on other worlds in the solar system

DON’T MISS: A diamond-encrusted meteorite that fell to Earth may come from a long-lost planet in our solar system

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Where, when, and how to watch this weekend’s meteor shower created by Halley’s Comet

from SAI

Amazon can now deliver packages to the trunk of your car


Amazon is taking its relationship with its customers to the next level.

On Tuesday, Amazon announced that it is extending its Amazon Key delivery service from homes to personal vehicles. With Amazon Key In-Car, Amazon couriers will be able to deliver packages inside signed up customers’ cars.

Amazon Key In Car isn’t available to everyone yet. It is enabled in 2015 or newer General Motors or Volvo vehicles equipped with cloud-connected technologies (OnStar and Volvo on Call, respectively). It’s only accessible to Prime members, and it has launched in 37 cities; Amazon customers can check whether they qualify here.

Customers can sign up their vehicles through the Amazon Key app. Then, while shopping on Amazon, they can select their car as their chosen delivery method whenever they want to. Cars have to be parked within a two-block radius of a specified address, and can’t be in a multi-level, underground, or restricted-access parking garage.

Amazon Key In-Car is an expansion of Amazon Key, which let couriers deliver packages directly inside people’s homes using keypad and smart locks and cameras. With Amazon Key, customers had to purchase the enabled keypads and cameras to qualify. But Amazon Key In-Car is available to anyone with OnStar or Volvo On Call access.

“Customers have also told us they love features like keyless guest access and being able to monitor their front door from anywhere with the Amazon Key App,” Peter Larsen, Amazon vice president of delivery technology, said in a statement. “In-car delivery gives customers that same peace of mind and allows them to take the Amazon experience with them. And, with no additional hardware or devices required, customers can start ordering in-car delivery today.”

Amazon has built in a number of safety features — which is a good thing considering the security hiccoughs they’ve already experienced with Amazon Key. In February of this year, an Amazon customer found an Amazon delivery man walking around his bedroom. And in November, security researchers found that a flaw in Amazon Key cameras made it vulnerable to being knocked out in an attack.

Cameras aren’t available with Amazon Key In-Car. But customers will be able to monitor the delivery process step-by-step from their own devices. A delivery person’s request to unlock goes through Amazon, then to OnStar or Volvo On Call. And couriers won’t be able to move on to their next delivery until they have scanned the package confirming delivery, and locked the vehicle back up.

Amazon, GM, and Volvo said that delivery people won’t be able to turn on or access any other electric features once they have access to the car. Volvo said that its cars equipped with Volvo On Call still need a physical key to actually drive it. Mashable is awaiting confirmation regarding whether this is the case for OnStar-equipped GM vehicles, too, and will update this story when we know more.

“Select customers” have already had early access to the feature, and Amazon shockingly reports that they love it.

So, if you trust Amazon enough to give it access to your home (as well as all of your data!), Amazon Key In-Car could be an even more convenient option for you.

from Mashable!

This short video shows the surface of a comet


This short video shows the surface of a comet

In 2014, Rosetta spacecraft became the first spacecraft to orbit a comet and bring the back the first-ever photos of it surface. In this short video, someone has brought the frames together to create a sense of motion. And it makes the whole thing even more impressive.

Rosetta spacecraft was launched in 2004 from the Guiana Space Centre. On 7 May 2014, it reached Comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko. It orbited the comet for 17 months performed the most detailed study of a comet ever attempted.

Twitter user landru79 used the photos captured on 1 June 2016 by Rosetta. These are 12.5-second-exposure images stitched together to create a video. It only lasts one minute, but if you’re a space geek, it will fill you with joy.

Landru79 briefly describes the process, as much as it can fit within a tweet:

“It’s only a pre-work stacking and balancing B/N frames… Next step colour gif using only filters 22 -orange-, 23 -green-  and 24 -blue-  ~6 RGB posible.  Will see… much paralax to manage”

The users guess that the dots in the background are a field of background stars, and all the long streaks are foreground dust. The video may be short, but it was just enough to spark people’s imagination and have them fantasize about attaching themselves to the comet and riding along.

[via PetaPixel; lead image credits: Buddy_Nath]

from -Hacking Photography, One Picture At A Time

Proxeus wants to be the WordPress of blockchain


Can blockchain technology fix the soul sucking tedium and cost of back-and-forth bureaucracy? The Swiss team behind a blockchain-based platform, called Proxeus, believes it can — and that that will be just the tip of what decentralization brings down the pipe, once components such as crypto identities become an accepted (and legal) standard.

Blockchain’s big picture vision is embedded crypto identities opening up all sorts of additional opportunities — from a new wave of share trading and lending, to frictionless identity verification.

But right now the technology remains nascent, with some fundamental challenges — such as energy efficiency and scalability — yet to be overcome and thus standing in the way of blockchain’s much touted transformative potential.

That’s why the team behind Proxeus has taken what co-founder Antoine Verdon dubs a “very pragmatic, very Swiss” approach to blockchain — aiming to bridge the gap between the old (but real) world of linear workflow processes and the brave but still alternative reality where everything that can be decentralized has been.

So they’re focused on enabling blockchain to be used to optimize single processes and workflows — as a first step towards greater transformations.

“Blockchain is going to change the whole way we organize ourselves, the whole way we build software, the whole way that even democracy works — and the whole way societies are organized,” says Verdon, laying out his blockchain faith before tempering it with a little local pragmatism. “The impact will be quite deep and eventually really powerful but in the first step it’s just another digital technology bringing efficiency to businesses.”

The team’s aim for their platform is to become ‘the WordPress of blockchain’. The technology is open source, and the platform will be made freely available for anyone to use (people building Proxeus apps can monetize them via charging fees based on usage).

Back in February Proxeus raised $25M, via an ICO for their XES token, to community fund this vision.

“At its core Proxeus is a workflow builder and document generator,” says Verdon. “We have a framework which allows anyone to come and use building blocks to create workflows and at the end blockchain apps. But — just like WordPress is a website creation tool — we don’t intend to go down one level in terms of offering products ourselves and going directly into the market.

“We see ourselves and the Proxeus model as a toolbox and a tool provider.”

“We’re working on APIs on both sides,” he adds. “Both connecting Proxeus to different blockchains — we’re now connecting to Ethereum and Hyperledger — and on the input side, connecting Proxeus with a series of ERPs.”

He says another of of the goals is a connection for SAP systems.

The team has been developing the platform for 2.5 years, at this stage. They’re now beta-testing and running their first trials. And Verdon is hopeful the first live applications will be running on the platform by the end of the year, once they come out with a public product.

One interesting use-case for their blockchain technology — which they just last week publicly demoed in a prototype form under test conditions, as an entry in the digitalswitzerland challenge — is a company registration system using a digitized blockchain process to radically shrink how long the necessary administration takes.

The traditional route for registering a company in Switzerland takes an average of 10 days, according to Verdon. He says the process can take as long as six weeks. But the team’s proof-of-concept demo delivered a company registration in less than two hours — though it should be noted they had been working up to that for a year, and collaborating with IBM and Swisscom on the project.

What reducing the time it takes to register a company meant in practice was Proxeus creating a digitized workflow for the entire multi-step process — using blockchain to decentralize the steps (and thus help break down linear bottlenecks), combined with smart contracts to enclose and enforce rules around how to create a company (such as the need for a certain number of shareholders and shares), thereby enabling all involved parties to be on the same page.

“We started with a very traditional digitization project — we digitize the way documents are created and the user can create them, give his input in a much more efficient way,” explains Verdon. “But we add the blockchain piece on top of that to make the digitization process even more efficient than it otherwise would be. The main problem slowing down the registration process is there is a complex sequence of partners… The problem is before one party has finished their work the next one cannot start — that’s the thing that we solved with blockchain.

“The entrepreneur registers their own company [but] the company registration is pending until the other parties come and say yes the money has been paid, yes the conditions are fulfilled… Seeing things like this as a a list of check boxes that need to be checked, instead of a sequence, it’s a much more efficient way to work.”

Proxeus built a web interface for the prototype so that all the parties involved in making company registrations happen could log in; contribute their pieces of work; and “give their okay to the process” — all without needing to know how blockchain works.

Another bit of Swiss pragmatism: Proxeus’ system enables even blockchain refuseniks to participate because it still allows for paper documents to be sent. (In that case other parties in the chain can digitize the document and check the necessary confirmation box to keep things moving along.) Though too many blockchain refuseniks/paper-pushers would clearly reintroduce some friction to the process.

For the proof-of-concept Proxeus also pared back the workflow to a most basic case. But it’s an interesting example, nonetheless. And one that Verdon believes illustrates the potential of what can be achieved once lots of organizations start to experiment with — and see potential in — decentralizing their processes.

“We have a quite pragmatic way for any company to start connecting the business workflows — maybe in the legal space but we also working with a large Swiss university to digitize their master degrees and use blockchain to verify them,” he tells TechCrunch.

“We are in discussion with a car manufacturer, with a commodity trader. We receive almost every day requests from many large companies interested to use Proxeus as a sort of sand box that will allow them to test how blockchain could transform their business value and the way they work.”

What is being replaced here? Some purely administrative job roles. “All those job roles that mainly consist of receiving information in one form — for example paper — and inputting it into another format, for example, digitally, they will gradually disappear,” predicts Verdon. Though that’s clearly not going to happen overnight. (But once blockchain infrastructure starts to be widely used change could happen suddenly.)

“We know there are really crazy blockchain ideas out there… but it will take several steps before we go into those new business models and ideas. I think what’s lacking — and I hope we’ll be bringing — is this bridge between the traditional world and the workflows up to this blockchain,” he adds.

While Proxeus has worked with partners on the company register example, to showcase how this bridging strategy can work — taking one process and digitizing it in a way that “doesn’t change anything”, and thereby allowing all players to jump into using blockchain — its hope is that it can develop this into an ecosystem of users who pick up the baton and start figuring out how blockchain can work for them.

“We see ourselves as enablers of businesses who want to use Proxeus technology,” says Verdon. “If everything goes well at some point there will be people and for-profit businesses coming and taking the Proxeus technology and charging clients for implementing that in a way that is compatible with company needs. Just like Accenture, for example, is implementing SAP solutions with other companies. We think that our role will be also developing a network of partners that understand Proxeus and can take it and apply it with industry clients.

“We keep the door open for doing part of this ourselves — but we see ourselves more as an enabler than as the ones that will be actually doing the business at the end.”

“It’s a decentralized model where we have our own cryptocurrency now with the ICO with the excess and the excess will be used to co-ordinate the different parts provided by the parties of the decentralized ecosystem, so that one party will be able to download Proxeus as a DApp [decentralized app] and make it run on their own server. If they want to create a workflow then they can do it. If they want to — for example, if another country now wants to create a company register and sees our system as a good model then you could buy the workflow created by the other company or country, in that case,” he continues.

“Then if you want to store your documents created on a server which is not yours then other production could be taken by the party in the ecosystem and all those relationships between the IP creators, the storage partners, the DApp holders, using services of others, will be connected through Proxeus in a visible way… and there are ways to allow them also to pay with Euros or Swiss franks, or whatever they want. But the underlying mechanisms will be reviewed by access and there it’s going to be up to the parties to decide whether they want to provide their services for a fee, and if for a fee then they will have to pay it with excess.”

In the case of the Swiss company registry project, Verdon says the hope now is it will be taken forward into an actual deployment. The team is in discussions with the Swiss state which he describes as the “natural” lead partner for that particular use-case.

A first productive version could come as early as this year, he adds. Though he also notes it would be just a beginning — whoever gets involved would need to build on the MVP, adding “more and more complex cases”.

Because of course “there are many exceptions” involved in company registrations. And that’s where the soul-suckiness of bureaucracy starts to creep back in.

But Proxeus’ wider blockchain faith is that by decentralizing business processes it can at very least allow information to flow more freely — unlocking efficiency gains.

“Using blockchain is a very efficient way to make people collaborate better,” argues Verdon. “I think through [the platform] we have a quite pragmatic way for any company to start connecting the business workflows.”

Proxeus’ platform enables users to get their hands dirty playing around with decentralized app building too — which he touts as “much cheaper and faster” than traditional app development, as well.

“If we had built the company register application with a traditional process it would have been a very complex IT project,” he continues. “There are several parties… you would need to create one platform where they all come, and they all receive different permissions — it would be super complex.

“In our case everyone has their own small workflow, their own small decentralized app that we can build individually — and that are connected through a blockchain layer bringing all of them together, so I think it’s a much more efficient way to program applications.”

Beyond those near-term, and fairly tangible benefits, Verdon says businesses taking the blockchain leap of faith now — and playing around with what the tech can do for them, via the building blocks Proxeus is offering — are also positioning themselves to be ready for the more transformative “crazy” models coming down the pipe — i.e. as a consequence of mass adoption of decentralization (if/when it comes).

“Just like you have a verified account at Facebook or Twitter for personalities I think at some point you will have, on LinkedIn, the possibility to connect your crypto identities so you can have this small check next to your degrees — that you have verified degrees publicly,” he suggests, giving an example of how blockchain could create a major trust-based shift within existing digital ecosystems.

He won’t be drawn into making any specific predictions for how long it will take for blockchain to scale up to be able to deliver major scale process change. But he is convinced the core tech has the potential to drive some truly seismic shifts — including at a societal level.

“It’s still extremely new,” he argues, pointing to the blockchain ecosystem generally. “I think it’s going to take a few years still until, on the one hand, the protocols develop to a level where they can use less energy, be more efficient, and on the other hand where simply businesses have understood what blockchain will bring, how a decentralized business can be run, how blockchain can allow them to develop new services, new business on top of what they have.

“Just like with the Internet revolution… it took quite some time for businesses to really grasp the impact of that. And for clear models to develop how the different industries could use those technologies — so I think it’s going to be the same here. I expect you’re going to see first movers publishing some small-scale live applications this year but for really large services provided using blockchain we probably need to wait another couple of years.

“The longer term vision, the longer term impact may or may not happen at that scale — it has the potential to transform the whole way society works — but it still has to be proven.”

Verdon’s bio on Proxeus’ team page says he’s been involved in the crypto/blockchain space since 2012, including as an investor. He tells us he was an early investor in the YC- and Google Ventures-backed Buttercoin exchange, for instance — too early as it turned out, as the startup went bankrupt three years ago. So even though the core idea was solid — as the subsequent success of other Bitcoin exchanges, such as Coinbase, underlines — timing is key to any investment.

He claims better success investing in crypto currencies. Is he hodling his Bitcoins — despite recent downturns? “Yes, you must,” he replies, though he also cautions he “tries to diversify everything in crypto”.

“If you work in crypto you also have to believe that it’s going further,” he continues. “And sometimes you have a small heart attack but at the end the trend is very positive — if you compare the prices between January 2016, January 2017, January 2018 there is a very clear and a very high upward trend.”

It’s that same unshakeable conviction that Proxeus’ platform is founded on — and the faith that many more believers will come.

from TechCrunch