Indoor Solar Power, Four AI Wars, DIY Movements, and Roundup #29
While anthrobots, biocement, and turquoise lights make the world better, let’s take a whiff from our aroma speakers, put on our autofocus eyeglasses, and enjoy some nowstalgia.
With CES now wrapped, we’ve all had our fill of new gizmos and gadgets. While the Roundup includes two things launched in Las Vegas last week, the rest of this issue remains free of CES-hyped-up launches.
Start with one big thing that pulls some retro technologies into our futures. Explore another roundup covering robots, science, and culture.
Then wrap with two (!) big things to watch for: a big scoop of perception on the four current “AI Stack Wars” and a second retro-view forming the future.
There is no counting required below; let’s dig in.
One Big Thing
Indoor Solar Power
Breaking free from batteries and plugs, a future of rechargeable gadgets comes into focus.
Remember those solar-powered calculators from your youth? The ones you could take out of your backpack, and it always “just worked?”
This article brought back those memories and got me wondering: why don’t I see those anymore? Why didn’t solar-powered gadgets catch on?
Turns out, those calculators were just the tip of a solar-powered iceberg that never quite broke the surface. Back then, indoor light was like a technological desert for solar cells, barely squeezing out enough juice to power a basic calculator, let alone our smartphone-hungry lives.
Well, the game has changed. A new generation of solar cells, known as a “dye-sensitized solar cell,” are lightweight, bendable, cheap to manufacture, and ready to revolutionize how we power our gadgets.
By mimicking photosynthesis in plants, these flexible sheets let headphones charge under a windowsill, keyboards ditch the cable forever, electronic door locks never need a battery change, and even remote controls come back to life after a quick sunbath.
Hopefully, soon, we will be taking our phones out of our pockets and not even looking at how much charge it has left.
There is more of The New New below. And there are more free issues coming. Get the next issue in your inbox by subscribing here:
Robots Making Things Safer
Robot Constitution, defines a set of “safety-focused prompts” for robots to avoid tasks that involve humans, animals, sharp objects, and electrical appliances
Turquoise Lights, signal to other road users and law enforcement that a vehicle is driving autonomously
Anthrobots, tiny robots made of human cells, could be used to clear arteries, break up mucus, and define a future of truly personalized medicine
Science Making Things Better
Biocement, bound with cyanobacteria, which is farmed like a tiny crop, flips cement from climate toxin to climate tonic
Pineapple Leather, using fruit peels from juice factories to up-cycle a leather alternative
Aroma Speakers, a “world’s first” speaker, makes video experiences more immersive with over 100 scents (including an SDK — a scent development kit)
Autofocus Eyeglasses, making it so we never have to use our eye muscles to shift focus (a great thing for those of us with older eyes)
Culture Making Things Weirder
Nowstalgia, marketing to a global monoculture that can be nostalgic over things from the very recent past
Buddymooning, going on your honeymoon not just with your spouse but with your mates, too
Cheapfakes, aka Shallowfakes, long before Gen AI and deepfakes, media would be edited to fit a narrative—and its use is growing
What To Watch For
The Four Wars of the AI Stack
As the AI Arms Race gets hotter, these are the conflicts shaping the future of intelligence.
The AI landscape is teeming with battles, not just in labs and research papers but in the very tools and infrastructure that power the technology.
This recent piece from Latent Space provided this scoop of perception on how the “Four Wars of the AI Stack” are shaping the future of intelligence, and their winners will define how we interact with AI in the years to come.
The Data War: It’s all about fuel, and the fight for it is fierce. OpenAI’s partnerships and the NYT’s lawsuit showcase this struggle, while synthetic data emerges as a new challenger.
Who will control the information that powers AI?
The GPU/Inference War: The GPU/Inference War: The cost of running AI models is plummeting, thanks to new architectures and providers shaking up the market. Nvidia’s throne is under siege as Modular, tinycorp, and Apple MLX push for more efficient use of existing resources.
Nvidia might be king now, but can they hold the throne?
The Multimodality War: This one’s about specialization. Tools like Midjourney and Assembly AI are carving out niches in specific tasks, while OpenAI and Google chase the ultimate “God Model” that does it all.
Who will win the race for the most versatile AI?
The RAG/Ops War: It’s all about control. New tools like LangChain and Martian are vying for dominance in how we manage and deploy AI.
Will a single platform rise above, or will chaos reign?
These wars are more than just boardroom battles; they define the future of how we interact with AI. Dig into the full piece withand .
The Movements Reclaiming a Simpler World Wide Web
Unchained from algorithms: the DIY internet rises again
A subtle revolution is brewing in the digital landscape, fueled by a yearning for simpler, more personal—more real human—online experiences.
This revolution isn’t about nostalgia; it’s about reclaiming the internet’s DIY spirit, where creativity reigns supreme and the whims of faceless algorithms don’t dictate your online presence.
At the forefront of this movement stand two rising stars: HTML Energy and POSSE.
HTML Energy champions the art of hand-coded websites, where every pixel and line of code reflects your unique vision. Forget cookie-cutter templates and bloated frameworks; this movement celebrates the tactile pleasure of shaping the digital landscape with your own hands.
POSSE, the “Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Everywhere” movement, champions a different kind of ownership. It’s about building your own online hub—your personal domain—and then sharing it freely across platforms. No more being beholden to the whims of algorithms or the walled gardens of social media giants. You control your content, your voice, and your reach.
These movements aren’t relics of the past; they’re fueled by a growing dissatisfaction with the current state of the web. Platform dependence breeds frustration, algorithmic manipulation stifles creativity, and the constant churn of updates leaves us feeling like renters, not owners.
Here’s the beauty of this revolution: tools like Github Copilot, an AI coding assistant, are bridging the gap between technical expertise and creative freedom. Imagine having a digital companion, suggesting code snippets and streamlining tasks while you focus on the bigger picture. It’s like having a pair programmer by your side, but you’re still the architect of your own digital world.
And, yes, my biases are showing here.
These movements reflect what I am building these days. My personal site, made with help from the incredible Github Copilot, is my central home for my thinking. This newsletter, published via Substack and on LinkedIn, plus shared across my other socials, is how I syndicate my latest personal explorations.
So, these movements are not a call to abandon all the advancements but to harness them for a different purpose. The future of the web lies in a sweet spot: hand-crafted code with AI assistance, a focus on owning your content, and the freedom to share it on your terms.
It’s about reclaiming the joy of creation, the power of your own voice, and the satisfaction of building an online space that truly reflects you.
Let’s go back a year and look at Issue 21, where we had:
One big thing that may change our futures in even bigger ways:
Organs on Demand
Moving from animals to factories to humans, the end of transplant waiting lists is in sight.
Ten quick links roundup that will change how we see, feel, and engage with the world, including scentware on our faces, skinstacks in our hands, a car that changes colors, and much more.
One new projection of my own—a bet on what we will be talking about (again) in 2030.
The Seven-Year “Metaverse” Hype Cycle
As the buzz fades and the pattern emerges, the next return of VR comes into focus.
The New New brings together the important and the irreverent across emerging experiences, culture-driven experiments, and scoops of perception.
Okay, off to dig out my old calculators.