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Weekly Recap: Sedric car, Google Cloud in Montreal, 1 bit on 1 atom, 3D-printed house and Nokia Putin

SElf-DRIving Car

Autonomous vehicle Sedric.

The Sedric autonomous vehicle. © Volkswagen Group.

At the Geneva Auto Show, Volkswagen Group presented its vision of autonomous vehicles with its self-driving car prototype, Sedric. As the vehicle is fully autonomous, it has no steering wheel or other cockpit controls. The fully-electric vehicle reaches level 5 autonomy on the OICA scale, meaning it requires no human intervention to accomplish its mission. Sedric is summoned at a press of The Button (a remote control), finds its passengers and takes them to their destination. The inside is elegant and comfortable, with an original touch: a miniature plant garden sits below the rear windscreen. Johann Jungwirth, Volkswagen’s chief digital officer, says he believes the company will become a leading mobility provider by 2025 and will “in part become a software and services company”. One thing’s for sure: Volkswagen is trying hard to erase all memories of “dieselgate”.

Ars Technica, “Volkswagen unveils Sedric, its first fully autonomous vehicle.”

Volkswagen Group, “Discover Sedric.”


Google Cloud sets up shop in Montreal

Google Datacentre.

A Datacentre. © Google.

Google Cloud Platform Regions.

Google Cloud Platform Regions. © Google.

Today, at the Google Cloud Next Conference in San Francisco, Google announced three new Google Cloud regions: the Netherlands, Montreal and California. These centres will provide a wider choice for users who require local infrastructure to reduce latency or meet regulatory requirements. Last year, Google added Tokyo and Oregon to the list; today’s announcement brings the total number of regions to 8. Google expects to eventually add Sao Paulo, Hamina (Finland), Frankfurt, London, Bombay, Singapore and Sydney. Microsoft’s Azure has 34 centres all over the world, including two new centres in Korea. Thanks to the recent arrival of OVH, IBM and Amazon, Montreal is one of the top data centre markets. This is thanks in large part to the province of Quebec’s competitive electricity rates, where the average industrial kilowatt/hour costs just 5.17 cents, as opposed to 13 cents in Ontario. Google says it was also attracted by Montreal’s vibrant IT and sciences sectors.

Canadian Business, “Why Google built its first Canadian cloud computing facility in Montreal.”


One Bit, One Atom

One Bit, One Atom.

A single holmium atom supported on a magnesium oxide plate, in contact with an iron sensor atom. © IBS/IBM.

In 2012, IBM succeeded in storing one bit (a 0 or 1 value) on just 12 atoms. Today, IBM researchers have reached the final frontier of magnetic storage media: one bit, one atom. An article in Nature explains: the team built a structure with two holmium atoms mounted on a magnesium oxide plate, to which the 4 possible states were written (00, 01, 10, 00). This new atomic storage technology would allow for the storing of the entire Apple iTunes library (35 million songs) on a surface the size of a credit card. Current magnetic structures require about 100,000 atoms to hold a single bit of information.

Moore’s Law predicted that the amount of data stored on a processor would double every 18 months; it held true for decades. However, as processors became miniaturized, then atomized, quantum disruptions destabilized their structure. Interestingly, holmium atoms seem impervious to such disruptions, for reasons still unknown. In fact, holmium atoms can be packed tight with no quantum disruptions, allowing for extraordinary storage capacity.

Nature, “Reading and writing single-atom magnets.”

Phys.org, “IBM researchers create world’s smallest magnet.”


3D-Printed Affordable Housing

Printed house.

Printed house. © Apir Cor.

This house, printed on site by a 3D-printer on the grounds of an aerated concrete factory in Stupino, a town about 100km south of Moscow, demonstrates how additive technology could revolutionize some aspects of construction. The product of a joint endeavour between Apis Cor, a 3D-printing company, and PIK Group, a leading residential builder in Russia, and printed in just 24 hours, the house is on the small side (400ft2, or 38m2). And though the printer took care of the concrete structure, human intervention was still required for other aspects of the building, such as insulation, roofing, doors and windows, interior finishes, plumbing, wiring, etc. Even so, the house only cost US$10,130 to build, the lion’s share of the budget (US$3,550) going to doors and windows. This brings construction cost down to US$223 per m2, far lower than traditional construction methods, and 70% less than a traditional reinforced concrete and cement block construction. Not to mention the speed of construction and now-affordable architectural features like curved walls.

Apis Cor, “The first on-site house has been printed in Russia.”

Washington Post, “This start-up will 3D print your house…for $10K.”


Nokia 3310 Supremo Bling

Nokia 3310 ‘Supremo Putin’.

Nokia 3310 Supremo Putin. © Caviar.

At the Barcelona show, the biggest news was of course the reissuing of the mythical Nokia 3310. Russian company Caviar, best known for its over-the-top phones, is surfing the wave with its Supremo Putin version of the 3310. “The return of the cult phone from Nokia did not go unnoticed by Caviar designers, who immediately after the appearance of the official information about the new edition of the 3310 model, presented their version of the design of this phone with gold, giving it luxury, style, and a real Russian character.” The set sports a large bas-relief of the Russian President and a golden plaque with a quote from the National Anthem, over an elegant engraved anthracite-grey background. The main button on the front of the phone is gold, with a miniature image of the Russian coat of arms. The Supremo Putin is selling for 99,000 rubles, or CA$2,286, or US$1,703 at today’s rates, i.e. 33 times the price of the original Nokia 3110, which is selling on the open market for 49 euros. Coco Chanel famously said that luxury is not the opposite of poverty, but of vulgarity. How times have changed. Today’s luxury is yesterday’s bling.

Caviar, “Caviar Nokia 3310.”

The Register, “Nokia 3310 ‘Supremo Putin’ edition goes on sale in Russia.”


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