3D, AI, Blockchain, and More

Gadgets, apps, and attitudes for the technophile

By Leslie Steere

September/October 2018


Mayku FormBox

Have vacuum cleaner, start a business. Use almost any material or item to create your master 3D form. Place the master on the Mayku FormBox bed and cover with a thermo­plastic sheet, hook up your vacuum cleaner, and you’ve got a mold in minutes, with no additional software or digital model manipulation. Fill your molds, choosing from an endless choice of materials, to start your production line from home. Custom chocolates, anyone? US$699. Mayku

Digitsole Smartshoe

Digitsole already sells “connected insoles” for cyclers and runners that use advanced technology—including AI—to track activity and technique, monitor fatigue level, and keep your feet warm. Now the company is developing the Digitsole Smartshoe, which it calls “the first autotightening, interactive, heating, and shock-absorbing sneaker.” The Smartshoe, scheduled to be commercially available soon, integrates street style with wear-able technology and offers individual coaching based on your movements. Smartshoe price currently listed at US$599. Digitsole

Everyday Automation—Ready or Not?

Emerging automation technologies such as driverless cars got mixed reviews in a recent Pew Research Center survey of 4,135 “everyday” American adults. Although a majority expressed concerns about a future in which robots and computers can perform many jobs humans do now, only 30% of workers think it’s at least somewhat likely their own jobs will be done mostly by those technologies during their lifetimes, and a majority of those with college-level education said technology had increased opportunities and made their jobs more interesting. Wary or not, when asked about four specific scenarios over the next 20 years, here’s how the respondents weighed in:


Source: “Automation in Everyday Life” a Pew Research Center survey

Do You Speak Tech? Quiz Yourself!

  1. A self-driving database is

    A. The collection of data embedded in an autonomous car that allows it to make driverless decisions

    B. A database that performs all routine database maintenance tasks without human intervention

    C. A database engineered to propel itself toward continual self-improvement—also referred to as a Kaizenbase

  2. Strong AI can be defined as

    A. Artificial intelligence embedded in athletic equipment

    B. An artificial intelligence system immune to hackers

    C. The ability of a machine to perform all tasks as well as or better than humans can

  3. In addition to her movie career, Hedy Lamarr is famous for

    A. Developing the first-known instance of video-enabled phone conversations, created so she could avoid in-person interviews

    B. Inventing spread-spectrum technology, a method of manipulating radio frequencies that formed the backbone for today’s wireless communications technologies

    C. Funding Austria’s first STEM-focused school for girls in 1997

Answers: 1. B; 2. C; 3. B

Apps for the Twenty-First Century

Get intelligent transcription, blockchain your promises, and find a chatbot friend.

Otter Voice Notes

Otter Voice Notes

Put down the steno pad, and turn on this smartphone app. Otter Voice Notes creates notes that combine audio, transcription, speaker identification, inline photos, and key phrases. Simply hit the record button during an English-language conversation or meeting, and Otter will produce a usable transcript a few minutes later. (You can also import existing recordings.) The app integrates features such as AI-enabled cross-conversation speaker identification, search tools, and in-app transcript editing. Free (Android, iOS)

Handshake on the Blockchain

Handshake on the Blockchain

Blockchain that promise! The Handshake app transcribes commitment into code, creating an unchangeable time-stamped blockchain record of who promised what to whom. You can choose from a selection of common templates or create your own agreement, and the app transcribes your handshakes into a cryptographically signed snapshot, viewable in-app. So whether it’s an officemate’s promise to buy the next pizza or a bet on the World Cup, the deal is on record, private, and secure. Free (Android, iOS)



Replika is an AI chatbot with a personal twist. Think of it as an interactive journal—or a nonjudgmental friend you can carry in your pocket. Replika asks questions about you and learns based on your interactions, taking on aspects of your personality over time. As it becomes more “like” you, it can even give you some insights into how you come across to others. Vent, explore your feelings, record your thoughts, and more with an always-on digital companion. Free (Android, iOS)

Photography by Mayku, Digitsole, and Shutterstock