​​🙌 The tech saving cities

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The Hustle

An Australian teen is getting a ~$15k reward from Doritos for her “boldness and entrepreneurial spirit” after her rare puffy Doritos chip went viral online. The takeaway: Find weirdly shaped snacks and make TikToks of them.

Today’s rundown:

  • Street smarts: How Lacuna’s “digital twins” help cities manage traffic policy.
  • Boeing is going: The company is giving space another go.
  • Proteins get the AI treatment: Google’s DeepMind is mapping them out.
  • Around the web: Awesome, random stuff for your enjoyment.

Let’s do it.

The big idea
cityscape

Lacuna’s digital twin technology is a game-changer for city transportation

Uber and Lyft have made our lives easier in many ways, but public officials have a bone to pick.

From piles of e-scooters to heavy congestion, cities have struggled to adjust to ride-sharing’s impact on physical spaces.

Lacuna, a startup that uses digital twin technology to help cities manage and monetize transit networks, just raised $16m to help cities align policy with modern transportation, per VentureBeat.

WTF is a digital twin?

Pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a virtual replication of a real-world entity.

The tech has been used for everything from art (think NFTs) to manufacturing plants, but cities may be the ultimate use case. Among the companies in the space:

  • Esri offers geographic information systems (GIS) mapping software that uses digital twins to simplify city planning
  • Optibus offers AI-powered public transit software that uses digital twins to optimize routes and scheduling

Lacuna’s software goes beyond planning and route optimization to help cities use data to implement policies.

Lacuna is already making a big difference in Los Angeles…

… which isn’t exactly known for its open roads.

Since implementing the software, the city has crafted 110 digital policies to ensure ride-sharing platforms are aligned with public interests. As a result, one neighborhood saw complaints drop by 73%.

Lacuna’s software is open source, which means cities can learn from each other — so it’s only a matter of time before digital twins come to a city near you.

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SNIPPETS

ThredUp snags Bulgarian used clothing platform Remix Global AD for $28.5m, fresh off its partnership with Madewell to sell used jeans. #ecommerce-retail

Most solar panels are made of crystalline silicon. This demand can cause supply chain issues, but there’s a 2nd option in cadmium telluride. #clean-energy

Virtual reality reality: An Oculus 2 update will allow developers to blend VR content with the real-world video the headset receives to create mixed-reality experiences. #emerging-tech

Angel investor Olumide Soyombo is starting Voltron Capital, a pan-African VC firm that will fund 30 startups across Africa. #fintech-cryptocurrency

The Zuck is all in on the metaverse: Facebook will create a new product team to oversee its efforts in the “metaverse” and it will be part of FB’s VR group. #big-tech

Did you know Amazon might have a key to your building? It’s a service designed to reduce stolen packages, missed deliveries, and incessant buzzing for apartment-dwellers. #big-tech

A little inspiration from Sam Parr today: Make your future self proud! #hustle-picks

Space Race
space program

Boeing’s Starliner (Source: NASA)

Boeing tries to revive its space program

We all know the major Space Race players: Bezos, Branson, and Musk.

Aerospace firm Boeing will throw its name in the ring this week, with the launch of its Starliner space capsule, per The Wall Street Journal.

If successful, the mission will bring cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).

The launch is a do-over

Boeing’s previous space attempt in December 2019 failed due to a software error. At the time, Boeing was reeling from 2 fatal crashes (October 2018, March 2019) of its 737 Max commercial plane.

With Boeing’s engineering culture already in question, the dud Starliner launch only put the company into further disarray.

This next go-around is a huge opportunity for Boeing

NASA is looking for 2 companies to shuttle cargo and crew to the ISS. It currently relies on SpaceX (Musk) with Blue Origin (Bezos) knocking at the door.

Bezos is so serious about winning government contracts that he just offered NASA up to $2B to cover the cost on a separate moon lunar lander project.

This June, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said, “I hate that the other guy gets talked about more than we do.”

Can Boeing change the narrative this week?

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AI Doing Things
protein shapes

Protein shapes in 3D…tbh, doesn’t really look like chicken (Source: DeepMind)

Google’s AI unit makes a huge biology breakthrough

Proteins are much more than the chicken in the kale salad you’re eating right now.

At the most basic level, they are molecules that influence how bacteria, viruses, and the human body behave.

And the key way of understanding how a protein works is by knowing its 3D shape, which dictates how it interacts with other proteins.

A Google subsidiary delivers a breakthrough

Last week, DeepMind — an AI startup acquired by Google for $500m in 2014 — released the predicted shapes of 350k+ proteins, per The New York Times.

This freely available knowledge drop is powered by a DeepMind AI program called AlphaFold that can analyze huge dumps of data and draw insights.

In the olden times (pre-2014), the process of identifying a protein’s shape was brutally long: It could take years and required X-rays and microscopes.

What can you do with protein shapes?

Per NYT, the predicted protein shapes has many applications:

  • Understanding disease pathways
  • Developing new antibiotics to combat bacteria
  • Creating biological tools to break down plastic bottles

DeepMind’s accuracy varies…

… so the protein prediction still needs to be paired with physical experiments.

Still, one professor tells NYT that the broad protein understanding — including ~250k new shapes — is 10 years ahead of schedule.

Google has no plans to commercialize the product. Not that it really needs to: The search giant made $147B on ads last year… including a ton for chicken kale Caesar salads, we’re sure.

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AROUND THE WEB

🎤 Tool: Need some background music for karaoke? This website will take any song’s MP3 file and separate out the voice.

🦜 Beautiful: If you like seeing the words “birds” and “photography” in the same sentence, check out the winners of the National Audubon Society’s photo contest.

🛸 Insane: ​​1.8k drones flew in unison over Tokyo to create a beautiful 3D light display during the Olympic opening ceremony.

🎂 Tradition: This family has a unique tradition of tossing birthday cakes up in the air and hoping they land face up.

🗺️ That’s cool: This detailed “Map of the Internet” represents thousands of websites as “countries” and categories like “search engines” and “ecommerce” as regions.

🗣️ Quote: “For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press 3.” — Alice Kahn, American writer

TRENDS

Quick hits from Trends…

In case you missed them, here are some of July’s most popular Trends reports:

  • Insights from Europe’s fastest-growing companies in 2021: Did you anticipate the battery industry swooping from #30 to #1? Peep this report on businesses that are thriving in spite of COVID.
  • Don’t miss these fresh market flares: The scoop on birth control tech, books making a comeback, and the digital marketplace craze.
  • 3 cybersecurity tips to shield startups from hackers: Data privacy is king, both for you and your consumers. It’s a good time to start using 2FA and company password managers.

Don’t miss the latest market moves, try one week of Trends for just $1.

See the reports →
Meme of the day
parking meme

Just why… (Source: MemeDroid)

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