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Podcast: 2023 Recap & First Annual Saucies!

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Podcast: 2023 Recap & First Annual Saucies!

In this episode, we dive into our favorite episodes from the last year and present the first annual saucy awards!

In this episode, we dive into our favorite episodes from the last year and present the first annual saucy awards! 

Thank you for all the love and support over the past three years and we hope to keep the good times rolling into 2024!


EPISODE NOTES

4:00) - Most Interesting | 126. Amputees Feel Warmth In Their Missing Hand

(8:40) - Listener Favorite | 118. Robotics & AI in Sheet Metal Forming

(12:23) - Most Impactful | 112. Bringing Humans Back Into The Loop For AI

(16:30) - Hidden Gem(s) | 135. Reinventing Retail in The Connectivity Age & 144. An implantable device could enable injection-free control of diabetes


Transcript

What's up party people, welcome to episode 156, which is our three-year anniversary. And also, the first annual Saucies Awards. I don't know why it took us three years to come up with the name for our annual award show, but we've got the name now. We're always digging for the secret sauce and now we've brought to you the Saucies Awards. We think this is a really interesting episode and honestly pretty heartfelt, reviewing the best things that happened in 2023 and over the last three years of doing the podcast. And also, we give you a peek at our biggest goals headed into the next year. I think it's honestly one of my favorite episodes so far. So, let's jump right into it.

I'm Daniel, and I'm Farbod. And this is the NextByte Podcast. Every week, we explore interesting and impactful tech and engineering content from Wevolver.com and deliver it to you in bite sized episodes that are easy to understand, regardless of your background. 

Daniel: What's up everyone. Welcome to the first annual Saucies or our third annual podcast review episode.

Farbod: Which is crazy. It took us like three years to reach the Saucies. Like, yeah, it's a great name. We love sauces. Why? We love the office too. The Dundies, the Saucies. It makes sense.

Daniel: Well, let's like just in case anyone doesn't explicitly get it so they don't think we're just trying to be like extra raunchy in this episode. This podcast is all about finding the secret sauce in technology of interesting and impactful technology and delivering it in a way to people so that they can easily understand it. So here, you know, since we've been searching for the secret sauce for so long during today's episode, our third annual recap, taking a look back at 2023. And it's also exactly three years since we've released our first episode. Just kind of taking a look back and giving some awards, some superlative awards to episodes that we've released over the last year. And then giving you guys a look into the future as to what we're gonna try to achieve in the next year of the podcast and try to hold ourselves accountable to reaching those goals in the future. But like we said, gonna give some Saucies Awards, a la the Dundies from the office or the Emmys or the Espys. We're bringing back our award show, but this time we're calling it the Saucies and giving some awards to our top episodes from the year.

Farbod: Yeah, yeah, you want to kick it off?

Daniel: I will say we colluded a little bit beforehand just to make sure that we didn't overlap.

Farbod: Because we would have overlapped.

Daniel: Yeah, give the same award to different episodes or give different awards to the same episodes. We've done that in the past. We're each trying to pick our top three favorite and I think we each picked two of our top threes overlapped. So, we did collude a little bit beforehand to make sure that we weren't double dipping on anything, let's say that, but you never want to double dip in the sauce.

Farbod: Never, never. Everyone knows that.

Daniel: So, like I said, the mission of our podcast is to find technology that's interesting and impactful and make it easy to understand. I kind of took my two awards, let's say that I'm going to give today. I wanted to choose one for something that I thought was the most interesting episode of the year, and then another one for the most impactful technology from the year. So, I kind of took that two-headed approach from our mission statement and brought it out in my two awards. Would you mind giving the listeners a heads up on what the awards are that you're gonna be giving today?

Farbod: Sure, I got the listener favorite, which is the one that you guys have loved the most for the past year. And then I got the hidden gem, which is what we think is slept on, but man, is it saucy.

Daniel: Awesome. So, here we are folks, four main awards gonna be given today. I'm gonna start by giving the saucy for the most interesting podcast episode of the year. Again, this is in my personal opinion, but most interesting technology we talked about this year. Personally, I thought was from, which episode was it? 126. Episode 126 with amputees feeling warmth in their missing hands.

Farbod: Oh, that was a good one.

Daniel: Just a quick recap for folks that didn't listen to it and want a quick refresher, right? Amputees, despite having prosthetic limbs, right? Technology exists to give amputees prosthetic limbs. They've still to date lacked the sense of touch. And to me, I was thinking like, what if I had to live life without the sensation of touch in my hand? That'd be really, really frustrating. That includes the ability to perceive temperature which significantly impacts your day-to-day experience. I mean, imagine if you can't tell that you're gonna pick up something that's hot and damage your prosthetic hand because you can't feel the temperature. This technology I thought was really awesome, this team from EPFL accidentally stumbled upon it. I love accidental tech discoveries, but they accidentally stumbled upon a specific twist in phantom limb syndrome, which is where people with amputees, sometimes they…

Farbod: Still feel like…

Daniel: Yeah, they still feel like that limb exists. So, they found that some folks, some amputees with this phantom limb syndrome, there's still a portion of skin on the residual limb that you can stimulate and the brain perceives it as though that sensation is being felt in the missing limb. So, for instance here, they started a lot of people that had had their hand amputated. There are a portion of these people that had had their hand amputated that when you stimulate a certain portion of skin on their forearm, on the residual limb, they felt that in the missing hand. So, what this team did is they basically instrumenting prosthetic hands that these people that are amputees have these prosthetic hands instrumenting it with a bunch of technology. And then in this case, they were searching for temperature. So, they've got all these temperature sensors on the prosthetic hand. And then they're replicating that temperature on the portion of the forearm using thermodes, replicating that temperature on the forearm so that the person with that portion of skin in their forearm that their brain thinks is nerves and sensation in the prosthetic limb. They're able to stimulate that portion of the skin so that people who are amputees can feel temperature in their missing limbs. Again, I thought it was super interesting.

Farbod: I agree. And one of the things I loved about that episode is not just the technology. You kind of mentioned it a little bit earlier, but it was an accident. So, it had like a very cool story, which is we were exploring this one thing, we stumbled across like this really interesting finding. And then we built on that interesting finding to achieve what can be incredibly groundbreaking for people that are amputees themselves.

Daniel: Well, and on top of that, another part that I thought was super interesting about this is they kept it simple. Yeah. I feel like a lot of scientists would have the tendency at that point to say, oh, like we know that this portion of the residual limb can be stimulated to feel phantom senses and in the phantom limb, let's do surgery and implement it and put a bunch of electrodes on there and try and stimulate it in different ways. This team from EPFL, they didn't go overboard with the technology there. They didn't try to overly instrument this portion of the skin with a bunch of electrodes and then try and reverse engineer the way that the nerves are stimulated there. They kept it so simple that they're like, all right, if this portion of the skin is responsible in the brain for nerve endings that are in that phantom limb, let's just directly put the temperature on that portion of the skin. So, they weren't trying to figure out which electrical signals they needed to replicate to replicate the sense of temperature and the feeling of warmth in the missing hand. They literally applied warmth to that patch of skin and let the brain fill in the rest of the details, which again, a good lesson to all the engineers out there. Sometimes you need to just keep it simple because this kind of feels crude, kind of feels hacked, but it truly works. These people who were in their testing groups, they could feel temperature as though it were in that prosthetic hand. And all they were doing is applying temperature somewhere on their forearm that the brain had thought was as part of that phantom limb.

Farbod: And it's almost like collaborating with the funky way that your body and brain are working instead of trying to go against the tide and force your way to make those signals register, as you would expect on your hand, pretty impressive. And it's kind of a common theme. We're seeing more and more of like, let's go with biology instead of against it.

Daniel: Yeah, and then play nice with biology instead of trying to tear it to shreds and reverse engineer it.

Farbod: Yeah, I'm a fan. I'm gonna go next, because I think we should stagger the awards. But next up, we got the listener favorite. And this is really not a shocker. I definitely knew it was coming, but I didn't expect just how much you guys liked it. It got actually over twice the normal amount of views in comparison to all the other episodes we had this year. Drum roll, please. Episode 118, sheet metal forming goes high tech. This is Machina. So, Machina Labs for the folks that don't remember. It's the startup based out of California that is using robotics to do sheet metal forming. And we stumbled across this company. We covered them in the podcast. What’s cool about it is traditionally, if you wanted to do sheet metal forming, you'd have to get a die, you would have to stamp it, cost millions of dollars to get it all set up, takes months of lead time to get those tools actually made. These folks are saying we can just take two robotic arms and if you want low to medium volume manufacturing, we can provide those parts for you with really high accuracy. Now what's cool about it is not just the fact that they can do that, but the approach that they've taken which makes them stand out from others that have attempted something like this is one. They're using two robotic arms instead of one, which gives them a higher level of accuracy. But then they also have, as they're forming it, they have sensors that are taking feedback from the actual forming process to improve upon it. And they have this close feedback loop system where the robotic head, after it's done forming, can pick up a 3D scanner, scan the part, and see how well it matches the CAD file. That's the computer design file for that part to see if it matches as accurately as it should. So, you get this close feedback loop system of, did I make the right thing? And if not, where did I go wrong based on the feedback I got from my sensors? This was very well received by you guys, but also funny enough, the folks at Machina listened to the episode, they liked it, and they invited us out. So, we actually had a chance to go.

Daniel: Yeah, I mean, we don't deserve to toot our own horns here, but I'm gonna do it anyway.

Farbod: Do it, toot it. This is the time to do it. It's the saucies.

Daniel: When we went and interviewed Ed Mehr, the CEO of Machina, he said he'd listened to our episode a couple of times. Yeah. I mean, obviously it's us talking about tech. It's us talking about his tech. So, there's no reason for him to listen to that once, if not multiple times, but it's a testament to how interesting their technology is. And I like to think that maybe like 1% credit goes to maybe our on-air chemistry or something like that, making jokes about technology that made it interesting enough for him to want to listen to it at least once.

Farbod: That's what I like.

Daniel: Twice, three times. Yeah. I think it's a great award. And all of these let's just mention that all of these saucy awards that we're issuing, we're going to leave links to those episodes in the show notes. You can click on that pretty easily and go find the episode you want to listen to on your favorite platform. That's kind of the goal here is for us to reflect. Bubble up are the best episodes we've developed and produced over the last year and give everyone an opportunity that maybe have missed it, um, to listen to that and discover something new that you like or someone who already listened to it to go re-listen to it again. Like I did, studying and trying to find the episodes most worthy of receiving an award for today.

Farbod: Yeah. All right. So, moving on to the next one, I think you have the Saucies Award for the most impactful technology, we covered this year. This goes to episode 112, bringing humans back into the loop for AI. It was a…

Daniel: Well chosen.

Farbod: Collaborative effort between University of Michigan and Copenhagen Business School. Again, we tend to love these interdisciplinary teams because of their ability to zoom out. And I think when you've got a team that's focused highly on technology like the one from University of Michigan, and then another one focused on business like the Copenhagen Business School, when they zoom out and they can collaborate together, you get a really good conversation, let's say, between those two teams, and they've got a good finger on the pulse of what and where technology will be impacting our world, which is why I'm giving them the award for the most impactful technology we're talking about today. AI technology, maybe as a whole, I would say, is the most impactful tech that I saw over the last year in 2023.

Daniel: Agreed. I think most people, even those not in tech communities, would agree with you.

Farbod: I'd hope that we're all on the same page. This is one of the most impactful pieces of technology we've seen with rapid speed of development. It's going to impact our world. It's already impacting our world.

Daniel: Dude, the adoption has been crazy, too.

Farbod: And what this team from University of Michigan and Copenhagen Business School, what they put their heads together and said, AI is continuing to advance, but there's a growing concern that it will pose a significant threat to humanity. There's already people misusing AI, there's already nefarious folks using AI for bad. And they're saying, how can we limit the impact of bad actors in AI or AI itself becoming a bad actor? How do we bring humans back into the loop to mitigate these risks and ensure that AI is used safely and ethically. And what they did is they found four main areas where they proposed and they are proposing, actively proposing in policy, where we should include humans as part of where we use AI in decision-making, where we use AI for creativity, where we use AI for machine and human relationships. And then the last one was where machines team with other machines. And I thought that it was really keen of them to find those four areas and not only say, hey, here's a problem, here's where AI is evolving, here's where we think it's scary, then actively go out and try and advise policymakers to say, this is areas where we should keep humans in the loop, use humans to oversee what's going on with AI, and then also use humans to oversee how other humans are using AI to make sure that, again, it's wholly benefiting us and not posing an existential threat to humanity. Obviously it's a little bit scary. It's maybe not the most technologically interesting thing out of all the episodes we talked about, but in terms of sheer impact to society, I try to zoom out and think what will impact us on a day-to-day basis in 2024 and 2025? What if I were to tell my grandparents to listen to one podcast episode to understand what's going on with tech in the world? This is the one I would have chosen from 2023. AI is interesting, it's awesome, it's accelerating at a fast pace, but this team here kind of had a nuanced stance saying, here's where we need to bring humans back into the loop, don't automate humans out entirely. These are four key areas where we can mitigate the risk of AI impacting us in a bad way.

Daniel: This episode was kind of out of the norm of what we usually cover, right? But that's kind of why I loved it. It allowed us to take like a step back. Think about AI more holistically. And like you said, if there was one episode that you wanted to recommend people to listen to that we did about AI, if you want to get the broad strokes, the pros and the cons and what the future looks like, this was a good one. So great choice there. Well-deserved saucy.

Farbod: Yeah. Your final saucy of the evening. The saucy for the hidden gem, or should I say the hidden gems.

Daniel: You doubled up on the saucies.

Farbod: I doubled up. I had to. All right, so the first one. The hidden gem was episode 144, implantable chip to cure diabetes. It's coming from MIT. Now we actually did two episodes this year that had to do with some sort of an embedded device, and by embedded, I don't mean just like embedded firmware. I mean like embedded into you that would fight or cure diabetes in some form. I believe this is the one where you have a pump that's in your body that is using, I forgot the name of the enzyme but it is reading the level of glucose in your body in real time and pumping out the right amount, the right amount of, again…

Daniel: Insulin.

Farbod: Insulin, there we go. The right amount of insulin to regulate your body's blood sugar level. So that was really cool because so many people suffer from diabetes and what I didn't know is that usually when you take those shots, you can overshoot or undershoot your dosage. Whereas this can give you perfect delivery at all the right times.

Daniel: Well, that's what I was gonna say is I had no idea until we were doing research for that episode. I forget the statistic, I didn't have it off the top of my head, but like you said, even though there's all this technology that exists to help people with diabetes to regulate their blood sugar levels with insulin, et cetera, a massive percentage of these folks still have unhealthy blood sugar levels and there were massive impacts. Ripple effects on how that impacts the rest of your health your cognition, your physical performance ability, your overall longevity.

Farbod: It could be fatal too.

Daniel: Yeah. And again, it could be fatal. Yeah, I agree, man. Definitely a hidden gem. That one isn't appreciated enough.

Farbod: That's what I'm saying.

Daniel: I'm interested to hear what your second hidden gem is now that you doubled up on the award.

Farbod: Well, taking a step away from life changing technology, we're talking about 135 retail fights back. This one was another shocking one because we talked about the market share of e-commerce, how the average person, including myself, would say retail is definitely dead. The malls around us are closing, everything is happening online, but no. E-commerce is still a relatively small portion of the overall shopping retail market share, and physical retail is really fighting back. People are still going into stores, and to make that experience even better, these big retail chains are integrating really interesting technology. We talked about smart shelves, where if you're standing next to a keyboard and it recognizes you taking your phone out to look up the prices on Amazon so you can just get it from Amazon, it can dynamically change that price. But the shelves, in addition to understanding the consumers that are in front of them or around them or whatever, have direct access to the supply chain databases so they can manage the inventory. They can say, hey, like five of these were bought right away. We need to order more so that you don't have empty shelves. Throwback to the toilet paper crisis not too long ago. Or more interestingly, they were talking about how, you know, if you go to Walmart, someone always leaves the fridge open for the eggs or whatever. Well, they can monitor that section via IoT sensors and say, hey, this fridge has been open for a while. Those milks are probably going bad. Let's replace them or let's do whatever. Same thing with lights, they can understand the usage, the patterns that people are walking within a store by having smart lights that turn on when people are around them. And by turning off when no one's there, they can also save more energy. So, it was all this technology that was proposed for making physical retail a much better opponent against this growing giant that is e-commerce. But what really blew me away is that not only is this technology ready and available, but it's getting shipped. I think some hundreds of thousands of stores in the next year, or it wasn't the next year when we shot it 20 weeks ago. So, in the next half a year.

Daniel: Yeah.

Farbod: I don't know, I thought that was really impressive. And the reason I split the Hidden Gem one between the two of them is because one of them, the diabetes one, obviously has great impact on the world, great impact for people's health. And then the other one is on a day-to-day basis, it's gonna impact our lives, and a lot of people are sleeping on physical retail. So, stop sleeping on them.

Daniel: I agree. Definitely personally sleeping on physical retail. Anecdotally, I have the same conclusion you had, which is like physical retail is dead. It's only a matter of time before e-commerce takes over the entire world. But like you said, we looked at the technology, we looked at the data, we looked at the trends. I think physical retail actually grew more than e-commerce did in the last year.

Farbod: It did.

Daniel: And part of it is due to these, you know, interesting new technologies that they're implementing and personally, selfishly speaking, I was excited to kind of talk about the world of what's possible and get excited about how all this new technology is going to make it a much better physical shopping experience for us. In addition to making physical retail a worthy competitor against e-commerce.

Farbod: Yeah. But those are the saucies, man. We had a heck of a year; I would say that. With Machina, we... Did we mention that we traveled?

Daniel: No, I don't think so.

Farbod: Oh my God.

Daniel: That's what I wanna say. I had an honorable mention.

Farbod: Honorable mention. Please take a look.

Daniel: I had the sneak one in there as well. Episode 150, that was our in-person interview with Ed Mehr.

Farbod: Our first interview.

Daniel: Yeah, CEO of Machina. We've spent a lot of time in our respective basements and then we eventually started recording in your basement together.

Farbod: Hey, it's called the studio now.

Daniel: Yeah, sorry, the studio. We spent a lot of time recording on our own in our basements and have now finally bridged out into the real world. And not only interviewing someone over Zoom, we did our first interview in person with Ed. Toured the Machina headquarters in LA, created some awesome content, which is doing numbers on social media, which is cool to see that people that don't listen to the podcast, even they are still interested in this technology that we're covering. And the reason I wanted to save that for the end is my honorable mention. I think a goal, my overarching goal for us headed into 2024 would be do more of that, do more interviews, do more in person, film more content there, share it with more people. I feel like that's the biggest growth lever for us to make the podcast bigger and better. But I also think that's the best way to get in touch with what is the most interesting and impactful technology and spread it to everyone who listens and find more people who want to listen to this is by physically getting boots on the ground, reviewing this technology with these people, having them show us what's interesting, taking cool videos of it and sharing it with all of our friends. That I think is the way forward for the podcast. And I would love if at some point that is the, that's the mainstay of what we do for the podcast. And then sometimes we sit in the basement and…

Farbod: So, you're just tired of talking to me.

Daniel: Talk about technology.

Farbod: This is how you drop it on me.

Daniel: I love talking to you so much.

Farbod: Does it sound like it, Daniel?

Daniel: I want to talk to you with other people too. I think, I think, uh.

Farbod: We'll talk about this behind the camera.

Daniel: Well, and, and I, you know, again, to not to toot our own horns, but Ed said the interview went really, really well. Yeah. You know, I think.

Farbod: And I feel like it brought out a side of us that we don't get to express, but it's just you and I, like we get to just be our curious tech nerdy engineering selves that we were back in college, just immersed in the world of wanting to know more about what's going on. And we got to express that fully during the interview. So, I agree, I would love to do more of that. That was one of my favorite things that we did this year. And the content that came from it, like you're saying, people loved seeing it. So, if we get to do more of what we love and you guys get to enjoy what we love even more, then win-win.

Daniel: Yeah, win-win. How about you, man? Any overarching thoughts, goals headed into the next year?

Farbod: Yeah, well, I thought this was an amazing year. I think we did a lot and I wanna carry that energy and I'm gonna carry, I'm gonna piggyback off of your goal. This year we did the interview stuff, it did really well. Then we kicked off the newsletter and I really want to grow the mediums at which we are expressing our ideas and sharing our content because like you're saying, on Instagram we're seeing engagement with a completely different audience and I don't know, it's nice being able to engage with people that might not wanna listen to a 20-minute podcast episode but still have thoughts that are really interesting to us. So yeah, grow the mediums in which we're expressing our ideas and content coming 2024.

Daniel: I agree. So, for everyone who's listening, hold us accountable to those goals. Let us know if you see we're not doing it right. We need and we want to do more interviews. We wanna reach out to people, get to talk directly with the people who are moving the needle for technology in the world. And Farbod’s goal, right? Help us grow across multiple channels. I think one thing that I can ask of our audience, ask of our community, of our friends who've been along this journey with us. Some of them have been listening to every single episode for the last three years. We love you, you crazy people.

Farbod: You're the reason why we do it.

Daniel: You're the reason why we keep doing this. And if there's anything you can do to help, we'd ask, you know, headed into this new year, listen to some of these episodes that we, that we've shared in today's, uh, saucies awards episode and share one with a friend like that. That's truly the best way that we can reach more people, have more people join the community. Podcasts don't pop up on people's For You page like they do on TikTok. They don't pop up on trending like they do on Twitter. Truly, the only way that a podcast grows is from word of mouth. And so, we'd appreciate everyone who's stuck around this long. If you can find your favorite episode of the podcast from the last year, maybe it's something that we didn't share in today's Saucies episode and share it with a friend. That's honestly the best way you can help us grow.

Farbod: Love it, love it. Oh, I got one more Saucy goal. Moving forward, for every country that makes this trend, we will look up a way to say thank you in your country's main language. That's gonna be a thing in 2024. I wanna do it right. And I'm taking Duolingo, I got the premium subscription. So, it works out. It works out. And yeah, that's all I had.

Daniel: Yeah, I think that's awesome. We'll wrap it up here. Like I said, we're gonna link every single one of these episodes we've mentioned in the show notes. We'd love if you could check it out. Episode 126 was the most interesting episode of the year. Episode 112 was the most impactful episode of the year. Farbod: Our listener favorite was episode 118 and Farbod had two hidden gems, episode 144 and 135. You don't have to remember those. We're gonna link them in the show notes, check them out. We appreciate everyone for rocking with us. And yeah, happy for a really successful 2023 and looking forward to an even more successful 2024 with everyone by our side.

Farbod: Absolutely, as always everyone, thank you so much. We'll catch you in the next one.

Daniel: Peace.


As always, you can find these and other interesting & impactful engineering articles on Wevolver.com.

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The Next Byte: We're two engineers on a mission to simplify complex science & technology, making it easy to understand. In each episode of our show, we dive into world-changing tech (such as AI, robotics, 3D printing, IoT, & much more), all while keeping it entertaining & engaging along the way.

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The Next Byte Podcast is hosted by two young engineers - Daniel and Farbod - who select the most interesting tech/engineering content on Wevolver.com and deliver it in bite-sized episodes that are easy to understand regardless of your background. If you'd like to stay up to date with our latest ep...