Conor McGinn named in MIT’s Innovators Under 35 Europe 2019 list

20 Dec 2019806 Views

From left: Stevie the robot and Conor McGinn, assistant professor, TCD. Image: TCD

This week in future tech, Dr Conor McGinn of TCD has been named one of Europe’s top young innovators for his robot, Stevie.

It has been a year of achievements for Trinity College Dublin’s (TCD) Conor McGinn as not only did his work make the cover of Time magazine, he was named in Siliconrepublic.com’s list of bright sparks for 2020 and has now made the annual MIT Technology Review’s Innovators Under 35 Europe list.

The list recognises the young innovators and most talented entrepreneurs from different countries who are developing new technologies to help solve the problems that affect modern society. McGinn and his team of engineers developed Stevie, a socially assistive robot designed to interact with people in care homes. Stevie was named by Time in its list of 100 best inventions of 2019.

“It’s an honour to receive this acknowledgement from the MIT Technology Review,” McGinn said.

“It not only enforces that the work we are doing here has the potential to deliver impact on a global scale, but also provides validation that the science and engineering underlining the research is advancing the state of the art. In other words, it shows this is more than just a good news story.”

Volkswagen to bring autonomous shuttles to Qatari roads

The Volkswagen (VW) Group and the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) have signed a deal to create a public transport system of autonomous shuttles ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The project will involve four of VW’s brands including Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Scania, its ride-sharing service Moia, and Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID), an Audi subsidiary.

A total of 35 VW autonomous, electric ID Buzz vans will shuttle up to four passengers on semi-fixed routes, while 10 Scania buses will pick up larger groups. Closed testing of the shuttle vehicles and buses is expected to begin in 2020 and trials will start as early as 2021. The project is expected to go live by the end of 2022.

“For our cities to progress we need a new wave of innovation,” said Mansoor Al Mahmoud, CEO of QIA: “AI-enabled, emission-free transportation technologies will help advance urban mobility, while diminishing congestion and improving energy efficiency.”

Moscow tests holographic call on 5G network

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Russian mobile operator MTS and Huawei demonstrated a live holographic broadcast across Moscow using 5G pilot networks. As part of the experiment, two groups of participants watched 3D holographic images of each other live on television as they discussed the future prospects of digital technologies and 5G networks.

“Moscow is working to simplify the procedures for operators to obtain permits to develop 5G network infrastructure,” said Eduard Lysenko, head of Moscow’s Department of Information Technology (DIT).

“Collaboration between the Russian capital and telecom companies is helping to test 5G technologies in various spheres, including healthcare and transport. DIT is also planning to launch a smart technology laboratory and to help young start-ups test their solutions in the pilot zones.”

Biodegradable glue made from CO2 shows great promise

After two years of experimentation, researchers from Boston University have unveiled a biodegradable adhesive with CO2 as its key ingredient. Up to 40pc of the adhesive is made from it, with a consistency similar to honey.

“We tend to think of carbon as a polluting gas in the atmosphere, and it can be, in excessive amounts,” said researcher Anjeza Beharaj.

“But what’s exciting is that this material repurposes CO2 that would otherwise go into the atmosphere, and there’s a potential for oil refineries and production plants to repurpose the gas for environmentally friendly polymers. So it’s a win for the environment and a win for the consumer, as it can potentially lower the price of goods since CO2 is a cheap raw material.”

By adjusting the ratio of polymers and CO2 in each batch of adhesives, they are able to make the material’s adhesion stronger, weaker, or able to respond to certain kinds of surfaces. The naturally derived and biodegradable materials are also completely safe to use on or in the human body, according to Beharaj.

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Colm Gorey is a senior journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com