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Open source’s future, and cancer drugs shortages


Brain implants helped create a digital avatar of a stroke survivor’s face

The news: A woman who lost her ability to speak after a stroke 18 years ago was able to replicate her voice and even convey a limited range of facial expressions via a computer avatar. A pair of papers published in Nature yesterday about experiments that restored speech to women via brain implants show just how quickly this field is advancing.

How they did it: Both teams used recording devices implanted into the brain to capture the signals controlling the small movements that provide facial expressions. Then they used AI algorithms to decode them into words, and a language model to adjust for accuracy. One team, led by Edward Chang, a neurosurgeon at the University of California, San Francisco, even managed to capture emotions.

The caveats: Researchers caution that these results may not hold for other people, and either way, we are still a very long way from tech that’s available to the wider public. Still, these proofs of concept are hugely exciting. Read the full story

—Cassandra Willyard

How new batteries could help your EV charge faster

The news: Chinese battery giant CATL has unveiled a new fast-charging battery—one that the company says can add up to 400 kilometers (about 250 miles) of range in 10 minutes. That’s faster than virtually all EV charging today, and CATL claims the new cells, which it plans to produce commercially by the end of 2023, will “open up an era of EV superfast charging.”

Why it matters: Although EVs are increasingly popular, drivers can be held back by worries about the limited range of their batteries, and the need to charge for upwards of half an hour. Innovation in battery materials, if matched with progress in charging infrastructure, could help mimic the convenience of gas-powered cars and encourage adoption of EVs. Read the full story.

—Casey Crownhart


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