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The Lede: The Olympics! Plus snow. And You’ll Heart Today’s Healthcare Tech Story

The Lede, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018
By David Royse

Good Day from Chicago

We’ll start today with a look at getting around in the country, which in some places today will be difficult, including where I am.


Traveling this afternoon or evening?

If you have plans to fly today and those plans take you through the Midwest, you might want to start making alternate plans. Around the country more than 1,200 flights were canceled – but the upper Midwest accounted for most of that.

Chicago’s O’Hare Airport had about 6 inches of snow by late morning and around 9 inches to a foot of snow was expected to fall in the region, with more coming on Saturday. Local TV was reporting early Friday that more than 600 flights were cancelled at O’Hare and more than 250 flights were cancelled at Chicago’s other airport, Midway. Detroit was another hub badly affected. Toronto was also seeing major delays.

USA TODAY: Flight Disruption

So the world was busy while you were sleeping last night. The snow plow drivers were out in the upper Midwest, the Winter Olympics started in Korea, and, oh, the government shut down over night – but opened back up before you got up.

These days, it’s disquieting when you say there was a lot of action in Korea overnight. It’s good when it was just sports and pageantry. Sigh of relief.



The Lede today is the opening of the Winter Olympiad in South Korea. Most of us will never get close to an Olympic medal stand. (Most Olympians, in fact, won’t get close to a medal stand). Which is the point. Coffee is for closers, and Olympic medals are only for the swiftest, highest and strongest – the best of the best. But what if you could experience something closer to what Olympians – or at least people at the Olympics – experience, virtually?

Unfortunately, the Bell phone companies used “The Next Best Thing to Being There,” as an ad slogan already. Because the future of watching sporting events will be closer to being there. Virtual Reality has come to Olympic broadcasting – a preview of how we’ll watch lots of sports in the near future.

Intel is producing Olympic coverage that will be available to users of NBC’s VR app. Users can choose from as many as six different viewpoints for events they watch, in some cases pick their own camera angles, get highlights, stats, background on athletes. It’s kind of like being there near the athletes – but it looks like it’s more comparable to being a producer in the broadcast truck. You’ll have all the video input to choose from, and all the previously produced background material like those athlete bios we all like seeing during the Olympics – but you can choose what you watch.

There’s more from Intel – including what kind of gear you need to watch this stuff – here. Even if you don’t have a VR headset, you can download an app for iOS or Android phones and still watch surround video, though it’s not likely to be quite as cool as the full VR experience.

At this Olympics, VR watchers are likely to be only a small group of early technology users but I see this model of broadcasting as a preview of the future for how we’ll watch big sports events. Right now, it’s a little bit too much of a production to be used in every game, but the Olympics, the Super Bowl, the World Cup, the World Series and the like – I foresee a lot of sports fans watching big events this way within a few years.


I’ve seen a couple headlines proclaiming the Games the most high tech yet, and thought, well, aren’t every Olympics? Or was there some quadrennial when we went backward in technology for a few years just because we were getting too sophisticated?

Anyway, South Korea is likely to show off some cool stuff surrounding the Olympics.

From The Straits Times:

“From self-driving shuttle buses and 5G broadcasts to artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled robots and virtual reality (VR) headsets offering a taste of winter sports, the host city of Pyeongchang has it all….

“The installation of the next generation of 5G wireless network around the Olympic venues, for one, will allow broadcasting to be done at speeds that are 40 to 50 times faster than the current LTE network and, at the same time, offer more vivid and realistic images.”

That puts South Korea out in front on 5G, which is only just now being developed in the U.S. Intel is teaming up with Korea’s KT Corporation, to showcase 5G during the Games.

Facial recognition will be used to get into the Press Center. That’s pretty cool.

Popular Mechanics has a story this week that rounds up some of the cool tech at the Olympics – including some involved in actually making athletes go faster.


Also, if you’re planning on watching the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies tonight, read no further. Because of the time difference, they actually were held early this morning, U.S. time. The New York Times sums up the highlights if you don’t want to be surprised or don’t plan to watch.

The Follow: 

The Chicago Auto Show is going on this week – and currently Chicago is buried in several inches of snow that continues to come down as I write. Most Chicago drivers don’t care – they drive in the snow pretty well. But it’s a little different than regular driving. And the confluence of these two things has me thinking about the future of driving in snow.

For our readers in Florida, this is a question that doesn’t concern you much and you may smugly congratulate yourself on living where ice only goes in drinks if you wish.

But it’s a real-world issue that autonomous car makers are going to have to deal with – most of us don’t go to work on sunny California test tracks.

VTT Technical Research Center in Finland is working on weather-adaptive autonomous cars. And in Finland, weather is just another word for snow. Recently, the center showed off an autonomous VW Touareg easily tackling a snow-covered Finnish road at 25 mph.


Uber and Waymo: 
Uber has agreed to settle the lawsuit brought against it by Waymo for theft of some of the company’s trade secrets. Tech Crunch

Self-driving startup Aurora will provide the brains inside the developing electric autonomous SUV made by another startup, Byton. TechCrunch

Amazon wants to compete with FedEx, UPS on delivering packages that aren’t coming from Amazon. WSJ

No more Windows Passwords? Biometrics, baby! ZDNet

Something that caught my eye:

“Tech firms have captured 42% of the rise in the value of America’s stockmarket since 2014 as investors forecast they will win an ever-bigger share of corporate profits.”  The Economist


Los AngelesLA’s Union Station May Expand
SeattleWhy Transit Nerds are So Jealous of Seattle
EverywhereAnother car sharing app – but this one aimed at carpool commuters


Majoring in Blockchain

Several top schools have added or are rushing to add classes about Bitcoin and the record-keeping technology that it introduced, known as the blockchain. New York Times

On Wisconsin! 

Many Wisconsin Students Will Now Be Able to Go to UW for Free. The University of Wisconsin Madison on Thursday announced a free tuition plan for many in-state students that will start in the fall, the latest development in the spread of free public college. Inside Higher Ed

Health Care Tech


The most interesting health care tech story of the day comes from a little start-up in the Chicago suburb of Skokie. This one’s audacious. Really audacious. Which is what makes it so great.

And this story is perfect for the weekend heading into Valentine’s Day.

These guys want to 3-D print a heart.

With the heart one of the most in-demand organs for transplant – and often a limiting factor in longer life, there might just be some demand here.

From Crain’s Chicago Business, which profiled the company today:

“Nearly 4,000 people nationwide are waiting for a heart—316 people died standing by in 2017, including 11 in Illinois, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit that manages the nation’s organ transplant system.”

But ….

“To say it’s a tough feat is an understatement. Dr. Anthony Atala has been working with tissues and organs for nearly 30 years and is considered a trailblazer in the field. His team at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., has created skin and bladders for patients by hand, and printed mini hearts and livers experimentally. ‘People think it’s a printer, so you just push a button,’ Atala says. ‘It’s not that easy. You really have to work with the complexity of the cells.’

‘You also have to make sure they survive outside the body, which is​ a huge hurdle.”


“A lot of it depends on how far away your horizon is and, even more important than that, being able to look over the horizon and see what’s coming.” Dr. Allen Anderson, medical director of the Center for Heart Failure at Northwestern Medicine’s Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute talking about whether we should be optimistic that 3D hearts will ever be a solution to our current heart woes (being that they give out in many people).

We’re all just searching for a heart. Take us out, Mr. Zevon:


Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.

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About David Royse

David Royse
David Royse is the Editor-in-Chief of Ledetree.com. He has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years, including stints with The Associated Press and The News Service of Florida. He enjoys writing about health and medical science, and hopeful stories about scientific breakthroughs and new technology.

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