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A World-beating TB Detector

To quickly and cheaply diagnose the world's worst infectious disease, engineers have shrunk an NMR machine down to size

3 min read

17 March—To fight tuberculosis, which infects a third of the world’s population and kills 2 million people every year, you’ve got to find and cure the disease before it can spread to new hosts. However, current diagnostic tests require time, money, and full working laboratories, all of which are lacking precisely where the disease is most prevalent.

A faster, cheaper, more sensitive, and more portable TB detector is just what the doctor ordered, and researchers at the Center for Systems Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School already have a prototype of one. It’s the size of a cellphone and should cost just a few hundred dollars to make and another few dollars each time you use it, researchers say. Crucially, it’s a thousand times as sensitive and a dozen times as fast as the tests doctors now use.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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