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Uber and Lyft return to Austin after Texas law kills the city’s fingerprint rule

Ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft, which left Texas’ tech-savvy capital city a year ago over local fingerprint requirements for drivers, have returned after state lawmakers intervened.

Both companies began rolling on Austin’s streets again Monday, when Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill that puts the state — not local governments — in charge of regulating the ride-hailing industry.

Local leaders in Austin, the conservative state’s most liberal city, argued unsuccessfully that its tech-driven economy was uniquely positioned to launch capable alternatives that could fill the gap.

“Austin is an incubator for technology and entrepreneurship, and we are excited to be back in the mix,” Uber spokesman Travis Considine said Thursday. “ We know that we have a lot of work to do in the city, but we couldn’t be more excited for the road ahead.”

Uber and Lyft — which are both based in San Francisco — fled Austin after losing a bruising and expensive fight to replace an Austin ordinance that required fingerprint-based background checks of drivers, a variety of data reporting and other requirements.

Advocates for fingerprinting say it’s the best way to weed out drivers with criminal records. Uber and Lyft have argued their background checks suffice and that fingerprint databases can be out of date. Fingerprinting can also slow down the process of adding new drivers.  Read More

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Wireless Rechargeable Retinal Implants Could Help Restore Sight

Researchers at Stanford University are designing a new device that could help people with degenerative eye diseases restore their vision — by implanting a photovoltaic silicon chip beneath their retinas.

With degenerative eye diseases, the retina’s light-sensing cells die off, though the rest of the eye remains healthy.

Photovoltaic devices (and the retina) work by generating an electric current from light energy. This new type of retinal prosthesis would work by injecting that current into the retina. You’d wear a specially designed pair of goggles containing a miniature camera, connected to a pocket PC. The goggles would take the images you’re seeing and display them on a liquid crystal microdisplay (LCD) embedded in the googles.

It’s similar to the way video goggles for gaming work, except that the images would actually be beamed from the LCD into the photovoltaic silicon chip implanted beneath your retina using near-infrared light. This helps create the current necessary to stimulate the nerves — thus allowing you to see.

As stated in the Stanford Scope Blog, it’s this use of the near-infrared light that sets Stanford’s product apart from others on the market:

“While similar devices require coils, cables or antennas inside the eye to transmit power and information to the retinal implant, the Stanford device uses near-infrared light to deliver images, making the device thin and easily implantable.”

So by using the near-infrared light, any external power supply is actually unnecessary. The implants will be able to continuously recharge using the energy provided by the incoming light. According to Daniel Palanker, PhD, associated professor of opthalmology and senior author of the paper covering the study of the device, it’s analogous to solar energy:  Read More

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