But with a hacker, the question is different. The question is “What can I make this do?” I’m going to take all the screws out, and take the back off, and break it into a lot of little pieces. But then I’m going to figure out what I can build from the rubble. That’s discovery, and we need to do that in science and technology to figure out what’s possible. And so in the lab what I’m trying to do is apply that mindset to some of the biggest problems humans have. We work on malaria, thanks to Bill Gates, who asked us to work on it. This is how we used to solve malaria. This is a real ad from like the 40’s. We eradicated malaria in the US by spraying DDT everywhere.
In the lab what we do is a lot of work to try and understand the problem. This is a high-speed video, we have a badass video camera, trying to learn how mosquitoes fly. And you can see that they’re more like swimming in air. We actually have no idea how they fly. But we have a cool video camera so we — Yeah, it costs more than a Ferrari. Anyway we came up with some ways to take care of mosquitoes. Let’s shoot them down with laser beams. This is what happens when you put one of every kind of scientist in a room and a laser junky. So people thought it was funny at first, but we figured out, you know, we can build this out of consumer electronics. It’s using the CCD from a webcam, the laser from a Blu-ray burner, the laser galvos from a laser printer. We do motion detection on a GPU processor like you might find in video game system. It’s all stuff that follows Moore’s law. So it’s actually not going to be that expensive to do it.
The idea is that we would put a perimeter of these laser systems around a building or a village and just shoot all the mosquitoes on their way in to feed on humans. And we might want to do that for your backyard. We could also do it to protect crops. Our team is right now working on characterizing what they need to do the same thing for the pest that has wiped out about two thirds of the Orange groves in Florida.
So people laughed at first. This is a video of our system working. We are tracking mosquitoes live as they fly around. Those crosshairs are put there by our computer. It just watches them, finds them moving and then it aims a laser at them to sample their wing beat frequency. Figure out from that, is this a mosquito? Is it Anopheles Stephensi? Is it female? And if all that’s true then we shoot it down with lethal laser.
So we have this working in a lab. We’re working on taking that project into the field now. All this happens at the Intellectual Ventures Lab in Seattle where I work and we try and take on some of the hardest problems that humans have.
This is the money shot. You can see we just burned his wing off with a UV laser. He’s not coming back. Kind of vaporized his wing right there, yeah. They love it. I mean, you know. Never got called by PETA or anyone else. I mean, it’s the perfect enemy. There’s just no one coming to the rescue of mosquitoes. Sometimes we overdo it.
So anyway, I’m going to get off stage. This is the Intellectual Ventures Lab where I work. Basically we use every kind of scientist and one of every tool in the world to work on crazy invention projects.