First Passengers Travel Safely on a Hyperloop
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Josh Giegel and Sara Luchian aboard the Virgin hyperloop

Transportation history was made today in the Nevada desert, where Virgin Hyperloop tested human travel in a hyperloop pod for the first time.

“For the past few years, the Virgin Hyperloop team has been working on turning its ground breaking technology into reality,” said Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group. “With today’s successful test, we have shown that this spirit of innovation will in fact change the way people everywhere live, work, and travel in the years to come.”

Josh Giegel, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, and Sara Luchian, Director of Passenger Experience, were the first people in the world to ride on this new form of transportation. The test took place at Virgin Hyperloop’s 500 meter DevLoop test site in Las Vegas, where the company has previously run over 400 un-occupied tests.

“When we started in a garage over 6 years ago, the goal was simple – to transform the way people move,” said Josh Giegel, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Virgin Hyperloop. “Today, we took one giant leap toward that ultimate dream, not only for me, but for all of us who are looking towards a moonshot right here on Earth.”

The occupants made their maiden voyage on the newly-unveiled XP-2 vehicle, designed by BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group and Kilo Design, which was custom-built with occupant safety and comfort in mind. While the production vehicle will be larger and seat up to 28 passengers, this 2-seater XP-2 vehicle was built to demonstrate that passengers can in fact safely travel in a hyperloop vehicle.

“Hyperloop is about so much more than the technology. It’s about what it enables,” said Sara Luchian, Director of Passenger Experience for Virgin Hyperloop. “To me, the passenger experience ties it all together. And what better way to design the future than to actually experience it first-hand?”

Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Chairman of Virgin Hyperloop, watched this historic passenger testing first-hand.

“I had the true pleasure of seeing history made before my very eyes – to witness the first new mode of mass transportation in over 100 years come to life,” said Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Chairman of Virgin Hyperloop and Group Chairman and CEO of DP World. “I have always had tremendous faith in the team at Virgin Hyperloop to transform this technology into a safe system, and today we have done that. We are one step closer to ushering in a new era of ultra-fast, sustainable movement of people and goods.”

The testing campaign, from the beginning stages all the way through to today’s successful demonstration, was overseen by the industry-recognized Independent Safety Assessor (ISA) Certifer. Having undergone a rigorous and exhaustive safety process, the XP-2 vehicle demonstrates many of the safety-critical systems that will be found on a commercial hyperloop system and is equipped with a state-of-the-art control system that can detect off-nominal states and rapidly trigger appropriate emergency responses.

Continue on to Virgin Hyperloop to read the full press release

Photo Credit: Virgin Hyperloop

 

NASA Perseverance Rover Records First-Ever Sound of Wind on Mars
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The NASA Rover rests on the brown sands of Mars

By Natalie Colarossi

NASA’s Perseverance rover, which successfully landed on Mars on February 18, has obtained the first ever audio recording of wind on the red planet.

In a video shared by CBS news on Friday, NASA engineer Elizabeth Duffy describes the recording as “awesome,” and said the new audio will allow scientists to discover a “whole complete story of Mars.”

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Hearing the wind is just so awesome. When you think about it, we are hearing something that is so far away on another planet, and now we know what that wind actually sounds like,” Duffy told CBS News.

“It’s going to be able to tell us a whole complete story of Mars, which is what we’re after.”

Along with 25 onboard cameras, the rover also carries two microphones. Though one failed to work during the rover’s descent, the other captured the sounds of wind blowing past, as well as the noise of the spacecraft itself, CBS reported.

The audio tape was first released on February 22, and marks the first time noise has ever been recorded on another planet. NASA released two separate clips of the same recording, one that filters out the noise of Perseverance and one that includes it.

“I think of the microphones on the rover as adding another sense for us,” Duffy told CBS. “It just is going to give us this whole picture of what it’s like to be on Mars.”

Mission team members have said that they hope to hear many more sounds from Mars, including storms, falling rocks and the sound of the rover’s wheels as it moves across the planet’s surface.

“Imagine yourself sitting on the surface of Mars and listening to the surroundings,” Dave Gruel, lead engineer for the rover’s camera and microphone subsystem, said during a February 22 news briefing. “It’s cool. Really neat. Overwhelming, if you will.”

In addition to audio, the rover has captured some of the most stunning images of the planet to date.

Color photos have been captured using the rover’s Mastcam-Z camera system, which can zero in on the planet with extraordinary detail.

Images so far have shown the arid landscape of the rover’s landing site—the 28-mile-wide Jezero Crater. Researchers believe this area was once home to a river delta billions of years ago, making it a promising spot to search for signs of ancient microbial life.

The agency says the rover’s cameras can zoom in, focus, and take 3D pictures and video at high speed, enabling the detailed examination of distant objects.

Read the full article at Newsweek.

Japanese billionaire to fly eight members of the public on SpaceX moon flight
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close up photo of Yusaku Maezawa smiling confidently

Written by CNBC Michael Sheetz

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa recently announced that he will choose eight members of the public to join him on a trip around the moon, scheduled to fly on SpaceX’s Starship rocket in 2023.

“I’m inviting you to join me on this mission,” Maezawa said in a video.

Maezawa, who announced the mission in September 2018 alongside SpaceX founder Elon Musk, said that the plan has evolved from flying artists on a trip to lunar orbit.

Photo credit: Michael Sheetz | CNBC

His project, called dearMoon, will now fly “10 to 12 people in all,” with eight of the crew coming from members of the public who Maezawa plans to pick.

The billionaire says he “will pay for the entire journey,” so those who join him will fly for free. Maezawa made his fortune after founding this fashion retail company Zozotown, which he resigned from in 2019 after selling a majority stake to SoftBank.

The dearMoon mission will take three days to fly to the moon, loop behind it in orbit, and then spend three days returning. Musk added that, in addition to the historic first as a private lunar mission, the rocket’s flight path means it will go beyond the distance traveled by the Apollo missions.

“This mission we expect people will go further than any human has ever gone from planet Earth,” Musk said.

The dearMoon website says “pre-registration” is open until March 14. The pre-registration application requests a name, country, email address, and a profile picture. An “initial screening” process begins March 21, with a “final interview and medical checkup” in late May.

Watch the Video:

Read the full article on CNBC.

Rare ‘locked’ letter sealed 300 years ago is finally opened virtually
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Pair of hands holding an ancient letter written in script

Written by Katie Hunt, CNN

Three hundred years ago, before envelopes, passwords, and security codes, writers often struggled to keep thoughts, cares, and dreams expressed in their letters private.

One popular way was to use a technique called letter locking — intricately folding a flat sheet of paper to become its own envelope. This security strategy presented a challenge when 577 locked letters delivered to The Hague in the Netherlands between 1689 and 1706 were found in a trunk of undelivered mail.

The letters had never reached their final recipients, and conservators didn’t want to open and damage them. Instead, a team has found a way to read one of the letters without breaking its seal or unfolding it in any way. Using a highly sensitive X-ray scanner and computer algorithms, researchers virtually unfolded the unopened letter.

“This algorithm takes us right into the heart of a locked letter,” the research team said in a statement.

“Sometimes the past resists scrutiny. We could simply have cut these letters open, but instead, we took the time to study them for their hidden, secret, and inaccessible qualities. We’ve learned that letters can be a lot more revealing when they are left unopened.”

The technique revealed the contents of a letter dated July 31, 1697. It contains a request from Jacques Sennacques to his cousin Pierre Le Pers, a French merchant in The Hague, for a certified copy of the death notice of Daniel Le Pers.

Written in French, the letter was translated into English as part of the study. There is some missing text that the researchers said was likely due to wormholes in the paper.

The image below is a computer-generated unfolding sequence of a sealed letter from 17th-century Europe. Virtual unfolding was used to read the letter’s contents without physically opening it.

This is a computer-generated unfolding sequence of a sealed letter from 17th-century Europe. Virtual unfolding was used to read the letter's contents without physically opening it.
Credit: Courtesy of the Unlocking History Research Group archive

Dear sir & cousin,

It has been a few weeks since I wrote to you in order to ask you to have drawn up for me a legalized excerpt of the death of sieur Daniel Le Pers, which took place in The Hague in the month of December 1695, without hearing from you. This is f…g I am writing to you a second time in order to remind you of the pains that I took on your behalf. It is important to me to have this extract you will do me a great pleasure to procure it for me to send me at the same time news of your health of all the family.

I also pray that God maintains you in His Sainted graces & covers you with the blessings necessary to your salvation. Nothing more for the time being, except that I pray you to believe that I am completely, sir and cousin, your most humble & very obedient servant,

Jacques Sennacques

Read the complete article at CNN

Can Tech Break Us Out of Our Bubbles?
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graphic of people using internet and staying within their bubble

The internet has created an abundance of information and entertainment, and it’s great. But we don’t yet have perfect ways to find movies, books, music, information and activities that we might like — and especially those that push us out of our comfort zones.

Cracking the best ways to discover new things in our online abundance is a technology challenge — but also a human one. It requires us to want to expose ourselves to ideas and entertainment that don’t necessarily fit with our status quo.

I hope we can. It’s a way to make our lives fuller.

Call me corny, but I still marvel at the wonder that the online world brings to our doorstep. We can drop in on world-class chess players on Twitch, discover products from Black-owned businesses, listen to people debate nuclear power on Clubhouse or play around with a Polaroid-like photo app.

It’s amazing. But we can experience it only if we know it exists and feel compelled to seek it out. Enter the computers.

Online services like YouTube, Netflix and TikTok digest what you have already watched or its computer systems infer your tastes and then suggest more of the same. Websites like Facebook and Twitter expose you to what your friends like or to material that many other people already find engaging.

Those approaches have drawbacks. A big one is that they encourage us to stay inside our bubbles. We keep following and watching what we already know and like, either by our own inclination or by design of the internet sites. (Counterpoint: Some research has suggested that social media exposes people to broader viewpoints.)

More ideas, more stuff to entertain us — and more potential ways to confirm what we already believe or to be steered by people who game the algorithm machines. This was a reality before the internet, but it’s amplified now.

Read the full article at NY Times.

California Tech Hub Bitwise Industries Raises $50 Million In Quest To Diversify The Workforce
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professional shot of Jake Soberal and Irma Olguin Jr standing side by side smiling

When Jake Soberal founded tech hub Bitwise Industries alongside Irma Olguin Jr. in 2013, the “volume of injustice” for impoverished communities of systemic poverty rang at a medium decibel. Since then, the noise has noticeably increased.

“Trump gets elected, and now the volume is quite high. Then there’s a pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, and now the volume is deafeningly loud,” Soberal, 35, says. “There is no waiting [for our company]. Going slow is not an option. This is work that desperately needs to be scaled.”

Image: Jake Soberal and Irma Olguin Jr. were frustrated by the limited career prospects in their hometown, and wanted to find a solution. Photo Courtesy of Bitwise Industries

Bitwise Industries, which trains tech workers in marginalized communities, develops software and invests in tech-friendly real estate, announced today that it has secured $50 million in Series B funding from Kapor Capital, JPMorgan, Motley Fool Ventures and ProMedica. To date, Bitwise has raised $100 million at a valuation Forbes estimates at roughly $200 million.

A third-generation Mexican American and the first in her family to go to college, Olguin told Forbes in June that she’d been working to make coding instruction available to disadvantaged members of her local community when she met fellow Fresno, California, native and intellectual property lawyer Soberal. They teamed up to find a “fundamentally different way to rebuild American cities.”

In 2013, the pair established Geekwise Academy, the coding and tech skills boot camp arm of Bitwise. The downtown Fresno institution offers classes in website building and programming languages like HTML and JavaScript to people of all ages. In California alone, Bitwise has trained roughly 5,000 people, with more than 80% of them finding gainful technical employment.

Olguin and Soberal later launched Shift3 Technologies—a software development division that builds apps and custom programs for small and medium-sized businesses—to boost the hiring pipeline for Geekwise alumni.

Bitwise’s third business-line is investing in commercial real estate. In California, the cofounders have developed and leased 450,000 square feet of previously blighted, long-forgotten buildings, transforming them into coworking spaces, restaurants, theaters and other desirable commercial real estate.

With a 2020 revenue that Forbes estimates at $40 million, the company has expanded its three-pronged model from Fresno to Bakersfield, Merced and Oakland. With the new funding, Olguin and Soberal hope to move into markets outside California, starting with Toledo, Ohio.

“For the first time we can start thinking about what an equitable recovery looks like,” says Olguin, 40. “What does it actually mean to rebuild an American city coming out of the pandemic, and coming out of this age of justice? Bitwise can deliver to the world and to the cities a diverse and inclusive technology workforce, where those high-wage, high-skilled jobs now are creating and endeavoring to bolster that local economy.”

Read the complete article at Forbes.

Scientists clone the first U.S. endangered species
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close up image of a brown ferret peaking throght a tube

Scientists have cloned the first U.S. endangered species, a black-footed ferret duplicated from the genes of an animal that died over 30 years ago.

The slinky predator named Elizabeth Ann, born Dec. 10 and announced Thursday, is cute as a button. But watch out — unlike the domestic ferret foster mom who carried her into the world, she’s wild at heart.

“You might have been handling a black-footed ferret kit and then they try to take your finger off the next day,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service black-footed ferret recovery coordinator Pete Gober said Thursday. “She’s holding her own.”

Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP

Elizabeth Ann was born and is being raised at a Fish and Wildlife Service black-footed ferret breeding facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. She’s a genetic copy of a ferret named Willa who died in 1988 and whose remains were frozen in the early days of DNA technology.

Cloning eventually could bring back extinct species such as the passenger pigeon. For now, the technique holds promise for helping endangered species including a Mongolian wild horse that was cloned and last summer born at a Texas facility.

“Biotechnology and genomic data can really make a difference on the ground with conservation efforts,” said Ben Novak, lead scientist with Revive & Restore, a biotechnology-focused conservation nonprofit that coordinated the ferret and horse clonings.

Black-footed ferrets are a type of weasel easily recognized by dark eye markings resembling a robber’s mask. Charismatic and nocturnal, they feed exclusively on prairie dogs while living in the midst of the rodents’ sometimes vast burrow colonies.

Even before cloning, black-footed ferrets were a conservation success story. They were thought extinct — victims of habitat loss as ranchers shot and poisoned off prairie dog colonies that made rangelands less suitable for cattle — until a ranch dog named Shep brought a dead one home in Wyoming in 1981.

Scientists gathered the remaining population for a captive breeding program that has released thousands of ferrets at dozens of sites in the western U.S., Canada and Mexico since the 1990s.

Lack of genetic diversity presents an ongoing risk. All ferrets reintroduced so far are the descendants of just seven closely related animals — genetic similarity that makes today’s ferrets potentially susceptible to intestinal parasites and diseases such as sylvatic plague.

Willa could have passed along her genes the usual way, too, but a male born to her named Cody “didn’t do his job” and her lineage died out, said Gober.

When Willa died, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department sent her tissues to a “frozen zoo” run by San Diego Zoo Global that maintains cells from more than 1,100 species and subspecies worldwide. Eventually scientists may be able to modify those genes to help cloned animals survive.

Read the original article on NBC News.

Biden Plans To Replace Government Fleet With Electric Vehicles
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Photo of a white tesla on the road with factory in the background

President Joe Biden plans to replace the government’s fleet of cars and trucks with electric vehicles assembled in the U.S., he said Monday when signing a new “Buy America” executive order.

The government is a major purchaser of vehicles. However, replacing such a fleet with American-produced EVs will be costly and take time. There are currently only a handful of all-electric vehicles being assembled in the U.S. Tesla, General Motors and Nissan Motor produce EVs domestically, while Ford Motor and others have announced

(Image Credit – Gene Blevins, Reuters)

plans to do so.

“The current offerings are pretty slim, but the industry’s about to unleash an avalanche of new product, and a lot of it built in North America,” Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research, told CNBC. “Just about every U.S. plant is going to have a hybrid or electric product.”

It’s unclear whether Biden’s plan includes plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which use a combination of EV motors and traditional internal combustion engines. When discussing the plans, he referred to the new fleet being made up of electric vehicles “that are net zero emissions.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The “Buy America” executive order did not directly address the purchase of electric vehicles.

As of 2019, the U.S. government had 645,000 vehicles that were driven 4.5 billion miles and consumed 375 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel, according to the General Services Administration (GSA). About 35% of those vehicles were operated by the U.S. Postal Service, according to GSA.

Read the full article at CNBC News.
Is Tesla really worth $500 billion?
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graphic of elon musk with pink and orange background and tesla label

By Rory Cellan-Jones for BBC News

It was the week when Elon Musk soared past Bill Gates to become the world’s second richest person, as Tesla’s value topped $500bn.

On Tech Tent, we ask just why investors think the electric car company is worth so much more than it was a year ago. At the beginning of 2020, Tesla was valued by the stock market at around $80bn – and even then, sceptics thought that was a high price for a business that was barely profitable.

(Image Credit – Getty Images)

Throughout the year its shares have soared, and its valuation climbed above $500bn on the news that the business was going to be included in the S&P 500 index of leading companies.

Just to put that into context: Tesla is now worth more than Toyota, Volkswagen, Hyundai, GM and Ford put together.

‘You’re being too rational!’

I’ve done some back-of-the-envelope calculations and those businesses, some of which are undoubtedly ailing, made a combined profit of more than $50bn last year.

This year, Tesla is on course to make something like $1bn. So to believe the current valuation, surely you have to have some confidence that its technology and its market dominance will deliver a 50-fold increase in profits over the not too distant future?

“You’re being too rational!” Passion Capital’s Eileen Burbidge told me when I put it to her that Tesla’s sky-high share price simply didn’t add up.

“All it means is that the people who are buying the stock at this price believe they’re going to be able to sell it at a higher price.”

Eileen’s work as a venture capitalist is all about putting a value on companies which are at a much earlier stage than Tesla – and she tells Tech Tent that this is often a similarly irrational process, dependent on the mood in the wider market, and not just the qualities of individual businesses.

Tesla’s many fans will rightly point out that it has sent the automotive industry in a new direction, has unique battery technology with many other applications, and has a visionary leader.

But that was all true at the beginning of 2020 when it was worth a mere $80bn.

A short-term bet

“There are clearly no business fundamentals that point to a five-six times increase in its valuation just since the beginning of the year,” Eileen Burbidge told me. But she returns to her point that investors are making a short-term bet.

“I would like to think that the markets are fundamentally rational at the end of the day. I think the question is one’s time horizon. These buyers – they really believe they’re going to be able to sell at a higher price. And so far, by the way, they’ve been right.”

It is foolish to try to apply too much logic to short-term moves in shares. When asked by his editors why prices were rising, one legendary Fleet Street stock market correspondent used to reply “more buyers than sellers”, giving the opposite answer when the market was falling.

Just like a bottle of 1945 Burgundy, or a Picasso, or a tiny flat in London or San Francisco, Tesla’s “value” is whatever someone is willing to pay for it, however irrational the price may seem.

Nevertheless, one person who should know said months ago that the electric car company was overvalued, tweeting on 1 May: “Tesla stock price is too high imo”.

Who says? Well, it was Elon Musk himself – and the tweet knocked $14bn off the company’s value.

Since then, the share price has increased fourfold – but, hey, what does he know?

Read the original article at BBC News.

Stressed out? Blame bad technology
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By Reuters

There is no question that we are all more dependent on technology than ever. So what happens when that tech does not work?

In the past, Emily Dreyfuss used an old-school strategy: She yelled.

When Amazon’s Alexa spat out wrong answers or misunderstood questions, Dreyfuss let the virtual assistant have it.

“I used her as a scapegoat for my feelings,” said Dreyfuss, a writer and editor for Harvard’s Shorenstein Center. “When you have a non-sentient and annoying device in your home, who isn’t doing what you want, I talked to her in not the nicest terms. And my husband ganged up on her, too.”

Tech frustrations like this have happened to all of us. Your wifi is always dropping out. Your passwords do not work. Your laptop crashes, and you lose everything you were working on. Just reading about those possibilities could be enough to raise your blood pressure.

Technology can damage our state of mind, and new research is bearing that out: Computer giant Dell Technologies, in partnership with neuroscience firm EMOTIV, put people through a gauntlet of bad tech experiences, and then measured their brainwaves to gauge their reactions.

Test subjects had trouble logging on, or had to navigate sluggish applications, or saw their spreadsheets crash.

“The moment people started using bad technology, we saw a doubling of their levels of stress,” said Olivier Oullier, EMOTIV’s president. “I was a bit surprised by that, because you rarely see those levels going so high. Tech stress had a lasting effect, Oullier added. “People don’t relax back into calmness quickly. It takes a long time.”

Company bottom lines have suffered along with the mental health of employees. Constant frustration with bad tech affects how staffers handle their daily workloads, especially younger workers. Gen Z and Millennial test subjects saw a whopping 30% productivity drop as a result.

“Bad experiences affect you regardless of computer literacy,” said Cile Montgomery, who leads customer experience initiatives for Dell. “But young people seem to be even more impacted, because they expect technology to work.”

Read the full article at Reuters.

The Problem With Technology
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computer technologies UI by Artificial intelligence (AI) hand touching low poly icon

By Forbes

What company these days doesn’t want to adopt the latest technology? Many companies today are like the proverbial kid in the candy store, reaching for the latest tools that come with shiny buzzwords like “AI” and “machine learning.” But while embracing technology can bring a lot of positive changes, the right technology is needed — not just the latest one. And all too often, companies lack solid criteria according to which to choose their tech stack.

I will share some observations of common shortcomings of technologies based on my experiences working with banks, insurers, telecoms and companies. Having worked with them and heard their experiences, I’ve come to identify the types of technologies that are more likely to provide a high ROI.

Here are some of the most common technology pitfalls, as well as the characteristics of technologies that are more likely to deliver. Despite high expectations, many technologies:

1. Are Static And Inflexible

Many tools are great for a limited time and then quickly outgrow their purpose. For example, portal apps, which are web-accessible tools that deliver additional services, are time-bound and not future-proof. Core systems also frequently have this issue. They become such an ingrained part of a company’s backend that they are cumbersome and expensive to adjust, let alone replace.

2. Promote Painful IT Siloes 

Many technologies are not easily integrated and thus promote siloes. For example, the analytics team may be able to generate business intelligence insights in the form of quarterly reports. Yet by the time these reports become available to the larger organization, they are already less relevant. Technology that isn’t real-time, that doesn’t make information widely available and actionable in the moment loses its purpose. Systems that don’t speak to each other in a holistic, timely way make it harder for different teams to coordinate their efforts. Ultimately, these IT siloes hurt end-customers.

3. Serve As Mere Point Solutions

Point solutions may be based on the latest technology, but they won’t be effective if they overlook the context of the greater problem or journey. For instance, an organization may allow customers to begin a process online, but then divert them to a physical location to complete it. Such technology will only frustrate customers. Imagine the frustration of customers who are able to add an e-signature to their documents, but must print and mail those documents — breaking the digital flow.

Continue to the full article at Forbes.

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Upcoming Events

  1. Commercial UAV Expo Americas, Las Vegas
    September 7, 2021 - September 9, 2021
  2. Wonder Women Tech
    October 26, 2021 - October 29, 2021
  3. AEC Next Technology Expo & Conference, International Lidar Mapping Forum, and SPAR 3D Expo & Conference
    February 6, 2022 - February 8, 2022