Seattle Week in Review: A Tragic Summer, Hoping “This Too Shall Pass”

Another week of tragedy. How to process the local tech “news,” which can seem trivial in light of the spasms of violence, angst, and upheaval tearing at our country? I honestly don’t know.

Here’s what we were following, until the events of the last 48 hours overshadowed all else:

—Xconomy’s Texas editor is delving into the details of the abhorrent murder of police officers there, and specifically the subsequent use of a bomb robot to kill a suspected shooter. It is believed to be the first time U.S. law enforcement has used a robot to kill a suspect.

—Bad Juno (NASDAQ: JUNO) news. A clinical trial of Juno Therapeutics cell-based immunotherapy treatment for leukemia was halted after two patients died last week. Full coverage here.

An artist’s rendering of NASA’s Juno spacecraft above Jupiter’s north pole. NASA/JPL-Caltech

An artist’s rendering of NASA’s Juno spacecraft above Jupiter’s north pole. NASA/JPL-Caltech

—Good Juno news. NASA’s Juno mission successfully inserted itself into orbit around Jupiter on July 4th. Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Redmond facility supplied 12 1-pound-force rocket engine assemblies that “provided attitude control for the spacecraft throughout its journey, as well as during insertion into Jupiter’s orbit,” the company said in a news release. Workers at the facility—the oldest member of Washington’s burgeoning commercial space industry, with roots dating to the 1960s—also provided control thrusters on the upper stage of the Atlas V Centaur rocket that lifted Juno to space at the beginning of its journey in 2011.

Rockets from Redmond have visited every planet in the solar system. Here’s a 2013 profile of Aerojet Rocketdyne. Roger Myers, the longtime head of the Redmond operation, is retiring today after 20 years at the company, and nine years with NASA prior to that.

Khot flying the octo-copter. Photo via WSU

Khot flying the octo-copter. Photo via WSU

—One interesting near-term application in the commercial space industry is Earth observation. Planetary Resources, for example, recently announced plans to launch satellites capable of hyperspectral and thermographic imaging for things like assessing crop health by measuring heat signatures coming from a crop’s canopy.

But similarly capable sensors mounted on drones are competing to provide this service, too. Washington State University researchers are flying an octo-copter over Washington vineyards this summer to measure canopy vigor as part of a long-term study of irrigation water use.

“We can do measurements on the ground, but they’re time-consuming, laborious and take a while to process,” Lav Khot, a WSU assistant professor working on the study, says in a news release. “With the small UAS, we can get real-time measurements in minutes with incredible accuracy. It’s a huge advantage.”

—Meanwhile, drone companies in Washington are working with state economic development officials to establish an industry council, reports Alan Boyle at GeekWire. The effort is modeled on the Washington Space Coalition, which has helped unify efforts in the burgeoning corner of the broader aerospace industry in the state. It helped land the NewSpace conference in Seattle last month.

—The University of Washington’s innovation transfer outfit, CoMotion, is opening a third startup incubator, this one focused on virtual and augmented reality technology, and is welcoming in companies with no explicit connection to the university. Our story looks at how this latest move—called CoMotion Labs—fits into the broader shift in innovation strategy at the UW in the last two years.

—Researchers at Microsoft and the University of Washington encoded and retrieved 200 megabytes of digital data for long-term storage in DNA. Included in this storage is a new music video from the band OK Go, called “This Too Shall Pass,” which features an astonishingly elaborate Rube Goldberg machine.

—Dato, formerly known as GraphLab, will henceforth be known as Turi. The Seattle company making machine learning services to help its customers build intelligent applications announced the new name to avoid a trademark fracas with Datto, a data security company based in Norwalk, CT.

Turi “is a nod to the pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing and the belief that computers, and more specifically machine learning, are ultimately about unleashing unlimited human innovation,” writes Turi senior vice president Eduardo Rosini in a blog post.

Thankfully, Turi is retaining the purple dog logo that harkens back to the company’s roots.

—Software engineers in Seattle have the highest real adjusted salaries in the country, according to GlassDoor. The company calculates the effective pay by comparing base software engineer salaries to costs for housing, transportation, food, and other expenses, in 25 top metro areas. In Seattle, that works out to a real adjusted salary of $105,735, as reported to Glassdoor during the year ending June 19, 2016. The median base salary was $113,242.

Meanwhile, the median home price in Seattle climbed to $666,500, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, and a dilapidated, uninhabitable home in West Seattle sold for $427,000. Coverage from The Seattle Times.

Trending on Xconomy