The Download: frozen egg transportation, and Roblox’s expressive avatars

The Download: frozen egg transportation, and Roblox’s expressive avatars

Like myself, my eggs flew economy class, writes Anna Louie Sussman. My dog Stewie and I were in seat 8D, while 12 of my cryopreserved oocytes, four straws of three eggs each, had a window seat further back. They were placed in a cryogenic storage flask and transported in a suitcase to Paolo, who was responsible for transporting them from Bologna, Italy to Madrid, Spain. I would be receiving in vitro fertilization (IVF), in a few weeks. The shipping of embryos and gametes around the globe is a growing sector of the global fertility industry. As more people have children later in their lives, the demand for fertility treatment grows each year. Tens of thousands of patients can access medical care across borders if they are unable to access it in their country due to legal restrictions or prohibitive prices.

In my case, I had frozen eggs in Bologna in 2016, and again in Madrid two years later, because it would have taken me several more years to save up for a cycle in New York.

After paying for storage costs for six and four years, respectively, at 40 I was ready to try to get pregnant. I was able to put all my eggs into one basket by transporting the Bolognese batch. Read more .

Read more:

  • How Silicon Valley hatched a plan to turn blood into human eggs. A well-connected startup company tries to change the rules of reproduction. Read the complete story .
  • Trans men’s eggs have been matured in the lab–and could help them have children. Transgender men can now have eggs grown from their ovaries, even after years of testosterone therapy. Read the complete story .
  • Inside the race to make human sex cells in the lab. Scientists may soon be able create eggs and sperm using skin and blood cells. What does that mean? Read the full story.

Roblox’s avatars are about to get more expressive

The news: Roblox users can now give their avatars facial expressions similar to the player’s, the platform announced last week at its annual Roblox Developer Conference. Users can now smile, wink, and scrunch their forehead to make their avatar mimic their facial expressions in real-time. The update would allow users to scan their eyes, shake their heads, and have eyebrows and ears that move in the same way.

Why it matters: The online game platform allows visitors to either play games or create them, attracting 52.2 million users each day. The site’s rich and varied virtual worlds have been viewed as a precursor to what we might experience in the metaverse. It offers connections with other people and allows users to create avatars that they can use across different games.

Roblox claims that users will soon be able to communicate with other avatars, just like in other multiplayer videogames. The changes could blend our real-world human experience and that of the metaverse, and make avatars more like us–for good or bad. Read the full story.

–Tanya Basu

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Experts are worried about a trust problem with the US covid boosters
Health experts are concerned the lack of human trials could fuel vaccine hesitancy. (FT $)
Here’s how the bivalent vaccines work. (Wired $)
Booster uptake in the US is still pretty low. (WP $)

2 The White House wants to strengthen its AI chip export ban to China
A new wave of companies will be banned from shipping chips without a license. (Reuters)
Inside the software that will become the next battle front in the US-China chip war. (MIT Technology Review)

3 How 9/11 normalized a culture of surveillance
Now, we’re in danger of losing shared spaces altogether. (Wired $)
Marseille’s battle against the surveillance state. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Why dust is such a major health threat in California
The state’s recent efforts to save water could make it worse. (The Atlantic $)
Summer is becoming more and more dangerous. (New Yorker $)

5 The Merge isn’t crypto’s silver bullet
But it could help pave the way to a cleaner, more efficient future. (FT $)
Crypto scams are still ten a penny, though. (Bloomberg $)
The industry’s youthful idealism is faltering in the face of regulation. (The Atlantic $)
Why Ethereum is switching to proof of stake and how it will work. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Robots can help stop older people from falling
Falls in the home can prove deadly for seniors living alone. Robots can help. (WP $)
Robots will play a crucial role in the workforce of the future. (FT $)

7 Inside the rise and fall of Launch House
The founders community in Beverly Hills both failed to protect its female members, and to hold those that assaulted them to account. (Vox)

8 Why ByteDance bought a bunch of birthing centers
The acquisition is the latest in a long line of healthcare businesses it’s bought. (The Information $)

9 Memorizing Google Maps is easier than you think
Whether you want to, though, is another matter entirely. (Motherboard)

10 Meet TikTok’s charming grandparents
They’re sharing their words of wisdom to tens of millions of followers. (The Guardian)


” It’s a matter of “put up or shut down” at this point. “

–Mike Wagner, CEO of self-driving research firm Edge Case Research, tells Reuters that truly autonomous vehicle makers have to rapidly prove that their systems work, or face failure.

The big story

Inside the fight to reclaim AI from Big Tech’s control

June 2021

Over the last decade AI has allowed some of the world’s richest and most powerful companies to monitor users’ behavior; recommend news, information, and products to them; and most of all, target them with ads. The problem is that AI has been largely ignored by the corporate agenda. These problems have actually gotten worse.

Now, there is a growing movement among scholars to change the system. They have been trying to change the priorities of the field from enriching tech companies to allowing more people to develop the technology. Their goal is to not only mitigate the harms of existing systems, but also to create an AI that is more democratic, equitable, and democratic. Read the full story.

–Karen Hao

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. Have any other ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me. )

Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars don’t look like they’ve aged a day.
How Lord of the Rings’ AI changed how battles appear on the silver screen.
This collection of pictures of newsstands and their owners is remarkable (thanks Charlotte! )
A quick run down of who will–and who should–win the Emmys.
We could all do with a little more kindness in our lives–here’s how to spread it. ($)

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