Amazon HQ2. President Trump’s immigration order. Supersonic passenger jet travel.
These were just a few of the most popular tech stories from 2017. Here’s a quick rundown of the topics and headlines that were widely read on GeekWire this year.
NASA cleared a significant milestone on the path to reviving supersonic passenger jet travel in the U.S. with the completion of the preliminary design review for its low-boom experimental airplane. The Low-Boom Flight Demonstration X-plane, or LBFD, is designed to create a soft “thump” rather than the loud sonic boom typically associated with supersonic airplanes. The boom is what led federal authorities to ban supersonic passenger flight over land in 1973.
Amazon surprised nearly everyone in September when it announced that the tech giant would open Amazon HQ2, a second headquarters in North America that sent political and civic leaders across the continent into a frenzied scramble to lure the fast-growing technology powerhouse. The Seattle-based company is expected to make its decision on Amazon HQ2 in 2018.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit in January against President Donald Trump, officials in his administration and the Department of Homeland Security, claiming the president’s executive order barring some immigrants from entering the country was unconstitutional. Washington was the first state to sue President Trump over his immigration order; Ferguson had the support of local tech companies like Amazon and Expedia. Washington state later secured a temporary restraining order that immediately halted implementation of President Trump’s executive immigration order nationwide.
Microsoft Xbox 360 console controllers have replaced the helicopter-style stick used to control the periscope on some Virginia-class submarines. The periscope itself is not the rotating tube most people think of thanks to Hollywood movies — nowadays, subs are equipped with two photonics masts that rotate 360 degrees. High-resolution cameras send back images that are displayed on large monitors that everyone in the control room can see.
Dana Lewis built one of the more impressive DIY products we saw in 2017: an open-source artificial pancreas system (APS) that monitors her blood sugar level and gives her body insulin as needed, building on the insulin pump and glucose monitor that she’s been using for years. Lewis is known as the founder of the open source APS and leads a community of DIY diabetes patients who are constantly innovating new technology to help manage the condition.
A fledgling venture called Pacific Hyperloop kicked off an effort in March to win support for a high-speed transit link between Seattle and Portland, using the Hyperloop system envisioned by SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk. The plan calls for creating a network of tubes capable of zipping passengers from the Jet City to the Rose City in 15 minutes, thanks to pods that travel at the near-supersonic speed of 760 mph.
A researcher at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories played a key role in discovering the species known as the Mariana snailfish, the deepest fish in the sea. It now has an official scientific name: Pseudoliparis swirei, a Latin-inspired designation paying tribute to Herbert Swire, a navigator on the 19th-century expedition that discovered the Mariana Trench.
Jon Chambers, a Seattle tech veteran with time on his hands after stepping away from his most recent job, built a sizable recreation of Diagon Alley, the London shopping area for wizards that is accessible through a secret brick wall located behind a pub.
During a Q&A with kids at Seattle’s Museum of Flight, Amazon billionaire and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos went into more detail about his space aspirations when students asked him questions at the Museum of Flight’s “Apollo” exhibit. Bezos’ backdrop for the event included the decades-old pieces of Saturn V rocket engines that he arranged to have recovered from the Atlantic Ocean, plus an intact, never-flown engine of the same type.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, in response to Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg’s claim that the first people to set foot on Mars will arrive on a Boeing rocket, tweeted “Do it,” in one of many two-word comebacks that might have come to mind.
The Amazon CEO and founder published his annual letter to shareholders in April and gave a detailed answer to a question he recently received at a company all-hands meeting: “Jeff, what does Day 2 look like?” Obsess over the customer; resist proxies; embrace powerful, external trends; and make high-quality and high-velocity decisions — those are some of the ways a company can avoid becoming a “Day 2” organization, according to Bezos.