Ahead of Its Time


The inventor of facial recognition software was years ahead of the competition but never got credit for his work because it was kept secret by the CIA. The first VR glove was a groundbreaking piece of tech that would eventually become one of the gaming industry's biggest flops. And when Kodak execs were shown an early prototype of the first digital camera, they flat out rejected the idea. In each episode of Ahead of Its Time, you'll explore the forgotten origins of today’s most transformative technology, hear from the people who first imagined it, delve into their past and relive their eureka moments. Join host, podcast producer and queen of tech storytelling Julia Furlan to discover why these inventors struggled to get their ideas off the ground. Then meet the next generation of innovators who are building on the work of the tech underdogs who came before them.

Solar Panels: A flashlight-powered windmill and electrifying the world’s most remote villages
Sep 6 2022
Solar Panels: A flashlight-powered windmill and electrifying the world’s most remote villages
In just one hour, the earth catches enough solar energy to power the world for a year. Big solar farms, home installations and increasingly efficient solar cells are slowly, but surely, converting more and more of the sun’s energy into electricity every year. And some of the poorest people, living in the most remote villages have helped usher in this new era of solar power.In this episode, you'll hear how Calvin Fuller’s difficult childhood and adolescent interest in explosives catalyzed the invention of the first silicon solar cell. Then Bob Freling explains how witnessing the installation of a solar panel in a remote Chinese village changed his life forever.In 1954, Calvin Fuller and a team at Bell Labs, built a solar cell that could convert 6% of the sun’s energy into electricity. The technology’s potential captured imaginations and even helped power the first satellites launched into space. But applications here on earth proved harder to find.But Bob Freling found a terrestrial application that’s making an outsized impact. Bob, working with the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), has helped more than 1-million people around the  world who can’t access the electrical grid use solar to do a lot more than turn on the lights. His story takes us to the African country of Benin where local farmers are using solar power to fight drought and increase food security.For more information, visit setapp.com/podcast