Scientists successfully use DNA to store an OK Go music video, much more

dna image storage close up header
Tara Brown Photography/ University of Washington
Update 7/7/2016: Researchers have improved on their original methods substantially in the last year, announcing they have been able to store far more than the original four images in a DNA sequence. The new batch includes a high-definition OK Go music video for “This Too Shall Pass,” as well as 100 books and a seed database. The new 200 megabyte batch is a long ways from the previous DNA storage record of 22 megabytes, according to Mashable.

The University of Washington and Microsoft researchers have collaborated on an incredible project that will change data storage as we know it. The team has developed a way of storing data on DNA, which promises to dramatically reduce the storage size needed to save our files, images, and more. The team claims the technology would take a data center as large as a Walmart Supercenter and shrink it down to the size of the sugar cube you drop into your morning coffee. The research behind this stunning technology was presented this month at the ACM International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems.

During their experiments, the team, which is made up of engineers from Microsoft and scientists from UW, was able to store digital data from four image files on a strand of synthetic DNA.”Life has produced this fantastic molecule called DNA that efficiently stores all kinds of information about your genes and how a living system works — it’s very, very compact and very durable,” said  UW associate professor Luis Ceze. “We’re essentially repurposing it to store digital data — pictures, videos, documents — in a manageable way for hundreds or thousands of years.”

The team encoded the digital data into the nucleotide sequence, using a very precise method to read the ones and zeros of the digital data and convert them to the DNA building blocks of adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine. They were able to retrieve the data without any loss of information. And once the scientists turned the ones and zeroes into As, Gs, Cs, and Ts, they were able to store a massive amount of data in these tiny DNA molecules, which could be preserved for long-term storage.

To retrieve the data, the team used short signature sequences, much like a zip code, to identify the strands of data they needed. Using the polymerase chain reaction and DNA sequencing techniques, the researchers were able to pull out the encoded DNA, reverse engineer it and reconstruct the data files.

The team hopes to further improve this method, eventually looking at ways of scaling it so they can store data center-sized amounts of information in small spaces. The biggest hindrance to this expansion is the DNA synthesis itself, which is costly to synthesize and sequence. If there is enough interest in this DNA-based storage technology, however, these hurdles could be overcome in time.

Smart Home

Google rewards One subscribers with a free Google Home Mini

Google is sweetening the pot for some subscribers to its One cloud storage service by rewarding high-tier subscribers this month with their own free Google Home Mini, at least for U.S. customers.
Gaming

Play your games whenever you want with a MicroSD card for your Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch uses cartridge-based games, but its internal storage may fill up quicker than you would think. Here's what you should consider when picking out a MicroSD card to expand your Switch's storage capacity.
Gaming

You won't need a new hard drive thanks to these tips for deleting games from a PS4

PlayStation 4 games eat up storage space quickly, which will inevitably require you to make room for new games. Here's how to delete and reinstall games on PS4 for those times when you have to manage your storage space.
Computing

Grab a terabyte of storage at a discount with Amazon’s Samsung T5 SSD deal

In need of a portable external storage device? You can get a terabyte of storage at a discount for a limited time. Amazon is offering a discount on Samsung's lightweight T5 SSD of nearly 30 percent off of its original price of $250.
Emerging Tech

Gorgeous image of the Cosmic Bat nebula leaves us starry-eyed

The "Cosmic Bat" nebula has been captured in beautiful detail by the European Southern Observatory. Formally known as NGC 1788, the nebula is two thousand light-years away in a dark corner of the Orion constellation.
Emerging Tech

Super telescope captures supermassive black holes forming billions of years ago

The Subaru Telescope in Hawaii has captured evidence of supermassive black holes forming in the ancient universe. Astronomers discovered 83 quasars powered by supermassive black holes from billions of years ago.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Mind-bending model shows Venus isn’t our nearest neighbor — it’s Mercury

Every textbook and table on the internet agrees -- the closest planet to Earth is Venus. But a new mathematical model shows that this is wrong. In fact, the planet closest to us on average is Mercury.
Emerging Tech

Desk lamps take on a new task by converting their light to power

What if we could charge devices using light from indoor sources like desk lamps? A group of scientists working on a technology called organic photovoltaics (OPVs) aim to do just that.
Emerging Tech

Body surrogate robot helps people with motor impairments care for themselves

A team from Georgia Tech has come up with an assistant robot to help people who have severe motor impairments to perform tasks like shaving, brushing their hair, or drinking water.
Emerging Tech

New Hubble image displays dazzling Messier 28 globular cluster

Messier 28 is a group of stars in the constellation of Sagittarius, located 18,000 light-years from our planet. Thousands of stars are packed tightly together in this sparkling image.
Emerging Tech

Cosmic dust bunnies: Scientists find unexpected ring around Mercury

A pair of scientists searching for a dust-free region near the Sun have made an unexpected discovery: a vast cosmic dust ring millions of miles wide around the tiny planet Mercury.
Emerging Tech

Take a dip in the Lagoon Nebula in first image from SPECULOOS instrument

The European Southern Observatory has released the first image collected by their new SPECULOOS instrument, and it's a stunning portrait of the Lagoon Nebula, a swirling cloud of dust and gas where new stars are born.
Emerging Tech

Robot assistants from Toyota and Panasonic gear up for the Tokyo Olympics

Japan plans to use the 2020 Olympics to showcase a range of its advanced technologies. Toyota and Panasonic are already getting in on the act, recently unveiling several robotic designs that they intend to deploy at the event.