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Tag Archives: Innovation

With The Powerlace, Self-Lacing Shoes Are Finally Here

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We’ve all been getting a good laugh these last few years at the fact that many of Back To The Future II’s predictions don’t seem to be coming true. Flying cars? The ones we have are middling at best. However… it’s almost 2015, and would you know it, we’re already seeing a working hoverboard, and how self-lacing shoes. That’s right, a startup in St-Hubert, Canada has created the Powerlace shoes, which use an internal mechanism powered by the wearers weight to automatically lace the shoes at a predefined tension. Simply insert your foot, press down with your heel, and the laces will tighten.

Inserting your foot triggers the mechanism, which locks into place at a tension level set by a pull tab on the outside upper section. The tension in the laces can be adjusted separately, too, by moving the lace lock.

A thermo polyurethane sole serves as support for the mechanism as well as anchor for the lever that unlocks the mechanism, while the tongue opens right out once pressure is released from the laces.

The team has tested the system up to 200,000 lacing cycles, which if it stands up to real-world use would mean the mechanism could operate without a hitch for 68 years if used four times a day

That’s definitely longer than the actual show will last, so you can buy with confidence. It’s a Kickstarter, with a pledge of $175 netting you a pair.

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This Device Can Diagnose Hundreds Of Diseases With One Drop Of Blood

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The new fad in the tech industry is health. You can see this with Apple’s Health app, as well as a seemingly endless ecosystem of activity trackers like the FitBit or Nike Fuel band. But for all their focus on health, they’re really only scratching the surface; if you’re actually sick, they won’t do much to tell you what’s wrong. For serious illnesses, you still have to make your way to a doctor and often subject yourself to blood extractions. But if the xHEALTH X1 takes off, you may not even need to do that.

It’s a device being developed by Dr. Eugene Chan and his colleagues at the DNA Medical Institute (DMI), with grants from “NASA, the National Institutes of Health, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. On Monday, the team received yet another nod (and more funding) as the winners of this year’s Nokia Sensing XChallenge, one of several competitions run by the moonshot-seeking XPrize Foundation.” With a single drop of blood it would be able to tell you if you have anything from HIV, to Pneumonia, or even Ebola within minutes.

One small drop of blood is dropped into a small receptacle, where nanostrips and reagents react to the blood’s contents. The whole cocktail then goes through a spiral micro-mixer and is streamed past lasers that use variations in light intensity and scattering to come up with a diagnosis,

The xHEALTH X1 is still under development, so it’s not quite ready for public consumtion just yet. There is no timeframe on that, but the work being done is well under way and should result in a viable product in the near future.

[ Wired ]

Inexpensive Incubator Wins Dyson Award For Best Invention Of The Year

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It’s pretty amazing the number of things we take for granted here in the “developed world”. Post-natal care is a flagrant example, where a child dying of hypothermia (or other complications) shortly after birth is almost inconceivable, yet is the stark reality facing over 1 million children in developing nations yearly. Incubators go a long way to preventing these deaths, providing pre-term babies with the warmth and humidity control that’s essential for their survival, but they cost about $45,000, an amount so outrageous that it’s inconceivable for many impoverished hospitals. That’s where 23-year-old British student named James Roberts comes in. He designed MOM, an inflatable incubator that cost about $400. It’s designed to pull power from unconventional sources like car batteries and thus keep working in areas with inconsistent power supplies, and provides temperature and humidity controls, as well as special lights for fighting jaundice. It works so well as such a low cost that James recently won the James Dyson Award for Best Invention of the Year and received $45,000 to further develop his prototype into a marketable product.

While many of you reading this won’t directly benefit from James’ invention, it’s always nice to hear about programs like the Dyson Award spurring innovation in today’s youth. As much as we like to think we do, we don’t live in isolation on this planet and the more we do for the less fortunate, the better many of us will be able to sleep at night.

[ Product Page ] VIA [ Gizmodo ]

Radio The Size Of An Ant Developed, Doesn’t Require External Energy

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Oh, the jokes to be had with this. Or more like, the cliché jokes to the tune of “what is this? A radio for ants?” Well, it is a fully functional radio that’s about the size of an ant, though we don’t expect the little insects from deriving any type of pleasure from it.

Stanford engineer Amin Arbabian has managed to create a wireless radio just a few millimeters across that is so energy efficient that it doesn’t need a battery. Instead, it harvests power from the incoming electromagnetic waves. The Stanford radio chip is designed to compute, execute, and relay signals. What sets this technology apart is that it all happens on a single chip that doesn’t rely on any exotic materials or theoretical principles.

The last time we covered a device that “harvests energy from the surrounding electromagnetic waves”, it was for the RCA Airnergy device, which purported to be able to charge its internal battery in this fashion. Back then the consensus was that this was impossible, or at least the energy gathered was so negligible that it would be impossible to charge anything with it. But this radio is different since it actually uses so little energy itself that a single AAA battery could power it for 100 years. Arbabian even managed to fabricate 100 of these tiny radios, just to see if they’d work, and they do. This technology could help facilitate the development of the “Internet Of Things”, where all your devices are interconnected and online, for added functionality.

It’s all a proof-of-concept for the moment, but the fact that it can be done, and more importantly, done at a low cost, might signal a bright future for the technology.

[ Stanford Page ] VIA [ Geek.com ]

The Chairless Chair Is Only There When You Want It

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If you spend a good portion of your day on your feet, you’ve probably thought of just how sweet it would be to be able to sit now and then. But chairs are stationary, and there you are, moving around. If only you could bring one with you everywhere you go… Well, the Chairless Chair is essentially that: a wearable chair. It’s a light lower-limb exoskeleton that hardens at the push of a button and allows you to sit down anywhere you want. Keith Gunura, the 29-year old CEO and co-founder of noonee, the Zurich-based startup behind the device, informs CNN that it’s made from aluminum and carbon fiber, and weighs around 4 lbs., which makes it nearly indistinguishable to the wearer. To use, the wearer simply moves into the desired position and presses a button, which locks it in place, immediately relieving pressure from the lower limbs. A single 6V battery can power it for up to 24 hours.

The target market is industrial workers who spend most of their day on their feet, assembling things. Less fatigue could translate in increased productivity and worker satisfaction. BMW and Audi are actually going to start trials later this year, and if the tech catches on, perhaps a consumer version might make its way to the market eventually. Don’t hold your breath on that, however.

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[ Product Page ] VIA [ CNN ]

What’s Not To Like About Cake Batter In A Can?

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Even the simplest of cake recipes involves a fair amount of work. Heck, even those pre-made cake mixes that require you to just mix in water and an egg… still require you to do that much! How about you cut to the chase and simply squirt the batter from a spray can, directly into your cake pan? Oh, you may think it’s gross, but why? The propellant should provide the necessary air bubbles that give the batter its spongy texture, and the gas will dissipate by the time you’re done cooking. It’s inert to start with, so you don’t have to worry about a thing. Provided it tastes good, this sounds like a good solution to us. Spray Cake is a creation of Harvard Student John McCallum, and he’s already found a distribution channel; they’re currently looking for a manufacturer. As far as how it tastes, baking superstar Joanne Chang gives it her thumbs up! So, give it some time and you may see this in supermarket aisles.

[ Harvard Page ] VIA [ Incredible Things ]

Silent Power PC Uses Copper Foam For Cooling Instead Of Noisy Fans

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Have you ever turned off all the electronics in your room? Notice just how much quieter everything is? Despite being able to tune these droning sounds out after a while, they’re quite real and it’s only once they’re completely gone that we realize how loud they were. If you manage to get your hands on a Silent Power PC, however, you’ll have that much less white noise to deal with. Its salient feature is its use of an innovative copper foam to dissipate heat, instead of the traditional fans. Since the foam presents such a high surface area and copper is so conductive, the PC never reaches excessive temperatures during regular use. The lowest end setup you can get comes with an Intel quad-core i7-4785T 2.2 GHz processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 500 GB hard drive and should cost around $935. The company’s plan is to be on the market in 2015, after they’ve reached their crowdfunding goals. A post on their blog, however, suggests that Paypal is putting up some roadblocks and have seized their account pending clarifications on their business model. This is standard practice for Paypal, unfortunately, so hopefully the company will clear that up soon and resume work on bringing this innovative PC to market.

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[ Product Page ] VIA [ Gizmodo ]

Bullets That Curve In Mid-Air? Yep, The Military’s Got That

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This tech is still in its infancy, but as the video below appears to show, the US military has developed bullets that curve in mid-air. Remember that stupid movie with Angelina Jolie, Wanted? Yeah, it’s like that, only for real this time.

DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program recently conducted the first successful live-fire tests demonstrating in-flight guidance of .50-caliber bullets. This video shows EXACTO rounds maneuvering in flight to hit targets that are offset from where the sniper rifle is aimed. EXACTO’s specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that could impede successful hits.

The EXACTO program is developing new approaches and advanced capabilities to improve the range and accuracy of sniper systems beyond the current state of the art.

When you’re trying to hit a target nearly a mile away, even the slightest mistake compounds into a huge miss, so this kind of tech is definitely useful. How much it cost to develop and how much of that money could have been used for something far less grim than ending lives… is a discussion best left for another day.

[ DARPA ] VIA [ Engadget ]

You Can Now Control Google Glass With Your Mind

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Love it or hate it, Google Glass is still around and kicking. For those of you happy enough to plunk down a hefty $1,500 to acquire the status of über nerd, you’re aware that the main way to navigate the Glass interface is through the touch sensitive panel on the side. But now with the creation of the MindRDR (pronounced “mind reader”) application by a London company called ThisPlace, you could start controlling some functions with your brain waves alone. You’ll first have to purchase a Neurosky MindWave Mobile headset and connect it to your Glass. After you’ve downloaded the free app, you’ll eventually learn how to take pictures and share them without so much as touching a single thing. Yes, it’s limited to picture taking and sharing at the moment, but the company is working on developing the software to allow you to do more. Limited as it is, it’s still pretty impressive.

Of course this setup also means you’ll be seen walking around with not only the nerdiest set of glasses on the planet, but with a mind reading headset as well. If there were a crown given out to the alpha nerds of this planet, you’d be wearing it proudly. And we, my friend, salute you.

[ MindRDR ] VIA [ Engadget ]