'Smart Glasses' offer help to near-blind people

Researchers from Oxford University say they've made a breakthrough in developing smart glasses for people with severe sight loss.

The spectacles (smart glasses), developed by Stephen Hicks and his research team at Oxford University use 3D cameras to augment vision and help visually impaired see. Read more

The augmented reality glasses use three-dimensional cameras that detect the structure and position of nearby objects. Software then uses that information to block out the background and highlight only what is nearest to the user.

“Smart-glasses are a piece of work we’ve been doing for the past three years at Oxford looking at ways to enhance the remaining sight that people have. When you go blind, you generally have some sight remaining, and using a combination of cameras and a see-through display, we’re able to enhance nearby objects to make them easier to see for obstacle avoidance and also facial recognition,” says Dr. Stephen Hicks of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at Oxford University, who is leading the research.

A low-cost light revolution

Have you heard of the award-winning WakaWaka Light?

WakaWaka is a sturdy, highly efficient, sustainable, self-powered LED lamp that is affordable for those living on $2 per day or less.  It is a Netherlands-based invention which contains a microchip that, when placed inside a photovoltaic panel, "lures every sunray" into producing electricity.  This chip ensures that no other solar lamp in the world can match the efficiency of WakaWaka.

In low light conditions, the efficiency can be up to 200% of that of an ‘ordinary solar lamp’. In practice it means, that no matter where you are in the world, WakaWaka will work. Independent researchers show that the solar version of the WakaWaka is twice as efficient as any other solar lamp on the market. For more information see the website.

This is a wonderful example of No More Business As Usual.

The WakaWaka's business vision is ' to brighten up the lives of underpriviledged people in developing countries'. The company has a cross-subsidy model that enables the business to meet the affordability objectives. In essence, rich folk agree to pay more so that poorer consumers can pay less. Sold online, the WakaWaka lamps retail at around €29.50 in Europe and $39 in the United States. In developing world countries, the price is closer to $10. 

Mealworms can safely biodegrade various types of plastic

Stanford and Beihang University researchers have discovered that the common mealworm can biodegrade Styrofoam and other types of polystyrene, thanks to microorganisms in its guts that break down the plastic. This research opened a new door to solve the global plastic pollution problem. 

Image credit: Yu Yang......... Mealworms (larvae of the darkling beetle) munch on Styrofoam, a hopeful sign that solutions to plastics pollution exist. 

Image credit: Yu Yang......... Mealworms (larvae of the darkling beetle) munch on Styrofoam, a hopeful sign that solutions to plastics pollution exist. 

The key is the microorganisms in the worms’ digestive system. These “bugs-within-the-bugs” produce an enzyme that breaks down the foam into organic compounds. What the mealworms don’t digest, they expel as biodegradable substances that return to nature.

Not only can the mealworms biodegrade plastic that we previously thought was non-biodegradable, but the Styrofoam-munching mealworms were as healthy as those that ate a normal diet, and their waste is even safe enough to use as crop soil.

Why it's important: 
33 million tons of plastic are being discarded every year in the U.S. alone, and sadly less than 10 percent gets recycled. Mealworms could take care of a significant chunk of that non-recycled plastic. The researchers will next focus on whether the mealworms can digest other waste like polypropylene, microbeads and bioplastics. 

The papers, published in 'Environmental Science and Technology', are the first to provide detailed evidence of bacterial degradation of plastic in an animal's gut. Understanding how bacteria within mealworms carry out this feat could potentially enable new options for safe management of plastic waste. The researchers now plan to study the foam-degrading gut bacteria more closely and find out whether it’ll eat other environmental menaces. Read More

A Futuristic Floating City on the Ocean

The French architect Jacques Rougerie has designed a floating, manta-ray-shaped vessel for marine researchers, scientists and students. It’s also environmentally friendly and completely sustainable, running off marine renewable energy and wind power. 

The 3,000 foot long "university city" would house 7,000 individuals and will be used to conduct ocean research. The city will be equipped with classrooms and laboratories for students as well as living spaces and room for leisure activities, including sports.

Things you can make with 3D Printing

Have you ever considered how 3D printing could apply to your life? What if it is truly possible for 3D printing to  fuel your creativity and break down barriers to becoming an entrepreneur. What if you can make money and set up your own business by utilising 3D printing? 

3-D printers are capable of creating incredibly useful and clever household objects you may not have even considered possible.

App that turns a coloured drawing into a 3D character

Disney has created an amazing app that turns a coloured drawing into a 3D character on a tablet screen.

Disney Research has developed an app that transforms your colored-in pages into 3D animations, using an iPad with a camera. The augmented reality project has a "virtual spring system" that guesses what an incomplete 2D drawing would look like in 3D.

The app does that by copying pixels from your piece and adapting them for use on the object’s other regions. It also transforms your drawing into a 3D object in real time, so you can actually watch it getting colored on screen.

New possibility for reducing greenhouse gas in the environment

Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego have designed enzyme-functionalized micromotors the size of red blood cells that would be powered by the environment itself,

The micromotors can rapidly zoom around in water,  using enzymes to move around the sea, converting carbon dioxide into a usable solid form as they swim. The micromotors rapidly decarbonated water solutions that were saturated with carbon dioxide. Within five minutes, the micromotors removed 90 percent of the carbon dioxide from a solution of deionized water.

(credit: Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering)..... In the future, we could potentially use these micromotors as part of a water treatment system, like a water decarbonation plant.

(credit: Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering)..... In the future, we could potentially use these micromotors as part of a water treatment system, like a water decarbonation plant.

Ultrasound waves cleaning power

Can you imaging what it would be like if you could wash your hands thoroughly and effectively with nothing more than cold water? What it would be like if you could clean countertops, floors, or even medical tools without using any harsh chemicals?  

A new device called StarStream creates a whole new kind of cleaning solution by infusing H2O with ultrasonic bubbles. The device brings micro-scrubbing power to regular tap water or increasing the cleaning power of detergents.

StarStream gives tap water incredible cleaning power. This innovative technology has won The Royal Society’s prestigious Brian Mercer Award for Innovation 2011

As ultrasonic waves activate the stream of water from a single StarStream nozzle - the regular water is imbued with cleaning power.  The oscillation of the sound waves turns every bubble into a tiny micro-scrubber that can clean all kinds of complex surfaces (cracks, crevices, and practically any tough-to-reach spot) without bleach and chemical detergents. 

StarStream has also been used for cleaning surgical instruments and removing biological contaminants from medical appliances and surgical steel. It can also be used to remove dental bacteria that lead to common mouth, tongue, and tooth diseases, and the separation of soft tissue from bone, which is a crucial step to successful surgical transplants. In hospitals, StarStream could play a crucial role in maintaining a sterile environment without contributing to humanity’s ever decreasing antibiotic and anti-microbial resistance levels.


In the near future with further funding, the team will be able to shrink down the current design to a more readily-installable system. “If you can clean effectively, as we’re doing here, then you can stop the bugs ever entering the body. And if the bugs never enter the body the person doesn’t get an infection and you don’t have to use these antibiotics, anti-microbial agents. And you’ve got a whole different pathway for tackling this anti-microbial resistance catastrophe,” said Professor Leighton. In the future,  modifiable StarStreams could be attached to hand-washing stations in hospitals, or even regular sinks in public bathrooms everywhere.

The world's smallest cardiac pacemaker

Researchers have developed the world's smallest, minimally invasive pacemaker. New cardiac devices are small enough to be delivered through blood vessels into the heart, via an incision in the thigh. It's delivered via a catheter through the femoral vein and then positioned inside the right ventricle of the heart.

The findings also showed that the Micra TPS—about the size of a large vitamin—met safety and effectiveness endpoints with wide margins. In a recent international clinical trial, it was successfully implanted in 99.2 percent of the 725 patients, and 96 percent of patients experienced zero complications -- 51 percent less than normal procedures. Read More>

Spray On Solar Cells On Flexible Surfaces

A revolutionary innovation in solar technology was recently announced by researchers at the University of Toronto, that could lead to reducing the manufacturing costs of solar power.

Illan Kramer and a team of researchers at the university are working on portable solar generators that can be transported in a spray can and then sprayed anywhere where power is needed. "My dream is that one day you’ll have two technicians with Ghostbusters backpacks come to your house and spray your roof,” says Kramer. The team has invented a new small light-sensitive material called colloidal quantum dots (CQDs). Until now, CQDs could only be put on surfaces through a chemical coating batch process which is a slow, expensive assembly-line approach. They needed a new delivery system for the CQDs.

See a video demonstration of the SprayLD system below.

Kramer's research has been published across a series of journal articles, initially in Applied Physics Letters, then in Advanced Materials and most recently in ACS Nano.

According to Dr. Kramer, being able to spray on solar cells onto flexible surface means you can put an energy source on just about any object or shape. Imagine what it would be like if you could coat your outdoor furniture, bicycle helmets, your mobile phone or the wing of an airplane with solar cells. 

Smart Sensing Technologie D-Shirt

D-shirt of Smart Sensing Technologie by Cityzen Sciences. Through the shirt's sensor-laced fabric connected to a bluetooth transmitter, your activity can be tracked while you move, and it's sent to your smartphone. The material can be washed and ironed (though the transmitter must be removed first) and it is no heavier than a regular t-shirt. 

For the launch of the brand, Smart Sensing will showcase their potential with mass-market sports products: a t-shirt and cycling bib tights sensing directly the wearer’s heart rate, GPS location, speed, etc. These clothes, equipped with an artificial intelligence adaptable to each sportsperson, will be commercialised with personalised real-time coaching and monitoring applications.

The company hasn't released a prototype yet, but they did talk about the exciting product at CES 2014.

Turns Your Finger Into a Magic Wand

A wearable device looks like a normal ring that fits on your finger, which gives you control over almost anything!

It may deceivingly look like a normal ring but it generates a lot of computing power on your finger. Using the device, you can control home appliances and apps through custom gestures, device applications, even payments through specific gestures as well as write text by drawing letters in the air with your finger. Price: $185 (via Kickstarter; price may change). Kickstarter blew past it's $250,000 goal three times over and will begin shipping out devices to backers shortly.

Wireless Hearable Headphones

The Dash is the World’s first completely wireless hearable: smart headphones offering freedom of movement, maximum comfort and high quality sound – all while audibly coaching, tracking movement and capturing key biometric data. Listen. Track. Communicate. The market launch is planned for Q1 2015. Read More

These wireless in-ear headphones will not only put an end to your tangled wire woes, they'll also measure your heart rate, body temperature, speed, number of steps and number of calories burned, and they play music pretty well, too. They'll sit in your ear. Price: $299 (pre-order)

A smartwatch that knows what you're touching

A new system developed byDisney Research known as the Em-Sense watch will be able to distinguish between different types of electromagnetic sound resonating through different objects when you touch them. When a user wears the EM-Sense sensor smartwatch, it detects any object the user touches, from door handles to laptop trackpads and drills. The system does not need objects to be hooked up to any kind of sensor ... the EmSense system can detect them based on a database of past interactions.

Disney explains: "Most everyday electrical and electromechanical objects emit small amounts of electromagnetic (EM) noise during regular operation. When a user makes physical contact with such an object, this EM signal propagates through the user, owing to the conductivity of the human body. By modifying a small, low-cost, software-defined radio, we can detect and classify these signals in real-time, enabling robust on-touch object detection." Read More>

EmSense isn't ready for consumer release yet, this is still just a research project, though it does appear to work in practice. Imagine what it would be like if we can digitize touch and tactile sensation? Could this enable a multitude of new human capabilities? What if we could have office doors or specialized equipment that only operate on the touch of an authorized users only (as verified by his/her touch and paired smartwatch)?

Wearable Smart Jewelry

CUFF is a smart device that works with stylish jewelry to keep you feeling safe and connected — even when your phone is in your purse. Unlike other would-be wearable jewelry, Cuff has an interchangeable module called CuffLinc that pops into a variety of designs. You could wear it in a pendant, a bracelet, keychain, or any other accessory designed to hold it. 

Cuffs are wearable GPS bracelets that, when connected to other devices worn by loved ones, will vibrate when the wearer presses a button. The device is being marketed as a tool for both emergency situations and simple attention grabbing. The CUFF app enables you to set up a network of trusted friends and family who will be notified when you need help.

The CUFF works without requiring any charging, eliminating the hassle of one more cord to plug in. It will stay fully charged for 6-12 months (depending on usage) before needing to be replaced. Cuff's appearance makes it unnoticeable as a smart device, instead looking like fashionable jewelry,  the device will launch with compatible apps for both iOS and Android. Price: $50 - $150 (pre-order)

The futurist Bracelet that turns Your Arm Into A Touchscreen

A team from France has come up with the idea for a bracelet that can be used to turn the wearer's arm into a smartphone screen.  They have named it 'The Cicret Bracelet'. It is an armband that projects the content of your phone onto your arm, and allows you to interact with the projected content. "With the Cicret Bracelet, you can make your skin your new touchscreen," says the Cicret team on its website. "Read your mails, play your favorite games, answer your calls, check the weather, find your way... Do whatever you want on your arm."

"The video we put online is an illustration of what our Cicret bracelet could allow users to do," says Guillaume Pommier, Cicret co-founder and in charge of press and marketing.

While the bracelet is still in its concept stage and prototype is still in the works, the inventors believe that the bracelet will replace a smartphone or tablet.  Wearers of the Cicret bracelet will be able to check an email or watch a film that’s projected onto their forearm, and control the picture by using their skin like a touchscreen. A tiny projector in the bracelet will cast an image onto the skin then eight long-range proximity sensors will detect every swipe, tap and pinch. It will also have a vibrator, an accelerator, USB port and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, according to the Cicret website.

3D-Printed Houses

Modern development and research has been under way since 2004 to flexibly construct buildings for commercial and private habitation using 3d Printing. 

A Chinese construction firm (WinSun) based in Shanghai has succeeded in building 10 houses each measuring 200 square metres in 24 hours by using an enormous 3D printer.  Ten demo houses were built in 24 hours, each costing US$5000. "A group of 3D printed houses, 200 m2 each, recently appeared in Shanghai, China. These buildings were created entirely out of concrete using a gigantic 3D printer." read more in 3ders.org

Speaking to the International Business Times, Ma said: “Industrial waste from demolished buildings is damaging our environment, but with 3D-printing, we are able to recycle construction waste and turn it into new building materials. This would create a much safer environment for construction workers and greatly reduce construction costs.”

According to Architecture News "Other companies have been experimenting with plans to 3D print entire buildings, most notably Dus Architects and Ultimaker in the Netherlands."