The supermarket of the future

Coop Italia collaborated with Accenture to showcase the ground-breaking Supermarket of the Future using advanced technologies at Expo Milano 2015. The store recreates the atmosphere of local open-air markets but provides innovative digital solutions that share information, facilitate store navigation and improve staff communication. 

The Supermarket of the Future transforms the customer experience with digital tools that make shopping more convenient, relevant and personalized. In the supermarket of the future, consumers would be able read detailed descriptions of the origins and health aspects of the foods they're buying, according to Carlo Ratti Associati, the firm that designed the supermarket.

There are also no shelves in the supermarket of the future.  Buying food will be more about a moment of exchange and interactions, not the hasty choir it represents for most people. The supermarket of the future will be all about human interactions; interactions between people and products and between people and people.”

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.

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.

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.

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)?

The Invisible Bike Helmet

Two Swedish industrial design students came up with an ingenious solution: make the helmet invisible. Their concept: an airbag in a collar; in the event of an accident, it would deploy to envelop a bicyclist’s head.

The Hövding (invisible helmet) is actually an air bag, which uses a helium gas cylinder to inflate when its sensors detect a sudden jolt.

Hövding is a rapidly-inflating airbag that deploys from a collar around your neck when you’re in an accident. Here’s how it works, and a video demonstrating this amazing, but still expensive, invention.

The helmets are also CE labelled, which means they comply with EU safety standards and have undergone a variety of safety tests.

A portable water filtration device

"1 in 9 people world wide do not have access to safe and clean drinking water and  443 million school days are lost each year due to water-related diseases."... According to the Water Project

PureLives is a home filter - utilizes unique patented technology that eliminates 99.9% of the waterborne bacteria and viruses that cause human illness and disease. Portapure technology a five-gallon water filtration device, can take dirty water from a lake or stream and turn it into clean, drinkable H20 -- without the need for purification tablets or electricity. The device can provide 3,000-5,000 gallons of drinkable water before it needs a new filter.

PureLives is designed to work either in the home as a filtration unit attached to a faucet or it can be taken to a well or source of groundwater using shoulder straps.

AirDrop: Turning Air Into Water

This simple, but brilliant, design actually pulls water from air through condensation. This solar- powered AirDrop low-tech device, takes  in air from above the soil and cools it  below ground, causing the water in the air to condense, in a passive  system of sub-surface drip irrigation.

With this AirDrop device, the water is delivered directly to the plants' roots, where it's most needed and the water has much less opportunity to be wasted, due to evaporation.

The 28-year old Australian inventor, Edward Linacre took his biomimicry cues from Australia's hardy desert rhubarb and from the Namib beetle, which have evolved to collect water from the air.

It works by using a solar powered fan to drive the hot air underground through a network of piping that rapidly cools the air and condenses the water out it. This is the most ingenious and efficient form of irrigation, since it does not rely on the bodies of water for its sources. Currently, it's in the prototype phase. 

While still in the beginning stages and not available for purchase... yet, this is an idea and a project to watch closely. Very closely.