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Our living situations are in a constant state of flux.  Significant others come and go.  Friends and in-laws stay over for extended periods of time unexpectedly.  Families of three become families of four.  Sometimes planned.  Sometimes not.  Whatever the case may be from divorce to pregnancy life is always ready to throw us another curve ball at a moments notice.  Shouldn’t we be ready for it?

That’s the premise behind The Adaptable House, a fully customizable abode capable of adapting on the fly to meet our ever changing needs.  Have a house guest?  Shrink the size of your living room and add another bedroom.  One of your kids heading off to college?  Don’t just convert their bedroom into an office.  Get rid of it entirely! The possibilities are endless.

Fast Company details how this is possible:

“Inside the two-story house, flexible walls allow rooms to be reconfigured, and standard components can be moved from room to room without throwing anything out or requiring new materials. Downstairs, the kitchen and two living areas can be divided into three separate rooms or stretched into one large space. Upstairs, movable cabinet walls can create another large space, or bedrooms, a playroom, an office, and a walk-in closet. Stick-on outlets can be placed anywhere along the wall.”

But that’s not all.  The article goes on to add that, “The designers considered every likely scenario for a modern family, including single-parent homes and blended families. ‘The house can adapt to these different family constellations very easily and quickly and at a low cost,’ Kongebro says. The garage, for example, can be turned into a separate apartment for a struggling single parent to rent out, so they don’t have to move to a new home.”

What’s great about this concept is aside from the obvious benefits to our quality of living is that there are additional benefits too such as cost savings when it comes to home renovations as well as a reduced carbon footprint.  Forget about a win-win situation.  This is a win-win-win situation.

Well, not entirely.  You’re still on your own when it comes to dealing with those unwanted house guests.

Is The Adaptable House the Greatest Idea Ever?

 

I love inventions that have unique names based on something of historical significance.  So you can bet that I love the Pico, a new password protecting device named after famed Italian philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola who was well known for his incredible memory.  Essentially, the way that the device works is that it remembers all of your useful passwords so that all you have to do is wave it in front of a screen to unlock access to your personal information.  But what if someone steals this device you ask?  Well here’s the rub: it only works within the presence of your electronic aura, a hypothetical area surrounding your body wherein your devices work for you and you alone.  What the what?!?!!?

As crazy as that sounds it may actually be possible to achieve.  I’ll let the Guardian explain:

“According to Frank Stajano, reader in security at Cambridge University’s computer laboratory, each of us needs an electronic aura, a field that would extend no more than two or three feet from our bodies and which could be generated in a similar way to a Wi-Fi signal, only over a very short distance. Crucially, signals generated within the aura would uniquely identify its owner and permit only his or her electronic devices to work when they are close to that person.  Outside your electronic aura, your electric car keys would not be able to function, for example. You could drop them in a supermarket but they would be of no use to a thief, because the keys could only operate in the presence of your aura.

Even more ambitiously, Stajano is designing a handheld device that can remember thousands of log-in names and passwords.  This device – which he calls a pico, after the Italian philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, who was famed for his prodigious memory – would interact automatically with websites for banks, theatres, cinemas, rail companies and others. You would simply hold the device over your screen to access one of your accounts.  The device would, again, be perfectly secure because it could only function inside an individual’s electronic aura. If one was dropped or lost, it would provide no security threat and would be simply replaced by a backup.”

Got all that?

While it’s clear that we need a more secure way to access our digital information, preferably one that doesn’t involve remembering twenty different passwords that we have to constantly change, it remains to be seen whether or not the Pico and Electronic Auras are the solution to that problem.

But there’s no denying the fact that having our very own electronic auras sure would be pretty cool!

Is an Electronic Aura the Greatest Idea Ever?

Flying cars.  Holograms.  Emotionally intelligent robots.  Meatloaf that doesn’t taste like meatloaf.  There are a lot of obstacles that we have yet to overcome but we may be on the verge of overcoming one of them: precision indoor mapping.  Despite our best efforts it’s a technological hurdle that we have yet to overcome.

As Wired puts it, “Smartphones are dumbest when it comes to the world immediately surrounding them. Think about it: The miracle device in your pocket can summon up any fact you could conceivably want to know about Dunkin’ Donuts, and it can instantly render a map of every Dunkin’ Donuts in your greater metropolitan area, but as to the fact that you’re actually, physically standing in line at Dunkin’ Donuts, it’s utterly oblivious.  That won’t likely be the case for long. A new generation of sensors, powered by a low-energy flavor of Bluetooth, stand to give our phones a rich awareness of the physical world.”

That awareness is going to be made possible by a new company known as Estimote and their new game changing beacons that you place strategically around a physical location.  For example, you would place one on each wall inside a store.  A smartphone app then calibrates each beacon and viola you have precision indoor mapping at your disposal!

But then what?  Indoor mapping sounds cool and all but what would we actually use it for?

As Wired states, “it’s far from clear what the killer app for indoor location will be. Beacons have steadily appeared in the real world without exactly redefining our mobile experience. One early adopter was Major League Baseball, which blanketed ballparks with the tiny radios to help offer seat upgrades and location-specific concessions specials. Department stores like Macy’s will soon be using beacons to send personalized deals to smartphone users.”

Shopping aside there are plenty of other uses for Estimote’s beacons.  Here’s one idea: my location within a location locator.  Lets say you’re meeting some friends at a crowded venue.  Perhaps a concert.  It’s too crowded to spot them and it’s too noisy to call them.  You try to text them but still can’t figure out where they are. What recourse do you have other than to wander around aimlessly?  Well with the location within a location locator powered by Estimote you could now pinpoint their exact location.

Another possibility is to put them in banks or other high risk areas.  If there’s ever a hostage situation the police could use these beacons to figure out exactly how many people are inside and where they are located.  Alternatively, movie theaters could use them to cross reference ticket sales and see if anybody has snuck into one of their theaters.  A more interesting possibility is to put them inside of a bar and pare them with a dating app.  That way you could find out exactly how many single people are inside an establishment before deciding whether or not to enter.

It’s clear though that the most obvious use for this technology is in regards to retail.  From location aware coupons that show up exactly when you arrive within the proximity of an item to providing store owners with accurate renderings of how foot traffic moves throughout their stores it’s clear that the way we shop is about to change.

The only question that remains is what else will change?

Is accurate indoor mapping the Greatest Idea Ever?

I love biomimicry, the practice of taking things found in nature and designing useful applications from that inspiration.  I even have a theory that every animal, every plant, every species of everything is here for a specific reason.  Some of those lessons we’ve figured out and applied.  Others we’re just barely scratching the surface of.  And others we are still years away from figuring out and may never figure out.

Well, if I’m right about my theory we can cross the Mantis shrimp off the list.  That’s because our friend from the sea has a very useful skill: the ability to detect cancer just by looking at it!

How do they do it?

According to sciencealert.com, “Mantis shrimp can see cancer, and the activity of our neurons, because they have unique eyes, known as compound eyes. This type of eye is superbly tuned to detect polarised light – a type of light that reflects differently off different types of tissue, including cancerous or healthy tissue.”

As it turns out this skill is not unique to the Mantis shrimp.  Scientists are finding out that lots of animals are equipped with compound eyes.

Why is this important you ask?  Well it’s because scientists from the University of Queensland in Australia are working on a camera that aims to detect polarized light and they one day hope that the technology from that camera makes its way into your smartphone’s camera!

A selfie that can save your life?  Now that’s a great idea.

shutterstock_150666980_web

Is a cancer detecting camera based on the vision of Mantis shrimp the Greatest Idea Ever?

Having the ability to cloak an object is equal parts exciting and terrifying.  Exciting because of the pure awesomeness of the concept.  Terrifying when thinking about how this technology could be used by the military or other nefarious organizations.  So far the awesomeness seems to be winning out because every few weeks or so we hear about a new development that pushes this staple of science fiction fantasy closer towards becoming a reality.

However, in spite of our best efforts there hasn’t really been a major breakthrough that completely cloaks an object from all angles.  That may be about to change though thanks to a new breakthrough that uses, get this, four standard lenses to get the job done.  No high tech wizardry.  No fancy new super materials.  Nothing special at all.  Just ordinary, readily available, run of the mill lenses.

As Phys.org explains:

“Many cloaking designs work fine when you look at an object straight on, but if you move your viewpoint even a little, the object becomes visible…previous cloaking devices can also cause the background to shift drastically, making it obvious that the cloaking device is present.  In order to both cloak an object and leave the background undisturbed, the researchers determined the lens type and power needed, as well as the precise distance to separate the four lenses. To test their device, they placed the cloaked object in front of a grid background. As they looked through the lenses and changed their viewing angle by moving from side to side, the grid shifted accordingly as if the cloaking device was not there.  There was no discontinuity in the grid lines behind the cloaked object, compared to the background, and the grid sizes (magnification) matched.”

What’s really interesting about this breakthrough though is the potential it has for what I will call reverse cloaking.  This is when rather than hiding an object from view you instead use the device to see around something that is actually there.  The Phys.org article for example suggests that the device could be used to let a surgeon look through his hands to see what he was operating on or to remove blind spots when driving.

If that is indeed what this cloaking device is going to be used for then I need to change my answer.  Cloaking is now officially more exciting than terrifying.

‘Cloaking’ device uses ordinary lenses to hide objects across range of angles

Is a cloaking device made from four standard lenses the Greatest Idea Ever?

Every year each NFL team gets one week off during the season.  These bye weeks occur on a staggered basis so that on any given Sunday during the middle portion of the schedule there will always be a few teams off.  The schedule is set up this way for obvious reasons.  With games on every Sunday the television ratings are guaranteed to be high every Sunday.

However, this practice of staggering bye weeks creates issues.  First and foremost is the fairness factor.  Take the highly competitive NFC West for example, arguably the NFL’s best division featuring three legitimate Super Bowl contenders.  The Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks had their byes this week.  Meanwhile the San Francisco 49ers don’t have their bye for another month.  That means that the 49ers could be fresher down the stretch when compared to the players on the Cardinals and Seahawks who would be going three straight months with no rest by the time the playoffs roll around.  How is that fair?

The fairness factor extends to the entire schedule as well since it’s a known fact, at least in gambling circles, that teams coming off their bye usually have an advantage over their opponent since they have two weeks to rest up and game plan.  Is it fair that a division title is won or loss because one team plays multiple opponents coming of their bye weeks while another doesn’t play any such teams?

Last but not least is the fantasy football factor, a factor that can no longer be ignored with the popularity of fantasy sports at an all time high.  What factor is that?  It’s the fact that bye weeks wreck havoc with fantasy teams causing good teams to lose to inferior opponents because they have to play without their star players.  Or worse it causes good players to get dropped in leagues with shallow benches.  Or worse it leads to bad decisions on draft day with owners obsessed over how to construct a team with bye weeks in mind.  Basically, bye weeks are a huge pain in the ass for fantasy owners.

So what can be done about it?  Well what I’m envisioning is a standard bye week.  Every team in the league gets the same week off.  A proverbial half time for the season set after week 8.  This would create an even playing field for all teams, remove unfair advantages created by the schedule makers, and make fantasy football more enjoyable.

Of course this would never happen because of the money involved with ratings and advertising on a weekly basis.  But wait just a second.  What if there was a way to turn this into a boon for TV execs and advertisers as well?  Wouldn’t they have to be interested then?  I think they would be because what I’m envisioning is scheduling a major sporting event during that week off.  An event worthy of having the full attention of the entire sporting world for an entire week in late October.  And as fate would have it we already have a worthy event scheduled for that time. THE WORLD SERIES.

Boom.  Lock it up.  Championship.

Would the NFL and fantasy football be better with all teams getting a bye at the same time?

#554 – Week In Review

Here’s a look at all the things that caught my eye this past week:

1.  Keyboard Cleaning Slime!

If you’ve ever eaten lunch at your desk at work your keyboard is probably a cesspool of germs.  It may even be home to advanced civilizations on the verge of inventing the wheel.  Wouldn’t it be great then if you had a way to quickly and easily clean your keyboard without banging it upside down over a garbage can or using an expensive high powered air duster?  Well, thankfully we may now have such a way.  Just so long as you don’t mind the idea of touching slime.

According to Psfk, “Cyber Clean is a Swiss made (first of it’s kind?) cleaning slime that can get at hidden dirt no matter where it hides. Roll the goop over your keyboard or any other device and it will slink in and pick up any bit of filth and debris. It cleans and kills germs while binding with dirt due to its special viscosity and elasticity. It can be used repeatedly until it gets filled with junk and will change color to let you know it’s through. When you’re done, just throw it away – it’s also biodegradable.”

Special Slime Will Clean Your Dirty Keyboard

2.  Solar Power Saving Liquid Batteries

Solar and wind power have a lot of potential for solving our energy needs.  The only problem is that we can’t save and store all of the energy they create.  For the most part we can only use them when it’s sunny or windy out.  What we need is a battery capable of storing that excess energy for future use.  That battery now exists.  And, oh by the way, the battery is made of liquid!

According to Popular Science, “a team of MIT researchers has built an all-liquid battery prototype that’s designed to store excess energy from solar and wind power plants. When the sun isn’t shining, or the wind isn’t blowing, future versions of this battery could release energy captured during more productive times into nations’ power grids.”

To be fair there are some existing options that store some power for future use but these are solid state batteries and they’re used primarily in one off situations like single homes.  These new liquid batteries, however, would be cheaper to produce and would last longer.  In fact, these first generation batteries may be able to withstand ten years of daily use.

Take that energizer bunny!

photo of a room-temperature, liquid battery in a clear glass container

3.  Alba Light Bulb

We’re on the verge of a household revolution the like of which has not been seen since the advent of the microwave.  A revolution powered by smart devices that communicate with one another and respond to our every movement.  As it turns out nothing is save from that revolution.  Not even the humble light bulb.  That’s because we may soon be outfitting our homes with smart light bulbs, like the Alba.

According to the Huffington Post, “Created by tech startup Stack Lighting, (the) Alba, will brighten or dim based on your presence (i.e. when you enter and leave a room), and as natural light changes throughout the day.”

Edison would be proud.

 4.  Luna Washing Ball

Why bother transferring your clothes from the laundry hamper to the actual washing machine when you can just wash your clothes while they are still inside your hamper!  That’s the premise behind the Luna Washing Ball, a new device that aims to make doing your laundry easier than ever.

According to the now defunct Dvice, “the Luna Wash is like a miniature dirt-destroying Death Star that uses static electricity and steam to coax your clothes clean. To get the wash going, you first fill the Luna Wash with a small amount of water and plop it down into your laundry. The Luna Wash then produces a cloud of steam. The surrounding clothes relax in the heat, letting go of the dirt on their fibers. Next, it swaps to dirt-magnet mode, emitting an electrostatic charge that sucks that loosened dirt right into its own metal frame.  Vibrating and pulsing its way all the way to the bottom of your hamper, the Luna Wash finishes its cycle by blowing your fresh-cleaned clothes dry with hot air.”

I’ve heard of cutting out the middle man to make a process more efficient but I’ve never heard of making it so that the middle man does all the work!  Now if only they could also figure out a way to get all the clothes folded after drying them…

 

Is a ball that washes your clothes while they are still in the hamper the Greatest Idea Ever?

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