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I never really saw the point to owning a watch.  Tan lines, skin irritations, annoying ticking sounds.  No thank you.  If I want to know the time I’ll just break out a sun dial or ask someone or look at my phone or the clock on the wall or the clock on the TV or the clock on the microwave or the clock in the car or the clock on my computer.  Combine that sentiment with the fact that I think smart watches are impractical and that I’m not a fan of Apple products and it’s easy to surmise that I will not be getting an Apple Watch anytime soon.

And yet if you made that assumption you’d be wrong.  For the Apple Watch isn’t just a watch in the ordinary sense of the word.  Nor is it a typical Apple product.  Rather, what we’re dealing with is a revolutionary timepiece that completely changes what a wearable could be, transforming it from something that adds to the deluge of data already overburdening us to something that helps us escape the pressure of always being plugged in.  In essence, it’s something that makes us more human.  And in so doing Apple has finally found a way to win me over.

How has it done that?  By including the following four features in the watch:

  • When someone texts you a question the watch converts the parts of the sentence into options.  So if somebody says do you want sushi or pizza for dinner the words sushi and pizza will appear.  Just select one to answer.  No typing required.
  • When you get a new notification you can quickly decide if its worth your time or not.  Flick your wrist down quickly and the notification will go away.  Hold your hand up and you’ll be able to read it.  This allows you to stay in the moment longer.
  • Apple is including new technology in the watch known as Force Touch.  This means that you’ll be able to press down on the home screen to unveil hidden menus.  It’s a clever work around to having less surface area to work with.
  • Another new technology unveiled in the watch is something known as the Taptic Engine.  What this functionality does is make the watch vibrate whenever something happens.  A certain type of vibration will represent a new text message while another one will indicate a new email and so on.  You’ll eventually get to the point where you’ll be able to figure out what’s happening without even having to look at the watch at all.  Yet another example of how the watch is going to make us more human and end the stranglehold that our phones have over us.

What’s great about the watch is that there are probably several other cool new feature that I’m not even aware of yet and more likely to come out every time there’s a software update.  Considering this is version 1.0 we’re probably just beginning to scratch the surface of what the watch is capable of.  And considering that Apple’s designers are thinking outside the box on this new device, thinking of how it’s going to be used and how it could be designed to make our lives better that’s a good thing.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Is the Apple Watch the Greatest Idea Ever?

Food week may be over but there’s one last quasi food related topic that I want to cover: the microbiome, the colony of bacteria currently living in your stomach and elsewhere throughout your body.  Scientists have recently begun to pay more attention to this fascinating aspect of human biology as they wonder whether or not there are medical benefits that can be gleamed from better understanding it.  Some researchers have even suggested that it could play a key role in treating cancer.  However, when it comes to the microbiome the most intriguing use of all, in my opinion, is in regards to its potential to replace the fingerprint in crime scene investigations.

As the LA Times states, “In forensic science, fingerprints and DNA are beginning to look old-school. To catch perpetrators (or exonerate the innocent), future sleuths may find themselves collecting and comparing entire colonies of microorganisms and the people and places they inhabit.”

How exactly would that happen?  Well, when you touch something you’re not just leaving behind a fingerprint.  You’re also leaving behind a bacterial trail.  That trail is unique to you, influenced over time by the objects and places you’ve come into contact with.  Compare the bacteria found at a crime scene to the bacteria found in a person’s microbiome and you’ve got your perp.

As this technology continues to improve the ways in which it can be utilized are likely to improve as well.  In fact, according to several recently released studies that the LA Times cites it may one day be possible to track a person’s previous whereabouts by studying the microorganisms found on the bottom of their shoes and even match a person to their cell phone based upon the microbiotic commonality found between a user and the surface of their phone.

All of which begs the question: how long until CBS starts airing CSI: Microbiome?

Is using the Microbiome to solve crime the Greatest Idea Ever?

I’m a picky eater.  There, I said it.  Can we move on now?

Apparently, we can’t because everywhere I go my pickiness winds up becoming a big issue.  Family gatherings, work meetings, social situations.  I can’t go anywhere without worrying about what I’m going to eat, without someone commenting on what I’m eating or not eating, without someone questioning my eating habits.  Case in point:  ordering a sandwich.  I’ll go into a deli and ask for Roast Beef on rye.  That’s it.  Just plain.  Pickle on the side.  The guy making the sandwich doesn’t have to recall six different ingredients.  He doesn’t have to strain to remember whether I said mayo or no mayo.  All he has to do is add meat to bread.  This is literally the easiest sandwich he’ll have to make all day.  And yet a game of twenty questions always breaks out.  Do you want cheese on that?  Mustard?  Mayo?  Nothing?  What about a little salt?  Pepper?  Ketchup?  Are you sure?  A little Italian dressing on the side?  Just plain?  Do you want it heated up at least?  No, bitch.  Just make the damn sandwich.

The reason why I bring this up is because I don’t feel that we take picky eating seriously enough.  We think it’s something that most people will grow out of as they get older.  Behavior that can be learned.  Molded by peer pressure.  Modified over time as we meet new people and encounter new experiences.  And maybe that’s true in most cases.  But in some extreme cases, like mine, that never happens.  People like me are always going to want to order chicken fingers off of the kid’s menu in a fancy restaurant.  That’s just the way we’re wired.  And, yes I do believe that wiring has something to do with it.  What else could it be?  It’s not like my taste buds are broken.  They clearly work for the foods that I do like.  Rather, what I suffer from is a mental block.  I won’t even try certain things based on how they look.  A tuna casserole isn’t a meal.  It’s an episode of Fear Factor.  That, to me, indicates a psychological issue.

You know what else are psychological issues relating to food? Anorexia and bulimia.  Why is it that we treat those issues as serious eating disorders but we don’t do the same for picky eating?  We didn’t even classify adult picky eating as an actual eating disorder until 2014 when we began to classify it as Selective Eating Disorder.  Granted, that classification is a step in the right direction but how many of you had ever even heard of it until now?  I suffer from it and didn’t even know that it existed until five minutes ago.  How many other people suffer from it and don’t even realize that their pickiness is something that could be treated?

Now, I’m not saying that we should all run to the doctor right now and get tested for Selective Eating Disorder.  If you want to cut off the edges of your peanut butter and jelly sandwich no one’s going to say anything even though that’s technically a picky thing to do.  But if you’re going to start making decisions in your life based on food, if you’re going to start avoiding certain social situations because of food then we have a real problem.  A problem that needs to be addressed.  And one that nobody to date is addressing.  Just take a look at my own life for example.  Just how different would my life be if I wasn’t a picky eater?  I quit the Army primarily because I didn’t like the food.  If I could eat anything maybe I’d be in Afghanistan right now.  I’ve avoided certain social situations because of food even going so far as to avoid sleeping over some friends’ houses when I was kid because I didn’t like the breakfast options.  If I could eat anything maybe I would have different friends.  I’ve had a bunch of first dates but far fewer second dates.  Perhaps if I could eat anything I would be married by now.

All in all, I would love it if I could get treated and one day get cured of my picky eating habits.  If I could get to the point where I could try new foods regardless of what they look like.  If I could get to the point where I could do whatever I wanted without having to think about food.  But you know what I’d settle for?  More public awareness and understanding of Selective Eating Disorder.  If we could all realize that this is a serious issue and that we shouldn’t harass or make fun of people who suffer from it.  If we can get to the point where someone can order a roast beef sandwich without playing twenty questions.  Will we ever get to that point?  Probably not.  But I can hope.

Is it wrong that we make fun of picky eating instead of treating it like an eating disorder?

Here’s a quick look at the food related innovations that caught my eye over the last week:

1.  Pizza ordering emoji – If you needed any more proof that emojis are taking over the world look no further than the new pizza ordering emoji from Domino’s.

As CNET reports:

“Domino’s Pizza plans to making ordering a hot, cheesy pizza as simple as a tweet.

The company announced on Tuesday that starting May 20, anyone who is craving pizza will be able to order a pie by simply tweeting the pizza emoji to @dominos. To take advantage of the new service, pizza-seekers will need to have set up both an online Domino’s Pizza Profile and an Easy Order pizza choice. Once you have those two things established, you can tweet either the pizza emoji or the hashtag #EasyOrder to have your preferred pizza pie delivered fresh to your door.”

2.  McDonald’s New Bag Tray – One wouldn’t ordinarily think of McDonald’s as an innovator but all that’s about to change thanks to their new takeout bag that morphs into a tray.  Perhaps we should have been giving McDonald’s more credit all along when it comes to creativity.  After all, they did once dream up the Hamburglar.

McDonald's bag

3.  McDonald’s Fry Defender App – Speaking of McDonald’s they also recently invented a cell phone app that protects your fries from the prying hands of your friends.

As Fast Company reports, “It’s a new feature in its iOS and Android apps that turns your phone into a motion sensor (assumably via the camera and light sensors integrated in the hardware). You activate the defender, set it by your food, and if someone reaches for it, BUSTED! A loud alarm goes off. One might even hear it from the urinal.”

See, I told you McDonald’s could innovate!

4.  Seed Bomb Coffee Cup – I hate it when I see litter.  Just the other day I see a Styrofoam cup in the pond near my house and it pissed me off.  Thankfully, there are people out there innovating a solution to the problem since it’s obvious that human beings are incapable of policing themselves.

As Fast Company writes, “America drinks an astonishing 400 million cups of coffee a day, putting 146 billion disposable coffee cups in landfills each year. Now, California environmental organization Reduce. Reuse. Grow. is using these post-consumer fibers to create biodegradable cups that not only decompose within 180 days, but are also embedded with seeds of native flowers and trees, helping to reforest as they cut down on waste.”

Now people can litter to their heart’s content.

Is a seed bomb coffee cup the Greatest Idea Ever?

It’s long been suspected that human illnesses give off an odor, one that can be detected by some cats and dogs.  Training our pets to be on the lookout for these early warning signs so that they could alert us to them is a great idea.  It’s also an expensive endeavor that’s far from full proof and leaves much to be desired when you consider one very key point: not everyone has a pet.  A better, more efficient method would be to create a technological solution.  One that would enable us to detect illnesses when they first form without having to lift a finger.  Thankfully, that approach may soon be a reality thanks to a newly created Digital Nose.

So how does this amazing new technology work?

According to CNN, “The sensor, which is no bigger than a dime, works by creating a spectrum of what chemicals are in the air. It then identifies each chemical’s unique make-up. If the sensor is set and calibrated to a certain level, it will trigger an alarm.”

So how does this tie in with food?  It is food week after all.  Well, as any good chef knows, our sense of smell is a huge part of our ability to cook.  Without it we wouldn’t know if foods are still fresh or when our meals are ready to eat.  Therefore, digitally enhancing that sense could be very useful in the kitchen.  Which is exactly what the Digital Nose could wind up doing.

As CNN explains, “Eventually the sensor could become a part of many everyday appliances, alerting consumers to which foods are going bad in the fridge or even the optimum moment to take the roast out of the oven.”

As this technology continues to improve and the senor continues to shrink I could see it getting incorporated into an already existing technology such as a smart phone or smart watch so that you don’t have to worry about carrying around a separate digital nose in your back pocket.  Because the last question you want to get on a first date is someone asking you why you’re carrying around an extra nose.

Is a Digital Nose the Greatest Idea Ever?

If you’re ever bored, and I mean, really, really, really bored do a Google search for “Craig watching popcorn pop”.  It’s a video that a former roommate of mine filmed and it depicts pretty much what the title indicates.   Three minutes of me starring at the microwave.  It’s downright riveting if you ask me.  Completely absurd if you ask anyone else.

The reason why I bring this up is because soon the entire internet may be flooded with similar videos of people starring at their microwaves.  For we may be on the verge of getting predator style heat map microwaves that don’t just count down to when your food is ready but also show you what’s really going on beneath the surface.  It’s sure to be the coolest thing to happen to the kitchen since the advent of the turkey baster.

As CNET reports, “The microwave is too often a chamber of mystery. You throw something cold inside, take a guess at the amount of time it will take to warm it up to the perfect temperature, press “start” and hope for the best. The process then usually involves a lot of poking, stirring and restarts.”

All that’s about to change though thanks to inventor Mark Rober, a former NASA engineer.  Thanks to his new invention we’ll soon have a process capable of knowing exactly when food is ready to come out of the microwave based on its temperature.  No more blind guesses.  And more importantly no more hovering over the microwave watching your food like a hawk while worrying if the radiation from the microwave is giving you cancer.

Now if only we could invent a way to clean the microwave automatically after a hot pocket explodes we’ll be all set.

 

Is a Heat Map Microwave the Greatest Idea Ever?

Currently if you want to tell if a piece of food has spoiled before you eat it you give it the old smell test.  But what if you wanted to test something that seemingly appears to be edible but really isn’t?  You know, the kind of thing that might lead to an unsuspecting person winding up with food poisoning.  What recourse do you have?  Right now, nothing.  But, in the near future we may have a gadget capable of conducting a quick diagnosis test that will indicate whether or not a piece of food is safe.  In essence, a food safety device that works as quickly as a home pregnancy test.  One line means it’s safe.  Two lines means it’s not.

Created by a startup known as Invisible Sentinel, this new food safety device may not be practical for most consumers to use but it would be real game changer for food manufacturers as it will significantly cut down on the amount of food that goes to waste while waiting for current testing methods to clear items.  It will also decrease the chances of ever needing to utilize a food recall considering how accurate it is.

As Fast Company describes, “That accuracy could also help prevent even more food waste—if there’s a false food safety scare, food often ends up in the trash.  In 2008, there was a warning of salmonella in tomatoes that later turned out to be false. So many people stopped buying tomatoes that 32% of the total crop in the U.S. went unharvested.”

With this new device food will never go to waste on that grand a scale ever again.  Considering the challenges we’re going to be facing in the future to feed the billions of people on this planet that’s a pretty significant development.

According to Fast Company the device is already in use, “with a wide range of foods, including meat, vegetables, and even candy.”

But that’s not all.  “It can also be used for different applications, like testing the quality of beer or wine…”

Having the ability to test the quality of alcoholic beverages is something that actually might come in handy.  Just the other day a friend of mine and his buddies all got hammered from a pitcher of Heineken without even drinking enough get buzzed.  Obviously the beer was watered down or mixed with something else or spiked with something in a ploy by the bar to turn a profit through false advertising and impaired judgments.  If that beer could have been tested first perhaps that would have never happened.

So, welcome to the future of food.  Where everyone, not just extremely picky eaters, inspects everything before it goes in their mouth.  This may not something like an exciting version of the future but, hey, if it cuts down on food poisoning, ends food recalls, and prevents people from getting sick from drinking beer then it’ll definitely be worth it.

Is a food safety device that works like a pregnancy test the Greatest Idea Ever?

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