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#626 – Myris

Here’s another eye related idea for you: using your eye as your password to unlock your computer.  Of course you could just type in your password.  If you remember it.  But where’s the fun in that?!  Wouldn’t it be a lot better, and much cooler, if you could scan your eye to gain access?!  Of course it would be!  And thanks to the newly invented Myris, created by the appropriately named EyeLock, Inc., now we can.

As Recode puts it, “You know all those spy movies where access to secret rooms is controlled by scanning peoples’ eyes to make sure they’re legit? Well, now there’s an accessory for your computer that does pretty much the same thing. It uses the distinctive characteristics of your irises to authenticate your identity in order to log you into websites, apps and even the computer itself.”

They key point to emphasize here is that we’re talking about scanning your iris not your retina which is what was usually happening in those spy movies.

CNET explains the difference:

“Iris scanning, however, focuses on your iris, which is the area at the front of your eye that gives it its color and controls the amount of light hitting the retina. Every person’s iris is unique (even from each other) with 240 individual markers that give it a pattern. The Myris uses an infrared video camera to capture that pattern, save it (it doesn’t save a photo of your eye) and associate it with your identity. According to Eyelock, a thief wouldn’t be able to fool it with a photograph of your eye, and the chance of getting a false match with iris scanning is just 1 in 1.5 million. In contrast, the company says, other biometric technology like fingerprint, voice, and facial scanners have fewer markers to work with. And while DNA may even be more secure, who wants to prick their finger each time they check their bank account?”

Now I know what you’re thinking and yes it is possible that nefarious minded people will probably want to rip your eyes out or kidnap you to access your personal files.  But you’re forgetting one very important factor: just how cool it would be to unlock your computer with your eyes!

That kind of makes it well worth the risk doesn’t it?

Is an iris eye scanner the Greatest Idea Ever?

Unlike my sister who came out of the womb wearing glasses I didn’t need them right away.  A summer spent reading a blurry copy of the Lord of the Rings trilogy changed that.  At first, I didn’t mind wearing glasses.  They made me look sophisticated.  At least that’s what my mom told me.  But that all changed in middle school when I moved to a new town and quickly picked up the nickname “glasses” from stuck up kids who couldn’t even take the time to learn my name.  By the time high school rolled around I was wearing contacts.  Until I almost went blind from not changing them frequently enough.  I’ve thought about getting lasix eye surgery but fear that I’ll be the one person who winds up going blind from the procedure.  Trust me, if it could happen to anybody, it would be me.  And so now I find myself wearing a slightly crooked pair of glasses that broke over three years ago.

Obviously, it’s time for a new pair but I don’t want to commit to buying a new pair if I’m ultimately just going to get lasix anyway.  And I don’t want to commit to getting lasix until I see what happens with Google Glass.  After all, wouldn’t it suck to spend thousands of dollars on corrective eye surgery and then wind up wearing glasses again?

So, what’s a guy to do?!?!

Go back to wearing contacts apparently.  That’s because an international team of researchers is on the verge of creating telescopic contact lenses that could give users eagle eye superhuman vision complete with the ability to zoom in on far away objects! That sure does seem like it would be worth risking going blind for.

As I Fucking Love Science puts it, “Over the past year, we’ve heard about some pretty interesting developments in the world of contact lenses. Scientists have made progress on creating a pair of “smart” lenses for diabetics that are capable of monitoring glucose levels, and Google is even inventing a set with an in-built camera. Now, researchers in Switzerland are working towards bringing us magnifying contact lenses that zoom in and out with a wink.”

If that’s not the coolest thing ever then I don’t know what is.

So how does it work?!?!

According to the Huffington Post, “The 1.17 mm-thick prototype contains two separate optical paths: one for 2.8x magnified vision and one for regular vision. Wearers will be able see normally through the central region, while selective blocking makes it possible for the user to switch between the two types of view.  Thus, the user can effectively zoom in and out.”

This technology is primarily being designed to help people who suffer from AMD (age-related macular degeneration).  However, there’s nothing to prevent a seemingly healthy person from reaping the benefits.

Which means that some day soon you’ll actually be able to read the fine print!  Or spy on your neighbors!  Or check out a girl from across a crowded bar!  Or any other number of cool/slightly creepy things!

Google Glass is out.  Futuristic telescopic contact lenses are in!

The telescopic contact lens, in action

Is a telescopic contact lense the Greatest Idea Ever?

While I was traveling to the Grand Canyon a few weeks ago one of my friends asked me to name the Seven Wonders of the World.  The only ones I could come up with were the Grand Canyon, the Great Pyramids, and the Taj Mahal.

I was right about the Great Pyramids, they were one of the Original Seven Wonders of the World.  But the Grand Canyon doesn’t qualify unless you’re counting the Natural Wonders of the World.  And as far as the Taj Mahal is concerned?  Well, I was way off on that one.

As it turns out there’s three lists of wonders to keep track of: the Original Seven Wonders, the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, and the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

Here’s a look at each list:

The Original Seven Wonders of the World

The Colossus of Rhodes
The Great Pyramid of Giza
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The Lighthouse of Alexandria
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

The Seven Wonders of the Modern World

Channel Tunnel
CN Tower
Empire State Building
Golden Gate Bridge
Itaipu Dam
Netherlands North Sea Protection Works
Panama Canal

The Seven Natural Wonders of the World

Grand Canyon
The Great Barrier Reef
The Harbor at Rio de Janeiro
Mt. Everest
Northern Lights
Paricutin Volcano
Victoria Falls

At first I felt bad that I didn’t know what the Wonders of the World were.  I thought that maybe this is the kind of thing that I should know.  Just another example of my public school upbringing failing me.  But then I realized that there’s a perfectly good reason for my ineptitude: these wonders have no bearing on my everyday life.  There’s no reason why I should be familiar with them.  I could read the newspaper everyday for a year and probably never see a single reference to any of them outside of the occasional story about a hiker on Mt. Everest who died in an avalanche.  The Paricutin Volacno?  I don’t even know where that is.

There is, however, a list of wonders that I think I should know.  A list that I think we should all be familiar with.  A list that actually does have a profound impact on our day to day lives and that’s the list of the Seven Technological Wonders of the World.

The wonders on this list could be any number of things from sites of great scientific or historical import to the current location of scientific instruments that are instrumental towards the advancement of our knowledge.  The Large Hadron Collider immediately comes to mind.  So too does the garage where Apple got its start.

The purpose of putting together a list of these technological wonders wouldn’t just be to drive tourism to these sites.  Rather it would be to celebrate their importance.  To raise their profile.  To get people consciously thinking about science and innovation on a daily basis.  To ingrain the importance of such concepts into people’s minds.  To hype them up sufficiently.

This list could even be fluid, changing as new inventions and innovations come along.  For now though a preliminary list will do.  Here are the leading options I’ve come up with so far:

  • The Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland
  • The ITER cold fusion reactor site in France
  • The M.I.T. Media Lab in Boston
  • Spaceport America in New Mexico
  • The garage where Apple got it’s start/Steve Jobs house/Apple’s Spaceship Campus/Google [X] lab – i.e. something having to do with Apple or Google or other major tech companies
  • The site of the World’s fastest supercomputer at the National Supercomputing Center in Guangzhou, China.
  • The soon to be site of the World’s largest telescope in Chile’s Atacama Desert.

As you could see this is a profound list featuring the most scientifically significant sites from around the World.  From artificial intelligence and machine learning to space travel and the search for alien life these are the places that are going to be shaping our future.  Doesn’t it make sense then to celebrate these places?  To refer to them as the Seven Technological Wonders of the World? To pay homage to them?

I sure think so.  Do you?

Shouldn’t the Large Hadron Collider be celebrated as one of the Seven Technological Wonders of the World?  What other technological or scientific wonders should we be celebrating?

 

If you don’t like your nose or your boobs or even your calves there are plastic surgeries that you can undergo to enhance your appearance. But what happens if you don’t like your entire body?  Or what happens if you’re involved in a car accident and suddenly find yourself paralyzed?  Can you just get a whole new one?  Apparently the answer is soon going to be yes.

According to The Guardian, “Sergio Canavero, a doctor in Turin, Italy, has drawn up plans to graft a living person’s head on to a donor body and claims the procedures needed to carry out the operation are not far off.”

Meaning that we may, for the very first time in human history, be technologically advanced enough to not only contemplate such a procedure, but actually successfully pull it off.  How far off we are talking?  Just two years!

Of course there is going to be a tremendous amount of push back regarding this procedure even if it is technologically possible.  The ethical debates are going to be fierce and there’s going to be legitimate concerns about body snatchers stealing the bodies of good looking people to attach to the head of a gangster overlord.  Thankfully my abnormally hairy back makes it extremely unlikely that I’ll ever be the target of such body snatchers.

All this talk about a presumed science fiction premise becoming a reality got me thinking recently.  What other far fetched medical procedures could we soon see?  Here’s a look at a few of the things I’d like to see:

  • A taste bud enhancement surgery to help cure picky eaters
  • The ability to store sleep for future use or to eliminate the need to sleep all together
  • A cure for the common cold
  • A way to prevent hangovers (this is actually in the works)
  • A way to father babies without women involved (this too)
  • Life extension therapies that make it possible to live well past 100
  • Along the same lines of full body transplants, re-animation efforts that can bring someone back to life up to an hour after their time of death
  • Ways to enhance or add senses such as having the ability to see infrared light or learn synesthesia (the ability to see sounds)
  • The ability to precisely add or remove individual hair follicles; no more male pattern baldness and hair in unwanted spots and no more constant grooming
  • A way to prevent the body from feeling pain stemming from inflammation for chronic pain sufferers

Some of those aforementioned fantasies are either already in the works or theoretically possible.  Others are so far fetched that we’ll never see them.  But one thing is for sure: medicine as we know it is about to change.  One way or another.

Is a full body transplant the Greatest Idea Ever?

As the photo blog Humans of New York attests to there are a lot of interesting people out there with something to say.  People from all walks of life with very unique perspectives.

Similarly, I believe that there are a lot of people out there, from all walks of life, who have come up with great ideas that are well worth sharing.  Ideas based on their own unique life experiences and perspectives.  Ideas that could very well change the way we live and make the world a better place.

Samantha Pettit, a recent ASU graduate and aspiring social entrepreneur, has one such idea: an Etsy for the developing world.  Samantha came up with this idea while on a trip to Africa last year when she met with locals who made beautifully, hand crafted items unlike anything she had ever seen state side.  It seemed like such a shame to her that these local merchants didn’t have a way to share their beautiful creations with the rest of the world.

That’s when she came up with the idea for an Etsy for the developing world.  This wouldn’t work exactly the same way as Etsy since the local merchants don’t have internet access and wouldn’t be able to set up their own digital storefronts.  Rather, employees of Samantha’s organization would serve as middlemen and handle all of the logistics, ensuring that the products reach their destination and that the creator gets paid.  This would be a win-win scenario and could help ensure a brighter economic future for people in developing countries.

I recently spoke with Samantha to find out more about this wonderful idea.  Here’s a look at what she had to say:

1.    I love your idea and I love the fact that you came up with it based on real world experience.  Do you think there’s a market for this idea?  Are the people that you met receptive to the idea of selling their wares around the world?

I do think there is a market for this idea. In the age of customization and individuality, I think people are thirsty for ways to be unique and often express their uniqueness through their purchases. Additionally, in a world defined by immediate updates and impacted so strongly by social perceptions, consumers are becoming increasingly more concerned about where their products are coming from and how they are being created. It is no longer simply about the product, but also about the impact (positive or negative) that the creation of that product has on the world.

The people that I met are incredibly receptive to the idea – it actually spurred from a conversation that I had with a man named Noah, in Kenya. They have amazingly crafted, hand-made products that they sell in their local markets for very little money (by American standards). However, they know that these products are worth much more in other countries, especially where they are less commonplace. They have an idea that if they could reach a Western market, they would be profitable, but I don’t think they’re aware of just how extreme the price difference could be.

 2.    Wouldn’t it just be easier to provide internet access to these people like Mark Zuckerberg and the folks over at Google want to do so that they can open their own Etsy stores?  Or do you think they need to form a partnership to achieve their goals?

Well, to be honest, I don’t think that would be easier. I think that an advance like that would make a greater and more lasting impact, but would actually require a lot more time and effort than something like this partnership would. There are so many social and political issues to overcome in order to make that approach work. For instance, there is currently a legal feud going on in Kenya over the rights to provide internet access. There are some groups that want to provide it free for all people, but then others that see the potential for profitability. They latter group does not want to allow anyone to provide it for free, because then why would people pay for their service? Additionally, providing internet access is only one piece of the puzzle. They would also need a device that allows them to utilize the internet, assuming that they have electricity to even keep such a device charged (or have a solar powered device). I think that ventures like those of Zuckerberg and Google definitely have their place, and actually have the potential to make a more significant impact, but they are meeting different needs than this project would.

My goal in this project is to help individuals create sustainable incomes for themselves and their families, and to make that impact now. I have a long-term goal of influencing the political landscape in third-world countries in order to change things on a grander scale, but this project is separate from that goal.

I do not necessarily think that the individuals who would participate in this project need to form a partnership to achieve their goals, but I think it would make it easier for them to do so. Rather than expecting every person in the project to have a camera to take pictures of the items they wish to sell, a computer to use to post the items, internet access to reach a world-wide audience, and the knowledge of world-markets, it would be more efficient for one organization to provide those services for all participants. Additionally, this model would allow for individuals who have the greatest need to participate. It is not the individuals with all of these resources who need the assistance, it is those who have only enough to stay alive and provide for their families that we would seek to help.

 3.    A lot of the Western focus on Africa has been centered on clean water initiatives, micro payments, providing healthcare, and empowering women.  Based on your personal experience what else do you think is needed over there?  

It’s funny that you ask this because my answer is not necessarily in line with the goals of this project. After being in Africa and seeing the impact of the different types of initiatives you mentioned, I realized that you can only do so much within the constraints of an unsuccessful or corrupted government. While I think that all of the work that is being done in Africa to help people is valuable and valiant, I do not think that is the solution. In order to really solve these issues, you have to address the cause, not just remedy the various effects. Therefore, I think that a solution lies in exterminating corruption (easy enough, right?) and implementing a stable government. Not being an expert on the politics of the situation, though, I cannot give much input as to a potential way to achieve this. I am not sure whether it is something that can be done by groups outside of the countries, either. It may need to be something that is done internally. In any case, I hope to continue to increase my understanding of the subject and hopefully make a positive impact in the future.

As I mentioned, that answer is not exactly in line with the goals for this project.  [However], this project will tend to address the effects of the current problems – unemployment, poverty, and limited resources. But I still think that it, along with all the other initiatives currently in progress in Africa, is important for its own reasons.

[All in all], if the key to creating a significant and lasting change lies in the hands of those who live in these countries, then those individuals need to be in a place to do so. Living day-to-day and working simply to survive is not very conducive to achieving political stability. It is a bit of a ‘chicken and the egg’ situation, where major social and political factors need to be addressed in order to improve the general quality of life, but citizens are unable to address the issues because the quality of life is so low. Therefore, projects like the one I am beginning as well as initiatives like the ones you mentioned above, can create the changes on an individual level that are needed to break this vicious cycle. By meeting the immediate needs of citizens (food, water, shelter, safety, and health) we are all aiding them in having the opportunities to then do more – politically, socially, legally, etc.

 4.    Samantha, you’ve described your idea as an Etsy for the developing world.  In your opinion what other websites or tech based services would be ideally suited for implementation in developing countries?  And don’t say Uber!  We’ve heard enough about the Uberification of various industries.  

Haha! Don’t worry, I don’t want to see Uber in more places than I have to.

Along the same lines as my project, I would think something like GoDaddy! may be ideally suited for developing countries. Resources like this provide tools for systems that are already in place. As these countries become increasingly more “on-line,” they will have more access to new channels of communication. Having guidance in how to make these channels work for them could be a significant advantage.

5.    As great as your idea sounds I’m sure there are going to be a lot of logistical concerns and regulatory hurdles that you’ll have to clear before you’re up and running.  What concerns you the most? Do you foresee there being any issues?

Yes- this is the kicker. The biggest concerns I have at this point are whether the costs of shipping the items will be prohibitive to any revenue gains for the creators and whether regulations of the countries will be restrictive to sending the items anyways. I have done some preliminary research on these topics, but have not gained much headway. The answers to these questions will be critical to the success of this project.

6.    Aside from your idea is there a new product or invention that excites you?  What do you think the next big thing is going to be?

In terms of technology, I am into convenience, improvement, and connectivity. If something can make people’s lives easier, improve the way things are done (for people or the environment), or bring people together, then I am all for it.

I know it is not exactly brand new, but the most exciting recent advancement for me was Tesla Motors. I think these great leaps in advancement are what propel each generation of technology.

Additionally, a fun device that glass company, Corning, is striving towards seems pretty awesome.

7.    How does it feel to be interviewed on this blog?!? Is this the greatest thing that’s ever happened to you?!!

Being interviewed at all is a huge honor. I am so happy to share my idea with others and receive feedback from those with significantly more technical knowledge. Improving the world is something I am extremely passionate about, so any opportunity I have to discuss it is always welcomed.

If you’re interested in reading more about my experience in Africa, or contributing to those I met while I was there, feel free to check out my blog from the trip: http://kenyasicklecell.blogspot.com/

Additionally, if you would like to discuss my project or any related ideas or topics, feel free to email me: SamanthaPettit26@gmail.com

Well, there you have it.  An interesting idea from a very interesting person.  Which begs the question: who else has a great idea that’s worth sharing?

IMG_6559

Samantha pictured with villagers from her recent trip.  Would her idea give these kids a more sustainable future?

Here’s a look at everything that tickled my fancy this past week:

1.  Magic 

Earlier this week word broke about a new start up, known as Magic, that promised to bring anything you wanted right to you!

As Tech Crunch reported, “Get sushi on a boat, a tiger at your door, or make your parking ticket vanish into thin air. An ambitious new startup says it will let you text for anything you want (and they do mean anything) as long as it’s legal, and it will magically come to you.”

Personally I’m a little bit skeptical of this concept’s staying power.  It sure does seem like the service would be abused by prank callers.  But consider me intrigued.

2.  Cheering Billboard

Billboards usually try to push something on us.  But now there’s one that aims to push us.  That’s right.  There’s now a motivational billboard that will cheer for you as you run by.  The faster you run the louder the cheering.  If you drive by the billboard nothing will happen.  But run by and something amazing happens.

3.  Tesla Bond Mode

Just when you thought Tesla and Elon Musk couldn’t get any cooler word comes out that the Tesla Model S has a hidden Bond Mode.

As the Verge reports, “A newly discovered easter egg lets you turn your e-car into a Lotus Esprit S1 submersible. Hold the “T” logo, enter “007” into the login, and then adjust your suspension to a depth of 20,000 leagues under the sea…Of course, the setting won’t do anything but evoke gasps of delight from owners and passengers, alike. But really, isn’t that worth it?”

Tesla 007 easter egg

4.  Beehive Honey Traps

I’m not a bear so I don’t eat honey but even I have to admit that a beer tap for honey is a pretty cool idea.

Wired sums it up best:

“Harvesting honey has been a sticky, messy job that’s changed very little from the earliest days of beekeeping. But it’s about to get a whole lot cleaner with the Flow Hive, an ingenious re-engineering of one of nature’s most perfect creations that makes getting that golden nectar as easy as turning on a tap.

Beekeepers Cedar Anderson and his father Stuart have, essentially, hacked the honeycomb—a nearly flawless geometric and structural achievements—to make it more mechanically efficient. In a nutshell,  Flow frames have a partially formed honeycomb matrix within a transparent frame. Bees complete the comb, fill the cells with honey and cap them. To harvest the honey, the beekeeper inserts a tool into the top of each frame and twists, a move that splits each cell in the honeycomb vertically, allowing the honey to flow freely. It is collected at the bottom through a tube. Presto! Honey on tap.”

Father and son team Stuart and Cedar Anderson invented Flow, a way to get honey on tap direct from the beehive

What great ideas will next week bring?

#620 – The New Yo

Runaway llamas!!! An unidentifiable dress!!! One minute you’re the talk of social media.  The next you’re a distant memory.  Just ask Yo, the bare bones “social network”, that took the world by storm last year when it let people say hi or “yo” to one another and did nothing else.  Nothing at all.

The Wall Street Journal summed up the phenomenon pretty well when it said:

“Few apps in history have been as controversial and polarizing as Yo. Many people have called it the world’s dumbest app. It has been satirized on “The Colbert Report,” Stephen Colbert’s Comedy Central show. The first time it was submitted to the app store, Apple rejected it on the grounds that it lacked substance. Yo’s own creators were uneasy enough about being associated with Yo that when they launched it, they didn’t put the name of their software company on it.”

And yet a funny thing happened on the way to obscurity.  Yo reinvented itself.  So much so that it may now be more valuable than Twitter.  That’s right.  An app that started out by only doing one pointless thing may be on the verge of making it big by doing a bunch of really important things.

So what’s changed?  Well, the premise behind Yo is still the same.  It’s still a one dimensional push notification that you’re receiving.  The key difference is that instead of receiving a Yo from your friends you can now sign up to receive them for various entities.  News outlets.  Brands.  Social media sites.

Someone you follow on Instragram just posted a new photo?  Receive a Yo.  Breaking news that affects your fantasy team?  Receive a Yo.  Tracking the performance of a stock?  Receive a Yo when the price reaches a certain point.

What this means is that the way we interact with our phones is about to change.  Instead of drilling down into our phones to open up individual apps we’ll have all the information that’s important to us right at our fingertips, right on our home screens.  It’ll be like Google Now on steroids.  It’ll become what Facebook wanted to be; an always on, in your face take over of your life.  And it’ll be epic.

As Wired puts it, “Fundamentally, a Yo is a notification on your phone, one you likely receive on your lock screen. And it’s an especially instructive example, because it’s about as pure a distillation of a notification as you can get. The word “Yo” appears, along with who sent it.  But swipe it, and the interactivity opens up. See the Funny or Die video. Find out what the Kardashians just did. Find out the current price of Bitcoin. The crucial point here is that you’ve done all of these things, obtained all of this information, without ever going to your home screen and tapping an app. Swipe the notification, and it’s there.”

All of which is to say that Yo, of all things, is about to usher in a new age of communication.  Whose laughing now?

In the Yo store you can subscribe to push notifications from your favorite brands.  Does this mean that notifications are about to replace apps?

 

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