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Archive for November, 2013

Last year on this blog, I started what I hoped would become a tradition: a post wherein I gave thanks to a ground breaking idea that I had not yet written about.  That lead me to writing about 3-D printing as I paid homage to the fact that my nephew’s creativity would know no bounds allowing him and his generation to ignore their smart phones and, “become makers of things not slaves to something that rings.”

This year there are an abundance of topics that I could write about but since there is so much happening right now I thought it would be a better idea to write about a few of the amazing breakthroughs and noteworthy discoveries currently making headlines.  As promised these are all things that I have not yet written about.

Without further adieu I’m thankful for…

  • Newly invented self healing batteries that can last up to ten times longer than traditional batteries enabling us to play Candy Crush Saga for hours on end.
  • The fact that Google {X} is allegedly working on a way to communicate with Dolphins.
  • The Chemputer that may be able to print out any drug for us from within our own homes.
  • The apparent ability of the humble microwave to charge our phones. (No this does not mean that you should go put your phone in quick defrost mode now to try it out)
  • The audacity of Elon Musk for continuing to dream big with his audacious plan for an electric airplane that takes off and lands vertically.
  • Incredible new inventions that come out on a seemingly daily basis constantly amazing me such as a new liquid metal that will let you print circuits on to almost anything.
  • Incredible new scientific discoveries that come out on a seemingly daily basis constantly amazing me such as the revelation that mushrooms can change the weather.

 What great new idea are you thankful for this year?

I’m thankful for the fact that we may soon be able to talk to Dolphins!

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#353 – Morph

It’s a Sunday night.  After a week of fun in the sun at a resort in Cancun you drag your sun-burnt, hung-over, dehydrated body to the airport in order to catch a late evening flight that’ll get you home way past your bed time.  Suffering from a migraine you know it’ll be a long flight since you won’t have the energy to focus on reading your book.  Ideally you’d watch a few episodes of Breaking Bad on your iPAD but the battery is dangerously low and in your drunken stupor the night before you forgot to charge it.  In addition, the flight is sold out, there is a screaming baby in the third row, and the lady in front of you just got the last bag of peanuts.

All you want to do is spread out a little bit and rest your eyes but you can’t because of the massive pile of humanity in the seat next to you.  Of course you’d be the unlucky sole that gets stuck next to the guy who just submitted his audition tape for the next season of the Biggest Loser.  You’re tempted to try to flirt with the Wildebeest in 15D just so that you can try to spend the duration of the flight in the lavatory joining the Mile High Club but you decide against it and slink further into your seat.

Fortunately, the flight from hell may soon be a thing of the past thanks to Morph, a new design concept that could enable flights to come equipped with adjustable seats.  This means that an airline could charge for seating based on the amount of space that someone takes up or allow a family of three to take up a row with more space going to the parents than to the kid.

As the Verge says, “When flying, all our needs are different. Some may not mind taking a small seat to save money, while others may wish to take a larger seat to work through a long flight. Airlines currently can’t offer such flexibility to their passengers. Morph could provide the opportunity for operators to maximize their profits, and, more importantly to most, give passengers greater control over their journey.”

For some the future can’t come soon enough.

Will adjustable airline seats be the new normal in the future?

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#352 – Graphene Condoms

I’ve been extolling the virtues of graphene ever since I first started this blog but despite my best efforts this world changing super material has failed to live up to its vast promise.  The reason why?  The lack of a so-called killer app that would force the issue, expediting its mainstream acceptance and leading to it being used in a wide array of industries.

I thought that the recent news of graphene based Supercapacitors that could power electric cars might get the job done but just in case that doesn’t work out it’s always good to have a back up plan.  In this case, as irony would have it, that back up plan involves the one thing that must always work: condoms.

That’s because the University of Manchester has set out to design a condom that would be comprised from a new nano-material containing both graphene and latex.  Utilizing graphene to make a condom may seem weird at first glance but it really is a great idea the more you think about it as a graphene based condom would be super strong and ultra thin.  That means that not only would you have a safer condom you’d also have a more pleasurable one.   In addition, since graphene is also a good conductor of heat there could be an added advantage of being able to feel the exchange of body heat.

The craziest part about all this is that its all thanks to Bill Gates of all people.  That’s because his foundation recently put out a call to arms for a new condom, “that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure, in order to improve uptake and regular use.”  When you consider how many people use Microsoft products to watch porn or search for loved ones and its safe to say that Bill Gates has now inadvertently helped more people have sex than anyone else since Hugh Hefner.  Pretty good for a nerd.

In the future sex may be safer and more pleasurable and it’ll be thanks to this man of all people.

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#351 – SmartWig

From the “Why Didn’t I Think Of That” department comes the SmartWig, the latest in a long line of wearable devices that promises to change our lives for the better.  Designed by Sony this hair piece comes fully loaded with a whole bevy of functionality enabling wearers to communicate remotely with their phones or in the case of blind people feel vibrations that would help them navigate their surroundings.  In that regard it’ll be like wearing a pair of Vibrating Shoes on your head.

So what else can it do other than make us look like colossal douchebags?  According to Engadget this SmartWig would come along with a hidden circuit board that could, “talk to a “second computing device” wirelessly — such as a phone or even a pair of smartglasses — and actuators embedded in the hairpiece could “provide tactile feedback to the user.” In other words, the wig could vibrate when you receive emails and the like. The wig-chip could also include GPS and an ultrasound transducer, with different regions buzzing to give navigation cues. If all that doesn’t sound ludicrous enough, how about an integrated camera? Or, get this, a laser pointer.”  The article goes on to add that it could also be used as an aide when giving presentations allowing users to change slides simply by touching their side burns.

The reason why I like this idea so much is due to its creativity as this is the first time that I’ve heard of anyone trying to enhance a pile of horse hair.  All of the other tech firms have been focusing their attention on enhancing glasses, watches, bracelets and the like so kudos to Sony for thinking outside the box.  Even if it is doubtful that anyone would ever want to wear one of these things.

Sony's SmartWig patent is a real head-scratcher

Would anyone ever wear a SmartWig?

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#350 – FASTO

It’s a Wednesday night.  After a long day at the office you blow off your Zumba class and head straight home save for one quick stop to pick up some Chinese food.  You only had a stupid salad for lunch so you decide to go all out and order enough food to feed a family of Sumo wrestlers for a week.  Worse case scenario you have some food left over to bring to work the next day.  Best case scenario you have some food left over to bring to work the next day.  

Upon arriving at your humble abode you dig into your feast devouring the pint of Chicken with Broccoli with the ferocity of a Lion digging into the carcass of a Gazelle.  After eating about 27 spare ribs and 19 egg rolls you start to feel it.  That feeling of uneasiness that comes along with the realization that you’ve just over ate.  A feeling that you wish you would have felt about ten minutes and five dumplings ago.  

That’s the problem with food.  By the time we realize that we’re full it’s too late.  The damage is already done.  We’ve already over eaten.  Already over indulged because our taste buds and our ravenous appetites overrode common sense and our long term memory capabilities.  Wouldn’t it be great then if there was a way that we could link our bodies up to a sensor that tells us exactly when we’re full even if our brains haven’t figured it out yet? 

Considering all of the latest developments in wearable teach from the Nike+ Fuelband to smart watches that monitor our health surely it must be possible to create a device, say something that would clip onto a belt that would monitor our digestive track and tell us when to stop eating.  How exactly would it do this?  Well, I’m no doctor but I assume that there may be a process occurring within the body during digestion that would give away clues as to when the body has had enough.  For example, maybe there could be a way to track the release of digestive enzymes within the stomach acting on the assumption that the amount of enzymes getting released is directly proportional to the amount of food being eaten.  When someone reaches their breaking point i.e. the number of enzymes that a person of their age, height, and weight would need to digest the recommended amount of food for that meal an alert is issued to the device.    

The best part about all this is that I’ve already come up with the perfect name: FASTO (Fast Acting System to Stop Obesity).  I can even envision the inevitable advertising campaign: FASTO for Fatsos.  So what are we waiting for?  Let’s make this happen!!!  

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go eat a bag of licorice nibs until I feel like throwing up.

Over eating may soon be a thing of the past thanks to my FASTO wearable device.

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#349 – Book Updates

Well that didn’t take long.  Just days after I released my Year in Review book, “The 50* Greatest Ideas of 2013*”, several of the ideas that I highlighted in my Top Ten section are back in the news again.  

We’ll start with arguably the biggest trend of the year, 3-D printing.  In the book I discussed the fact that everything from a pizza to a metallic gun and a functional pair of Google Glasses could now be printed.  As amazing as all that is though it pales in comparison to the fact that a human face is about to printed.  This amazing procedure, thought to be the first of its kind, was designed to help reconstruct the face of a man who was severely injured in a motorcycle accident. 

According to the British paper the Daily Mail, “The operation will involve breaking and cutting several facial bones once again, but the 3D printing process will also produce guide devices allowing the surgeons to reposition bones with pinpoint accuracy.  Mr Sugar said: ‘We have a good chance of correcting 70 to 80 per cent of the deformity and we will make this man look a lot better.’  The work is considered so groundbreaking and radical it already features in an exhibition at London ’s Science Museum, even before the operation itself has been carried out.” 

This image shows how a biker's face is to be reconstructed after it was damaged in a road accident

One of the other ideas that I spotlighted was I.B.M’s super-computer Watson which you may remember from its cameo on Jeopardy when it defeated record setting champion Ken Jennings in the ultimate battle of man vs. machine.  Since then Watson has been putting its ability to process vast quantities of information and answer questions posed in natural language to far better use: becoming the world’ ultimate second opinion when it comes to healthcare issues.  

In my book I predicted that eventually I.B.M. would look to expand Watson’s capabilities so that other industries could get in on the fun as well.  Apparently, that expansion is set to happen as word came out the other day that they are moving on to Phase Two of their initiative and giving developers a shot at seeing what other novel uses can be dreamt up for it.     

The purpose behind this strategic move according to Mike Rhodin, senior vice president of IBM’s software solutions group is to “to make Watson the operating system of the cognitive era”.  A sentiment echoed by chief technology officer Rob High in an article from the Verge as he says, “We believe that this is such a significant development in the future of computing that we want other people involved in it…We want to let other partners to have a much deeper say in how cognitive computing evolves.” 

Meanwhile, Bitcoins made headlines once again as their value fluctuated wildly over the last few days going all the way from $500 to $900 and back again in just 24 hours.  An article on CNN summed it up best, “As investors, technophiles and lawmakers debated the legitimacy of Bitcoin, one thing’s for sure: the fledgling digital currency is on the roller coaster ride of a lifetime.”  In other words I was spot on when I downgraded Bitcoin’s score due to this very volatility that I feared would scare people away from trusting it.  (See chart below from CNN)

bitcoin prices 111813

Lastly, the surprise entry into my Top Ten, Aereo, also made headlines this week following news of a lawsuit from Major League Baseball and the National Football League.  Those two behemoths are pissed off that their network licensing deals are losing value and they are threatening to take all of their games to cable.  Just like I forecast in my book this issue is about to reaching a breaking point and the end result could be a boon to cord cutters.  

To find out more about these ideas and to see what else wound up making my Top Ten be sure to check out my book, The 50* Greatest Ideas of 2013* available exclusively on Amazon for just $.99! 

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Last week while on vacation I intended to spend Monday night sitting in my hotel room working on my book.  It seemed like a good idea at the time but that was before the adjacent hotel decided to hold an outdoor concert to celebrate Veteran’s Day.  How selfish of them!!!

In a perfect world though I would have still been able to sit on my balcony with the window open enjoying all of the natural sights and sounds available to me such as the hotel’s sprinkler system while blocking out the sound of 80’s dance music.  Fortunately that perfect world may soon exist thanks to the newly developed Sono Noise Cancelling Dial that blocks out ambient sounds, letting the user pick and choose what sounds to let in.

According to Fast Company, “It works like active noise cancellation technology in some headphones. The Sono takes vibrations from a window pane and reprocesses them, releasing sound back into the room in a less annoying form.”

To see it in action check out this concept video:

Now if you ask me this is definitely one of the Greatest Ideas Ever since it will enable you to block out the sound of car alarms, cats in heat, and elderly Chinese women digging through your garbage can for recyclables.  All of which are things that I’d currently like to block out.  And if this dial could also block out the sound of the annoying greek music that the douchebags that live above me play at all hours of the day then it’ll really be worth its weight in gold.

The Sono noise cancelling dial can’t come soon enough.

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