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Archive for April, 2014

#468 – Mellow

You just couldn’t help yourself.  Against your better judgment you stayed up late last night to watch Game of Thrones on HBO.  Of course you knew what the consequences were going to be.  Another sleepless night spent half awake, half asleep thinking about/dreaming of, all the latest twists and turns in the Seven Kingdoms.  The last thing that you want to do right now is cook dinner for yourself.  Wouldn’t it be great then if you had a helper in the kitchen that could do all the heavy lifting for you so that by the time you got home from work you had a perfectly cooked, nutritious meal waiting for you?  Of course it would be and I know just the thing.  No, I’m not talking about a significant other.  I’m talking about Mellow, a new sous-vide enabled gadget that is going to revolutionize the kitchen!

For the uninitiated sous-vide is, according to Gizmag, “a cooking method in which food is sealed in airtight bags and heated gently in a water bath. Sous-vide is well-regarded for its ability to cook food with precision, with exact temperature control meaning over- or under-cooking meals is virtually impossible. Benefits to sous-vide cooking include the retention of nutrients, the lack of added oils and fats, and the reduced electricity usage required.”

Slashgear adds, Sous-vide cooking isn’t new, but Mellow aims to make it mainstream with its eponymous “kitchen robot”, a smart appliance that can not only cook but cool, and all controlled from your smartphone.”

That’s right.  Mellow isn’t just another appliance.  It’s a game-changing, technical tour de force that will have the kind of profound impact on the way we eat that hasn’t been seen since the advent of the microwave.  Don’t believe me?  Well just check out some of the amazing features of this device:

  • Water can be cooled as well as heated meaning that you can keep food at refrigerator temperature for hours or even days prior to cooking.
  • You can specify the exact time that you want Mellow to start cooking allowing for a perfectly cooked meal to great you upon returning home from work.
  • You can make changes at any time with a smart phone app meaning that you can delay when the food is cooked if you are running late.
  • That app even provides real time updates so that you can check in on how your food is cooking even when you aren’t home.
  • The device will learn your preferences over time and adjust to your own unique style.
  • You can use it to make up to six portions which means that hosting a dinner party is a snap.
  • It requires virtually no cleaning and doesn’t require a vacuum sealer.

If you still don’t believe me that this is the greatest thing ever check out the video below:

As you can see this device is really going to have a major impact on the way we live our lives saving us time, helping us manage our busy schedules, and enabling us to make healthier choices.  I could argue, in fact, that this may be the best device to ever make it’s way into our homes.  Better than the refrigerator.  Better than the TV.  Better than the inevitable 3-d printers that we all will soon have.  For when it comes to impacting our lives in a meaningful way, enhancing them, improving upon them, elevating them to another level, nothing else comes close.

I know that’s high praise for a device that I’ve never even used and that you can’t even buy yet but that’s how strongly I believe in the concept.  I truly think that we’re looking at something that is going to having a major impact on how we live.  It’s not everyday that you get to say that and really mean it.

 Is a phone controlled sous-vide device the Greatest Idea Ever?

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

1.  FDA Breakthroughs

Up first we have an article from the Washington Post that highlights some recent achievements credited to the FDA including, “a new type of flour made of chardonnay grape seeds (that) may prevent weight gain and high cholesterol” and an “antimicrobial vapor to keep fruit from spoiling”.  Amazing!

Make sure to check out the article to find out all of the other great ideas from the FDA in 2013.

 

2.  Gecko Adhesives

Scotch tape has met its match thanks to a new adhesive that takes after the properties of the Gecko.

According to Dvice, “Geckos have an amazing ability to stick to and climb just about any type of surface, so if you want to make better adhesives, it makes sense to figure out what they do that makes them so sticky. Researchers from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have been trying to reverse engineer gecko feet for a few years, but now they have come up with an entirely new way to leverage the way geckos can stick to even the smoothest surfaces.  This material called Geckskin uses soft elastomers combined with ultra-stiff fabrics such as glass fiber and carbon fiber to mimic the gecko’s draping adhesion capabilities.”

3.  A Self Cleaning Car

Having a car is great except for when you’re looking for parking, stuck in traffic, dealing with the aftermath of a fender bender, paying for gas, or cleaning it.  Which is why a self-cleaning car is so appealing as it provides car owners with one less thing to worry about.

According to Dvice, “Nissan’s self-cleaning car doesn’t use little robotic arms or anything of the sort to clean up your car.  The magic is actually kind of invisible to the naked eye.  By applying Ultra-Ever Dry, a special super super-hydrophobic and oleophobic coating developed by UltraTech International, to a car, Nissan was able to repel rain, frost, sleet, spray, and standing water.”

4.  Indoor Blue Skies

If you live in the Northern part of the United States it’s probably been a while since you last saw a clear blue sky.  Wouldn’t it be great then if you could artificially create light indoors to help improve your mood and combat seasonal affective disorder?  Well, now you can thanks to titanium dioxide nanoparticles.

According to Gizmodo, “Skylights are so 1986. Now it doesn’t matter if the weather outside is dark and dreary, or even if it’s midnight, for that matter: Thanks to this LED panel which replicates cloudless skies, you’ll feel like you’re bathed in warm sunshine.”

The article goes on to add that there would be plenty of additional benefits as well such as windowless restaurants that could offer outdoor seating, shady apartments that would jump in value, and cities that would have the ability to build parks anywhere even underground.  

Now that’s something worth getting excited about even if it is still freezing outside in late April.

Nanoparticle Panels Will Bring Blue Skies Indoors

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It’s no secret that I have a man crush on Graphene, the do it all wonder material that could soon revolutionize multiple industries including consumer electronics where it would be used to create extremely durable, lightweight, flexible devices that last up to a week on a single charge.   My personal obsession aside it appears as though scientists have actually started to make several key breakthroughs that could take this material from hypothetical savior to real world game changer.  Here’s a look at a few of those recent breakthroughs starting with transparent devices i.e. tablets and phones that you can see through!

While these gadgets may seem like something out of a science fiction novel they could soon become a reality thanks to a new breakthrough that uses graphene to create memory modules that allow 80% of visible light rays to pass through it.  According to Android Authority, “This isn’t just a really early in theory development either, the memory has been put through over 100,000 tests and can store information for at least 100,000 seconds in high-temperature environments of 85oC. So confident is the team in its discovery that it expects its research to be used as the core technology in future large storage capacity devices, such as notebook computers, smartphones, and tablets.”

As great as that is it’s not the only great news about Graphene as there has also been a major breakthrough regarding its use in ultracapacitors.  I’ll let Maine News explain: “Using two one-atom-thick materials, scientists have created a high-functioning yet cheap ultracapacitor. The creation of the ultracapacitor was made possible after mixing graphene flakes with single-walled carbon nanotubes. This groundbreaking device is actually an energy storage device well capable of creating surges by rapidly releasing the power.  The ultracapacitors can play a significant role in boosting devices like electric vehicles, handled electronics, audio systems and more.”

With all due respect to transparent devices and ultracapacitors the best graphene related news of all is the recent discovery that it can be made using a kitchen blender just by adding water and standard dishwasher detergent!  According to the Los Angeles Times, “Scientists have found that they can create high-quality graphene sheets using a kitchen blender and ordinary dishwasher detergent. The findings, published in the journal Nature Materials, outline a fresh way to create large amounts of this remarkable material – which could speed up the process toward putting them into future computers, smart coatings and solar cells.”

All of these breakthroughs and the countless others that I haven’t covered here point to an amazing future that we’re soon going to be living in thanks to the incredible properties of Graphene.  Which begs the question: what else can it be used for?!!?!

Transparent devices like this one may be possible in the future thanks to Graphene.

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I had always just assumed that the best thing to ever come out of Israel was going to be Natalie Portman.  Boy, was I wrong.  As it turns out there are also a lot of amazing new technologies being developed there as part of a growing innovation sector.  Here’s a look at a few of those recent breakthroughs:

Jelly Fish Paper Towels:  When I was a kid, probably about 8 or 9 years old, I was down in Florida hanging out on the beach during a family vacation.  My sister and I were in the ocean when my sister spotted something floating about twenty yards away.  My dad went over to check it out, picked it up, and then freaked out like a six year old girl in a Haunted House.  Horrified my sister and I ran out of the water as fast as we could leaving our dad to fend for himself with whatever horrible sea creature he had encountered.  That was my first experience with Jelly Fish and I’ve hated them ever since.

Thankfully, those disgusting blobs of goo are about to get what’s coming to them as an Israeli company called Cine’al Ltd. has figured out a way to turn them into paper towels and diapers.  As Popular Science explains the, “material can hold several times its weight in water, and unlike the polymers that currently make up absorbent material in diapers and other products, breaks down in about 30 days…”

As the company’s President, Ofer Du-Nour, told the Times of Isreal, “There are too many jellyfish in the sea, and too many Pampers in landfills. Cine’al may have the ultimate answer to both those issues.”

Amen to that.

Water – Gen:  Let’s say you find yourself in the dessert desperate for something to drink.  You’d probably wish you could make water appear out of thin air.  Well, if you had Water-Gen’s portable water generator with you that’s exactly what you could do.  According to Time, “the generator-powered device can produce up to 450 gallons of clean water a day for as little as eight cents a gallon. (It needs about 310 watt-hours of energy to make a liter — just over a quart — of drinking water.)”  

Fast Company reports even more amazing news stating that the company, “has developed three machines–one that turns air moisture into drinking water, one that purifies the dribbles of air-conditioning units, and one that purifies any water source (such as a small stream), even if it’s been poisoned by an enemy.”

For now they are very heavy to transport and are only being used for military applications but we could see a consumer version in a few years.

OrCam:

Imagine if you were visually impaired.  It would obviously be a struggle to make your way through a big city or do most of the things that we take for granted such as ordering food in a restaurant or going grocery shopping.  Now imagine if you could wear a pair of augmented reality glasses that would help you find your way around by verbally describing to you all the things that you encounter.  In fact, imagine a device that could even go one step further and actually read the newspaper to you!

Amazingly, this device actually exists and it’s called OrCam.  As the Verge explains, “The clever part is how you pick what the OrCam reads: you simply reach out with a finger, and place it on top of what you’d like to ‘see.’  A built-in camera recognizes the motion, and the company claims it can also identify hundreds of specific objects beyond text: for instance, it can let you know when a crosswalk sign switches from red to green.”

Amazing.  But here’s the best part: “As with Google’s Glass headset, the audio is piped to a bone conduction speaker so others can’t eavesdrop.”

To find out more check out this amazing video showcasing what OrCam can do:

So what do you think?  Or any of these incredible inventions the Greatest Idea Ever?  Vote below to find out:

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#464 – Shadow

The other day I was walking down the street in Manhattan when I saw Derek Jeter walking out of a picture frame store!!!  Before I could process what I was seeing several other Yankee players came out of the store as well.  I couldn’t believe how incredibly lucky I was to be there at that moment in time.  Figuring that life is short and that no time is better than the present I decided to push my luck and go talk to them.  Turns out that they were about to head downtown to participate in a 5K run to raise money for Jeter’s Turn Two Foundation.  Embolden I asked if I could come with them and much to my surprise they actually said yes!  I figured I would just go watch but once I was there I suddenly felt really motivated and so I decided to run too.  For some reason everyone was going really slow and so I was able to make  my way to the front of the pack.  Eventually, I found myself in the lead with a chance to win the race.  However, all of a sudden the road started sloping uphill and I had to start crawling because the street was so steep.  No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t make any progress.  I could hear people cheering me on, encouraging me to dig deeper, to give it all I had, but it was to no avail.  I couldn’t go any further.

Of course none of that actually happened.  It was all just a dream.  Luckily, it was a rather interesting one with celebrity cameos serving as an interesting parable about what I’m going through in my life right now.  As I consider a career change the implication of having a dream about running in a race by myself that I can’t win is profound.  I could stand to learn a lot about myself by analyzing that dream.  But what if I had struggled to remember that dream?  What if I couldn’t remember it at all?  Would there be implications for my life?  Consequences?  Would I wind up going down the wrong path?  Making a decision that I would come to regret?  It’s hard to say but it’s certainly possible.  Wouldn’t it be great then if there was a way to make sure that we could always remember our dreams?  Thankfully, there’s an app for that.

Known as Shadow this app serves as an alarm clock that slowly wakes you up to help you ease out of your slumber thereby giving you a greater chance of remembering your dreams.

Here’s how it works according to Forbes: “You tell SHADOW what time you want to wake up, and set the alarm when you go to bed. It then uses a series of escalating alarms to wake you up. The gradual increase in volume helps you better remember your dreams by taking you through your hypnopompic state (the transition from asleep to awake) much more slowly than a standard alarm clock. Once you deactivate the alarm, you’re immediately prompted to record what you remember, by speaking directly into the app or typing it out. All of the data you upload is stored in your private dream journal, and SHADOW analyzes and visualizes your long-term dream patterns to help you better understand your dreaming self. SHADOW then pulls keywords from your dream and the rest of the dreaming community and adds them to a giant anonymous data cloud that users can review and compare with their own patterns.”

In other words this app is using the data inputted by users to create a database of dreams that we can use to better understand ourselves.

As Wired explains, “On a deeper level, Shadow is hoping to use the dream data you input to bolster the quantified-self movement. Apps and devices like Fitbit and Nike Plus already allow us to keep detailed notes on our physiological self. We can monitor our heart rate, calories burned, and how much sleep we get each night, but we have little understanding of how it connects to the bigger picture of ‘self.’  ‘We want to be the next level, which is this whole psychological layer,’ Soik explains. ‘We want to say, what does this data mean to me? If I walk 10,000 steps, do I fall asleep 5 percent faster, do I have more positive dreams?’  The Shadow team calls this the Understood Self, which is basically a way to corral all the data you gather on yourself and give it context and meaning.”

What I find to be even more interesting than all that is the potential to use this vast, worldwide database of dreams to gain insights about how humanity dreams.  Do people in one part of the world dream about different things than people in another part of the world?  Do people of different races or different nationalities dream about different things?  Or as co-founder Jason Carvalho ponders in an article for Wired UK ”Do celebrities really dream differently than the rest of us?’

All are profound questions and all are ones that I hope we get the chance to answer one day.  Until then check out this amazing, inspirational video to find out more about Shadow:

Is a database of dreams the Greatest Idea Ever?

 

 

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#463 – WikiScout

I’ve written in the past about Wikistrat, a crowd sourced geo-political consultancy, and more recently, Tongal, a crowd sourced platform for coming up with ideas for marketing campaigns.  My fascination with crowd sourcing is simple.  It’s awesome!!!  Which is why I wanted to see if I could come up with an idea for a crowd sourcing platform for something that has not yet taken advantage of the wisdom of crowds but which could really benefit from doing so.  As it turns out I know just the thing: sports.

If you think about it professional sports are tailor made for crowd sourcing.  They already employ a network of people, known as scouts, that they rely upon for insights.  However, with limited time and resources it’s hard for those scouts to see every player and in turn it’s hard for the organizations that employ them to get a complete picture of every player that is available in the draft.  Wouldn’t it be great then if those organization could rely on the opinions of hundreds or even thousands of people instead of just a handful?

The key becomes whether or not you can trust the opinion of total strangers from all walks of life who wouldn’t have had any formal training as a scout.  I believe that you could.  Fans today are smarter than they were even just ten years ago.  We’re no longer slaves to the basic statistics provided by TV broadcasts.  Thanks to the internet, the popularity of Money Ball and the advancement of sabermetrics most fans, even casual fans, are now intimately aware of the more sophisticated metrics that teams are utilizing nowadays.

Take me for example.  I’m a pretty big baseball fan.  I’m in several fantasy baseball leagues and I’ve started a tradition of going to Spring Training every year.  I could probably file a pretty accurate report on a player that I’m watching in person or even on TV.  I may not know a whole lot about a pitcher’s arm angle or a hitter’s swing path but it’s fairly obvious to me which players have potential and which are over matched.  Couldn’t my broad insights be useful to a professional team?  Especially if those insights are coming at a high school or college game that they’re aren’t sending their own scouts to cover?

Baseball aside just think about how useful this could be to other sports like baseball and football that don’t have the traditional scouting budgets that baseball teams do.  Front office executives in these sports rely on video clips and what they see at scouting combines.  Wouldn’t it make sense for them then to also take in consideration what thousands of amateur scouts see from attending games in person?  Sure these “scouts” would consist of parents, teachers, and school administrators some of whom may be biased.  But it also would consist of hundreds if not thousands of fans, like you and me, that would be objective.  And with that many people filing reports it would be easy to get an accurate picture of who the majority of people think are the best players.

The best part about a crowd sourced scouting platform like WikiScout is that it could translate to other industries as well.  Take music for example.  Wouldn’t it make sense for the music labels to listen to thousands of fans who are giving their recommendation on who is about to blow up instead of relying on just a few people to make that determination for the many?  After all, if thousands of people are all raving about the same band then they’re probably on to something.  Perhaps the wisdom of the crowd could even be applied to the stock market as it relates to noticing trends and identifying promising stocks on the rise.

In order for this concept to take off though it would be important to provide incentives to the crowd.  The way to do that would be to create a gamification engine.  The more you scout and the more detailed your reports are the more points you earn.  Points could then be redeemed for prizes such as tickets to games or concerts and merchandise that are provided by the organizations and companies reaping the benefits from the wisdom of the crowd.   It’s kind of like scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.  Everyone wins.

All in all, I really believe that a crowd sourced approach to scouting amateur and professional athletes could really catch on.  Fans would pay attention more and form a deeper connection to the game they love while helping the on field product improve.  Teams would save money and have a built in excuse when the team struggles as they could shrug their shoulders and say don’t blame us all of you thought that player was going to be good too.  It’s the best of both worlds.

When it comes to scouting baseball players who would you rather trust?  These guys?  Or the wisdom of thousands of fans?

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Here’s a look at some of the great ideas from around the world that caught my eye this past week:

1.  KiteString

From the why didn’t I think of that first department comes a new app that makes sure you got home okay.

As TechCrunch explains, “Rather than asking your mom, bestie, or significant other to stay on the phone with you while you walk down a sketchy street at night, you can use Kitestring. You punch in your emergency contacts, let it know when you’re somewhere dangerous, and Kitestring will text you a little later to see if you’re okay. If you don’t respond, it alerts your loved ones that something may be wrong.”

If I was in a really sketchy area by myself I’d probably still want to talk to someone on the phone so that they can put me at ease or just distract me from having to think about all of shady people eyeing me down.  But if that’s not an option then at least having an app that knows where you are and can alert others is probably the next best thing.

Kitestring

2.  Food Sniffer

We’ve all been there.  Holding a piece of meat that we just bought at the grocery store the day before wondering if it’s okay to eat.  Soon we won’t have to rely on our noses and gut instincts to figure it out.  Soon we’ll have an accessory that can help us out.

According to Dvice, “A small handheld sniffer samples the air around the meat, measuring the levels of volatile organic compounds and ammonia along with the temperature and humidity, then transmits the data to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. Once analyzed, an app tells you whether the food is fresh, still okay but should be eaten straight away, or only fit for the trash can.”

3.  The Osteoid

This 3-D printed cast uses ultrasound to heal broken bones.  According to the Verge, “Low intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS ) systems have already been found to promote bone fracture healing and can reportedly increase healing rate in non-union break by 80 percent.”

Why couldn’t they have had this when I broke my ankle!!

4.  Concrete Eating Robot

I work right by Ground Zero so everyday I have to deal with the sound of annoying jackhammers and concrete destroying drills.  Thankfully, that’s a fate that others may not have to endure in the future thanks to a new concrete eating robot!

As Discovery explains, “Building demolition demands a lot of heavy machinery to crush concrete and separate valuable materials for reuse. Often, those materials are transferred to offsite locations, which wastes time and resources. The process also wastes a lot of water in order to prevent harmful dust clouds from blooming. However, a Swedish student’s concrete-eating robot aims to change all that.”

 

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