Archive for January, 2016

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

Facebook Upgrades:  One area where Twitter routinely outperforms Facebook is in regards to live sporting events and all of the chatter that they generate among fans who are all enjoying the game at the same time.  Essentially, live tweeting an event is socially accepetable.  Live Facebooking it isn’t.  Facebook wants to change that and become the go to place for live event commenting so they rolled out Sports Stadium, a new portal designed to give sports fans the ultimate second screen experience.

As Re/Code reports:

“The company announced Facebook Sports Stadium late Wednesday night, a section of Facebook where users can go and follow major sporting events with things like player stats and videos and Facebook content from other people following along.

The feature looks a lot like what you’d find inside of ESPN’s or CBS’s mobile app, although the Stadium feature relies almost entirely on Facebook content. One tab has things your Facebook friends are saying about the game; a separate tab is for things that “experts” (verified Facebook users) are saying.”

But that wasn’t the only upgrade Facebook unveiled this week.  They also rolled out a new feature to all U.S. iPhone users giving them the ability to live stream video directly within the app.  Best of all, unlike Periscope, these videos aren’t here for just a limited time.  Rather there is no time limit for how long the content can be viewed.

At first this feature was only available to certain celebrities but it’s being opened up for everyone to enjoy.

As Engadget puts it:

“Livestreaming has been around for several years now, but it wasn’t until the arrival of mobile apps like Meerkat and Periscope that it caught on. Now Facebook has jumped in on the trend too. Yesterday, the Zuckerberg-owned empire expanded its Live Video feature beyond just celebs and verified pages so that everyone on the social network can get in on the bandwagon. It’s only available on iOS for now, though an Android version should soon be on its way.”

Periscope meanwhile upgraded as well as they announced a partnership with GoPro.

As The Verge reports:

“Periscope just took its first steps away from the smartphone. The Twitter-owned live-streaming app announced an integration with GoPro that will let users broadcast to their followers from an action camera for the first time. The integration, which currently works on iOS with the GoPro Hero 4 Black and Hero 4 Silver, allows Periscope to recognize a GoPro whenever one is connected to an iPhone. Once connected, the app gives users the option of broadcasting from the camera.”

Considering the state of both companies teaming up is a smart move that could help both stave off the competition.


Toy Upgrades:  From the “Well It Took Them Long Enough Department” comes two upgrades to iconic toys as Barbie dolls now come in more that just one standard size and LEGO adds a wheelchair accessory to its sets.

As Wired puts it in regards to Barbie:

“Barbie just got a redesign. The iconic doll now comes in four different sizes: petite, tall, curvy, and original. You know the original size—it’s the one that, if Barbie were a life-size human woman, would leave her with a 16-inch waist and an inability to walk on her own two feet. It’s also the size that’s outraged critiques for years, prompting Mattel to make a radical design move. That move was unveiled this morning, in a TIME magazine cover story.”

Meanwhile not everyone was happy with LEGO’s decision to market the new wheelchair accessory with an elderly character.

The Huffington Post explains:

“In the photo on Lego’s site, an elderly figure is featured in the wheelchair. Rebecca Atkinson, co-founder of the Toy Like Me campaign, worries about the message the toy sends to children.

‘We applaud Lego for producing a wheelchair using Duplo figure,’ Atkinson said in a press release. ‘But it’s so disappointing that the only wheelchair using figure across all Lego products is an elderly person being pushed along by a younger figure. What does this say to children about disability?'”

Controversy aside I think these toy upgrades are a step in the right direction and long overdue.  Kind of makes you wonder if there are any other toys out there that are in need of a makeover…

Life Upgrades: News of the DeLorean going back into production can only be classified one way: as a life upgrade!  At least that is if you’re one of the 300 people lucky enough to get in on the first wave of new cars that will be produced starting in 2017.

According to USA Today:

“DeLorean Motor is resurrecting the past with plans to build replicas of the famed car from the Back to the Future movies of the 1980s.

News reports out of Humble, Texas, say the automaker plans to make about 300 replicas of the 1982 DeLorean that has not been in production for 34 years. The company has remained in business by refurbishing old DeLoreans — about 9,000 were originally sold — for enthusiasts.”

To buy one all you’ll need is about $100,000.  But don’t worry.  It’ll be worth it as it’ll come fully equipped with all of today’s modern electronics and amenities.  No word yet though if it’ll come equipped with a Flux Capacitor.

Robot Upgrades:  Some people eagerly await the day that we all have robotic personal assistants that cook and clean for us like Rosie the Robot from The Jetsons.  Others irrationally fear the day that the robots rise up and become our Overlords.

Regardless of how you feel about them it’s clear that robots are here to stay.  So we better start thinking about what’s going to happen to them after they outlive their usefulness.  In other words it’s time to start making more environmentally friendly robot parts.

Popular Science explains:

“Most robots are made of plastic and metal, which are non-biodegradable. But researchers at the the IIT’s Smart Materials Group have developed a way to create a bioplastic out of food waste. This material could eventually be used to make an entirely biodegradable robot.  Athanassia Athanassiou, who leads the Smart Materials Lab at the IIT, says that the bioplastic can be flexible or tough, so it could be used for both robot ‘skin’ and interior robot parts.”

Sadly when it comes to plastic the damage to our environment may have already been done with scientists recently saying that it’s likely that the hardy material will show up in future fossil records.  So the less of it we can leave behind going forward the better.

Are any of these upgrades the Greatest Idea Ever?

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If you’re one of the millions of people effected by last week’s blizzard you’ll love this news: researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have developed a new kind of concrete capable of using electricity to melt snow and ice!  It’s an idea that I came up with years ago and it has a lot of merit even if it will cost a lot more to make than regular concrete.

The Christian Science Monitor explains how it works:

“Steel rods beneath the concrete’s surface connect to electrodes, which connect to a 120-volt AC power source. Carbon byproducts from coal mining and steel shavings from industrial waste make up only 20 percent of the otherwise typical concrete mixture, but the conductivity is strong enough to clear the surface.”  

Better yet, this new concrete removes the need for the usual environment damaging salt and de-icing chemicals which can corrode concrete and lead to the creation of potholes.  Meaning that despite the higher upfront costs municipalities will actually be saving money in the long run.

But wait, there’s more!  This isn’t just a prototype or theory we’re talking about.  Rather, we’re talking about an actual product that has already been proven to work.

As the Huffington Post reports:

“The concrete has already been tested on a 150-foot bridge near Lincoln, Nebraska. The bridge was inlaid with 52 slabs of de-icing concrete in 2002, and has successfully melted snow and ice on its own ever since, according to the researchers.  Now, the researchers plan to demonstrate the de-icing concrete technology to the Federal Aviation Administration in hopes that the concrete might be integrated into the tarmac of a major U.S. airport.”

I’m sorry but did they say 2002?!?!?! What’s taken them so long to get this implemented?!!?!  I don’t care if it costs more.  Let’s do this!


Is electrically conductive concrete the Greatest Idea Ever?

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If you live on the East Coast you’re probably stuck inside this weekend, bored out of your mind thanks to the most annoying Jonas since Nick.  If you’re lucky enough to still have power you’re probably binge watching How To Make A Murderer on Netflix, playing video games, or heaven forbid, actually reading a book.  But if you’re looking for something else to do you might want to consider Living Ink: the World’s first ever time lapse ink.  Doodling will never be the same again.

Made from algae this ink is, well, as the name suggests, alive.  After drawing something in several distinct phases you place your creation inside of a protective greenhouse of sorts and over the course of a few days your intentions will reveal themselves.

Gizmag explains in further detail how it all works:

“{The ink] can be applied to paper with a pen, a paintbrush or even a printer and is visible at first, so the artist can see what’s being created, and then fades after a few minutes. The ink comes in two varieties, one that’s fast growing (which shows as pink at first) and one slower (that’s initially in blue).

Once the doodling is done, the work is placed inside a portable greenhouse containing nutrients and moisture, then popped in a solid wood stand and placed near a source of light such as sunlight or the glow from a table lamp.

Over the course of a day or so, the algae in the fast ink start to reproduce and show up on the paper first, followed by the slow-growing ink over the next couple of days. When all is revealed, the paper can be removed from the greenhouse and the artwork put on display. The designers compare the process to “gardening on paper.”

Essentially what this means is that you can now easily send hidden messages to friends and loved ones.  Or cleverly tell a joke that at first sets up the punch line and then delivers it.  Perhaps one day we’ll even see Hallmark birthday cards made from Living Ink.

Until then, if you want to learn more be sure to check out their Kickstarter page.

Is Living Ink the Greatest Idea Ever?


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It’s Tuesday morning.  You just spent the weekend hiking, watching playoff football, and playing in your first softball game of the season.  Your body aches as your mind struggles to remember how to wake up at 6 am.  Your bed, warm and cozy, serves as a safe haven for all of the horrors that await you out in the real world. All of the office politics, crazy ex girlfriends, and inevitable road rage incidents.

Left to your own devices you’d stay in bed all day long.  But sadly you come to the realization that you can’t do that.  Not today.  Not with that big presentation due tomorrow.  And so you say to yourself: “Just.  One.  More.  Minute.”, as you hit the snooze button for the seventeenth time.  Before you know it, thirty three minutes have gone by and you’re now officially late to work.  Again.

Thankfully help may soon be on the way.  Enter the Ruggie, a new alarm clock of sorts, that ensures you’ll get up and out of bed on time, each and every day.  That’s because in order to turn it off you’ll actually have to get out of bed and stand on it.  Seeing as how it’s a rug and all.

What the what!  But, wait.  There’s more.  According to the Huffington Post, “Not only will it force you to actually stand up out of bed, but the Ruggie will also deliver motivational quotes of your choosing every morning. Talk about starting the day off on the right foot.”

Now if only we could do something about that road rage…

Is the Ruggie the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#848 – Hypnos

Named after the Greek god of sleep, Hypnos is a hoodie that comes equipped with a built in pillow so that you can take a nap wherever you are!  Mark Zuckerberg, eat your heart out.

As Digital Trends puts it, “Narcoleptics everywhere, rejoice: You’ll now have a pillow for whenever you fall asleep. It’s all thanks to an ingenious new Kickstarter project named the Hypnos, heralded as the world’s best sleep hoodie. Seeing as sweatshirts are inherently designed for comfort, why not take things to the next level by creating what is effectively a mobile napping pod, all self-contained in a single, rather aesthetically pleasing article of clothing? It’s achieved by building a pillow directly into the hood of the loungewear, resulting in a ‘beautiful, comfortable, and practical hoodie designed  for creatives, travelers, commuters and anybody who has a moment to take a rest.’”

As of now the hoodie comes in four styles (fleece, French terry, cotton, or nylon) and there will be both a men’s and women’s variation as well as either a pull over or zip up version.  When it comes to market it’s expected to retail for $69 but it can be pre-ordered now on Kickstarter for $59 where it’s already raised more than 5X its original goal.  Clearly this is a product that people want and who can blame them?  Having a built in pillow in your hoodie sure beats falling asleep on a stranger’s shoulder.

Today sums it up best: “There are two types of people in this world: those who can fall asleep anywhere, and those who need nap-time accessories like pillows, blankets and privacy. (So high maintenance!) But if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that we could all use some extra sleep. And until rent-by-the-hour nap pods invade every city, airport, office and public park, we’ll jump at anything that makes those elusive winks easier to catch.”

Indeed we will.

Is the Hypnos sleep hoodie the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#847 – Grail

Doctors may soon have an important new weapon to add to their arsenals in the war against cancer: a single blood test capable of early stage detection for all variations of the disease regardless of what part of your body is afflicted.  Such a test, if successfully developed and brought to market at a cheap enough rate, would be a real game changer.

MIT Technology Review sums it up best: “A DNA test able to pick up many kinds of cancer could be revolutionary because tumors caught early can often be cured with surgery or radiation. Since the 1970s, the largest declines in cancer deaths rates are due to either behavioral changes, like declining tobacco use, or because of effective screening tests, principally colonoscopies and pap smear. New drugs have helped, too, though their impact on survival has generally been modest.”

The test is being developed by a new San Diego based startup known as Grail, so named because the innovation would be like the Holy Grail of cancer treatment.  Grail is no ordinary startup though.  It’s actually an offshoot of Illumina, a highly successful DNA sequencing company.  So it should come as no surprise that Grail’s approach is one that is heavily rooted in the magic of reading DNA.

As the New York Times explains, “The approach to be used takes advantage of the fact that DNA from cancerous cells can be found in the blood, albeit in minute amounts. The blood test, using intensive DNA sequencing, would look for patterns of telltale mutations.”

It’s a risky approach that isn’t yet 100% guaranteed to work.  But if the remaining kinks can be worked out the resulting test could save thousands of lives.  As of now it’s projected that the test will be ready by 2019 and will cost under $1,000.  With the backing of Illumina and over $100M in funding from heavyweight investors such as Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos you’d have to like Grail’s chances of succeeding. 

Is a blood test that’s capable of detecting early stage cancer the Greatest Idea Ever?

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

ModiFace: In addition to the innovations highlighted yesterday there were several more interesting developments that occurred at the Consumer Electronics Show.  For starters we found out how much the Oculus Rift is going to cost ($600) and that original backers will be getting it for free.  We also got a glimpse into the kitchen of the future with the unveiling of a smart refrigerator.  But one of the more interesting developments in my opinion was the debut of a new augmented reality mirror known as ModiFace that allows users to see what they would look like wearing different cosmetics.  According to the product’s website the mirror, “showcases beauty effects such as makeup, skin-care, anti-aging, teeth whitening, and contact lenses on users’ live videos as they look into an actual mirror. The high definition system is able to simulate effects with an incredible level of precision and realism.”

As this year’s increased emphasis on VR shows we’re going to be using augmented and virtual reality for all kinds of purposes in the near future.  A mirror that helps us try on makeup is just the beginning.

Constant Temperature Coffee Mug: I don’t drink coffee.  Primarily because I’m afraid that it’s going to stunt my growth.  But if I did I’d want it to stay at the perfect temperature all the time.  Well, that’s now possible thanks to the Ember constant temperature coffee mug.

As Wired reports, “Ember’s first product is a travel mug designed to cool your coffee to the temperature of your choosing—anywhere from 120 to 145 degrees—six times faster than it would normally, and then keep it there for about four hours.”

The mug is expected to go on sale in April and cost $130.


Growing Metal: A Seattle based startup has found a way to use nanotechnology to grow metal like a tree in an energy efficient biomimicry way.  The resulting product is then easier to shape and tinker with.  And best of all this method has already been proven to work.

As Fortune reports, “You can already find some of the metals from seven-year-old company Modumetal on oil rigs off of the Australian and African coasts, as well as the U.S., off of Texas. Those metals can withstand the ocean’s corrosive power for up to eight times longer than conventional materials, according to the company.”

As this process is refined even further it’ll be interesting to see what other characteristics this new metal may have.

Twitter Increases Character Limit: I’ve always felt that 140 characters wasn’t enough.  It’s hard to promote a link to this blog when there’s very limited space left over after describing the actual idea.  Useful hashtags are often the first thing to go.  So I welcome the fact that Twitter is soon going to be increasing the character limit.  In fact, they soon may be increasing it astronomically.  All the way to 10,000 characters!  The change is being done in response to users who used screenshots to post expanded text and is expected to occur as soon as March.  With Twitter’s stock price at an all time low this could be the change that the company needs to get back on track.

Are any of these the Greatest Idea Ever?

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