Archive for August, 2019

#1,545 – Hydrant

As an avid hiker I know all too well the dangers of dehydration.  From debilitating headaches to catastrophic muscle cramps there are a myriad of problems awaiting you if don’t properly monitor your water intake.  That’s why you can’t wait until you’re parched to quench your thirst.  By that point it’s already too late.  Instead you have to constantly drink water, even when you’re not thirsty, just to stay on top of your hydration.  Something that’s extremely important to do.  Especially when you consider the consequences.

As Futurism puts it, “Studies indicate that even 1 percent dehydration can affect mood, attention, memory, and motor coordination.”

If it’s really true that even just one percent dehydration can effect your body, mindset, and overall health then it becomes even more important to take hydration seriously.  A lot more seriously than we currently do.  Thankfully, there’s a solution on the market that can help us do just that: hydrant, a powdered mix that you can add to a glass of water to enhance your hydration at a cellular level.  The colder the water the better it tastes.

As they explain on their website, “75% of Americans are dehydrated, and going about their days feeling tired as a result. Co-founded by an Oxford Scientist and based on the World Health Organization’s guidelines for Rehydration, Hydrant uses perfectly balanced electrolytes and simple ingredients to more efficiently hydrate people. The mineral content improves cellular uptake, so that water gets right to the cells, where you need it.”

As someone who is tired all the time I am especially interested in learning more about what Hydrant has to offer. Could the cure for what ails me really be as simple as just drinking more water?  Or in this case drinking more scientifically enhanced water?!  Well, there’s only one way to find out…

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Is Hydrant the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Load bearing exosuits that help people carry excess weight will likely have a place in society in the near future.  Most likely in factories or on battle fields as a means of transporting supplies.  That much is obvious.  What’s not so obvious is the idea that the average person may soon be utilizing them as well.  And yet that’s exactly what may happen thanks to newly designed robotic shorts that can help people cover more ground!

As Scientific American puts it, “A pair of fitted shorts may not look much like the high-tech robotic exoskeletons of Hollywood films. But this seemingly simple device, which tugs on the wearer’s legs with each step, probably represents the first exosuit capable of significantly assisting humans in both walking and running.

Until recently, no exosuit design had succeeded in reducing the amount of energy required for both types of motion. Earlier generations of such suits, also known as wearable robots, had stumbled in that challenge because of the different biomechanical actions required for walking versus running. Now researchers have developed a soft device that can automatically detect whether the wearer is walking or running and provide the appropriate assistance for either movement.”

Exactly how much assistance are we talking?!

According to The Verge, “By having someone run and walk on a treadmill while wearing the shorts and measuring the amount of oxygen they consumed while breathing, the researchers calculated that the metabolic cost of walking and running were reduced by 9.3 and 4 percent respectively, compared to running without wearing the shorts. That change in effort is the equivalent of feeling 16.3 pounds or 12.6 pounds lighter, respectively.”

As a recreational hiker who often laments how hard it is to traverse long trails without a willingness to go backpacking this technology could be a real game-changer.  By feeling lighter I could travel farther since there would now be less resistance dragging me down.  Less strain on my knees and back as well.  In theory, not only could I go farther but now I could move quicker too enabling me to cover more ground in less time.

This amazing breakthrough comes to us from researchers at Harvard University and is a big step forward compared to prior attempts at inventing similar technology.  Hopefully, the research continues to advance and we’re all bounding around our favorite hiking trails in no time at all.

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Are robotic shorts the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Amazon is already listening to what we have to say thanks to their Echo speakers.  Soon they could be reading our emotions as well thanks to a new device rumored to be in the works.

While such technology could be used for altruistic purposes, for instance, offering words of encouragement to someone who is frustrated or trying to cheer up someone who is depressed, since this is Amazon we’re talking about, it’s likely that the gadget would offer up product recommendations to suit our moods.  Enabling us to quickly and easily get a cure for what’s ailing us.

Bloomberg article suggests the following as a possible example:

“A diagram in the patent filing says the technology can detect an abnormal emotional condition and shows a sniffling woman telling Alexa she’s hungry. The digital assistant, picking up that she has a cold, asks the woman if she would like a recipe for chicken soup.”

As weird as this may seem it’s not an entirely new concept.  And, no, I’m not talking about mood rings.

As Bloomberg puts it, “The notion of building machines that can understand human emotions has long been a staple of science fiction, from stories by Isaac Asimov to Star Trek’s android Data. Amid advances in machine learning and voice and image recognition, the concept has recently marched toward reality. Companies including Microsoft Corp., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and IBM Corp., among a host of other firms, are developing technologies designed to derive emotional states from images, audio data and other inputs.”

It’s not clear yet whether or not this device will ever see the light of day.  Amazon, like most tech companies, often pursues outside the box radical ideas just to fully explore the realm of possibility.  But if it does we all could be in store for a rosier outlook on life.  One product recommendation at a time.

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Is a device that reads your emotional state the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,542 – Terrascope

The Amazon rain forest is on fire.  The Arctic is burning.  Global temperatures are reaching new all-time highs on a daily and monthly basis.  It’s no longer enough to rail about impending Climate Change.  The change is already happening.  We are in a Climate Emergency.  At this rate our best hope for the survival of our species is to search for other habitable exoplanets that we could one day migrate to.  An exercise that’s challenging enough as it is yet alone when paired with the sense of urgency that a dying planet dictates.  To that end we may have some good news for future planet hunters: the idea of turning our own planet into a giant terrascope.

As Scientific American puts it, “Astronomers and Earth’s atmosphere are natural enemies. Stargazers want crisp, clear images of their celestial targets, whereas winds and clouds scatter and block starlight in ways that can scuttle even the most careful measurements. Minus the mild inconvenience of lacking air to breathe, many researchers might otherwise prefer our planet had no atmosphere at all—at least during their coveted observing nights at world-class telescopes. The Hubble Space Telescope and other giant off-world observatories can rise above the atmosphere’s complications but at costs that are, for lack of a better word, astronomical.

Now a new preprint study suggests that far from being a bane, Earth’s atmosphere could become astronomy’s boon, serving to amplify starlight in ways that reduce the need for enormous (and enormously expensive) telescopes on the ground and in space. Astronomers badly need such money-saving, performance-boosting approaches as the cost of building new state-of-the-art observatories soars to unsustainable levels.”

Futurism puts it more succinctly, “There’s a lot to it, but the basic idea behind the terrascope is that Earth’s atmosphere naturally refracts incoming starlight, just like the lens of a telescope, and with some effort, we could take advantage of this refraction.”

It’s an effort that we would be wise to invest in.  The survival of humanity may very well depend on it.

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Is the Terrascope the Greatest Idea Ever?

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If you miss a sporting event you can catch up by watching the highlights on SportsCenter.  If you haven’t read a book but want to be able to talk about it you can get the Cliff’s notes version.  But what recourse do you have when it comes to catching up on movies or TV shows?  Short of binge-watching there is nothing you can do.  No substitute for actually putting in the time.  But what if you don’t really care about watching an entire show or movie?  What if you aren’t interested in hanging on every word of dialogue and don’t care about missing minute details?  What if hunting for Easter Eggs, chatting in forums, and spending every waking second of your day coming up with fan theories isn’t for you? What if all you want to do is catch up on the fly?  Quick and easy.  Down and dirty.  In that case, what options do you have?

For now, nothing.  But I am hoping to change that.  What I’m envisioning is a way for people to watch the equivalent of movie highlights.  A reverse trailer of sorts that gives away the entire plot in two minutes or less. Spoiler alerts be gone.  The spoiler is now the whole point.  Armed with the knowledge of what happened in Phase One and Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe you can now safely dive into Avengers End Game and the rest of Phase Three without having to sit through the Incredible Hulk or thirty other movies.  Millions of man hours would be saved.  Relationships allowed to blossom.

I honestly feel like this idea has a lot of merit.  Just think about it.  Considering how much content there now is from regular movies and network TV shows to binge worthy series on dozens of streaming services it is nearly impossible to stay on top of all the latest comings and goings in the world of pop culture.  To avoid information overload what we need are better content search engines or recommendation services that help us quickly find relevant content.  Or better yet, a way to watch content faster.  Similar to speed reading or listening to podcasts at two times the speed, watching reverse trailers could become a relevant life hack for people too busy to sit down and watch a full length film.  And it could be a real god send for people who only care about one or two aspects of an inter-connected series.  Take the CW’s Arrowverse for example.  I love The Flash and still admire Arrow but have zero interest in watching Super GirlLegends of Tomorrow or Black Lightning.  Which is problematic when the characters from one show appear in another during annual crossover episodes.  If I could watch highlights of the shows I don’t care about and only focus on the ones I do that would save me a ton of time and significantly enhance my life.

Reverse trailers could even go hand in hand with another movie related idea I’ve recently encountered: Film Tapas.  Instead of sitting down to watch an entire movie you instead make a night out of watching twenty or so movie trailers in a row.  Similar to how you only eat small samples of food at a Tapas restaurant, during a film tapas you’d only sample various movies, not watch the whole thing.  Considering that a lot of people say that watching the previews is the best part of going to the movies then it may make sense that Film Tapas could become a stand alone thing.  Especially if reverse movie trailers that give away the plot is what’s on the menu.

All in all, this technology wouldn’t just change the game, it would create a whole new one: a way to game the Hollywood system that has been meticulously engineered with an endless stream of sequels and remakes specifically designed to bleed our pocketbooks dry and consume our every waking moment. After all, the Godfather saga didn’t refer to the movie, it referred to what you had to go through to watch the entire trilogy.  No longer.  The time has come to take back control of our time.  To make it easier for movie fans to stay on top of everything happening in Hollywood the way that sports fan can stay on top of their favorite teams without having to watch every minute of every game.  The time has come for reverse trailers.

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Are reverse trailers the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,540 – Humanimals

If you saw the trailer for Cats you know how unnerving human-animal hybrids can be.  Unfortunately, if you are looking for a reprieve for your nightmares you came to the wrong place.  That’s because we may soon be getting the real thing in the form of humanimals.  A new kind of organ harvesting hybrid coming to us courtesy of the Japanese government.

According to Gizmodo, “Researchers have previously created human-animal embryos, such as sheep and pig embryos with human cells, but those pregnancies were terminated after a few days or weeks. This experiment aims to eventually bring chimera embryos to term, resulting in the birth of real, living, breathing humanimals.

But to the disappointment of some of my coworkers (and potentially many readers), this is not a step towards catgirls, nor is it a way to cross yourself with your favorite animal. Scientists perform this kind of research with the hope of one day providing a source of transplantable human organs from animals we already have the infrastructure to slaughter, such as pigs. Human organs for transplant are otherwise scarce.”

Considering that the human body is designed to attack foreign bodies figuring out a way to grow acceptable organs that the body won’t reject is a major breakthrough that could have far ranging implications for humanity’s future.  So long as we can get past the weirdness associated with this possible new course of action.  Which may not be possible for anyone who saw the trailer for Cats.

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Are humanimals the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I’ve written in the past about Soylent, the liquid meal replacement that purportedly provides a person with everything they need for a healthy balanced diet, all in one easy to digest liquid helping that enables busy individuals always on the go to enjoy a good meal without the hassle of having to shop for groceries, prep meals, cook them, and you know, actually chew and swallow them.  But now comes something even better: a nutrient packed meal substitute that comes in a form that is already familiar to those too busy to prepare meals.  That’s right.  The future of food may very well be ramen based.

According to Futurism, “Nissin, the company behind one prominent line of instant ramen noodle packets, is poised to launch a new “All-In Noodles” product that, it says, fully satisfies a typical person’s nutritional requirements.

Now, if you wanted to live off of an all-noodle diet, the new line of instant ramen packets could fulfill your daily requirements for vitamins, minerals, and protein if eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, according to SoraNews24 — meaning the future of quick eats could be people slurping down noodles.”

So, if you’re a college student or someone always on the go who is already used to eating ramen all the time then rejoice.  Your lifestyle just got a whole lot healthier.  And if you’re not someone who already eats a lot of ramen?  Well, now is as good a time as any to start.

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Is a soylent like ramen product the Greatest Idea Ever?

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When I used to live in New York City I would always run after work to try and make the 5:20 train to my home on Long Island.  Not figuratively run.  I mean I was literally sprinting down the street, bobbing and weaving in and out of pedestrian traffic, like an NFL running back dancing between the tackles to avoid punishing hits from linebackers, doing everything in my power to make the train on time.  Most days I would make it.  With time to spare even.  But it would come with a cost.  My cheap dress shirts failing to accommodate the on rush of sweat now seeping into them.  My body overheating with no reprieve in sight.

At the time I wished that my clothing could offer me some relieve by cooling me down or even heating me up if the need ever arose.  But sadly the technology didn’t exist.  In fact, it seemed like a long-shot to ever exist.  And yet here we are.  With Sony announcing that they have created a wearable air conditioner.  Or at least a shirt that can accommodate a miniature one.

As Engadget puts it, “The company’s First Flight program is crowdfunding a wearable ‘air conditioner,’ the Reon Pocket, that slips into a pouch in a special t-shirt. The stealthy device doesn’t condition the air as such. Rather, it sits at the base of your neck and uses the Peltier effect (where heat is absorbed or emitted when you pass an electrical current across a junction) to either lower your temperature by 23F or raise it by 14F, all without bulk or noise. You could wear a stuffy business outfit on a hot day and avoid looking like you’ve just stepped out of a sauna.”

For busy strap-hangers without a second to spare this technology is a real game-changer.  Making it so that they can be cool, calm, and collected at all times – even when they’re not.

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Is the Reon Pocket the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,537 – Neom

Saudi Arabia is said to be planning a large-scale futuristic city in the desert that will be the size of Massachusetts and feature all kinds of quirky technological wonders.  According to Business Insider, “The city will be known as Neom, a portmanteau of the Greek word neos, meaning ‘new,’ and mustaqbal, the Arabic word for ‘future.’”  It will be a place for the “dreamers of the world” and will be about all things “future-oriented and visionary”.  Sounds like my kind of place! 

But what exactly are we talking about?  Futuristic cities aren’t a new idea.  There are several “smart cities” wired from head to toe that already exist.  Data driven places that exhibit the very best that the Internet of Things has to offer.  But Neom will be much more than just your average run of the mill futuristic city.  Instead, it will take what it means to be futuristic to a whole new level as it is likely to include a lot of wild ideas and concepts, some of which will sound like science fiction, others like they came from a child’s overactive imagination.  

Some of these will be technologically possible in the near future while others are purely theoretical for now.  But either way, Neom is likely to deliver on its promise as being the place to be for those interested in living on the cutting-edge of society.  Among the technologies currently being considered are flying taxis, driverless cars, an artificial moon to illuminate the night sky, cloud seeding technology to control the weather, and holographic teachers to create a world-class education system. But of course no futuristic city would be complete without a Jurassic Park-like island populated by robotic dinosaurs!!

As the Verge puts it, “Taken together, the plans remind of you what a dedicated nine-year-old can achieve in Minecraft. Yes, the scale and ambition are impressive, but it’s not like you could do this in real life, right?” 

But doing this in real life is exactly what Saudi Arabia is planning on doing even if the funding isn’t clear and the logistics murky.  So much so, that they even want to push the envelope as far as humanly possible as they look to populate the futuristic city with genetically enhanced people that will have increased strength and IQ.  Enhanced people that will get waited on hand and foot by robotic maids that do all of their chores for them. 

As crazy as all this sounds, as unlikely as it all may be, I’m still all in on this idea.  With an area the size of Massachusetts there is a lot that you can accomplish.  Especially if Neom lives up to its billing as a future focused place that would attract the world’s dreamers.  A place like that could do a lot to inspire the rest of the world to work harder, to dream bigger, to reach for the stars like never before.  Which is exactly the kind of place that we need in a world that is likely to face a lot of tough technological challenges in the decades to come as we face down Climate Change and everything that comes along with it.

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Is Neom, a futuristic city with robotic dinosaurs and an artificial moon, the Greatest Idea Ever?

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