Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Screens are everywhere these days.  The combination of desktop computers at work, TVs and iPads at home, mobile phones while we’re on the go, all serving to inundate us in a constant deluge of information.  That’s one of the reasons why I like to go hiking so much.  It’s one of the only true places where you can go and unplug from society.  But others aren’t so lucky.  People who live in major cities for instance, are subjected to a near constant pixelated plight, on subway cars, in stores, in the backseat of cabs.  Their senses under constant attack from hype, sensationalism, and all sorts of obnoxious stimuli.  Thankfully there may soon be something that we can do about this.  A simple solution that was staring us in the face this whole time.

If you work in an office you may be familiar with our savior, the simple film that one might affix to their computer monitor to block someone else from viewing what’s on their screen.  As it turns out if you take this same material and place it in a standard pair of sunglasses it will serve to block out anything on a screen while enabling you to still see everything else.

As Wired explains, “[the] IRL Glasses, which launched on Kickstarter this week, block the wavelengths of light that comes from LED and LCD screens. Put them on and the TV in the sports bar seems to switch off; billboards blinking ahead seem to go blank.”

For anyone who has ever been subjected to watching Fox News in a doctor’s office waiting room this invention is a real game-changer.  Just throw on a pair and run out to the store to pick up some wings during the big game, fully confident that you won’t catch the score on one of their TV screens.  Or use it while walking down the street to avoid getting bombarded with adverts.

One can easily imagine the peace and serenity these glasses would deliver.  Putting a pair on would almost be like stepping into a time machine.  Magically giving you the ability to see the world as it was, not as it is.  To revert back to a simpler time where imaginations roamed wild.  A time that we would all be well served to revisit on our own as much as possible.  And now, thanks to the IRL glasses, we can.

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A quick look at everything that caught my eye over the last week:

Japan Lands Rover on Asteroid

Now, this isn’t the first time that humans have visited an asteroid.  NASA landed a probe on Eros back in 2001.  But this is the first time that a move-able robot has been deployed on one, allowing Japan to explore the surface of a flying rock in unprecedented fashion.

As Wired UK explains, “As you read this, the rovers are starting to explore and take pictures of the surface of the asteroid. To do so they will jump up to 15m (49ft) and stay off the surface for as long as 15 minutes.”

Hopefully, the footage that they send back will help inspire the next generation of astronauts while helping to grow our understanding of how asteroids and the solar system were formed.

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You may have heard of the microbiome, all of the bacteria we carry around in our guts.  But apparently we also have an exposome, a swam of chemicals, bacteria, fungi, and other particulates that reside in our immediate vicinity, our own personal microbial force field.  Apparently, they never got the message about not invading your personal space.

Read more at: https://www.sciencealert.com/you-are-surrounded-teeming-swarm-microbes-chemicals-everywhere-exposome-health

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Gut Feelings

According to Science Alert, “Scientists now believe that a surprising array of conditions, including appetite disorders, obesity, arthritis, and depression, may get their start in the gut. But it hasn’t been clear how messages in this so-called ‘second brain’ spread from our stomachs to our cerebrum.”

Researchers may now have an idea how that process works and as it turns out there may be some truth to the idea of a gut feeling.  In fact, your gut and the way that it communicates with the brain may even be a sixth sense of sorts.

Read more at: https://www.sciencealert.com/we-might-have-just-discovered-the-missing-link-between-the-brain-and-gut

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New Paint 

A new breakthrough in materials science could revolutionize the way we live, doing away with air conditioning in favor of paint!

According to We Forum, “researchers from Columbia University have devised an alternative to air conditioning that could keep your home cool without sending your power bill sky high. It’s a white polymer that reflects more than 96 percent of sunlight, and it comes in a dye-able, paint-like form, meaning we could use it to coat the sides and roofs of our homes to keep them cooler when the Sun is at its strongest.”

Image result for columbia university paint and air conditioning

Drone Canopy

Drone technology hasn’t really taken off yet (pun intended) but all that may be about to change thanks to a novel approach that aims to turn drones into portable canopies, capable of springing into action to provide people with shade during concerts and sporting events.

As New Atlas reports, “the algorithm can enable the drones to respond to the changing orientation of the Sun and rearrange the panels to maintain a shaded area of the same size and shape throughout the day. Another algorithm can enable it to detect occupants beneath it, adding, removing and shifting panels to keep growing crowds cool.”

With advances in drone technology continuing this concept no longer seems so far-fetched.  So long as the drones are silent, capable of staying in the air for long periods of time, unhackable, and pose no risk to the people under them there’s nothing to worry about.  Up until then that was a lot to ask.  But in the near future it won’t be.

In fact, we could be entering an era where novel new uses for drones spring up all the time.  Such as in construction projects where they can be used to move objects in lieu of using cranes or where they can be turned into makeshift scaffolding or even walkable bridges or climbable ladders.

Proving once again that drones are cut out for more than just delivering your pizza and taking selfies.

The Cyber Physical Macro Materials project from above

Are any of these the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,374 – Molar Mic

Do you remember that Saved by the Bell episode where Screech, after a visit to the dentist, could suddenly start hearing a radio emanating from his mouth, leading to Zach tricking the Army into believing that Screech was really an alien?  Well, it would seem that the military certainly remembers it, as witnessed by their development of Molar Mic, a new way for troops to communicate via a tooth implant.

As CNET explains:

“Developed by California company Sonitus Technologies, the mouthpiece snaps onto the upper back molars (it’s custom fit to each user) and has a wireless rechargeable battery, a waterproof microphone and a bone conduction speaker built in. The mouthpiece sends and receives communications via a wireless ‘tactical neckloop’ that connects to traditional radios and phones.”

Considering the wide range of environments and tactical situations that the military finds themselves in, from higher altitudes to the depths of the ocean, it makes sense to develop a versatile communications system capable of relaying information exactly when it is needed.  To do so in an unobstructed and comfortable way that won’t cause a break in communication while protective gear is being added or removed just adds to the appeal of this new technology.

As cool as the Molar Mic is I’m left wondering if there are any other technological advancements that could also be inspired by watching Saved by the Bell.  Perhaps Zach Morris isn’t trash after all.

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Is Molar Mic the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Today’s big news, other than Hurricane Florence continuing its deadly march towards the Carolinas, was the recent announcement Apple made regarding their much maligned smart watch series.  That’s because the Apple Watch is now capable of acting as an early warning system for heart attacks, the first time such technology has ever been made available publicly.

As Engadget puts it, “The current Watch 3 is already pretty health-centric, but Apple has taken it to a new level with its latest model. Thanks to a new electric heart sensor built into the backside, the Watch Series 4 can not only detect a low heart rate but also act as an electrocardiogram (ECG). That means it can sense a dangerous condition known as an atrial fibrillation and warn you to talk to your doctor. The Watch Series 4 has received clearance from the FDA and is the first over-the-counter ECG app offered directly to consumers, Apple claimed.”

I’ve never been a big fan of the Apple Watch up to this point but I’ll be honest with you: this new-found ability to detect heart attacks is a major selling point for me as this is something that I’ve always been worried about.  Truth be told I hate feeling like I’m in the dark, feeling like I could be minutes or days away from a heart attack that I’ll never see coming.  To finally have a way to truly know whether or not I’m at risk is a real game-changer.  Just knowing that I’m not dying every time I eat something too quickly will greatly reduce my stress and anxiety levels.

But that’s not the only new trick the Watch Series 4 will have.  It’ll also be able to detect if you’ve fallen down. Giving an upgrade to those old, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” devices.

All in all, it’ll be interesting to see where Apple goes from here.  What other technologies can they pack into a miniature watch?  What other life-saving devices can be incorporated?  The Watch Series 4 has changed the game.  Will the Series 5 take it to the next level?

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Is the heart attack monitoring on the Apple Watch Series 4 the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Here’s a quick look at everything that caught my eye this past week:

Smart Streets

I’ve long clamored for smart streets.  For street lights that change color to let you pass when there’s no one else around, instead of slaving away blindly on a set-timer.  For smart parking spots that you let you know when they are free.  For smart addresses that call out to you when you are lost.  And now, thanks to Google and the city of Toronto, I may have finally got my wish.  That’s because Google’s Sidewalk Labs is working on developing technology that could lay the foundation for the city of the future thanks to modular sidewalks, capable of re-arranging their configuration to best suit the latest needs of the city’s inhabitants.

As Wired puts it, “Contrary to today’s concrete-based, fixed way of doing things, the idea here is that these chunks of public space can be reconfigured or lit up differently at different times, thereby reordering the streets with a firm nudge or a flick of a light switch. What is during the morning rush hour a bus-only corridor might transform into a kids’ play space during the day. Monday’s commuter-carrying cycling lane might be Sunday’s farmer’s market. Streets should be ever-changing, flexible spaces, goes the argument—not the permanent province of fast-moving, sometimes inconsiderate, often dangerous cars.”

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Cool New Photo Editing Tool

Researchers from MIT have invented a new photo editing tool, capable of replacing the entire background in any image.

According to The Next Web, “The editor separates the objects and background in an image into different segments, which allows for easy selection. Unlike the magnetic lasso or magic lasso tools in most photo editing software, this doesn’t rely on user input for context, you don’t have to trace around an object or zoom in and catch the fine details. The AI just works.”

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Breakthrough Corn Discovery

A newly discovered type of corn could revolutionize the food industry, significantly reducing the effort required to grow it.

As USA Today puts it, “the potential improvements in water and air quality – not to mention financial savings – are staggering. In fact, the lead researcher acknowledged he and his colleagues spent a decade studying the corn before going public this month because the conclusions were ‘almost outrageous.’

And, like so much research in its early stages, there are still a lot of ‘ifs.’

But scientists at University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of California-Davis and Mars Inc. (yes, the candy maker) have determined that farmers in Oaxaca, Mexico, have been growing corn that creates its own fertilizer for centuries, if not millennia.”trand

If this strand of corn does in fact produce its own fertilizer it could change the way we grow food around the world.

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Are any of these the Greatest Idea Ever?


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It’s only a matter of time before the wonder material graphene takes over the world.  200x stronger than streel and a million times thinner than a piece of paper, graphene has several unique properties that could enable it to impact nearly every walk of life.  Starting with your wardrobe.  That’s right.  The first place that Graphene could make its presence felt is in your closet thanks to its inclusion in a new jacket that could revolutionize the fashion industry.

According to Fast Company, “At 595 euros ($695) a pop, Vollebak’s new graphene jacket isn’t for everyone. But if even half of what its creators promise is true, it could be worth every cent. According to the company, it shares many of the magical properties of graphene–absorbing heat and then warming you up over time, conducting electricity, repelling bacteria, and dissipating your body’s excess humidity.”

But that’s not all.  We’re only just scratching the surface of what Graphene can do.  As Fast Company explains:

“Its diverse uses are seemingly endless: It can stop a bullet if you add enough layers. It can change the color of your hair with no adverse effects. It can turn the walls of your home into a giant fire detector. ‘It’s so strong and so stretchy that the fibers of a spider web coated in graphene could catch a falling plane,” as Vollebak puts it in its marketing materials.’

Intrigued by these latest extravagant claims I did some digging and found out that, yes, Graphene’s latest tricks really are as amazing as they sound.  First off, in regards to the graphene based hair dye:

“This is how it works: The user applies the graphene dye using a spray, then brushes the hair and dries it. The graphene forms a gentle film around each and every hair strand. Like in a sci-fi movie, your hair will change color before your very eyes as the sheets of graphene attach themselves to your mane. And since the research team says their method doesn’t require toxic solvents, or molecular ingredients, or extreme heat, you don’t have to worry about damaging your hair, skin, or yourself. The color lasts for at least 30 washes, like what you expect from any conventional chemical-based dye. The graphene material will disappear leaving your hair in the exact same state as it was when you applied it.”

But that’s not all.

“The wallpaper comes from China’s Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, where Professor Ying-Jie Zhu and his team are experimenting with graphene applications. Their research, recently published in the journal ACS Nano, describes how they weaved the wallpaper using two types of inorganic materials. The first is ultra-long hydroxyapatite nanowires, which are tiny threads made from a mineral form of calcium apatite commonly found in teeth and bones. The other one is threads of graphene oxide, a form of graphene that can be mixed with other materials.

Both materials are fire-resistant, but it’s the latter that turns this fire-resistant wallpaper into a fire alarm. That’s because graphene oxide is an electrical insulator at room temperature–but when it’s heated to high temperatures, it becomes conductive. In their design, graphene oxide sensors woven into the wallpaper are connected to an alarm system. When it’s exposed to heat, the circuit is closed and electricity moves through the system–setting off the alarm.”

When it comes to graphene the news just keeps on getting more and more exciting.  These latest inventions, from clothing to hair dye to wallpaper, are likely just the beginning.  There’s even a graphene based sneaker hitting the market soon.  Which begs the question: what other life-altering, game-changing graphene based innovations are headed our way?!?

Are any of these graphene based innovations the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Here’s a quick look at everything that caught my eye this week:

Fat Transplant 

Want a quick and easy way to lose weight?  Try a fat transplant!

As New Atlas puts it, “There’s good fat, and there’s bad fat – although we mostly only hear about the latter. Finding ways to decrease levels of bad (white) fat and increase good (brown) fat could help us lose weight and avoid obesity-related illness, and now researchers at Columbia Engineering have developed a transplant method, where white fat is removed from the body, cultivated in a lab for a few weeks, then reinserted into the body as brown fat.”

This method could be a real game-changer when it comes to managing the ever worsening obesity epidemic in America. 

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A Car That Runs On Air 

A group of Egyptian students have designed a car capable of running purely on oxygen.  

According to Reuters: 

“The students say their vehicle can hit 40 kilometers an hour and last 30 kilometers before needing to be refueled, and it only costs about 18,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,008.40) to build.

‘The operational cost of the vehicle… will be almost nothing. You are basically using compressed air. You are not paying for fuel and also you do not need cooling,’ said Mahmoud Yasser, a student who helped design it.

The team is now looking to raise funding to expand the project and mass produce the vehicles. They believe they can eventually get the vehicles to top 100 kilometers an hour and run for 100 kilometers before needing to come up for air.”

Hopefully their claim isn’t full of hot air.

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The Future of Car Dashboards

Speaking of cars two tech giants are working on ways to enhance the entertainment options you’ll have available to you during your drive.  We’ll start with the news from Apple.

As Fortune puts it:

“Apple tends to be tight-lipped about its research and development efforts, especially when it comes to car technology. But a patent application filed by the company this month gives a glimpse into an intriguing product it may offer in the future: a smart windshield.

According to Patently Apple, a blog that scours the latest patents filed by the Cupertino giant, Apple filed a patent last week in Europe for an augmented-reality powered windshield system, which it termed a Heads-Up Display.

While innovations detailed in corporate patents often don’t see the light of day, some of the ideas that Apple is exploring are interesting. Notably, its AR windshield may allow passengers in different vehicles to conduct FaceTime calls with each other.”

Meanwhile, Amazon is working on a way to integrate Alexa into your car’s dashboard.

As Mashable puts it, “Amazon doesn’t just want to compete with Google and Apple in your home. It’s coming for your car, too. Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant will soon be “Hey Alexa” ready through the car infotainment system — a territory Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have inhabited for years. “

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Speed of Light Object Recognition

One of the main pushes in today’s cutting edge Artificial Intelligence research is to imbue computers with senses, for example, with the ability to see. Current attempts to do so are a little bit clunky, as you first need a camera or other sensor to record an image, then have the computer try to figure out what it is looking at, and then act on that information.  It all happens in a manner of seconds but that’s not good enough when it comes to putting AI in control of life and death situations, such as with Driverless Cars.  Thankfully, there’s a new 3D printed device, modeled after the human brain, capable of identifying objects at the speed of light.

Nexpected explains:

“…a driverless car using the technology could react instantaneously – even faster than it does using current technology – to a stop sign. With a device based on the system, the car would ‘read’ the sign as soon as the light from the sign hits it, as opposed to having to ‘wait’ for the car’s camera to image the object and then use its computers to figure out what the object is.

Technology based on the invention could also be used in microscopic imaging and medicine, for example, to sort through millions of cells for signs of disease, researchers said. ‘This work opens up fundamentally new opportunities to use an artificial intelligence-based passive device to instantaneously analyze data, images and classify objects,’ said Aydogan Ozcan, a professor at UCLA.”

Image result for speed of light object recognition

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