Tech Trends: Other Cool Picks

Other Cool Picks refers to any innovations that don’t necessarily meet the criteria for any of the other categories, but we still think are pretty cool and worth sharing.

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Researchers Develop Dual-Sided Pill for Slow-Release Drugs

double-pillA team of researchers from MIT, Brigham University, and the Women’s Hospital have developed a dual-sided pill that can be used as a slow-release capsule in the gastrointestinal system. The pill is engineered based on the concept of the Janus device and has a mucoadhesive sides  and an omniphobic side. The mucoadhesive attaches itself to mucosal surfaces, while the omniphobic side repels liquids and food. The mucoadhesive side of the pill is made of Carbopol, a polymer used commercially as a stabilizer/thickener, and the omniphobic side is comprised of a microtextured fluorinated cellulose acetate. Drugs can be incorporated into the cellulose acetate itself or embedded between the two layers of the pill.

The novel design of the pill allows for it to attach to the gastrointestinal system without the risk of food or water causing it to become detached. The pill’s developers see its potential in frequently-dosed pills such as antibiotics.

(Source: medGadget)

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Virtual Reality to Help Astronauts and Researchers in Remote Locations

Proximity to nature is essential to human health, although scientists are not exactly sure why. However, regular exposure to sunlight, fresh air, and greenery have shown to improve many health conditions. On the other hand, individuals living in regions with limited natural light or where the opportunity to be outdoors is limited often experience higher incidences of depression, as well as other conditions. This need to be near nature poses a concern for the psychological state of future astronauts who will participate in early test flights to Mars. The journey will have them spending close to two years away from Earth (for comparison, the current record for any human is held by Valeri Polyakov, a Russian cosmonaut who spent 14 months, or 437 days, aboard the Mir Space Station).

Dartmouth physician and former astronaut, Jay Buckey is experimenting with the use of virtual reality and its effect on mood and stress levels. These early studies are being conducted at a military station in Alert, Canada nearly 500 miles from the North Pole. There, the harsh climate and limited sunlight lead the inhabitants of the station to stay indoors in confined spaces for extended periods of time. In the study, Buckey and his team sent Oculus Rift headsets to the military station and gave users one of two viewing options. The first is a static, 360 degree view of a countryside location (such as the Irish countryside), and the other option is a simulation of walking through a seaside town in the UK (see video above).

Buckey and his team are looking to see which view participants like best and its effect on their mood and stress levels. If the results are good, the Oculus Rift will be tested in the International Space Station next.

(Source: Popular Science)

 

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Electric Comb Effective at Killing Lice

lice combThere are over 12 million reported cases of head lice in the United States each year. While there are special shampoos available that can kill lice on contact, these shampoos don’t kill eggs that may still be on the scalp after yse. In addition, there have been cases of lice becoming resistant to these medicated shampoos, making it more difficult to get rid of the pests. In order to kill both lice and eggs effectively, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany have developed an electrically charged comb.

The comb contains a high-voltage electrical current that runs through its teeth. The tips of the teeth behave like electrodes and deliver short bursts of energy to the surrounding air, breaking any nearby air molecules apart  and changing them from a gas to plasma. The electricity creates high-energy molecules which can kill lice without raising the temperature, making it safe for human use.

Extensive initial testing has proved to be successful enough to kill lice completely within a single treatment, and the developers have begun distributing the comb for trials in pediatrician’s office in Germany.

(Source: Popular Science)

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Nima Sensor Tests Food for Hidden Gluten

6SensorLabs in San Francisco has developed a pocket-sized sensor that can help users test for traces of gluten in foods– a welcome innovation for sufferers of Celiac disease for whom the protein is impossible to digest and is treated by the body as an allergen. The Nima Sensor, as it is called, uses chemistry to test for the presence of gluten in foods. Users place a pea-sized amount of food or liquid (not including alcohol) into a disposable cartridge and screw on the top of the cartridge. The sample drops into the bottom of the sensor’s chamber where a reagent tests for a presence of more than 20 parts per million of gluten– the limit established by the FDA for a food to be considered “gluten free.”

The Nima Sensor is available for pre-order, and the developers are planning to launch a mobile app once the device begins shipping. The accompanying app will allow users to create a database of foods and restaurants that suit gluten-free needs. The developers at 6SensorLabs are also planning to create similar sensors for other common food allergens such as peanuts and dairy. For more information on the Nima Sensor, please watch the video above.

(Source: medGadget)

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Dot Creates Braille Smart Watch for the Blind

dot watchAs the technological world continues its shift towards completely touchscreen devices, the blind–who rely on tactile surfaces to read–have been left behind. This becomes increasingly troublesome as more publications are creating content for digital media and there are fewer print and braille texts available for the blind. While braille e-readers are available, they are often clunky and expensive, and many users do not like the impersonal Siri text-to-voice options available on many smartphones. Now, South Korean startup company Dot has developed a braille smart watch similar to the Apple Watch.

The device’s face is equipped with four cells each with six active dots, that can raise or lower to make four braille letters at a time. It links up with Bluetooth to convert text from apps like iMessage into their braille letter equivalents through the user’s voice commands. The device can last for five days without stopping to charge.

The Dot is expected to enter the U.S. market in December of 2015 and the estimated cost will be around $300.

(Source: Popular Science)

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Teens from the UK Develop Color-Changing Condoms

colorcondomsRecognizing the trending rise of sexually transmitted diseases and infections in the United Kingdom, a group of teenage boys has developed a luminescent condom that changes colors when it comes into contact with an STD or STI. The condom is coated with antibodies, that, when exposed to the antigens in common STD’s and STI’s would cause the condom to change color accordingly. For instance, when exposed to chlamydia, the condom turns green; if exposed to herpes, the condom turns yellow, etc. While there are still concerns about whether the condom can distinguish between STD’s carried by the wearer or their partner, or whether a person with multiple STI’s would cause the condoms to turn a rainbow shade, the product has already peaked the interest of condom companies.

The product, called the S.T. EYE was developed for the TeenTech awards in the UK where it won top honors. The boys, who hail from England’s Isaac Newton Academy, won $1500 for their work as well as a trip to meet Prince Andrew at Buckingham Palace later this year.

(Source: Washington Post)

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Rhinix Prevents Seasonal Allergies by Blocking Pollen

danish-nasal-filterResearchers at Aarhaus University in Denmark have developed a device that, when inserted nasally, can prevent many of the allergy symptoms caused by pollen. The Rhinix, as it is called, features a low air resistance membrane that filters out most of the pollen particles before they’re able to slip into the nose, preventing allergic reactions from occurring at all. 65 people with seasonal allergies were chosen for a randomized trial of the product, and received either the Rhinix or a placebo nasal implant which did not block pollen. When inserted into the nose after allergy symptoms began to present themselves, those who used the Rhinix significantly reduced their symptoms. When the Rhinix was inserted prior to allergy symptoms presenting themselves, users saw a 100% reduction in symptoms compared to those with the placebo. In addition to significantly reducing seasonal allergy symptoms, the device also reduces the need for allergy medications, whose side effects most users find unfavorable.

(Source: medGadget)

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3D Printing Helps Wounded Turtle

3D printing has come a long way in the field of healthcare, helping to create affordable prosthesis and bio-compatible scaffolds for damaged bone and tissue. Now, the advancement has helped to save a wounded turtle found near Turkey. The turtle had been hit by a boat’s propeller–typically a life-ending event for most sea turtles–but was rescued and brought to Pamukkale University’s Sea Turtle Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation center in Denizli, Turkey. The center collaborated with Turkish company, Btech Innovation to send scans of the turtle’s wounded jaw and damaged bones. Btech Innovation used the scans to create a 3D printed, titanium jaw for the wounded turtle, then mailed the piece to the rescue site. At press time, the turtle was healing nicely from the injury, and provided its body does not reject the 3D printed jaw, the turtle should be back to its home in the ocean.

The rescue efforts here provide an excellent example of how 3D printing could one day provide emergency aid to those in remote locations with badly broken bones or injuries that required amputation. To learn more about the rescue and how the titanium jaw was printed, click on the video above.

(Source: Popular Science)

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Model that can Predict Drug-Induced Arrythmia

One of the dangers of prescription medication is the possibility that it can lead to an irregular heartbeat in users. When a drug is being developed, researchers will test the substance on lab rats and isolated tissue samples in order to get an idea of how a drug might affect the heart and other organs. However, these tests are not always an accurate representation of the threats a medication might pose to the organs of living humans, and human testing during clinical trials can often put a subject’s life at risk if calculations regarding safety are not precise.

Researchers from the University of Tokyo are working to develop a computerized 3D heart model that can minimize the risks associated with prescription drug development and use. The model heart, digitally created using a super computer, is composed of 22 million “cells” that “simulate the heart’s activity from the molecular level to the organ level–from the ion channels in cell membranes, for example, to the muscle contractions that pump blood.” The model was able to accurately predict the effects of 12 different existing medications on the heart, and researchers are hopeful that it can continue to do so with new and developing medications. Nevertheless, there are still some limitations, for instance, it took over three hours to simulate each heartbeat, and only 5 heartbeats could be simulated for tests. Additionally, the simulation required live tissue data in order to accurately recreate the heartbeat and effects of medication on the heart. However, researchers are hopeful that over time the system can be perfected and used to predict other heart conditions.

For more information on the University of Tokyo’s 3D heart simulation and to better understand how the model works, click on the video above.

(Source: Popular Science)

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Researchers Develop a Body-Worn Proximity Sensor for Those With Limited Peripheral Vision

smart walking aideProximity sensors for the visually impaired have been around for quite some time, however, the devices are less than ideal. Rather than predicting collisions, the devices often just detect when objects are too close. Now, researchers from  Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Schepens Eye Research Institute have developed a body worn device that can predict the probability of collision with an object rather than simply notifying the wearer when an object is nearby.

The Smart Walking Aide prototype features a wide-angle camera that can detect when an object is near the wearer and when a wearer is likely to collide with the object. In a recent trial involving users wearing the prototype as they maneuvered through 41-meter course with 46 objects throughout, collisions were reduced by 37 percent using the Smart Walking Aide.

(Source: medGadget)

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A Fitness Robot That Feeds You Tomatoes!

Japanese tomato company, Kagome has released a new robot known as the Petit Tomatan. While not actually available for purchase, the robot is an engineering marvel. The prototype is a fitness gadget– an 18-pound robot that sits on your shoulders and feeds you tomatoes as you run. Why? Because why not. To watch the Petit Tomatan in action, click on the video above.

(Source: Yahoo Tech)

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Solar-Powered Arm Band Can Detect Changes in Body Temperature

fever-alarm-armbandA team of researchers from the University of Tokyo have developed a solar-powered arm band that can be used to track spikes in body temperature. The device is plastic, and can be worn comfortably both inside and out of clothing. The device allows you to program a temperature threshold, and when the body temperature exceeds the threshold, an alarm will go off. While still in a prototype stage, the device, which is both lightweight and flexible, can have potential uses in hospitals where continuous monitoring of vital signs is ideal. Additionally, its developers believe that the device, currently known as the Fever Alarm Armband, could potentially be programmed to track other vital signs continuously, such as heart rate.

(Source: Popular Science)

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13 Year Old Builds Affordable, Portable Braille Printer Out of Legos

Shubham Banerjee13 year old Shubham Banerjee has created a start-up known as Braigo Labs, which will develop affordable Braille printers for the visually impaired. Initially part of a school science fair project last year, Banerjee developed  his first Braille printer with just the use of a Lego robotics kit. After doing some research, Banerjee discovered that Braille printers typically cost over $2,000, weigh over 20 pounds, and are difficult to obtain in impoverished countries, greatly limiting the educational options for the visually impaired in these regions. With an initial $35,000 loan from his father, and now an undisclosed venture capital investment from Intel, Banerjee is working to mass produce his Braille printer (which will cost roughly $300 and weigh only a few pounds). By the summer of 2015, both Intel and Banerjee hope to have a prototype available for organizations for the blind.

(Source: Yahoo Tech)

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Omniprocessor Turns Sewage into Drinking Water

[youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=bVzppWSIFU0&x-yt-ts=1421914688&x-yt-cl=84503534&w=525&h=394]

In many impoverished countries, clean drinking water is a luxury not available to most. Due to poor sewage systems, many people use latrines which are not properly drained, or they simply defecate in the open, which leads to water contamination. Water contamination in poor countries leads to over 700,000 deaths in children each year. To help prevent these deaths, the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation has teamed with Janicki Bioenergy, an engineering firm based in Seattle. Janicki Bioenergy has created a system known as the Omniprocessor which converts sewage into both potable water and electricity. The Omniprocessor runs at extremely high temperatures (1000 degrees Celsius) which prevents any bad smell, and uses the waste of over 100,000 people to produce up to 86,000 liters of potable water daily, as well as a net of 250 kW of energy. Later this year, the company will start its pilot project in Dakar, Senegal. For more information, and to watch Bill Gates drink sewage water that he claims is as good as any he has had from a bottle, click to watch the video above.

(Source: Gates Notes)

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Future Cars May Prevent Drunk Driving Through Voice Recognition

ALCA group of scientists in Germany has developed the Alcohol Language Corpus (ALC), a database which may one day work as “a chattier version of the breathalyzer devices that prevent people from drunk driving now.” The database contains various drunken speech patterns collected through conversations with drunk people in the passenger seat of a car. The hope for this database is that it may one day work together with a high-tech device which will ask drivers a few questions before starting the car. If the driver’s responses or speech patterns seem to reflect that they are drunk, the car will not start.

The ALC database is still not perfect, however. In a recent study, it only correctly identified drunken speech 73% of the time. Still, this development could one day help to prevent many of the accidents caused by drunk drivers.

(Source: Popular Science)

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Organovo’s 3D Printed Livers Now Available for Purchase

24_well_liver_tissues3D Bioprinting company Organovo dreams of the day when  you will be able to 3D print your own custom organs on demand, facilitating life-saving surgeries and eliminating the need for organ donors. For now, however, the company is making miniature 3D printed livers available for purchase. The goal of these tiny printed livers is to help pharmaceutical companies perform liver safety tests in an innovative way. Up until now, researchers relied on data from laboratory animals– which is not an accurate reflection of how medicines may react with a human liver, or single layers of liver cells (hepatocytes)– which can only stay alive for up to 48 hours– not allowing researchers to see if certain medications will be a danger in the long-term. However, the 3D printed cells developed by Organovo have a hexagonal, honeycomb structure, similar to the way liver cells are found in the human body and can stay alive for up to 42 days, allowing researchers to see if long-term exposure to certain medications can affect cells of the liver negatively. As a testament to how well the 3D printed liver cells function, Organovo researchers ran an experiment with a medication which originally received FDA approval, but was later recalled for causing liver damage. Neither laboratory rats not the hepatocytes showed any danger with the medication, but the 3D printed liver cells did.

(Source: Popular Science)

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Environmental Working Group Develops Food Scores Database

foodscoresAn environmental research organization known as Environmental Working Group has developed a database known as Food Scores which will list information on over 80,000 prepackaged foods sold in the United States. The website goes beyond listing just calories and nutrition facts, but also states information on whether the foods listed include added sugars, include genetically modified ingredients, as well as information on pesticides and additives. The database then assigns a score from 1-10 where 1 is the most nutritious and 10 is the least. Food Scores will soon be developing an accompanying app where users can scan bar codes for information on packaged foods.

(Source: The New York Times)

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Pure Hold Sanitizing Door Handles Provide Cleanliness and Convenience

[youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=VSDWasi36bs&w=525&h=394]

With the rising threat of Ebola virus and flu season on the horizon, the importance of maintaining clean hands is greater than ever. This is particularly true in the hospital setting. In the past, hospitals have installed hand-sanitizing stations in hallways and near doors, but these systems are far from fool-proof and assume some level of compliance from users. Now, British company, PureHold is developing the Pure Hold sanitizing door handles. These handles are easily attached to any standard hospital doors, but the handles dispense a gel sanitizer to hands on contact. After users walk through the doors, they simply rub their hands together and continue walking. The system is easy to use, and for those with busy hands, there is a non-gel door handle option. For more information and to see the PureHold in action, click on the video above.

(Source: medGadget)

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E-nabling the Future Provides Children with Innovative 3D Printed Hands

wolverinehandxVolunteer tech company E-nabling the Future has made a name for itself by designing 3D printed prosthetic hands for children missing fingers, and giving out both the prosthetics and their designs away for free. Now, the company has gone one step further by designing a themed 3D printed hand that features Wolverine claws. The developers insist that the claws are safe, made of rounded plastic and can attach and detach using velcro. However, the positive reaction from children viewing the Wolverine hands has inspired the volunteer technicians at E-nabling the Future to design more themed hands for kids.

(Source: Enabling the Future)

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