Contact lenses that enhance reality
So you want to read your emails while walking with your hands in your pockets? Or maybe you’ve dreamed of being guided to your destination without having to consult a map? While these ideas may not be ready for the general public, a team of researchers at the University of Washington, lead by Professor Babak Parviz, are working on creating the first reality-enhancing contact lenses. The principle difficulties seem to be constructing contacts that are supple enough to wear, and still functional while also integrating an electronic circuit and a light source.
The kitchen of the future?
The “Living Kitchen”, by Luxembourgian designer Michael Harboun, is still only a concept, but it is very enticing and is poised to be the eventual “kitchen of the future”. The general idea is to imagine a world where objects would have numerical capacities and be able to change form as needed, in the same way that you can change the applications on a smartphone. The user would be able to decide on the function of the objects according to their wishes or needs at the moment. This project, under the umbrella project “Claytronics”, is based on research being undertaken by Intel and Carnegie Mellon University. But it will still be another 20, 50, or 100 years before the first applications of this project are installed in our kitchens. While waiting, you can always watch the stunning illustrative video on the work of Michael Harboun and his “Living Kitchen.”
A prosthetic for musicians
Although it sounds like the name of the latest horror film, Possessedhand is actually a stunning project conducted by the Rekimoto Lab in Tokyo. It is a system that makes it possible to program and control hand and finger movements automatically using low intensity electric impulses. One of the many applications presented by researchers and engineers from this laboratory has to do with playing music: the Possessedhand will let a person play the Koto (a stringed musical instrument used in traditional Japanese music) without them actually having to learn how to play the instrument beforehand.
Inspired by the human eye
This prototype – a tiny camera (21mm in diameter) called the “Eyeball” – comes from a team of researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois. It’s a curvilinear camera, so its lens is formed by curved lines like those in a human eye. The Eyeball has a very high degree of precision, and includes a 3.5x zoom. Its principle applications could range from endoscopic imagery and robotics to consumer electronics and nighttime surveillance systems.
A lung on a chip
Published in the journal Science a few months ago, the research being conducted by Dr. Donald Ingber of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, foreshadows possible future changes in the realm of pharmaceutical testing. This team of researchers has essentially been able to create a chip that integrates human cells that reproduce the base function of a lung right up until the point of breathing. The “Lung on a chip” comes in the form of a small transparent rectangle made out of supple plastic material that has been integrated with a flexible and porous membrane, with one side having human air cells, and the other having human blood-vessel cells. The objective is to create a tool for conducting tests on new medicines without having to resort to either animal or human testing. Dr. Ingber has already set his sights on applying this tech to kidneys and livers, too, in order to extend the field of possible medical tests, and would like to eventually create an entire “man on a chip.”
Smartphone vision test
EyeNetra is the result of the convergence of a multitude of tested and relatively non-invasive technologies that will soon be at the service of developing countries. Developed and created by MIT, the system permits you to conduct simple vision tests without any sort of specific medical infrastructure. All that you need is an ocular adapter, a Smartphone, and software that, once the tests have been conducted, permits the transfer of information to a medical center for analysis and diagnosis.
Dance of the quadroters ('copters)
UPenn students Daniel Mellinger and Michael Shomin have each published videos of the advancement of their work in the domain of robotics, and in particular, research aided by miniature quadrotors. Mellinger developed a controller allowing one to do “work” in a series of coordinated maneuvers, and Shomin conceived and developed a system of fasteners allowing them “to catch” loads in order to move them.The result is a surprising ballet of quadrotors that are able to transport objects of increasingly complex forms over a distance along a more or less defined trajectory. This technology has evident future applications in the domains of surveillance, rescue,or transport of cargo in hostile environments.
"Copy-Paste" of the future
The SPARSH project from MIT is more or less the transfer of information from one piece of equipment or technological peripheralto another via the human body. The imagination of those in charge of the project seems to be without limit – they’ve come up with a way to copy an email address from a message by simply touching the message with your finger then pasting it, again with a finger, into a designated space. You can do the same thing with a phone number found in a directory and transfer it to your Smartphone, or a video found on Youtube that you can then transfer to your TV. Don’t miss the demonstration video “Touch to Copy, Touch to Paste.”
Print circuits with a pen
“Electronics for dummies” is almost a reality. A team of engineers at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), directed by Professor Jennifer Lewis, has just developed a simple ballpoint pencontaining an ink with a base of silverparticles, permitting the drawer to create a printed circuit on many types of surfaces, including paper. Circuit board printers already exist, but it is now possible – for a small price - to make them “on the go”, which could be useful in such areas as domestic electronics, art, and other such domains.
Des tanks invisibles
If the concept of e-camouflage is still strange to you, you should know that BAE Systems, the giant British defense/aerospace contractor, projects that they will equip British army assault tankswith a certain type of coatingthat will allow them to become quasi-invisible, by 2015. This technology could be operational in 3 to 5 years, and it consists of filming the immediate environment surrounding the vehicle with the aid of a mounted camera, and then transmitting the captured images onto a sort of electronic ink covering the vehicle. A constant refreshing of transmitted images permits the vehicle to blend into the background.
An imaginary touch-screen phone
The basic idea behind this project is amusing, and the first attempts are simply fascinating. Imaginary Phone is a research project directed by a team at the Hasso Plattnet Institut in Germany. It is “simply” a way to control and use your smartphone with only the finger and palm of your hand… and without having to physically manipulate the phone at all. All the current operations can be used: unlocking, menu navigation, sending and receiving calls, checking voicemails, etc. (See video) Fake? Magic? Nothing of the sort; it’s possible via a mini portable camera that captures the movements of your finger in space and then transmits those movements to the telephone that is then able to interpret them.
Transparent car cockpit
“Transparent Cockpit” is a project being conducted by a research team at the Tachi Lab in Yokohama, Japan, that revolves around a “visual assistance system for the car using retro-reflecting projection technology.” These researchers wanted to remedy the perpetual problem of “blind spots” that limit a driver’s ability to see the road in its entirety. They’ve created a cockpitthat permits the driver to see everything there is and everything that happens behind the opaque parts of the car, thus making the doors, roof, and the floor virtually transparent.
E. Chromi is the result of a meeting between two designers, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg and James King, and a team of scientists at the University of Cambridge specializing in synthetic biology. Their work combines colors, bacteria, and the human digestive tract in creating a “scatalog” that illustrates a potential medical diagnostic method for the future. The bacteria - e.chromi - would be integrated into drinks or food and, once in the digestive tract, would be capable of detecting pathologies and reacts by changing color depending upon the problem, which can then be detected in excrement.