An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.
Although the Microsoft Kinect was designed first and foremost for gaming, the fact that it's a cheap but reliable depth-sensing camera has led to its use in everything from navigation systems for the blind
to user-following grocery carts
to remote-control cyborg cockroaches
. Soon, however, it may be facing some competition. The Northwestern University-designed Motion Contrast 3D Scanning (MC3D) camera should also be economical, while offering higher-quality imaging and the ability to operate in sunlight.
Although we've seen at least one off-road skateboard with built-in suspension
, aftermarket suspension systems for more traditional boards are few and far between. The designers at California-based Avenue Trucks, however, are out to change that. They claim that their suspension trucks should improve the skateboarding experience in several key ways.
Cleaning up liquids spilled into carpets can be difficult – no matter how firmly you press a rag against them, you've always got to wonder how much of the liquid you're really soaking up. That's why the SpillMate was created. It attaches to the hose of a conventional vacuum cleaner, allowing it to actually suck liquid out of the carpet.
As consumer drones are becoming increasingly common, we seem to be seeing more of a certain "value-added" feature – quadcopters that are able to hover as needed, but which can also transition to faster and more efficient fixed-wing flight. Recent examples have included the Skyprowler
and the X PlusOne
. Now, there's also the Vertex.
It's a frustrating situation. There are already stem cells in the nervous system that are capable of repairing the damage done by multiple sclerosis, but getting them to do
so has proven very difficult. Now, however, a multi-institutional team led by Case Western Reserve University's Prof. Paul Tesar may have found the answer – and it involves using medications that were designed to treat athlete's foot and eczema.
There are already beverage cans that contain chemically-activated chilling modules
. Now, three students from Houston's Rice University are working at applying the same principle to hypodermic needles. Instead of keeping the medication in the syringe cool, however, the idea is that a special needle cap could be used to first chill and numb the patient's skin, making the subsequent injection relatively painless.
There are already in-vehicle systems that keep people from driving while intoxicated, although most of them require users to blow into a breathalyzer. The prototype AlcoStop system, however, takes a less intrusive approach – it measures users' blood alcohol levels by analyzing their sweat via built-in sensors, and won't allow the car to start if those levels indicate that they're too drunk to drive.
Here's something you might not know about foreign-language films ... when they're dubbed to English, the editors don't necessarily just go with the most literal translation. Instead, they observe the actors' lip movements, then choose English dialogue that at least somewhat matches up with those. Now, a team from Disney Research Pittsburgh and the University of East Anglia has developed a system that does so automatically, and that offers a wider range of suggested alternate phrases.
We've already seen interactive technologies that create smells
or tactile sensations
on command. Now, however, British scientists have developed a system that they claim can be used to make users experience specific emotions
– and it does so without even touching the person.
We're used to 3D-printed objects being hard and unyielding, or perhaps a little rubbery. Thanks to work being done by scientists at Disney Research and Carnegie Mellon University, however, we may soon be seeing things like soft and squishy 3D-printed teddy bears, made from layered pieces of fabric. What's more, those items could be electrically conductive.