The best of 2014

Ben Coxworth

PREDIBIRTH is a software system that determines how likely pregnant women are to experienc...

In the United States, approximately one-third of all births are performed via cesarean-section. Here’s another statistic: emergency C-sections are six to seven times more likely to result in death or harm to the infant, than are planned C-sections. Therefore, if a significant percentage of the emergency cesareans could instead be planned, that would potentially save a lot of babies. That’s where PREDIBIRTH comes in. Developed by Dr. Olivier Ami and a team of researchers from France’s Université Paris Sud, the software can accurately predict the likelihood of difficult births, based on MRIs of pregnant women's bellies.  Read More

The mobislyder is a compact video camera sliding system, for use with smartphone cameras a...

I have to admit to occasionally doing something that’s perhaps a little dorky. If I’m listening to particularly moody music, I’ll sometimes close one eye, then simulate a tracking shot or a crane shot from a movie, by slowly moving my head past the items on my desk. Yeah, I look pretty dumb doing it, but the continuous change in perspective created by such a simple move really has a way of making even the most mundane scenes look ... poetic? Profound? Good videographers realize how powerful such shots can be, which is why some of them put their DSLRs or prosumer-level camcorders on camera sliding mechanisms like the Glidetrack. Now, users of smartphone cameras and pocket camcorders can get in on the smooth-tracking action, with Glidetrack’s compact new mobislyder.  Read More

The Little Printer is a cloud-connected thermal printer, that prints off mini newspapers c...

Even though computers were supposed to usher in a paperless society, the fact is that for some things, people still like the simplicity and durability of printed text. Now more than ever, though, we’re being told to cut back on unnecessary paper use. Well, that’s where the Little Printer comes in. Announced today by UK tech company BERG, the small box-shaped device is designed to search the internet using user-defined criteria, then print off a cash register receipt-like mini newspaper upon request. Users can then stuff that printout in their pocket, jam it into their wallet, or use the back of it for their next shopping list.  Read More

The Origami is a stroller that automatically folds itself up, with the push of a button

Appropriately enough called the Origami, the new baby product from 4moms is billed as “the world’s first power-folding stroller.” This means that it will fold itself down into a compact car-trunkable bundle, at the press of a button – another press gets it to open back up again. Evidently, however, that one feature just isn’t enough. It also has running lights and headlights, plus it will charge your cell phone. There’s no word yet on whether or not in can perform diaper changes.  Read More

On a scale of 1 to 5, how much retouching would you say was applied to the left-hand image...

Even though we know that the photos we see of models and celebrities are retouched, many of us nonetheless can’t help but think “Yeah, but even without that little bit of airbrushing, that person still looks way better than me.” For most people, such thoughts are merely a little bit humbling. For others, however, they can lead to Body Dysmorphic Disorder, eating disorders, or severely-low self-esteem – all of which can in turn have very serious consequences, including death. Perhaps if those people knew just how retouched that one photo of Mila Kunis or Ryan Gosling was, however, they might realize how much of a lie it really represented. That’s why researchers at New Hampshire’s Dartmouth College are proposing a system that objectively assesses the extent of changes made to a photograph, then displays that amount as a number rating on the published photo.  Read More

Star Syringes' K1 Auto Disposable syringe can only be used once, to reduce the spread of d...

In these days of reducing, reusing and recycling, it may seem strange that anyone would be going out of their way to make a potentially reusable product disposable. It all makes sense, however, when that product is a syringe. According to the World Health Organization, every year approximately 1.3 million people die worldwide, due to diseases contracted through the reuse of syringes. Part of this can be chalked up to needle-sharing by users of illicit intravenous drugs, but much of it is due to health care workers (particularly those with little training or in impoverished conditions) using the same syringe to inoculate multiple patients. If a syringe simply ceases to function after one use, however, reusing it is impossible. That’s the idea behind Star Syringes’ K1 Auto Disposable syringe.  Read More

Captive Media is a urinal-based video game service, where male users control the game play...

As any barkeep will tell you, the bar/pub industry is a very competitive one, with business owners taking every opportunity they can to attract clientele to their establishments. If the usual approaches such as cheap drinks aren't doing enough on their own, however, now there's something else that may help draw the customers in ... or at least, into the men's washroom. It's called Captive Media, and it consists of urinal-mounted video game systems, where men control the gameplay by changing the trajectory of their urine stream from side to side. Hey, whatever it takes to make your watering hole Number 1, right?  Read More

Norwegian scientists are developing a capsule that they say will be able to transmit live ...

Although we may not yet have reached the stage where manned submarines can be shrunken down and placed inside the body, à la the movie Fantastic Voyage, current technology does allow us to do something almost as impressive – it is now possible to obtain images of the inside of the intestinal tract, by getting patients to swallow a camera-equipped capsule. Japanese company RF System Lab reported success using its Norika 3 RF Endoscopic Robot Capsule to transmit live video from inside test subjects back in 2004, while just last year Olympus announced the creation of a similar device. Now, Norwegian researchers are stating that they are in the process of developing the “next generation” of camera pill.  Read More

The graphene foam is macroscopic in total size (left), yet has nanoscopic internal structu...

For some time now, scientists have known that certain nanostructures are very sensitive to the presence of various chemicals and gases, making them good candidates for use in explosives-detecting devices. Unfortunately, because they're so small, mounting a single nanostructure within such a device would be an extremely fiddly and costly process. They would also be quite fragile, plus it would be difficult to clean the detected gas from them, so they could be reused. Recently, however, scientists from New York's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have figured out a solution to those problems. They have created a postage stamp-sized piece of foam made from one continuous piece of graphene, that is easy to manipulate, flexible, rugged, simple to neutralize after each use ... and is ten times more sensitive than traditional polymer sensors.  Read More

Ant-Roach is a six-legged 'pneubot,' designed to showcase the capabilities of inflatable r...

What weighs a little under 70 pounds, has six legs, and is full of air? No, it's not conjoined monkey triplets with gas - as you've doubtless already gathered from the picture, it's a walking inflatable robot known as Ant-Roach. Earning its name by looking like a cross between an anteater and a cockroach, the wonderfully-kooky beast is the creation of San Francisco-based engineering/design group Otherlab. Besides providing amusement, the device was built to showcase the high strength-to-weight ratios and carrying capacities that are possible with inflatable robots.  Read More

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