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.
There are already plenty of apps that let people estimate how many calories are in the foods they're eating. However, most of these programs require users to either guess at their portion sizes, or actually weigh the food. That's where the University of Washington's NutriRay3D comes in. It's a smartphone device/app combo, that uses lasers to ascertain how many calories are sitting on the plate.
There's no denying that good-quality bike locks tend to be heavy, plus they're often awkward to carry. While we have seen efforts to make them lighter and less obtrusive, Latvian startup GreyNut has gone a step farther – its Bindio system simply places the lock at a parking spot at the cyclist's destination, so it's already there waiting for them.
Fires in high-rises can be particularly deadly. This is partially because of the buildings' "chimney" effect, along with the fact that it's just plain difficult for firefighters to reach the flames. With that in mind, researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have created the flying, wall-climbing, fire-resistant FAROS quadcopter. It's designed to ascertain the source of a fire as soon as possible, along with the locations of people trapped within the building.
While MRI scans may not expose patients to the ionizing radiation found in X-rays, they still are potentially harmful. This is because the increased radiofrequency energy absorption associated with newer high-field and ultra-high-field MRI scanners can heat body tissue. Thanks to research being conducted at the Australian National University, however, that may soon no longer be an issue – additionally, scans could be quicker and produce higher-quality images.
Remember when Google Street View only allowed you to explore streets? Since its launch in 2007, the service has been expanded to include things like coral reefs, hiking trails and the Amazon River. In its latest "off-road" adventure, however, Google Maps has thought smaller – it's used miniaturized Street View cameras to visually map a model railroad.
As much as some people fear getting dental fillings or root canals, what many of them are really afraid of is the needle that delivers the anesthetic into the mouth tissue. Even though the skin in the "jabbing area" is usually pretreated with a topical anesthetic, it can still hurt. Before long, however, a shot of electricity could make that topical treatment deep-acting enough that the needle isn't even needed.
Suppose you had a tablet that only displayed one line of text at a time. It would be pretty frustrating, but it's a limitation that blind users of braille-displaying devices are faced with constantly. Thanks to new technology being developed at the University of Michigan, however, full-page refreshable braille tablets could soon be on their way.
In order to remain sleek and compact, most of today's cycling multitools lack a chain-repair tool. Well, the guys at Philadelphia-based Mineral Design have addressed that limitation, with their two-part Mini Bar and Barstow system. It consists of a pocketable magnetic multi-bit wrench, paired up with a separate chain tool that sits inside the handlebar.
There are now plenty of standing desks for buyers to choose from, along with desks that allow users to switch between sitting and standing. The Ergon Desk, however, takes things a step farther. It's a six-person unit designed to facilitate teamwork, and it consists of individual sit/stand stations that adapt to the ergonomic needs of individual users.
Whether they're on airplanes, bridges or pipelines, even the tiniest of cracks can fast lead to catastrophic failures. That's why it's important to identify them as early as possible, before they get out of hand. With that in mind, scientists at the University of Illinois have created a new polymer coating that can be applied to a wide variety of structural materials. When those materials crack – even a little – the polymer changes color to let inspectors know that something's up.