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.
Wood pulp-derived nanocellulose is turning out to be pretty useful
stuff. Previously, we'd heard how it could be used in things like high-strength lightweight composites, oil-absorbing sponges and biodegradable computer chips.
Now, researchers from Sweden and the US have used the material to build
soft-bodied batteries that are more shock- and stress-resistant than
their traditional hard counterparts.
For people with limited hearing, understanding movies or plays can be
challenging – particularly if they don't own a hearing aid. That's why
engineers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technolgy
have developed a system that streams audio from the stage or screen to
the user's earphone-equipped smartphone.
Doctors and nurses in Japan – or in other countries, for that matter –
may soon have some robotic company when making their rounds. That's
because researchers at Toyohashi University of Technology are developing
an omnidirectional robot named Terapio, that's designed to take the
place of a traditional medical cart.
When cycling at night, it's important not just to be seen from the front
and back but also from the sides. In order to make that happen, bicycle
lighting systems typically either add dedicated side lights or they divert
part of the main headlight beam. The Ding headlight, however, puts out
one beam that shines forward, along with a second one that lights up the
road directly to either side of the bike.
As mobile technology progresses, we're seeing more and more examples of low-cost diagnostic systems
being created for use in developing nations and remote locations. One
of the latest incorporates little more than a smartphone, tablet,
polarizer and box to test body fluid samples for diseases such as
arthritis, cystic fibrosis and acute pancreatitis.
There are already bicycle "running lights" that plug into the ends of
the handlebars, providing side visibility when cycling at night. HueRay
takes that same idea but makes it sturdier and more self-contained, with
silicone bar grips that incorporate their own high-intensity LEDs.
Starting in April 2011, the European Union CoCoRo (Collective Cognitive
Robots) research consortium has been developing three varieties of
autonomous underwater robots that school together like fish. By doing
so, the little bots can share and learn from each others' "knowledge" of
their environment, acting as a collective cognitive system that's
smarter than any one of its individual parts.
As electronic devices are becoming outdated at an increasingly fast pace, e-waste continues to be a huge problem.
That's why scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have
started producing "wooden" semiconductor chips that could almost
entirely biodegrade once left in a landfill. As an added bonus, the
chips are also flexible, making them prime candidates for use in
In tropical countries such as the Philippines, there are plenty of rice
husks ... and also plenty of termites. A group of engineering students
from the University of California, Riverside, recently decided to use
the former to address the latter, by creating termite-resistant
particleboard from rice husks.
While a smoke detector can certainly provide you with an early warning
in the event of a house fire, it can't usually do much to help you get
out of the building once that fire is underway. That's why Toronto-based
startup Safety iQ developed the Saver. It's a portable device that
reportedly allows users to breathe safely in smoke-filled environments,
while also serving as a flashlight and alarm.