Sep 302014
 

By: Jordan Massey

Image courtesy of Bragi.com

Image courtesy of Bragi.com

The age of wired technology is fast approaching its long-awaited doom.

While you were still busy ogling over the burgeoning trend in wearable fitness technology, one talent-stacked european company has been developing the Swiss Army Knife of wearable tech. Some say it’s a pair of wireless headphones, others say it’s a fitness tracker. Surprisingly, the Dash is both! And there’s none of that fitness tracker wristband malarkey, this gadget really does do it all.

The Dash by Bragi was first submitted as a Kickstarter project, and it raised an astounding $3.3 million, well above the project’s stated goal of $260,000. The Dash itself is a pair of wireless earbuds that also has the ability to track fitness data. The full list of features is nothing short of impressive, provided the real thing lives up to the hype.

The Dash, aside from taking advantage of wireless tethering, also has an onboard 4GB MP3 player, so the user with an active lifestyle does not need to carry a companion smartphone. The device features both Noise Reduction and Audio Transparency, which enables the user to allow environmental noise to pass through the headphones. This carries the benefit of allowing a user to remain aware of changes in their immediate area. An embedded earbone microphone is advertised as allowing crisp and clear phone conversations. Sporting an innovative dual touchpad control interface, the user can give several different commands to the Dash by simply swiping the cover of their earpiece.

In the image below you can see what the Dash looks like in-ear. While significantly larger than other earbuds on the market, the Dash is contoured to the shape of the middle ear. This allows room for all the added features, including the battery, while marketed as also providing a secure fit for active users. The flat surface in the middle of the earbud is the touch control interface. Swiping vertically, horizontally, and tapping can give the Dash various commands on either ear.

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Sep 302014
 

What is often passed off as a negligible and readily available asset could be something that another person was eagerly waiting for. As students, reading forms a crucial part of our academics. However, for a person who is visually impaired, the path to obtain a formal education is wrought with difficulties like dependency on persons with normal vision or awaiting the availability of Braille versions of books. The World Health Organization estimates the population of visually impaired people as around 285 million. Yet, it is saddening to see that our technological advancements have not really been able to help them much. Until now.

Finger Reader Prototype

Finger Reader Prototype (http://indiaartndesign.com/IAnD_images/content2014/July/Fingerreader/FingerReader_IndiaArtnDesign(5).jpg MIT Fluid Interfaces Group )

The Fluid Interfaces group of Massachussets Institute of Technology(MIT)’s Media Lab has been working on a character reader that can fit on a person’s finger and can read text (off a surface) out loud as well as give signals to them. Termed “FingerReader”, the promise of this technology in aiding the visually impaired is in itself a noble cause. However, as scholars of wearable technologies, we need to look at the pros and cons of their design and what could be done to improve upon it.

fingerReader-that-reads-aloud-when-you-point-at-words-3

FingerReader (http://www.technicupdates.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/fingerReader-that-reads-aloud-when-you-point-at-words-3.jpg and MIT Fluid Interfaces Group)

 

Looking at the device, the immediate opinion that springs up is on the aesthetics. The ring seems overly bulky and we can see that there is a chip on one side and a wire that connects to a computer on the other. Having seen the extent of minimizing size whilst improving on the presentability of products, we can immediately say this is still in its development stage. However, when looking at the functional aspect of it, we find that there is much more than meets the eye. The technology seems to rely on a camera fitted on the device that sends in visual input to the system as the finger moves along the surface. Software then identifies spaces and characters and attempts to pronounce the same based on phonetic rules that have been pre-programmed. Although I am not sure about the voice, I think it is safe to assume that it is coming from the system’s built-in speakers and have a robotic echoing effect that would need to be worked upon. The speed of processing is not at the levels we are used to experiencing with the technologies we utilize everyday but, considering the amount of processing that needs to be done with each movement, the speed is appreciable. The Fluid Interfaces Group has put up a demo on their website which I have embedded below.

In the video, we can see that, although slow, the system is able to recognize and pronounce words accurately. The sensors and signals sent to show the ends and starts of lines are a thoughtful addition. The wearer doesn’t seem to feel the weight of the reader much and this is a sign that with future iterations, the size can definitely be scaled down even more. The group promises bluetooth enabling as well as mobile pairing options. It looks to be seen how much longer it will take to get all these implemented with the basic functional prototype. The group seems quite confident in their ability to sell and we can hope their pricing will be kept in a range that is affordable by a section of people who might not be economically well off.

For more details and to get involved with the project, do visit their website : http://fluid.media.mit.edu/projects/fingerreader

 

References : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/08/fingerreader-read-blind-mit_n_5565898.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063

http://fluid.media.mit.edu/projects/fingerreader

Sep 292014
 

By Suzanna Brooks

The greatest improvements in medicine in the last few decades have been made possible by advances in technology. Today new personal and mobile technologies are just beginning to allow us to take charge of our own health and medicine. Smartphone apps compile data and provide solutions, and wearable technology such as fitness bands track movement, heart rate, and more. But this is just the start of a new wave of tech gadgets and apps that will revolutionize how we care for our bodies.

The sophistication and widespread availability of mobile technology for all aspects of healthcare are about to take off, and this advanced tech will help us to take responsibility for our own health. Mobile apps that help you count calories, lose weight, get fit, quit smoking, track your alcohol intake, or manage a specific health condition are already available and in use.

Babylon welcome screenshot

Babylon consult screenshot Images via Babylon on Google Play

Health apps of the very near future will include the likes of Babylon, an app that books virtual appointments, tracks symptoms, and receives your prescriptions with no wait time. Or you might use WellDoc, which could be prescribed by your doctor to support chronic disease management “by integrating clinical, behavioral, and motivational applications with everyday technologies, like the internet and cell phone, to engage patients and healthcare providers in ways that dramatically improve outcomes and significantly reduce healthcare costs.”

“During the next five years, health apps will empower consumers to make improved and informed lifestyle choices leading to better health and reducing the risk of chronic disease,” says Damon Lightley, managing director at Genetic Apps, an app developer for the health, sports, medical, and pharma markets. “They’ll also enable healthcare professionals to detect diseases earlier and reduce care costs.”

Current wearable technology for healthcare includes fitness bands that track steps like Jawbone UP and Fitbit Flex, the Withings Pulse O2 which combines a pedometer with a heart rate and blood oxygen monitor, and Google Glass—which, among its myriad of uses, helps doctors to see more patient data in real time, hands free, and allows surgeons to better perform minimally invasive operations requiring reliance on imagery.

Some of the new and upcoming wearable technologies that are focused on improving health sound strange, but are currently under development: a shirt that detects irregular blood sugar levels, contact lenses that monitor changes in the retina, and intelligent fibers in clothing that keep track of your pulse, breathing, and heart rate. Other developments on the way include a smart sock that keeps track of people with Alzheimer’s disease, a skin patch that provides hypodermic injections throughout the day, and Digitsole—an insole that connects to a mobile device allowing you to adjust the temperature of your shoes, track activity, and also help adjust your posture.

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Sep 212014
 

 By: Benaiah Ely

Photo courtesy of www.LiveAthos.com

Athos performance wear
Photo courtesy of www.LiveAthos.com

As the age of information progresses, people and organizations alike are benefitting from the ease at which they can access information pertaining to nearly everything via the internet. The development and continued use of social networks in particular has given people the chance to either share or receive knowledge regarding technologies, fashion, events and even health advice with others. Because of this, at least in part, there has been an increase in the formation of groups focused on increasing health awareness and the active decision to lead a life filled with healthy decisions. We’ve seen groups, almost recognizable as subcultures, form and gain mass participation as part of this process. Recognizable names, such as P90X or CrossFit, come to mind. Part of the appeal of said groups is that pretty much anyone can join.

So why wouldn’t everyone partake in such groups? As modern media outlets, particularly in the United States, continue to place an emphasis on maintaining a ‘fit’ and ‘toned’ exterior, it is not unreasonable to think that almost anyone would want to be part of such an active culture. So why aren’t they? It begins with establishing the basis for being able to participate in such groups. People need to be able to accomplish at least minor physical achievements to have the foundation to keep up with the aforementioned groups. It is likely that this can be accomplished by semi regular visits to a gym or fitness facility. But, as some people may know from personal experience, it isn’t always that simple. Gym phobias can set in, or rather, fears that often stem from working out in front of others. Often, these fears are due simply to a lack of information. What workouts are the best for me? Which exercises should I do to target specific muscles? How do I know I’m doing the workouts right? These are all legitimate questions, likely faced by many of us. To overcome this, some seek the opinions or expertise of those who are well versed in exercise. An entire business has been founded on this idea, as personal trainers or fitness instructors have become an integral part of any gym. What do they do exactly? Well, they more or less tell the individual which workouts to do, how to perform the exercises in an optimal manner, and encourage the participant throughout the workout. It is a noble practice and an often necessary one. Even some of the most avid exercise fanatics will admit that monitoring your own exercises to make sure they’re being performed optimally can be a difficult task. Thus, the need for a personal trainer is only heightened. Right?

Feeling similar frustrations, Dhananja Jayalath and Christopher Wiebe, two gym-goers frustrated with their routines, decided to take action. Together, they “set out on a mission to help people improve their lives by providing actionable insights without disrupting their existing routines.” Essentially, the two individuals combined digital technology and performance wear to create clothing that will, in a sense, become your personal trainer. Thus, Athos was born. Continue reading »

May 092014
 

I had a fit over a ONESIE that I skimmed over at the Internet of Things and had to check that it was not my biological clock! Confirming with my husband, I have validated that

Mimo Baby Monitor

Mimo Baby Monitor

this is just COOL! The Huffington Post, Today, CNBC, and SF Chronicle all agree that Mimo baby sleep monitor is what parents deserve to achieve “Relief from heavy, anxious feeling. Clear and accurate information. Waking refreshed and energized.” Not having any children myself, I had to look at the real problem that this wearable technology solves in research. SIDS and SUID are not just acronyms that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention elaborate on their website. Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome represents that accidents happen, Mimo featuresfamilies grieve and suffer the ultimate loss of infant life less than a year old.

Mimo seeks to monitor the “rest and well-being of their infant…by using multi-layer deposition of electrical conductors to produce durable sensors built into infant clothing. Parents can get data on activity levels, body position and breathing” available for IOS and Android.

Life saving information at the tips of parent's fingers

Life saving information at the tips of parent’s fingers

The pitch is for the “mommy brain” and including in rapid fire at the end of the front page video “daddy brain, baby-sitter brain, going back to work brain, generally any other type of care taker brain.” However, I think the technology could benefit the other end of the age spectrum too.  “40 million adults age 65 and over will be living alone in the U.S, Canada and Europe.” The Mimo does not require a Life Alert emergency response of falling and unable to get up. With Mimo’s respiration, temperature, movement and body position sensors it seems that the baby market is a frontier to expand into other age categories too. This could be my inner desire to purchase one for my own elderly family member, but not ready for the full Mimo Baby Monitor Starter kit purchase for myself.

Sources-

Mimo

http://mimobaby.com/

https://www.dragoninnovation.com/projects/19-mimo