Dec 072014
 

 

 

The “Cardiac Rehab Patient Monitoring Jacket” is a jacket that is intended to help cardiac rehab nurses monitor patients. After a cardiac surgery, such as a bypass or a cardiac cath, most patients are required to participate in some form of cardiac rehabilitation. Often times this requires the patient to participate in monitored rehab therapy in a hospital gym. After a heart procedure it is very important that the patient monitor their heart rate to ensure that they do not exceed the threshold set by their physician. During the monitored gym exercise it is not uncommon to see a number of patients exercising at the same time, therefore requiring one cardiac rehab nurse to monitor multiple patients. Typically the patients are connected to heart rate monitors that are watched by employees on a screen at the nursing station, and an audible alarm is set to each patient. The difficulty with this is that there is potential for the alarm to go unnoticed if the noise level in the gym is high due to multiple patients using the equipment. Imagine monitoring a video screen with twenty treadmills running simultaneously, and having to listen for an audible alarm while dealing with a patient at the desk. There is a potential for a patient’s overexertion to go unnoticed. Even the patient may overlook that they have exceeded their threshold. It is not difficult to imagine a patient who does not realize that they are above their target heart rate simply because they were used to working out at a much higher level before they had their procedure. The “Cardiac Rehab Patient Monitoring Jacket” is a means to supplement the monitoring processes already set in place, and provide additional levels of safety to monitored cardiac rehab exercise.

Patient_Monitoring_JacketThe jacket allows that each user can have their heart rate threshold programmed into the jacket based on their physician’s recommendation. A 50 year old patient, who was an avid runner pre-procedure, who had a single cardiac cath inserted will likely have a higher threshold than a 65 year old patient who had triple bypass and lived a largely sedentary lifestyle. The limits would be set according to the patient’s perceived fitness level, and their physician’s suggested limits of physical activity. The patient will wear a wireless chest-strap heart rate monitor which is interfaced with the jacket. Once the heart rate limit is exceeded the 64 LED matrix will light up to signal that the patient needs to slow down and lower their heart rate. This not only allows for the cardiac rehab employee to monitor the patient, but will also signal the patient and other patients to the situation. If the employee was distracted by another patient, or failed to hear the audible alarm, then hopefully the patient would be made aware of their overexertion, or perhaps another patient who is in the gym.

The jacket is powered by two battery packs that use 4 AA batteries, and have on and off switches. The heart rate monitor Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 1.35.30 PMinterface (HRMI) is connected to an Arduino Uno, and the Arduino is connected to the Adafruit NeoPixel NeoMatrix 8×8. The program that runs the system allows that the heart rate threshold can be changed in the first few lines of the code to fit the designated parameters of each individual patient. The pixel matrix is activated once the heart rate threshold is exceeded, and will automatically turn off once the heart rate returns to normal. Taking into consideration that most cardiac patients are older, the simplicity of the jacket is a key factor in the success of its implementation. The cardiac rehab employee will program each Arduino based on consultation with the patient’s cardiologist, and each jacket will be assigned to one patient. As the patient recovers, the values of the threshold can be changed according to their physician’s recommendations. This will also allow that the patient has a simple means of self evaluation. A patient who is unfamiliar with using heart rate monitors can be easily taught that if their jacket lights up, they need to back off on their workout. This will help the patient in understanding their personal limits, and provide a simple means of monitoring how their fitness level was affected by their procedure.

The use of wearable technology in healthcare is not a new idea, and there are many products that incorporate vital signs in their features, but for these products to truly be effective, they must be simple enough for a patient with no clinical or technological background to use and understand. Bradley Quinn provides multiple examples of diagnostic textiles that are being used in healthcare, and notes the importance of wireless garments that monitor the patients “in a range of everyday situations” (Quinn, 2010). Quinn acknowledges garments such as the Heart Sensing Sports Bra, the Heart Sensing Racer Tank, and the Cardio Shirt for Men, but the impressive capabilities of these garments can also be considered a hindrance. These products often require additional software applications, and are designed for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. In some cases their technological capabilities can be a deterrent to users who are not tech savvy. It can be intimidating for a user to not only be required to monitor their vital signs, but to also have to learn new technology. Products like the Adidas micoach provide a variety of functions that could serve the same purposes as this project, but in the case of many patients, the additional time required to learn to use the product (and the added cost) would be one more stress factor that could be avoided with a more simple product that is focused on one key function. These products are also designed to provide the user with information that is used for fitness tracking and monitoring with no way to alert others that the user is in trouble. The simplicity of this project could be seen as a benefit to the patient and anyone in the general vicinity of the patient. Future versions of the project could include features that would allow for the jacket to be used outside of a hospital setting. Because the entire project operates independently of any hospital equipment, the patient could also use it during their daily exercise routine. After the patient has completed their required rehab schedule they could benefit from the reassurance that they could continue using the device. If an additional alarm was included in the project, it could be used as a means of alerting someone who is unfamiliar with the project that something is wrong. For example, a patient who has recently completed her monitored exercises takes daily walks in her neighborhood. During one particularly hot day, she begins to feel fatigued and exceeds her preset threshold. The device is activated, and the LED matrix lights up and an alarm sounds. This could alert anyone passing by that the woman is in need of help. Whether the person passing by is familiar with the product or not, it would be clear that something was wrong, and it would be likely that they would notice the alarm and lights, and hopefully this would prompt the good samaritan to investigate. Complexity does not always equate to increased functionality, and it is likely that there is a large population who would welcome a product that provides a simple (but potentially life-saving) service.

References:

http://micoach.adidas.com/

Quinn, Bradley. “Vital Signs.” Textile Futures: Fashion, Design and Technology. Oxford: Berg, 2010. 85-107.

Nov 222014
 

The Metamorphosis line from Younghui Kim is a clothing line that detects alcohol levels in its wearers. A female dress responds to the wearer’s level of alcohol consumption through the use of colorful lights and expanding sleeves, while a male’s blazer responds by an expanding collar that slides out to cover the wearer’s face.

The project is meant to express the impact alcohol has on a person’s self-esteem, and was specifically focused on the role of drinking in Korean society. The interesting point of the project is the grounds for its creation. When first exposed to an article on Bustle, the title “A Dress that Detects when You’re Drunk? Younghuo Kim’s Wearable Tech will Draw Attention to the Fact that you’re Sloshed” I was left with the initial impression that the project was intended to act as a deterrent to over indulgence. After further reading, I have come to the realization that it is not technology meant to support sobriety, but rather as commentary on the way in which drinkers interact, and are perceived in social situations.

Apparently, social drinking in Korea is viewed as an outlet for honesty, and Kim’s website absurdee.com notes that “with formality deeply set in society, people are often shy to express what they really think soberly” (Kim, 2014). I find this interesting because it raises the question as to how a person should interpret the opinion of another. It almost seems that Kim is suggesting that the views of a person who has been drinking should carry more weight than those of someone who has not. While it is often said in vino veritas, people in western society are often heard explaining their actions by blaming alcohol. I have heard “I had been drinking” when responding to questions about a late-night conversation from the night before. It is not to say that there is not truth in wine, but it is interesting to note the social differences surrounding the conversation of honesty and alcohol. Would a project such as Kim’s have any impact on the perception of a person’s words, or even more importantly, should it?

It seems that in fashion, it is not uncommon to see someone wearing a particular item because of the statement it is making. One could wonder what the statement an item from the Metamorphosis project is making. In western culture, would it be viewed as an excuse? In Korea, would it be seen as a reason to pay extra attention to the wearer’s words and actions, because they are in fact being honest? It is also interesting to note that the female’s version of this project draws attention to the wearer, but the male’s blazer is designed to hide the wearer’s face. It is almost as if Kim is saying that when drinking a female is empowered, yet when a man drinks the best course of action is to keep his mouth shut and hide from the public. While this may not be the actual intent of the project, it is reminiscent of the points made by Joanne Entwistle in “Fashion and Gender.” Entwistle notes that in fashion “clothing does more than simply draw attention to the body and emphasize bodily signs of difference. It works to imbue the body with significance, adding layers of cultural meanings” (Entwistle, 2000). In the case of the Metamorphosis project, this seems to be taken to an entirely new level. It is not just the appearance of the articles of clothing, but it is the way in which these articles interact with the wearer. Would a woman who identifies as male require the same response from the item, or would she be exempted from “hiding” because she is a woman? Would a man who identifies as female be empowered by the influence of alcohol on his self-esteem?

One cannot argue that the project is interesting, but does seem to be ambiguous as to its intent. At first glance Kim seems to be making a statement in regards to the relationship between social interaction and alcohol consumption, but after a closer look there seems to be a not so subtle commentary on gender roles in social situations. The social implications of the project could be immense, but it also seems likely that the message from the item could easily be unclear. The technology seems far more likely to be relevant if gender is taken out of the equation, and the same response is generated no matter the sex of the wearer. Metamorphosis should simply provide the visual signal, and leave the interpretation of the situation up to the observer.

References

Entwistle, J. (2000). Fashion and Gender. In The fashioned body: Fashion, dress, and modern social theory. Cambridge: Polity Press.

abdurdee.com

Nov 192014
 

By: Jade Lawson

Fitness trackers have some new competition and the future of popular fitness bands is changing.

The OMsignal biometric smartwear is breaking ground on a new, unexplored, area of fitness wear that allows users to measure heart rate, breathing rate, breathing depth, activity intensity, steps taken, calories burned, and heart rate variability. Measurement of these areas is possible in some of today’s top fitness bands and smartwatches, but these new shirts allow for a wider range of usage than just fitness or light daily activity. Popular fitness tracking bands like Fitbit Flex and Jawbone Up24 are only capable of measuring steps taken and activity intensity. These tracking bands can only estimate calories burned based on the wearer’s personal data of height, weight, and age. Fitbit Flex and Jawbone Up24 are sometimes marketed as being for day-to-day use, but they are most effective with high activity levels. The company Fitbit is aware that the market is changing, so they have just released information on their latest fitness trackers to be available early 2015 and they will be competing with OMsignal’s womens line. The Fitbit Charge is available now and the other 2 new Fitbit bands now include measurement of heart rate. However, OMsignal shirts are better fitted for use in daily lives and health testing because they have more health monitoring variables such as breathing rate/depth and heart rate variability. While these shirts aren’t meant to replace a visit to the doctor, they do take self-health monitoring a step further. They are a great tool in the ever-growing future of self-tracking, and personal health awareness.

Tracking Module

How does it work? The biometric sensors that take in all the rates, activity, calories burned, and heart rate are in the shirt but, the shirt itself doesn’t send the data to the application. In order to send the biometric sensor data from the shirt to the user’s phone application the user must purchase a data module. This data module does most of the work; it uses continual data collection to record data even when the user is away from their phone. Continual data collection means users can be phone free when working out and still receive all their workout statistics later. The data module uses low-power Bluetooth LE to send the data to an OMsignal application, which limits use to iPhones 4s and newer, and androids with low-power Bluetooth LE capability. Currently the app is only available for iOS, but there are plans for operating system expansion in 2015.

Common concerns with technological wearables are waterproofing, battery life, and data protection. The shirts can be washed in a machine just like any other fitness shirt, but the data module isn’t waterproof. The data module sits connected in a pocket in the shirt and can be removed for wash or can be transferred to another shirt. While the data module is water-resistant (meaning it’s sweat-proof and capable of handling a light rain) it cannot function when immersed in water. The data module’s battery can last through 30 1-hour long workouts, or 2-3 days of continuous use. It is not as long of a continuous usage time as wrist wearables like Fitbit Flex, and Jawbone Up24, but the Data Module also conveys more biometric data variables. The data that is taken in by the module is recorded and stored on a secure server. The data is associated with the user’s account so in the event of the app being deleted, or user’s phone upgraded, it stays secure and is transferable.

Apps can sometimes make or break a product, especially when it relies heavily on the app’s functionality, design, and ease of use.  OMsignal’s app design and functionality looks good, and seems like it will lift the product up, rather than bring it down. Omsignal describes their app best, “Prescriptive notifications assist post-training recovery by monitoring how your body behaves over time, with access to key data including heart rate recovery and breathing at rest, to monitor improvements in health and fitness. Lifestyle mode monitors your body’s energy, physical stress and activity levels, offering continuous insights throughout the day, allowing you to live a more balanced and focused life.”

The shirts are currently available for pre-order, and are to be shipped out starting November 24, 2014. They promote the starter or “up & running kit,” which usually costs $240. It is currently on sale for $199 for a limited time and includes 1 standard OMsignal shirt and a data module. There are a few other, more expensive, kits that include more than one shirt, as well as their lifestyle line. Sizing is from extra small to extra large, and can be worn under additional clothing.

Black-GreenShirts that are meant for working out are fitted a certain way to improve blood circulation, enhance performance, and help muscles recover faster. Shirts that are meant for lifestyle are shaped and fitted to help posture. All Omsignal shirts have climate control and moisture wicking. They are made of anti-microbial material and fight-odor causing bacteria which eliminates “after-workout smell.”

It doesn’t go unnoticed that there are no women featured wearing the product on the website, nor are there women’s shirts listed on the product page. At the bottom of the home page is an email input to receive information on the women’s collection. A collection that OMsignal plans to release in 2015. It begs the question though, did they think men’s shirts were more important to get done first, were they easier, or was it just the way they went about design? There are quite a few women on the OMsignal team, so the delay in the women’s collection shouldn’t be considered male bias, but it’s been shown that when it comes to things that are considered “strong” and “manly,” like fitness, men’s products take priority. OMsignal has said “The sensors of the OMsignal shirt need to be worn directly on the skin to give the best readings and we are currently working on a female design that fits a women’s body perfectly.” OMsignal displays the women’s shirt in their promotional video seen below. The advantages displayed are focused less on those available to the men’s shirt in relation to activity and more focused on lifestyle. Lifestyle that includes pregnancy monitoring with an ability to observe an unborn baby’s heart rate separately from the mother’s heart rate.

A lot of work went into the creation of these shirts; they weren’t made by one person with an idea, but by a team. A team of 34 unique individuals ranging from smart textile and marketing specialists, to BioE scientists and engineers, software developers and engineers, and most importantly, a chief medical officer. It is important to note the type of people involved in the making of this product because it shows that it has a high chance for success and support down the road.  Many years of research and testing got the OMsignal biometric smartwear to this stage, and plenty more research and testing will advance it even more in the future.

All supporting information taken from OMsignal.com

Images credit: OMsignal.com

Videos credit: Youtube.com/OMsignalTV

Nov 192014
 

By: Justin Ozuna

If you could protect yourself against cancer, would you? It turns out, in some instances, you can.

More than 90 percent of skin cancer diagnoses are a result of excessive ultraviolet (UV) ray exposure from the sun and tanning beds, making it one of the most preventable of all existing cancers. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, approximately 3.5 million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each year; more than breast, lung, prostate and colon cancers combined. Globally, it accounts for approximately 40 percent of all cancers and causes 80,000 deaths a year, a trend that has increased nearly 60 percent over the past two decades and continues to rise.

Until recently, skin cancer prevention meant the use of sunscreen, sun-protective clothing and a reliance on public awareness. The June bracelet by Netatmo wants to change that.

Karyne Levy/Business Insider

June bracelet photo credit: Karyne Levy/Business Insider

The bracelet is the first UV-awareness device of its kind. Within its attractive, centerpiece jewel is a sensor that measures and communicates UV ray exposure. The June bracelet uses its corresponding iPhone app to offer real-time, sun protection advice like what level of SPF sunscreen to use, when to reapply sunscreen throughout the day and when to wear hat or sunglass protection, all based on the user’s skin profile. It’s like having a personal health navigator on your wrist, one that’s fashionably chic.

June jewels photo credit: Netatmo.com

The bracelet was designed by French jewelry designer Camille Toupet, who gave it a high-end aesthetic to supplement its technological feel. The $99 jewel bracelet (or brooch) is available in three colors: platinum, gold and gunmetal. The jewel is interchangeable and can be attached to a double-stranded leather or silicon bracelet based on the wearer’s needs.

Like every piece of technology, the bracelet does have its limits. The app is only available on the iOS operating system, limiting the product’s availability to those who have an iDevice. Secondly, the UV sensor is not waterproof, which is a problem if you’re around water for most of the day (when, let’s face it, most people need sun advice the most).

But the most glaring and disappointing issue with the June bracelet is that its design reinforces gender bias. Its dainty, elegant and to borrow a headline description from Mashable, “gorgeous” design in only available for women. Without context, this decision signifies that only women are beholden to prolonged sun exposure or frequent tanning sessions and really misses the heart of the bracelet’s sole purpose – to inspire immediate, real-time awareness about the short and long-term dangers of UV rays on the skin, for everyone.

Worldwide skin cancer data suggests that men need skin protection just as much as women do, especially when considering the gender disparity statistics of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. While young men only account for 40 percent of melanoma diagnoses, they represent more than 60 percent of melanoma deaths. From ages 15 to 39, men are 55 percent more likely to die of melanoma than women in the same age group. Effective skin cancer prevention isn’t only about creating awareness, it’s about creating awareness sooner.

Despite its novel and unique approach to skin awareness, the company missed a great opportunity to offer more to the world than a dainty, beautifully-designed bracelet.

Photo credit: Netatmo.com

The June app works in coordination with the bracelet to provide the wearer with push notifications when UV exposure reaches a critical level.

 

 

 

Nov 172014
 

Post by: Nilufer Arsala

undercover colors

Photo credit:http://www.undercovercolors.com/

“Undercover Colors” is a brand of nail polish that was developed by four North Carolina State University undergrads. According to the Washington Post  the brand’s premise is nail polish that changes color when it detects date rape drugs, mainly Rohypnol, Xanax and GHB. The product isn’t on the market yet and there doesn’t seem to be any word on a release date for sale to the public. The company’s website shows a logo and slogan along with links to Undercover Colors’ social media pages, email and research donation fund.  A quick look at Undercover Colors’ Facebook page reveals a bit more of the happenings behind the scenes, with reference to the product in the research and development phase.

“Thank you for your interest in our company! At this point, we are early in the development of our product and we do not have any photos of the nail polish. However, we were planning on doing a media push in the not-too-distant future, once we have a demonstrable prototype." - Undercover Colors Representative Mock up and quote from: SlashGear- 8/22/2014

“Thank you for your interest in our company! At this point, we are early in the development of our product and we do not have any photos of the nail polish. However, we were planning on doing a media push in the not-too-distant future, once we have a demonstrable prototype.” – Undercover Colors Representative
Mock up and quote from: SlashGear- 8/22/2014

Since the product is still in research and development, there’s little information at the time of this posting about some aspects of the polish. What colors the polish will come in and how much it will cost don’t seem to be addressed by the company, suggesting Undercover Colors hasn’t progressed that far. Some controversy also surrounds this product.

Undercover Colors’ slogan , located on the company’s website is “The First Fashion Company Empowering Women to Prevent Sexual Assault.” In a way, the company does that. By swirling a polished fingernail in her glass, a woman can tell if her drink contains drugs commonly used by perpetrators of date rape. It has been pointed out that this product actually adds to rape culture by placing responsibility back on the woman to keep herself safe, as opposed to teaching men not to rape.  Also, the polish only reacts when coming into contact with certain drugs. The limited number of drug reactions could give women a false sense of security when screening drinks.

Photo credit: Feministing.com

Photo credit: Feministing.com

As a fashion accessory, this nail polish does what normal polish does. It adds to someone’s personal definition of “cool” as discussed in Luke Russell’s Effortless Cool. As a safety mechanism Undercover Colors seems to fall short. It is a daunting task to toe-the-line between perpetuating rape culture and trying to help women protect themselves from violence. The male college students that created this product could use a bit more education on the topic of date rape. Overall they seem to forget that date rape doesn’t just happen at bars or under the effects of drugs.

Links:
https://www.k-state.edu/media/webzine/Didyouhearyes/daterapefacts.html
http://www.undercovercolors.com/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sophia-kerby/what-undercover-colors-gets-all-wrong-about-date-rape_b_5722724.html
http://www.newsweek.com/controversy-over-nail-varnish-date-rape-drug-detector-267126
https://www.facebook.com/undercovercolors/info?tab=page_info
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/08/26/students-develop-nail-polish-to-detect-date-rape-drugs/

Nov 162014
 

With the popularity of wearable fitness devices, it has become common to see everyday consumers using devices to monitor their health and activity. Devices such as the fitbit flex  track activity such as steps, distance, calories burned, and sleep. These measurements have become fairly common today, but in comparison to the availability of fitness tracking technology twenty years ago, the growth in the industry is noticeable. Now the advancements in wearable technology are on the cusp of providing data tracking for vital signs that were previously only available in a hospital setting.

A new device called Muse uses sensors worn on the head to measure brain signals using Electroencephalography (EEG) science. The device is marketed as a tool that a user can use to train their brain in an effort to reduce stress, improve focus, and increase concentration.

According to the website, “Muse detects your brain signals during a focused attention exercise the same way a heart rate monitor detects your heart rate during physical exercise.” The device has 7 sensors to detect and measure brain activity, and then processes and exports this data into graphs and charts on the users mobile device. The data is then used to allow the user to train their brain using “focused attention training,” in a way that the company relates to being the “mental equivalent of a treadmill.”

Focused attention training is explained as an exercise that monitors how a user responds to distractions, and audible feedback. The examples below are diagrams of how a person’s mind tends to wander, and how using Muse could improve mental focus:

brainTraining_attn_loop_A-1brainTraining_attn_loop_B-1

Images  via ChooseMuse.com

The user wears the device during “exercise” and the device translates brain signals into the sounds of wind. When the user’s mind is calm and settled, they hear a calm and settled breeze, but when the user’s brain is active (distracted) the winds will pick up and blow. When a user is able to maintain a level of calm for an extended period of time, bird sounds will be introduced to announce that the mind is calm. The bird sounds will add an additional opportunity to monitor their progress because it requires the user to react to the additional stimulation, and respond in a manner that does not give in to additional distractions. This will hopefully allow the user to develop control over their mind, which they can then apply to distractions when not wearing the device.

Muse is based on research that has shown that focused attention training has been shown to reduce pain, reduce anxiety, improve mood, and reduce heart rate. Prolonged sessions have been documented to suggest other benefits, such as increased grey matter density, reduced thinning of the prefrontal cortex, decreasing amygdala activity (associated with stress response), and increased resilience and immune function – which basically suggests an overall positive change of the brain’s structure and function. The health implications of devices such as Muse have been largely discussed, and in “Vital Signs,” Bradley Quinn notes the potential for sensoring technology within healthcare, and provides a variety of examples that show the positive impact of wearable technology that is already available. Quinn points out the possibility of wearable technology detecting, and stopping, an episode in patients susceptible to strokes, or liable to have seizures, and it would seem that technology such as Muse could be adapted to perform similar tasks. While Muse is not an approved form of treatment for neurological disorders, it does suggest that there is a developing market for wearable technology within the realm of personal health. Devices such as Muse could lead to wearable technology that could increase the quality of life for many individuals who live with a variety of medical conditions.

SOURCES:

http://www.choosemuse.com

Quinn, Bradley. “Vital Signs.” Textile Futures: Fashion, Design and Technology. Oxford: Berg, 2010. 85-107.

Nov 162014
 

Academic Malcom Barnard begins his article “Etymologies and Definitions of Fashion and Clothing” with the definition of etymology, and then goes on to take a look at the various meanings of the word fashion. Through this scrutiny, Barnard offers value to the reader that other academics would, perhaps, miss. As wearable technology occupies a greater portion of the public’s mind share, it need also fall under greater scrutiny. Evgeny Morozov’s 2013 book, To Save Everything Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism, provides a starting point for such a critique. In an interview with the Economist, Morozov defines Solutionism as the, “…shallow and simplistic attitude towards defining problems as problems.” More specifically, technology becomes a quick and easy means to resolving complex problems. In doing so, the application of technology oversimplifies a problem to the point of obscuring the issue at hand.

BodyGuard Blanket via Protecht

One example of this is Protecht BodyGuard Blanket. The company attempts to solve the problem of school shootings by offering a bullet resistant blanket. Protecht cites the increasing number of school shootings, and claim that the situation will only get worse. They also highlight the ineffective results of previous attempts to address the same problem. In the face of a serious issue that seems deadlocked, the BodyGuard Blanket is a simple and relatively inexpensive solution that can be implemented immediately. Leaving aside the emotional blackmail of the “think of the children” argument, gun control is an issue that strikes at the heart of the American identity. As the second most important freedom to the founding fathers, the Bill of Rights specifically grants the right to bear arms. Any question of protecting or limiting this right should be left to policy makers enacting the will of the people rather than  a small technology company. Morozov opines, “As our technological infrastructure gets better, as it becomes easier to offload some of the problem solving from governments and agencies to citizens, they will no longer be presented as two equal alternatives. We will be relying on private means of problem solving through apps, and they will introduce a different kind of politics. A different kind of scale of politics”

If society turns to companies like Protecht to solve divisive questions such as gun control, then the problem will be portrayed as much simpler than it truly is. Products like the BodyGuard Blanket leave little to no room for nuance. Protecht, like all corporations, is looking to maximize their profits. Thus, they offer a product which aims to appeal to gun advocates and those who do not want to see another tragic outcome from the misuse of guns. When problems are painted in such broad strokes, it becomes harder to think critically. Because of this, Solutionism in the form of the BodyGuard Blanket does not address gun rights at all. The fundamental questions that loomed before society still remain; they are now reframed in such a way that society believes that they are no longer problems. More broadly, what are the consequences when society seeks solutions for public problems by private means? For all of its flaws, government is not constrained by shareholder pressure to maximize profits. Instead, government does not have to justify their decisions on return on investment; rather, they can pursue actions based on the public good. Our rights and responsibilities should exist because of public discourse and the legal process, not because some product was developed in light of Solutionism.

 

Sources:

Nov 112014
 
Thunderball used the real life "Bell Rocket Belt," a hydrogen peroxide powered jetpack.

Thunderball used the real life “Bell Rocket Belt,” a hydrogen peroxide powered jetpack.

Jetpacks. Not only cool, but also an originally sci-fi concept that actually exists. The word normally invokes visions of adventurous self-propelled flyers, like in the 1965 James Bond feature film Thunderball. “What goes up must come down,” is an applicable cliché. Functional jetpacks average a flight time of about 20 seconds, but what if flight wasn’t the point? If the cliché read, “What goes forward must go forward faster,” how would that affect this wearable device concept?

Enter Jason Kerestes of Arizona State University (ASU) and his 4MM (4 Minute Mile) project. He developed a prototype jetpack that allows the wearer to run faster than normal, potentially covering a mile in four minutes or less.

Kerestes explains his motivation for the 4MM jetpack.

Kerestes explains his motivation for the 4MM jetpack.

 

 Watch the 4MM Jetpack video:

http://researchmatters.asu.edu/videos/jetpack-helps-soldiers-run-faster

 

Kerestes is a graduate student working with ASU’s iProjects, a collaborative program between students and industry. The 4MM jetpack came about when the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) asked for a device to enhance a soldier’s battlefield performance. Battery operated thrusters attach to a military-rucksack frame and use air bursts to propel the runner forward. The prototype pack weighs 11.2 lbs, but allows the wearer to run faster while expending less energy despite the added weight.

4MM Jetpack prototype

4MM Jetpack prototype

The battlefield applications of physical augmentation are obvious. But would a standard infantry soldier use the 4MM jetpack? Probably not, it weighs too much. When wearing their combat gear (full battle rattle), 11.2 lbs is a lot to add on top of a load already averaging 70 lbs and up. In ASU’s video, Kerestes speaks in terms of Navy SEALS or Army soldiers (most likely Special Forces) who need to get in and out of target zones quickly.

A U.S. Army soldier wearing "full battle rattle."

A U.S. Army soldier wearing “full battle rattle.”

 

Of course, the 11.2 lbs applies to a prototype. A production model will undoubtedly weigh less.

 

Off the battlefield, what could be done with a 4MM jetpack? It would surely cause a controversy in the world of athletic competition.

In 2007, Oscar Pistorius was banned from competing against athletes without prosthetics. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) felt his limbs gave the “Blade Runner” an unfair advantage. Pistorius was eventually allowed to compete, but how would jetpacks be viewed? Most likely, the IAAF will exhibit less enthusiasm than the carbon-fiber “Flex-Foot Cheetah” legs Pistorius runs with.

Oscar Pistorius 2011

Oscar Pistorius 2011

On the other hand, devices like jetpacks could draw fans by making sports more “extreme” or allowing new games to evolve. How many Harry Potter fans would like to play “Quidditch” in the air?

4MM 200 meter time trial

4MM 200 meter time trial

Coming down another level, who wouldn’t enjoy feeling fleet of foot from jet propulsion? Commercially, companies could charge people for the experience of feeling like professional athlete.

Is the research investment worth it? Before DARPA asked for a device intended for combat, the 4MM researchers at ASU were working on prosthetics for amputees. Is it nobler to develop a potentially life saving device or a life changing device? DARPA could just as easily asked for better prosthetic limbs. That question may be argued at length and is a personal belief. The fact of the matter is: development will occur where the funding goes.

If the 4MM jetpack is successful, and if it finds life off the battlefield, what will the future of performance enhancing devices bring? With any luck, future wearable devices are even cooler than jetpacks.

Nov 102014
 
Smart Phin by Board Formula - via Wired.com

Smart Phin by Board Formula – via Wired.com

The best way to collect data in difficult locations is to use an adrenaline junkie to gather it for you. The Smart Phin can help surfers collect valuable data about the water they surf for researchers in order to understand more about our oceans.

Benjamin Thompson from Board Formula, the small company behind the Smart Phin, wants to involve surfers in collecting important data for scientific research. The Smart Phin attaches to any surfboard and comes with an smartphone app to upload data. Thompson eventually wants to start selling Smart Phins and has decided to keep the companion app open source, so developers can come up with their own apps that work with the fin.

Like the wearable technology health care researchers are currently adapting to monitor patients’ movements and vital signs, the Smart Phin acts as diagnostic technology, only for the ocean instead of the “wearer” (Quinn, 99). Much like more traditional wearable tech, the Smart Phin collects and measures information; Not only does it note the surfer’s location and time, the Smart Phin also logs the temperature, pH levels, and salinity of the ocean. The information is then uploaded via Bluetooth to a smartphone app, once the surfer hits dry land again. The more sensors in the water, the more points of data for scientists. Similar technology could also eventually be applied to wetsuits or diving equipment for information gathering at greater depths.

Crowdsourcing data collection via the Smart Phin could be a boon for marine scientists by helping to measure how climate change affects the world’s oceans.

Sources:

The Next Big Thing You Missed: Surfboard Collects Oceanic Data While You Ride Waves

Riding Massive Waves Could Fight Climate Change

Board Formula

Quinn, Bradley. “Vital Signs.” Textile Futures: Fashion, Design and Technology. Oxford: Berg, 2010. 85-107.

Nov 042014
 

The Microsoft Band is a piece of wearable technology that bridges the gap between a smart watch and a Fitbit. With cell integration and the ability to check email, texts, and Facebook, it goes far beyond the typical fitness tracker. The Microsoft Band has fitness functionality that most trackers do not, such as UV detection that reads how much sunlight the wearer is exposed to in a day.

msband3

As Dia Campbell states about wearable technology, “It’s about filling the needs that are in your life.” The smart watch features set the Band apart from other fitness devices of its kind, and fills the need for a device to be both at once. It is able to download workouts to the device and to schedule them in a calendar app, which then synchronizes across all of the user’s Microsoft products. It works to enable a sense of connectivity between the Band and the rest of the user’s life. Part of what makes this device so interesting is the perception of connectivity and the ability that the device has to send reminders and activity updates to the user’s connected device. The manner in which the device is advertised and the intended use of the product drives the user to connect the Band to as many other devices as possible. This enables the various devices to remind (nag) the user into better health. It is this very interplay between the user and the device that creates a sense of connectivity among all aspects of the user’s life and the Band.

MicrosoftBand

The strength of this connection between the user and the Band is what makes it so effective. If it can be more than an object that informs the user of the number of steps taken or heart rate, but instead be a connected part of the user’s life, then the device will have more of an effect on the user and inspire more action. It bridges the gap between fitness tracker and smart watch, creating a space in which the user is able to feel as though the device is useful while it is performing the primary task of aiding the user in meeting fitness goals.

Ultimately, it is the Band’s ability to tie-in all of the other Microsoft devices and create a cohesive whole from them that makes the device so potent. The feeling of connectivity is what will drive users to practice the intended merging of all their devices, in order to unlock the Band’s most useful and unique features. The merging of devices enables the Band to send reminders, as well as custom workouts and schedules that suit the particular user’s needs. This places the Microsoft Band, a piece of wearable technology, in a unique position to be effective where others are lacking.

Sources

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/10/microsoft-band-and-microsoft-health-the-199-all-platform-fitness-band/

http://gadgetshow.channel5.com/news/oppo-r5-fitbit-surge-and-charge-microsoft-band-amazon-fire-tv-stick-and-real-life-transformer

http://artandseek.net/2013/03/13/sxsw-where-high-tech-meets-high-fashion/

http://www.cnet.com/products/microsoft-band/