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 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.

Oct 202014
 

By: Ashleigh Havens

In September 2013, Israeli start-up company OrCam released the OrCam visual system to help the 300-million visually impaired people in the world “see.” OrCam is a portable device that is similar to Google Glass, composed of a camera and a small computer about the size of the typical glasses case that uses augmented reality. The device attaches by magnet to users’ glasses. OrCam is able to recognize text, products and even familiar faces. At the push of a button or a point of your finger, OrCam recognizes objects, and will read you information through the bone conducting earpiece. This device has a transducer that converts electric signals into mechanical vibrations which sends sound to the internal ear through the cranial bones. This makes the audio discrete so others do not realize you are receiving assistance. Through extended use, OrCam will recognize your personal objects such as credit cards, money notes, friends, favorite products, and more. Using this device helps the visually impaired to become more independent and relaxed about interacting with the world.

This product currently sells for $3,500. There is a possibility for reimbursement if it is covered by your vision insurance plan. Some vision insurance plans, usually premium plans will have limited funding for assistive devices. Most of the time this reimbursement is on a case by case basis. There are grants that you can apply for that you can use toward the cost of the OrCam device.

As with many new technological advances, this device has some faults. First of all, it is only available in the United States and the only language it supports is English. As this product advances the company hopes to make it capable of translating language and available to a wider audience. The OrCam does not recognize handwritten text.

Sources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykDDxWbt5Nw&feature=youtu.be

www.orcam.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CyW04lSd4Y

Oct 202014
 

By: Ariana Berdy

Imprint Energy is a company that was started by Christine Ho following her graduate studies at the University of California, Berkley. Collaborating with a researcher in Japan, Ho produced 3D printed zinc batteries. Now, her work has evolved. Her company, Imprint Energy, produces flexible printed zinc batteries. Unlike the design of previous and standard lithium batteries, Imprint Energy’s zinc batteries are safe, flexible, and smaller than the preceding design.

Most typical batteries are made using lithium as the primary charging component. However, lithium is highly reactive and very unstable. Primarily, lithium is oxygen-sensitive. In order for workers to handle it safely, protective equipment is required. To adequately seal the reactive lithium requires many protective layers. The result is a rigid, bulky, and limiting battery design.

While zinc has been used in batteries for years it was not possible to make zinc batteries rechargeable. In previous batteries, zinc was combined with a liquid electrolyte. Over time this combination produced dendrites, which are tiny fibers that grow and prevent the charging reaction from taking place. As a part of her graduate studies, Ho developed a solid polymer electrolyte that avoided dendrites. She combined this new polymer with zinc to create Imprint Energy’s battery. Because of zinc’s environmental stability, Imprint Energy’s batteries do not require heavy and rigid insulation. Additionally they are cheaper to manufacture and do not require workers to wear protective equipment.

Continue reading »

Oct 132014
 

By: Thomas Hall

A better-performing you? “It’s as easy as putting on a shirt!”

The female and male variants of Hexoskin, shown with compatible Android and iOS devices. (Linked to Hexoskin.com)

The Hexoskin, a plain, black shirt, is actually a lightweight, all-encompassing fitness tracker for extreme athletics and everyday activities alike. Hexoskin has been in development since 2006, when a Montreal design duo came up with the idea to streamline the existing method of invasive and uncomfortable physical trackers. Their design was so tantalizing to aerospace use that the Canadian Space Agency has been working closely to fund and test the product since its conception. They plan to send the shirts to the International Space Station in coming years for use by astronauts.

How forward-thinking is Hexoskin? A Bluetooth transmitter slipped into a pocket of the shirt connects to your device of choice, and beams information such as heart rate, lung capacity, oxygen levels, and sleep patterns, all in real time. The most high-profile uses thus far have been by the 2014 Spartan Race World Champion, the Canadian Olympic skiing team, and by polar researchers for the Canadian Space Agency. Those with conditions such as cardiac defects can wear the shirt to monitor their activity for any dangerous deviations. The only option previously was to wear sticky sensors beleaguered with wires until enough data was recovered.

Possibly the  biggest boon to Hexoskin is that it is an Open Data device, meaning that any developer, or user, can pull the sensors’ readings into whatever platform they wish. This philosophy of openness has really taken off in recent tech products, from Fitbit, to Android Wear, to Apple’s Health app and smart watch. The Hexoskin technology has already been licensed to clothing manufacturers, in the hopes that popular name brands can bring down the hefty $399 price tag, as well as create buzz in pop culture.

The team claims that products like Hexoskin are key to “preventative medicine,” much like the dozens of sensors in your car are key to preventative maintenance. If wearable technology and the Quantified Self movement seemed like a fad in recent years, then that stigma is quickly dissipating. According to Nielsen, 15% of the population is trying on wearable technology, and over half of those early adoptions are fitness bands. So what is stopping a majority of the population from grabbing the best, or cheapest, or most colorful fitness tracker from the nearest shelf? The answer seems to be that the intersection of technology and fashion simply isn’t where it needs to be for wide adoption. Designers can only be free to make something truly usable and artistic when “not directed by marketing demands or production methods,” and the smallness, lightness, and excellent battery life of today’s cutting edge tech is only just beginning to become usable by fashion designers (Bradley Quinn, Cybercouture). With its minimalist design, loaded feature set, and lack of visual cues that scream “nerd,” Hexoskin is a chance for technology and quantified health to break into the most worn of all wearables: clothing.

 

Sources:

http://goo.gl/MJvkdl (Nielsen)

http://goo.gl/iQujaT (Forbes)

http://goo.gl/EEUTSB (Hexoskin)

http://goo.gl/BXxcpU (Quinn)

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

May 092014
 
Historic Chalk Board and teaching stick

Historic Chalk Board and teaching stick

What could wearable technology do for teachers? As a former six year middle/ high school teacher and coach I can recall times where I was put in a place of fear from false and frivolous accusations from a student with nothing but my character and integrity to defend me. Through the struggle of vindication I thought that teachers should have a high tech defense mechanism to prevent malicious future events. A taboo issue that pops ups sporadically in nightly news, yet always shocking, are the inappropriate relationships between teachers and students. Not only would a wearable possibly diffuse situations of ‘my word against yours,’ but it would serve as an accountability resource when unknown offenders implant themselves within a school environment. I could only imagine the innocence that could be spared on account of social facilitation being monitored by a wearable.

In my own experience as a teacher, innovative technology was an expertise of mine. I would dream up something between google glass and Robocop. Not only for security and accountability, but I would think of review clips, resources for absent students, and even next year planning sessions all filed in video format. With products like Epiphany Eyewear and Memoto, technology is closer today rather than when I was watching

"Back in my day..."

“Back in my day…”

the Jetson’s in the 80s. However close we may be in the wearable world we still lack the progressive progress within the realm of privacy implications and policy. What could wearable technology do to the education system if all participants felt watched all the time? Would a Panoptic situation ensue? Who would have authority over the data? Would it really be a solution at the cost of the negatives in feeling watched all the time?

Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City and Hartford, as well as Fort Worth, Tex.; Chesapeake, Va.; and Modesto, Calif.  would be a great point of reference to Daniel Gomezstart. They have begun issuing wearable video cameras as a part of the standard uniform for police. These serve the same purposes that I found lacking resources in my teaching career. Each department have set up policies for when the camera should be activated and who has access to the video. Overall, wearable technology has a huge contributions for individuals who work with the general population, especially teachers who sometimes are in the trenches against students, parents, and even administrators. Had I been wearing a form of wearable technology I could have been spared the embarrassment of all of my students writing a written statement of me breaking up a racially charged fight ‘rugby style’ with the ‘two boys under each arm’ escorting them to the office.  In my wearable dreams I would have turned to the distraction, activated the video and said “smile your on camera.”

 

Sources

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/07/business/wearable-video-cameras-for-police-officers.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

http://www.komonews.com/news/national/Questions-that-arise-when-placing-cameras-on-cops-250461101.html

 

 

May 082014
 

 

E- make-up?

 

As I was searching for information about 3d printing I ran across this :  The Mink printer

Ladies..we don’t have to run to the store to get make up. We will now be able to make your own make up straight from your printer. A Harvard student by the name of   Ms.  Choi, has develop a printer that will print out any shade of color. Color that is wearable due to 3d printing. Her argument is that manufactures are selling a lot “bullshit”. She believes that women should be able to establish what beauty is to themselves and the mink printer will help expand this idea. According to Choi,  mass manufactures only sell make up that are high volume which limits the selection for women. If a women would want a niche make up brand then you have to go to a high priced vendor such as Sephora which also limits the choices for women. This also drives the prices of niche colors up to where it would be considered prestige to even buy that particular make up.     Her target audience are girls ranging from ages 13-21 because she wants to develop a new culture for buying make up. She believes that this age group is way beyond ready to print their own make-up. It would be just be in their nature to click and print.

The hardware itself is  just the same as a regular inkjet printer. You would not have to buy any special software to make the make- up.  You would have to buy the program which is gracemink.com.   You actually will be able to pick a picture, take the color hex code from a color picker and print from any software  You have to buy ink which is FDA approved. In the demo she literally pulled an eye shadow from a printer.  She is basically selling the idea of providing your own pigment to our own raw materials to make your own make-up.

The concept appears to be doable but it brings a lot of questions to mind. For example, the raw materials, where will a thirteen year old girl get these materials? The ink in the printer is assumed to be FDA approved but with added functional attributes will the make -up cause allergies or skin conditions?

I think if it is not marketed correctly, it can be just another “easy bake oven” put on the side that doesn’t decompose. I don’t know what approach to use that would make this product become a household name that everyone would use every day. I do agree with Ms. Choi that manufacturers and niche markets do try to possess the control of the make- up market. It would be a way to empower our young and older women but it would it just be just another revolutionary fad? We experienced the same thing with Green became the new black. It would be kind of difficult to convince a single mom that has to rely on Wally world’s sale on Cover girl and Revlon, to invest in a three hundred dollar machine in which you will still have to buy additional supplies to make your own make up.

Convenience is another reason that may be positive or a negative. Making your own make-up at home seems to be ideal but what if you don’t have the additional supplies and the time how would that work. I do have to say I was impress when I saw the demo, she made eye shadow in less than six minutes. But really who has the time to print anything now, isn’t that  why we now have e-coupons now.

I love the fact that Ms. Choi wants to disrupt the whole make-up world.  Any idea that brings about change does deserve a moment of consideration.  I don’t wear make-up on a daily basis but I have spent a few more dollars on products that Ms. Choi would consider prestige. Well, it’s because it makes me feel pretty… maybe Ms. Choi’s Mink printer will change how we see beauty.

CC: video: http://youtu.be/cBZHFUQiP8Q

Mar 132014
 

One of my greatest desire is to combine my love of fashion and eco consciousness to help provide awareness and even solutions to maintain our planet. One of my obstacles, I have experienced and witnessed are the price tags on some of the wonderful “green” products that are in the market, today.

What I have observed in fashion is that due to use of the technology included to provide such an eco-friendly product, it has an effect on its cost. Many would spend $150.00 and up on a certain brand of Jeans or purse, but for me, in this particular season of my life,  that would be impractical.  I mean I am on the level to where my purchasing decisions have to do with purchasing between a package of paper plates from a dollar store or the cheapest biodegradable paper plates I have found, which are $2.50 by the way.

Because I know a little about  of what it entails to manufacture a RTW garment, I do have some reservations when it comes to purchasing some fashion items. I know that for a while “Green” has been the new Black in the fashion world.  With the immersion of fashion tech, I can see how eco-friendly may even become more for the chic.  I hope not.I anticipate to see green living accessible to anyone who  choses to live this particular lifestyle one day. So I try to live on my own convictions by reusing, recycling, and repurposing. I sometimes find myself buying sale and clearance items that aren’t previously used as well.  So enough of my soap box.

Here are some amazing and innovative products that are fashionably high tech green, that given the opportunity, I might even have to purchase a few to add to my “vintage” closet.

DVF solar purse

DVF solar purse

The lovely Diane Von Furstenberg and some her designer friends such  as Tommy Hilfiger join forces to create  purses with integrated solar powered panels for The Portable Light Project provide by Elle.  Her design generates clean renewable energy through a small solar panel on the side of the purse. The energy is stored in a small battery used to power a USB port for mobile devices and a light as well.

CO2 Dress

CO2 Dress

 

A dress by Diffus that can read high levels of CO2. The dress has LED sewn onto the fabric that creates flickering patterns when CO2 levels are high and low.

ph dress

Rain Palette Dress

 

 

Dahea Sun’s Rain Palette dress changes color to show ph levels in the rain. This helps indicate air quality. The dye on the dress is natural which reacts to the ph levels of rainwater.

raincatch

raincatch

 

Two students at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design created a raincoat that will also give you water to drink. Raincatch captures rainwater then through a series of chemical filters and charcoal the rainwater is converted into drinkable water.

 

Flutter dress

Flutter dress

 

 

The Flutter Dress created to help the hearing impaired.  The dress was Created by Halley Profita, Nicholas Farrow, and Professor Nikolaus Correll at the University of Colorado at Boulder. It gives  vibrations  in the direction of a loud sound within its external environment to help those with hearing loss.

 

I am not a Virgin

I am not a Virgin

Sexy jeans made from Beer bottles by I am Not a Virgin Founded by Peter Heron. At the moment their prototype consists of 25 percent bottle fiber and 75 percent cotton. They have used scraps from garment manufacturer companies to make their jeans and now have added the synthetic component of beer bottles.  The idea was inspired by the transformation bamboo into thread. The bottles are crushed into fine particulate, melted and then extruded into fiber. The company also has a line of T-shirts made from food trays, water bottles and other materials that are hard to breakdown in the environment. The company is still in its development. They are projecting to be on the market soon.

For many other innovations in Green tech fashionable garments click here.

CC:

  • DVF solar purse:http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2014/01/27/high-tech-high-fashion-13-futuristic-green-garments/
  • CO2 Dress:http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2014/01/27/high-tech-high-fashion-13-futuristic-green-garments/
  • Rain Palette Dress:http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2014/01/27/high-tech-high-fashion-13-futuristic-green-garments/
  • Raincatch:http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2014/01/27/high-tech-high-fashion-13-futuristic-green-garments/
  • Flutter Dress:http://www.crunchwear.com/flutter-dress-brings-high-fashion-to-the-hearing-impaired/#jp-carousel-3085
  • I am not a virgin Jeans:http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-fashion/jeans-made-beer-bottles.html

 

 

 

Mar 022014
 

When we think of wearable technology, we often imagine designs straight out of science fiction and unique futuristic materials. There are high-tech eyeglasses that take pictures, ultra biometric watches that track your sleep habits, and even vibrating shoe shoes that help you navigate the streets. In recent years, much of our everyday gear received high-tech upgrades but not much attention has been paid to the wallet.

Here is the object that houses nearly all of the valuables that a person carries on a daily basis: identification cards, credit and debit cards, and cash. With the massive security breaches at retailers Target and Neiman Marcus during the 2013 winter holiday season, it is abundantly clear that the magnetic stripes on credit cards are vulnerable to attack.

via Simon Vinal @ Corbis

Dunhill’s high-tech carbon fiber wallet uses biometric scanner technology to secure its contents.

Chip-based credit and debit cards are a safer alternative to magnetic stripe cards because they are difficult for thieves to reproduce. There are two types: EMV and RFID. EMV smart-card technology (also known as “chip and pin”) is widely used internationally but the US has been very slow to adopt this technology, as it requires retailers to update their outdated equipment and financial institutions to rollout new cards. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) card technology is the alternative but it comes with its own set of security-related challenges: anyone with a portable RFID reader can “read” the card data from a short distance.

For those unwilling to forgo credit and debit convenience, what technology is available to help protect our valuable card data? Some quick searching yielded the Omega titanium wallet and the biometric scanner wallet from Dunhill but both of these options (while futuristic and high-tech) are too clunky for daily wear (which defeats the basic function of a wallet) unless carried separately in a bag (impractical for some). Both draw unnecessary and perhaps unwanted attention to the wallet, which could make it a target for physical theft (which nullifies the purported security benefits).

 

via Articulate Wallet's Indiegogo page

Articulate Wallet’s special RFID blocking lining ensures that all your personal information, including the card in the back pocket, are protected from RFID identity theft.

Articulate Wallets (@A_Wallets) recently redesigned their eponymous wallet, keeping the RFID blocking technology but updating the design to suit the demands of modern life. Judging from the success of their Indiegogo project ($40,852 raised for $500 goal), there is a huge demand for wearable technology that offers consumer data protection with a less obtrusive  “traditional” design. There is some irony that in the rush to put out the latest and greatest wearable technology, aesthetic wearability is sometimes forgotten.

So maybe there is hope on the horizon for those of us that want our wearables to look bit less Alienator … and thankfully, other forward-looking companies like LaForge Optical are also starting to take note.