SME Creativity Center Helping Hong Kong SMEs Wed, 04 Jan 2017 11:07:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.2 Immersive dream adventures for hospitalized children /immersive-dream-adventures-for-hospitalized-children/ Fri, 15 Apr 2016 04:40:00 +0000 /immersive-dream-adventures-for-hospitalized-children/ Add / Remove Many of the children battling cancer at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital have to stay there for months and are unable to go out and see the world. But a recent initiative, organized by Expedia and creative agency 180LA, has enabled some of them to experience the exciting travel adventures of their ...

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Many of the children battling cancer at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital have to stay there for months and are unable to go out and see the world. But a recent initiative, organized by Expedia and creative agency 180LA, has enabled some of them to experience the exciting travel adventures of their dreams via an immersive 360 degree, real-time installation.

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As part of St Jude Dream Adventures, Expedia employees have been dispatched to undertake various adventures requested by the kids at St Jude. The employees — many of whom have also been affected by serious illnesses — act as tour guides at places such as the Monkey Jungle in Florida and the Great Maya Reef in Mexico. The adventures were filmed using All 360 Media and projected onto the space in real-time so that the kids could not only watch the adventures but ask questions and make requests. As part of the campaign, Expedia customers are being encouraged to donate their loyalty points to the children’s hospital to fund further projects.

We have previously seen telepresence robots used to enable bedridden art lovers to explore museums remotely. How else could remote technology be used by those who can’t experience things for themselves?

Website: www.expedia.com/dreamadventures
Contact: media@stjude.org

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In Thailand, motorcycles are an unlikely mosquito repellent /in-thailand-motorcycles-are-an-unlikely-mosquito-repellent/ Fri, 15 Apr 2016 04:30:00 +0000 /in-thailand-motorcycles-are-an-unlikely-mosquito-repellent/ Add / Remove Mosquito-borne infections affect hundreds of thousands every year, from the outbreak of the Zica virus in Brazil to a surge in cases of Dengue fever in South East Asia. But now a device that can be fitted to the backs of mopeds could provide a new way to repel mosquitos from cities ...

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Mosquito-borne infections affect hundreds of thousands every year, from the outbreak of the Zica virus in Brazil to a surge in cases of Dengue fever in South East Asia. But now a device that can be fitted to the backs of mopeds could provide a new way to repel mosquitos from cities in Thailand.

MotoRepellent is a device that fits onto the back of motorbikes, which fill the Thai capital of Bangkok. The cylinder is filled with natural mosquito repellents that are activated by the exhaust pipe of the bike, spreading the insect repellent several meters around the vehicle.

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With millions of motorbikes in the capital, the repellent device could crowdsource mass mosquito removal to reduce the impact of diseases in the city and further afield. The technology’s developers claim to have helped repel mosquitos in slums across Bangkok and protected 80,000 people. The project is being promoted by advertising agency BBDO Bangkok and the charity Duang Prateep Foundation, which provides assistant to slums.

We have already seen street lamps used in Malaysia to trap and kill mosquitos. How else can developers respond to the global mosquito crisis and help protect deprived communities?

Website: bbdoasia.com
Contact: www.facebook.com/BBDO-Bangkok

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In Japan, an artificial intelligence has been appointed creative director /in-japan-an-artificial-intelligence-has-been-appointed-creative-director/ Fri, 15 Apr 2016 04:20:00 +0000 /in-japan-an-artificial-intelligence-has-been-appointed-creative-director/ Add / Remove Advertising and media are often at the forefront of new technology, and we have already seen augmented reality platforms showing content in the real world and a virtual reality advertising network for brands. Now an artificial intelligence robot, AI-CD β, developed by Japanese advertising and marketing agency McCann Japan, is set to work ...

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Advertising and media are often at the forefront of new technology, and we have already seen augmented reality platforms showing content in the real world and a virtual reality advertising network for brands.

Now an artificial intelligence robot, AI-CD β, developed by Japanese advertising and marketing agency McCann Japan, is set to work on providing new creative direction for commercials. The AI will give input on projects, mining and analyzing creative databases of adverts to find the best commercials for products and messages.

The AI-CD β can work through far more historical adverts and commercials than any human advertising creative, and can therefore aid its colleagues in the development of ads for clients. But the robot is also being treated as somewhat part of the team at McCann, taking the title of “creative director” and attending the opening ceremony for new company employees.

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McCann Japan CEO Yasuyuki Katagi said: “Artificial intelligence is already being used to create a wide variety of entertainment, including music, movies, and TV drama, so we’re very enthusiastic about the potential of AI-CD β for the future of ad creation. The whole company is 100 percent on board to support the development of our AI employee.”

How else could artificial employees be used to complement, rather than compete, with human co-workers?

Website: www.mccann.co.jp
Contact: miyoko.ohki@mccannwg.com

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App crowdsources fellow travelers for long journeys /app-crowdsources-fellow-travelers-for-long-journeys/ Fri, 15 Apr 2016 04:00:00 +0000 /app-crowdsources-fellow-travelers-for-long-journeys/ Add / Remove Traveling in towns and cities has been changed beyond recognition by services like Uber, enabling users to sort out a ride at the tap of a button. But now a US startup is looking to transform how users plan and book longer journeys. Skedaddle connects users who have the same travel plans, ...

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Traveling in towns and cities has been changed beyond recognition by services like Uber, enabling users to sort out a ride at the tap of a button. But now a US startup is looking to transform how users plan and book longer journeys.

Skedaddle connects users who have the same travel plans, whether they are going to concerts, eager for a city break, or planning a trip to a big sporting event. Users can either browse existing routes or create one themselves — if they are the creator of the journey, they get to ride free. The trips have set departure times, and goes live once ten riders have been secured. The riders are charge 48 hours before the trip, and the prices will decrease as more riders book the route (late bookers are charged more for the same ride). Skedaddle then sends luxury cars to pick up each passenger.

Users can board their vehicle instantly, with no need for paper or e-tickets. They can also start private route bookings with friends to split cash payments straight away. Skedaddle’s tap-and-ride service for longer journeys aims to disrupt traditional coach companies in the US.

The service could prove popular during the holidays and college breaks, offering students an affordable ride home, while coach companies can make use of their idle assets. How else can urban and intercity transport be disrupted by the sharing economy?

Website: www.letskedaddle.com
Contact: hello@letskedaddle.com

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What your future self can teach you /what-your-future-self-can-teach-you/ Thu, 14 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 /what-your-future-self-can-teach-you/ Add / Remove Visit Merrill Edge’s Face Retirement website, and you’ll be confronted by your future self. The site invites you to take a photo with your webcam and input your age. Then facts about retirement and savings flash on the screen—“46 percent of Americans have saved less than $10,000 for retirement” reads one—while the ...

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Visit Merrill Edge’s Face Retirement website, and you’ll be confronted by your future self. The site invites you to take a photo with your webcam and input your age. Then facts about retirement and savings flash on the screen—“46 percent of Americans have saved less than $10,000 for retirement” reads one—while the program digitally “ages” your photo, and you are soon staring at a slightly animated, nodding, blinking, more wrinkly version of yourself. Merrill Edge is betting that the statistics alone won’t scare you into saving, but being confronted by an older version of yourself will. “That’s not a stranger you’re saving for,” reads the site, “it’s the future you.”

In a commercial put out by Prudential, a cartoon version of a man sits side by side with an older version of himself. “This is you,” says the spokesman. “This is you in 40 years . . . you like you, right?” It continues, “One-third of you aren’t saving enough for the older you. But why is that?”

The retirement industry would like to know the answer to that question. In the United States, the savings rate has fallen to less than 5 percent. Putting aside money for long-term goals such as retirement or the kids’ college education can slip down the priority list, replaced by more immediate needs, such as paying the mortgage or buying school supplies, or wants, such as celebrating a friend’s birthday or taking a vacation.

For much of the past decade, firms have been trying various ways to convince people to think about the future, and in particular about the people they will become. That tactic makes sense: behavioral scientists are learning that how you think about the “future you” can influence your decisions and behavior in the present. As this science progresses, researchers are developing a more refined understanding of when and how the future self wields its influence. Under the right circumstances, your future self may inspire you to save—and it could, in fact, help you make a host of wise decisions.

Save more money

The financial industry has always wanted people to think to the future, but in a particular way: more often than not, retirement brochures encourage you to think about all the money you will enjoy one day if you just save. One path to attaining that pile of cash, you’re often reminded, is to cut out small indulgences in the present, such as that daily Starbucks habit or visits to the local pub. Several financial self-help authors argue that cutting down on little things—lattes, bottled water, magazines, and so forth—can over time generate hundreds of thousands of additional dollars (or the currency of your choice) in savings.

The logic is beautifully simple and seemingly sound. But for many people, following this advice proves difficult. The problem is that while waiting in line for coffee, you’re simply not thinking about the future—much less about your future self. You’re only concerned about the present. The future self seems like an intangible, impractical concept to bring into a coffee shop, or for that matter anywhere.

The idea of the future self struck Chicago Booth’s Daniel Bartels as fairly conceptual when he was in graduate school taking philosophy classes that introduced him to the concept. He says his courses covered a lot of “very abstract stuff,” including theories of identity by thinkers such as Oxford’s Derek Parfit, a celebrated philosopher who has suggested that people should feel disconnected from their future selves, and that sense of disconnection should lead them to behave with an eye more toward the present than the future. These ideas seemed somewhat compelling to Bartels, and this philosophical theorizing stuck in the back of his mind as he pursued a career in behavioral science.

What triggered his academic interest in the topic was an acquaintance of his, a young man whose family had a genetic disposition to Huntington’s disease, which causes the breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. The friend had a greatly increased chance of developing Huntington’s at some point in his future, but he didn’t want to be tested. “He put it off, because he didn’t want to live life with the knowledge that he might develop it,” says Bartels. “He said that if he did have the test and it came back positive, he’d then live his life with reckless abandon. He pictured the future version of himself in a wheelchair—but he felt that that’s not really him.” Knowing that this person was contemplating his potential future self, and was at times feeling disconnected from that self, Bartels started thinking that there may be a practical application to all those philosophical musings.

Bartels began studying the topic in the lab, partnering with Lance J. Rips of Northwestern University on studies that looked at people’s relationships with their future selves. The pair found some preliminary evidence suggesting people feel less and less connected to their future selves the farther out in time they think about them—but those who naturally feel more connected are more apt to want to sacrifice money in the present for money in the future.

They also explored whether events can make a person feel more or less connected to the future. The researchers asked people to read stories about fictional characters who experienced life-changing events—for instance, being momentarily buried by an avalanche without suffering any long-term repercussions. Study participants, the researchers found, felt more connected to characters before they experienced events that could change them. In the case of the avalanche, participants were more likely to say they would do nice things for the characters before, rather than after, they had been through their ordeal. But the researchers wondered whether what’s true for fictional characters is also true for the self. If you feel more connected to your future self, are you more likely to do it favors in the present?

To find out, Bartels teamed up with his Chicago Booth colleague Oleg Urminsky. They approached seniors from University of Chicago a week before graduation, prompting some students to think about being connected to the people they’d be in a year, and reminding others that they could become very different people. Then they entered each participant in a lottery, in which participants had the possibility of winning a gift card worth $120 in a week’s time—or one for $240 that was redeemable only in a year’s time. The experiment controlled for participants’ incomes and future resources.

People who felt close to the people they would be in a year were more likely to be patient and wait a year for a possible reward, but the others wanted the money sooner, presumably while they were still people they would recognize. “They were less connected to their future selves,” says Bartels, and therefore “they were much more impatient.”

Financial sector, take note: if you can make people feel more connected to their future selves, you may help them make better financial decisions in the present and improve their personal savings rate. Just reminding people to think more about their future selves should help them trade today’s small luxuries for more money in retirement—but again, sometimes that isn’t enough. “There’s a difference between knowing and caring,” says Bartels. When you’re in line for a latte, you have to not only think about your future self, but also care about that future self. Only then will you think about the purchase of the coffee as a trade-off between your present and future selves.

To tease apart that difference between knowing and caring, Bartels and Urminsky conducted an experiment in which participants used online surveys to rank categories, such as debt repayment and entertainment, in terms of importance. Those who were induced to believe that people’s identities don’t change much over time said they’d spend more money on the categories they had ranked as more important. But for the others, who were induced to think that the future self changes a lot over time, even a subtle reminder about the importance of various categories didn’t do any good; those people spent their money less wisely, by their own definition. This dichotomy suggests there are indeed two parts to the process: if you care about your future self and are reminded about what’s important, you’ll sacrifice for it. But reminders don’t do a lot of good if you don’t care in the first place. “You have to think about the trade-off inherent in choices that you’re making,” says Bartels, “and you have to care about the future self that stands to benefit. It’s about making people aware of a trade-off and making them care. If you do one or the other, it’s not as effective.”

The results also held true for decisions in the field, tested in a coffee shop. College students surveyed by the researchers ranked the importance of spending categories, such as buying coffee, saving money, and paying rent. When also prompted to think about the stability of the self over time, the participants spent less on their coffee-shop purchases.

“Making people think about and value the future didn’t simply make them stingy; it caused them to spend more wisely—to make better financial decisions by focusing their spending on only what was really important to them,” says Bartels.

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Boost your rational thinking

“There’s an element here that’s fuzzy,” says Chicago Booth’s Ed O’Brien. “What does it mean to feel connected to our future selves? If I said I felt connected to some public figure, you’d have a tangible sense of what I meant—the looks, traits, or values I share with this other person. But what about my future self? Who is that person?”

O’Brien became interested in the future self from a psychological perspective. Studies have found that people spend a lot of mental time somewhere other than in the present—“Whether time is running short, or we’re planning future events, or thinking back on old memories, we’re often jumping around in time,” he says. “It seems like most of our time is spent thinking of things that aren’t actually in front of us.”

Whatever or whoever we’re thinking of, O’Brien concluded, we tend to take a rosy view. From the ancient Greeks forward, philosophers have observed that most people are indelible optimists who think they’ll improve with time, becoming smarter and more rational. In fact, Plato and Aristotle wrote about reason being the defining characteristic of humanness, whereas emotions were a disruptive part of the human experience. According to O’Brien, a lot of people today would say the same. “The future self we picture is the economist’s dream: ‘I won’t eat cake. I’ll always eat salad. I’ll use reason!’ We think we’re going to turn into clear thinkers who are largely rational and unmoved by emotions.”

O’Brien’s research has found that as people believe they’ll be more rational in the future, it’s possible to use that belief to improve someone’s self-discipline. O’Brien asked people to rate how they thought they would react to various emotionally charged situations—ranging from being stung by a bee to craving favorite foods to fighting with a friend—in the past and the future. He also asked people how they would react to more rational situations. As Aristotle might have predicted, respondents reported they would have reacted more powerfully to emotional situations in the past, whereas they would expect to react more strongly to rational situations in the future.

“Responses to emotional events, from being stung by a bee to enjoying leisure, seem more intense if we imagine them happening to our past self than to our future self,” says O’Brien, “but responses to rational pursuits, like needing to exhibit self-control, seem better handled by our future self than our past self.”

O’Brien was able to play around with the effect. When people role-played either their past or their future selves, those playing their past selves became more interested in seeing emotional movies, while those playing their future selves preferred more rational movies, such as documentaries. He was also able to use the future-self phenomenon to actually boost performance on tasks involving cognition and self-control. In one experiment, he asked study participants to persist in a taxing task for as long as they could, which involved making a number of short but strenuous calculations one by one. Participants who were instructed to use their future selves as a role model proved able to persist longer. In another experiment, participants were asked to immerse their hands in painful ice-cold water for as long as possible, a classic measure of willpower. Again, participants who first thought about their future selves were able to immerse their hands for longer.

You should, however, harness the influence of the future self with some caution. The future self can help you be more rational, and perhaps increase your self-discipline while you are preparing a big project at work or trying to stick diligently to a diet. (You might ask, “What would my future self do?”) But it can also have an impact on your ability to appreciate emotional experiences. “Enjoying these emotional experiences is not what that rational future person does. He doesn’t take time to smell roses,” says O’Brien. But sometimes we need to stop and smell the roses, he adds. (“What would my past self do?”) Perhaps the Greek philosophers, though wise, should have given a little more credit to the emotional side of the psyche, and spent some more time wandering through the garden.

Motivate yourself to be healthier

Urminsky is doing work that further highlights pursuits involving the kind of self-discipline many people lack, especially when it comes to diet and exercise. Urminsky and Bartels find that when people are prompted to care about their future selves and think about present-future trade-offs, they’re also likely to choose and stick to long-term New Year’s resolutions and make smart health choices whose results may be felt only later.

In one study, the researchers asked visitors at a museum to fill out a survey into which were embedded unrelated questions designed to remind them about the future consequences of unhealthy eating. The survey also asked for each participant’s height and weight. Afterward, the participants were offered a choice between two snacks as a thank-you for participating. People who had been prompted to think about being connected to their future selves and reminded to consider the repercussions of unhealthy eating chose the healthier snack option. But it was only the overweight people who were affected. Those who were not overweight were more likely to choose the less healthy option, regardless of connectedness or healthy-eating reminders.

The fact that only overweight people were affected by the prompts suggests that when we know something needs to change, such as body weight, being nudged to simultaneously think about it and care about the future self can make a difference in these moment-to-moment choices. Similarly, Bartels and Urminsky found that overweight undergraduates who naturally felt more connected to their future selves frequented the gym more often throughout the academic year than those who felt less connected.

The future itself could also help, in a different way. Chicago Booth’s Eugene M. Caruso has found that people perceive the future differently from the past. In a series of studies published in 2013, he and his co-researchers had participants rate whether a given distance in time (one week, one month, or one year) seemed closer in the past or the future—and the future, approaching days always seemed closer than the past, receding ones.

Just as you can connect with your future self, you can also distance yourself from your past self and an undesirable side of you. Want to quit smoking? Focus on this, says Caruso: your fast-approaching future self is smoke-free, while your increasingly remote past self is the one with blackened lungs. “It’s helpful to see that past me as ancient history,” says Caruso. “Distancing yourself from undesirable past selves can be motivating in the present, too.”

Inspire yourself to be generous

If you’re looking to get lighter, you could, as a starting point, empty your pockets. Bartels and his collaborators Trevor Kvaran and Shaun Nichols from the University of Arizona looked at how our relationship with our future selves works in philanthropy. They find that the future self can inspire generosity.

The researchers asked people how much they felt they would change over the next year, and how much of a theoretical bonus payment they’d want, one year into the future, to donate to the Save the Children foundation.

People who predicted a lot of personal change were more charitable with funds they would receive in the future than people who felt they’d be largely the same. In these studies, people who read about studies that suggested a lot of personal change over the course of a year also acted more charitably. “If I think I’m more connected to some entity now than I am to myself in 30 years, then I’ll be more likely give more to that entity now,” says Bartels, adding the entity could represent any person, societal or environmental issue, or charity worthy of attention.

However, as was the case for college students in the coffee shop, people were also inspired by reminders of what they considered important. “You probably would like to help starving kids,” says Bartels, “but you may not think about them all the time because you have rent, your own bills, and other commitments. But if you get your self out of the way a little bit, this changes. When you feel as if your future self is not fully you, then you actually give more.” In the study, people who were prompted to feel disconnected from the people they’d be in a year, and who were making decisions about what to do with money they wouldn’t receive until next year, gave the most.

So here, your future self isn’t inspiring good behavior through connection but rather disconnection. Believing you will change inspires you to act better—toward other people—in the present. Dialing down the connection you feel to your future self can make you act more charitably toward others.

The people most concerned with your generosity are, of course, in the philanthropic field. (For more on the art of raising money, read “Beyond the Ice Bucket Challenge” in the December 2014 issue.) Bartels feels it would be unethical for charities to try to convince people they’re going to change a lot over time, but he says charities could instead simply place donation commitments farther out into the future. “Just putting commitment off in time, and reminding people how much they care about others, may work well,” he says.

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Quit smoking, and plan your retirement

As we live our lives and focus on the present, we often fail to consider our future selves enough, says Urminsky. If we thought about the future more consistently, we might achieve many goals that seem insurmountable.

But how do you get yourself to think about your future self and connect to it? How do you trick yourself into thinking about present and future trade-offs? That is unlikely to be on your mind when you’re waiting in line for a coffee, or web surfing, or planning a vacation.

It may be that organizations with a product or idea to sell you will try to put you in a particular frame of mind. Charities trying to raise money may dabble with the notion that the future self is changing—or at least encourage giving in the future, rather than the present. An advertiser may want to inspire thoughts of the past self to sell more-emotionally-tinged products such as vacations or greeting cards. Asking consumers to harken back to a time when life was simpler and sweeter may make them more apt to purchase products or services that help them feel this way in the present.

People designing public-health initiatives may wish to embrace the future, but need to be careful about how it’s done. Smoking cessation campaigns sometimes use the future as a warning, by showing what can happen to a body over time. But if you see that future person as fundamentally different from who you are now, it may not have much of an effect. “Anti-cigarette ads talk about all the things smoking will do to you down the road, how you’ll barely recognize yourself,” says Urminsky. “It’s scary, and could actually be distancing. The message shouldn’t be that you’re doing this to some distant version of yourself; it’s that you’re doing it to yourself now, or at least to some closely related version of yourself.”

The ultimate place to remind people about the future self is in the retail setting, but retailers could be less than enthusiastic about this idea, since it would mean we’d be more reluctant to spend our money today.

Banks and investment companies, in the business of getting you to put aside money for the future, have taken on the hefty job of reminding us of our future selves when we’re going about our daily lives while trying to withstand the siren call of Starbucks. Prudential made its ads with help from Harvard’s Dan Gilbert, to get people to confront biases that get in the way of saving. A spokesperson for Bank of America, which owns Merrill Edge, says since its Face Retirement tool launched in 2012, almost 1 million people have uploaded photos. “We know that people who are brave enough to take a look into the crystal ball are much more likely to take control of their retirement planning,” she says. Imagine what else your future self could teach you.

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Platform reduces coding’s carbon footprint /platform-reduces-codings-carbon-footprint/ Thu, 14 Apr 2016 04:40:00 +0000 /platform-reduces-codings-carbon-footprint/ Add / Remove Eco-design has long been implemented in all kinds of technologies and products, making them more efficient and planet-friendly. But data and code, although digital in form, can still be energy intensive. Now a French firm is looking to reduce coding’s carbon footprint. Greenspector is a software solution that performs energy-use analysis to optimize coding ...

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Eco-design has long been implemented in all kinds of technologies and products, making them more efficient and planet-friendly. But data and code, although digital in form, can still be energy intensive. Now a French firm is looking to reduce coding’s carbon footprint.

Greenspector is a software solution that performs energy-use analysis to optimize coding for energy efficiency. The company says poorly coded apps and programs cause energy waste in phones, tablets and laptops, and increase the need for regular replacements and updates of hardware and software.

The startup says the Greenspector program detects energy draining patterns in code, and provides corrective solutions and action plans to reduce its energy footprint. According to founder Thierry Leboucq, the internet will consume as much electricity by 2030 as the whole of humanity in 2008. This can been seen in the massive increase of energy use in data centers. But the startup says its program could potentially cut the number of physical machines in data centers by 30 percent, and cut energy consumption on mobile devices by up to 70 percent.

Greenspector now says it aims to boost its business growth, doubling the size of its team and expanding internationally over the next two years. In Germany, we have already seen ideas to use recycle wasted heat from servers for use in the home. How else can new hardware and software make data transfers more green?

Website: greenspector.com
Contact: contact@greenspector.com

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Crowdfunding real estate down payments from the community /crowdfunding-real-estate-down-payments-from-the-community/ Thu, 14 Apr 2016 04:30:00 +0000 /crowdfunding-real-estate-down-payments-from-the-community/ Add / Remove A huge part of the population are currently excluded from the property market, due to unaffordable downpayment requirements. Of course, there are those whose family can help them get their first foot on the ladder, but there are very few solutions for the rest. Urban real estate startup Landed hopes to solve ...

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Photo: Flickr/Andrew

A huge part of the population are currently excluded from the property market, due to unaffordable downpayment requirements. Of course, there are those whose family can help them get their first foot on the ladder, but there are very few solutions for the rest. Urban real estate startup Landed hopes to solve this by enabling prospective buyers to crowdfund their down payment within their community, in exchange for equity on their first home.

Landed works with organizations such as schools, universities and local businesses to help first time buyers raise debt-free funds for their home. The startup recruits company executives, parents and alumni to invest in the homes of great employees, so that they can continue to live and work in vibrant cities such as San Francisco. Landed then acts as a mediator between the co-owners of the property.

But could this foster nepotism, and discourage equal opportunity housing?

Website: www.landed.com
Contact: hi@landed.com

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Wearable microchip uses ultra-thin cables to make design seamless /wearable-microchip-uses-ultra-thin-cables-to-make-design-seamless/ Thu, 14 Apr 2016 04:20:00 +0000 /wearable-microchip-uses-ultra-thin-cables-to-make-design-seamless/ Add / Remove We have already seen the development of new microchips that enable users to create their own wearables, but now a new product is making it easier for fashion designers to experiment with the technology. The KeKePad, designed by Shanghai-based startup KeKeSmart, uses sewable modules that are designed to be as small as possible, ...

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KeKePad

We have already seen the development of new microchips that enable users to create their own wearables, but now a new product is making it easier for fashion designers to experiment with the technology. The KeKePad, designed by Shanghai-based startup KeKeSmart, uses sewable modules that are designed to be as small as possible, and integrates specially made cables.

The KeKePad is a micro-controller board, around 50 millimeters in diameter, with 12 tiny connectors that provide a full range of modular applications, such as lighting, sound and vibration sensors. The product is designed to make it easy for users to create their own wearable technology, and provides a new kind of e-textile platform. The KeKePad’s special cables, Ke Cables, are almost thread thin and flexible for use in textiles products. The whole package simply needs plugging in, and there is no soldering or complicated wiring.

The KeKePad is open source and easy-to-use, so designers can focus on their creative pursuits. It has recently completed a successful crowfunding round on Indiegogo.

We’ve already seen technology and design come together in musical T-shirts for children. How else could wearable technology be adapted to help fashion designers incorporate more smart elements into their clothes?

Website: www.ikeke.co
Contact: yang@ikeke.co

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Platform automates job applicant verification /platform-automates-job-applicant-verification/ Thu, 14 Apr 2016 04:00:00 +0000 /platform-automates-job-applicant-verification/ Add / Remove Traditionally, verifying the past employment of job applicants has been a time-consuming process for HR departments. Verified Resources is a startup that could change this by automating the entire process. To begin, employees create an account and add their employment history. Next, they invite their employers to verify them. Then, when the ...

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Traditionally, verifying the past employment of job applicants has been a time-consuming process for HR departments. Verified Resources is a startup that could change this by automating the entire process.

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To begin, employees create an account and add their employment history. Next, they invite their employers to verify them. Then, when the employee applies for a new job, the prospective employer can simply search them on the database and view their verified employment history. Unlike LinkedIn, endorsements come from verified and credible past employers. The platform could prove particularly useful in countries such as India, Brazil, Indonesia, Philippines and East Europe, where there is an abundance of potential manpower.

Could a similar platform be used to verify college applications?

Website: verifiedresources.com
Contact: verifiedresources.com/contact

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Safer taxis via female-only Uber /safer-taxis-via-female-only-uber/ Wed, 13 Apr 2016 09:23:00 +0000 /safer-taxis-via-female-only-uber/ Add / Remove Uber may have revolutionized the taxi industry, but there have been a number of assaults and rapes by its drivers, and many passengers — women in particular — feel unsafe using the service. Aiming to rectify this is Chariot for Women, the female-only taxi service that is set to launch in Boston ...

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Photo: Free Stock Photo

Uber may have revolutionized the taxi industry, but there have been a number of assaults and rapes by its drivers, and many passengers — women in particular — feel unsafe using the service. Aiming to rectify this is Chariot for Women, the female-only taxi service that is set to launch in Boston next week.

Chariot for Women will only employ stringently background-checked female drivers, and only serve women, children under 13 and trans women. The company was founded by former Uber driver Michael Pelletz, who, after experiencing an unsettling journey one night was inspired to create a rideshare company that prioritized safety. The business will operate through an app, much like its predecessors, but with additional safety features. For example, when a ride is booked both parties will be sent a safe word, and the ride will only start when the driver has said the right safe word. Chariot For Women will also donate 2 percent of every fare to women-based charities.

Unfortunately, Chariot For Women’s female-only policies could be problematic in terms of gender discrimination law, especially its pledge to only hire women. How could the business be adapted to provide a safer service within the law?

Website: www.chariotforwomen.com
Contact: chariot@chariotforwomen.com

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Where Are They Now?: The Shoe That Grows /where-are-they-now-the-shoe-that-grows/ Wed, 13 Apr 2016 09:13:00 +0000 /where-are-they-now-the-shoe-that-grows/ Add / Remove In this month’s Where Are They Now we revisit Because International, a non-profit that created The Shoe That Grows — a flexible shoe that adjusts and expands gradually, and can fit a child’s foot perfectly for five years. As any parent will know, kids’ feet grow at an alarming rate, and in ...

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In this month’s Where Are They Now we revisit Because International, a non-profit that created The Shoe That Grows — a flexible shoe that adjusts and expands gradually, and can fit a child’s foot perfectly for five years.

As any parent will know, kids’ feet grow at an alarming rate, and in the developing world, there are three million children that go barefooted. This puts them in danger of contracting soil-transmitting parasites and diseases, to say nothing of the extreme discomfort often experienced when walking considerable distances to school.

We first wrote about The Shoe That Grows in June last year, and since then, the Because International team has added modifications to their shoe in response to feedback from those who wore them. These included a wider base, a third snap added to the middle portion (which allowed the shoe to expanded even further), and the heel was redesigned to have a buckle. The team has plans to implement a feedback program to better track the results of The Shoe.

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To date, approximately 31,000 pairs of The Shoe have been distributed in over 25 countries, with many orders expected throughout the year. “It has been a whirlwind,” founder Kenton Lee tells us, “And all of us at Because International are so excited The Shoe is reaching more children.”

In terms of challenges and key learnings, logistics has been perhaps the biggest hurdle for the team to tackle. International shipping, for one, can be tricky. To remedy this, Kenton explains, “we provide organizations and individuals with the necessary information to get through customs without any surprises.”

Currently, the team are developing a closed-toe Shoe. They want to create a pair of footwear with the same high quality of materials, longevity, and durability as the original version of The Shoe That Grows. This year, they are also planning on releasing The Shoe in pink. “There will be four available colors: Tan (original), Black, Blue and Pink.” Kenton says, “We will also be releasing an adult line of The Shoe That Grows.” (Currently The shoe is available in size small — ages 5 to 9 — and large — ages 10 to 15).

Reflecting back on Because International’s progress, Kenton says: “The support is amazing. We are so excited people from all over the world are joining our mission of practical compassion. Every donation, every distributer, every volunteer means more shoes, for more kids. We are excited to see what happens with The Shoe That Grows this upcoming year. We have a few benchmarks we would like to meet in 2016 – the future is looking bright.”

You can read more about The Shoe The Grows here.

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Navigation app red-zones high crime areas /navigation-app-red-zones-high-crime-areas/ Wed, 13 Apr 2016 04:40:00 +0000 /navigation-app-red-zones-high-crime-areas/ Add / Remove Most urban cities have areas that are unsafe and intimidating. Long-time residents often instinctively avoid such streets, but newcomers and tourists don’t always know about them. Now, RedZone is a navigation app that will help anyone stay safe in a new city by providing location-based crime data in real-time. RedZone combines crime ...

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Most urban cities have areas that are unsafe and intimidating. Long-time residents often instinctively avoid such streets, but newcomers and tourists don’t always know about them. Now, RedZone is a navigation app that will help anyone stay safe in a new city by providing location-based crime data in real-time.

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RedZone combines crime data from government agencies with reports from its community of users to provide a real-time guide to which areas of a city should be avoided. Crimes are marked onto the map with color-coded tags, so that users can see where events such as shootings, assaults or thefts have taken place, enabling them to avoid problematic areas completely. Users can map a route, as with other navigation apps, and they will be offered both a safe route and a risky route. RedZone also enables users to view up-to-date comments or media from other users about a developing situation, and to drop a new pin if they witness a crime.

We have already seen Rudder enable nocturnal walkers to locate the most well-lit route from point A to point B. How else could navigation apps be adapted with safety in mind?

Website: www.redzonemap.com
Contact: www.redzonemap.com/contact

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App splits restaurant bill to rectify pay gaps /app-splits-restaurant-bill-to-rectify-pay-gaps/ Wed, 13 Apr 2016 04:35:00 +0000 /app-splits-restaurant-bill-to-rectify-pay-gaps/ Add / Remove Despite growing awareness, there is still a problematic pay gap between men and women and along racial lines. This will — hopefully — eventually be rectified, but in the meantime we have seen some interesting initiatives that aim to balance things out at the point of payment. First, there was Less Than ...

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Despite growing awareness, there is still a problematic pay gap between men and women and along racial lines. This will — hopefully — eventually be rectified, but in the meantime we have seen some interesting initiatives that aim to balance things out at the point of payment. First, there was Less Than 100 — a traveling pop-up shop that illustrated the gender pay gap by charging women less than male customers — and now EquiTable is an app that enables diners to split their bill fairly, taking into account the historical and present day pay inequality.

The app, which was previously called EquiPay, was developed by comedian Luna Malbroux as part of Comedy Hack Day. It uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to calculate how much each diner should pay for their meal, depending on their race and sex, splitting the bill to balance out the wage gap. To begin, diners download the free app and enter their demographic details. Then, they connect with their friends and enter the total of their restaurant bill. Next, EquiTable uses a complex algorithm to split the bill equitably into what the creators call “affirmative fractions”.

If anyone has a problem with the bill split they are offered a chance to protest by claiming less privilege with classic excuses such as “I’m conventionally unattractive,” or “I was a middle child.” The app then comes back at them with some undeniable stats on the wage gap. Once persuaded, users can share their bill on social media to draw attention to the cause and show off their contribution.

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How else could systemic injustices be rectified at the point of payment?

Website: www.equitableapp.com
Contact: www.equitableapp.com/contact

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Thermal billboard can detect a fever /thermal-billboard-can-detect-a-fever/ Wed, 13 Apr 2016 04:30:00 +0000 /thermal-billboard-can-detect-a-fever/ Add / Remove Interactive billboards are providing interesting new ways for brands to connect with consumers. We have already seen a yawning advert used to advertise coffee, and a smart Russian billboard that hides a secret advert from the police. Now, the Theraflu Thermoscanner, created by Saatchi & Saatchi and GSK, measures the temperature of ...

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Interactive billboards are providing interesting new ways for brands to connect with consumers. We have already seen a yawning advert used to advertise coffee, and a smart Russian billboard that hides a secret advert from the police. Now, the Theraflu Thermoscanner, created by Saatchi & Saatchi and GSK, measures the temperature of passers-by to determine whether or not they have the flu.

The Theraflu billboard, created to advertise cold and flu medicines, uses a live thermo-scanner camera to enable viewers to determine whether or not they have a fever. When a pedsetrian stands in front of the billboard their thermal image appears on the high definition screen, showing their body temperature. Then, the billboard invites a thermo-scanner selfie, which the viewer can download on the microsite or via a QR code, and share on social media. Unwell users could even send it to their boss in lieu of a doctor’s note.

The first Theraflu Thermoscanner was installed in the Zlote Tarasy shopping centre in Warsaw. How else could this technology be used to merge health and advertising?

Website: www.saatchi.com
Contact: lee.sharrock@saatchi.co.uk

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Anonymous social media lets users create different personas /anonymous-social-media-lets-users-create-different-personas/ Tue, 12 Apr 2016 04:40:00 +0000 /anonymous-social-media-lets-users-create-different-personas/ Add / Remove Social media has become a part of most people’s daily routine, and many use multiple social media channels to show different sides of themselves. But now, a new social network is encouraging people to hide their real identities entirely. Instead, it wants users to embrace their online personas. Galaxia is a new ...

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galaxia

Social media has become a part of most people’s daily routine, and many use multiple social media channels to show different sides of themselves. But now, a new social network is encouraging people to hide their real identities entirely. Instead, it wants users to embrace their online personas.

Galaxia is a new social platform where users create multiple personas from one account that they then use to interact with different ‘worlds’ within the platform. Users connect their personas to different social networks, which can be made public or private, and have their own set of rules.

In this way, the app tries to bridge the gap between an instant messenger and a social media profile page; private groups can be small social media groups, while public profiles, under a different persona, can have thousands of views and interactions.

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The developers say the ‘no real name’ policy is to let users express themselves more freely, and to improve privacy. The app can also allow users to charge ‘entrance fees’ for their Galaxia worlds, to monetize the app.

Founder Moshe Hogeg said: “Galaxia enables a more natural social experience by offering users a complete freedom of expression in all their worlds. We’re trying to build a platform that will allow us to be who we want to be, in each context.”

We have already seen anonymous social media sites helping users find therapy and support. Could more anonymous forms of social media be the answer to online privacy?

Website: www.galaxia.co
Contact: www.galaxia.co/contact.html

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Second screen app makes TV marathons social /second-screen-app-makes-tv-marathons-social/ Tue, 12 Apr 2016 04:30:00 +0000 /second-screen-app-makes-tv-marathons-social/ Add / Remove The advent of on-demand streaming platforms such as Netflix has freed the viewer from the constraints of scheduling, but it has also resulted in a loss of a sense of community that comes from an entire nation watching the series finale of The Sopranos at the same time. Now, Bingee is a ...

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The advent of on-demand streaming platforms such as Netflix has freed the viewer from the constraints of scheduling, but it has also resulted in a loss of a sense of community that comes from an entire nation watching the series finale of The Sopranos at the same time. Now, Bingee is a smartphone app that wants to enable the social viewing of yesteryear for the digital television era.

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Bingee is a second screen experience that enables viewers to connect with friends — or strangers — to binge-watch their favorite TV series in unison and talk about the plot-twists in real-time. To begin, users download the app onto their smartphone or tablet and connect with their friends. Next, when they want to start a marathon viewing session — or just watch one episode — they can create a new bingee session for others to join. Then, they watch the show as usual on their television or laptop and chat with their companions about what is happening on their second screen. Users can schedule a bingee for a future time and invite their friends to join. Alternatively, if they don’t know what to watch, they can browse existing groups and join one of those.

We have already seen Xaxis Sync using the second screen by pushing content from TV commercials into mobile advertising during ad breaks. How else could smartphones be used to enhance viewing experiences rather than distract from them?

Website: www.itunes.apple.com/bingee
Contact: twitter.com/gobingee

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Curated care packages for friends in need /curated-care-packages-for-friends-in-need/ Tue, 12 Apr 2016 04:20:00 +0000 /curated-care-packages-for-friends-in-need/ Add / Remove In the modern age, it is incredibly easy to instantaneously send a friend in need an email, text or funny gif to cheer them up. But nothing quite compares to a real care package, received through the post. Pick Me Up Parcels and Positivity Pack are two startups offering just that. Both ...

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In the modern age, it is incredibly easy to instantaneously send a friend in need an email, text or funny gif to cheer them up. But nothing quite compares to a real care package, received through the post. Pick Me Up Parcels and Positivity Pack are two startups offering just that. Both companies enable thoughtful friends to order carefully curated parcels of items online, and send them to a friend or family member in need.

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Positivity Pack kits start from EUR 6 and include bubble wrap, a de-stress guide, confetti and stickers. The more expensive offerings also include a notebook and pencil, a music playlist and calming tea bags. Users can either send their package anonymously or include their name and a custom message. Pick Me Up Parcels, based in Australia, similarly enables users to order a gift box online and send it by post to a friend or themselves. The parcel includes rice paper and origami instructions, color-in Japanese postcard, a lavender eye mask and some molding foam — all items aimed at helping the recipient unwind and be mindful. The Pick Me Up Parcels starter pack costs AUD 20.

We have previously seen a care package subscription service for parents to send to their kids in college. Are there any other gift packages that would be suitable for different recipients?

Website: www.pickmeupparcels.com.au
Contact: admin@loremakers.com.au

Website: www.positivitypack.com
Contact: jamescorneille13@gmail.com

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Open platform for downloadable electronics parts /open-platform-for-downloadable-electronics-parts/ Tue, 12 Apr 2016 04:00:00 +0000 /open-platform-for-downloadable-electronics-parts/ Add / Remove Once upon a time designers had to spend hours working on computer aided design chips and circuit boards before they were able to create a new product. But now, an online platform is opening up electronics design with a downloadable library of components. SnapEDA is a library for all kinds of microchips, ...

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snapeda

Once upon a time designers had to spend hours working on computer aided design chips and circuit boards before they were able to create a new product. But now, an online platform is opening up electronics design with a downloadable library of components.

SnapEDA is a library for all kinds of microchips, circuit boards and schematics for product parts. These designs can be downloaded and used in creating electronic products such as smartwatches, drones or speakers. SnapEDA enables designers to download most of the basic designs for their CAD tool for free, only charging a premium subscription of USD 1,200 for bulk orders and 3D models.

According to TechCrunch, companies including Google, Boeing, General Electric and Sony are already using SnapEDA designs for their products and research. The San Francisco-based company also operates a community for users to upload CAD designs and answer other users’ questions.

We have seen downloadable and customizable designs offered in fashion and furniture making to people around the world via open platforms. What other industries could benefit from similar platforms?

Website: www.snapeda.com
Contact: info@snapeda.com

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Fitness trackers and scales for the mobility-impaired /fitness-trackers-and-scales-for-the-mobility-impaired/ Mon, 11 Apr 2016 04:30:00 +0000 /fitness-trackers-and-scales-for-the-mobility-impaired/ Add / Remove Fitness trackers have proved to be an effective addition to weight loss programs, but they currently do not work for people who are wheelchair-bound because of obesity or other disabilities. This means that a vital part of the population who could benefit from the technology are going without. Now, researchers at The ...

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Fitness trackers have proved to be an effective addition to weight loss programs, but they currently do not work for people who are wheelchair-bound because of obesity or other disabilities. This means that a vital part of the population who could benefit from the technology are going without. Now, researchers at The University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Lab are aiming to change this by adapting tracking and weighing technology for use by the mobility-impaired.

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One product, in development, is an affordable assistive scale system. Most wheelchair users don’t know their weight because they can’t use a regular bathroom scale, and roll-on scales cost upwards from USD 600. The innovation is a quartet of discs that sit under the feet of the user’s bed. They weigh the bed before and after the user lies down to provide the person’s weight. The discs can connect to a smartphone or a bedside device, which display the weight. The scale is currently undergoing clinical trial and is expected to sell for USD 200.

Another line of development is led by Dan Ding, who is using armbands and wrist watches, equipped with accelerometers, to measure arm and upper body movement. A specialized mask also calculates energy expenditure by measuring breath going in and out. Ding is collecting data with study subjects and will use the results to create algorithms that can calculate the calories burnt through exercise and daily life.

How else could fitness monitoring equipment be adapted for neglected parts of the population?

Website: www.herl.pitt.edu/research
Contact: herl@shrs.pitt.edu

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Interactive map links to destination videos for visitors /interactive-map-links-to-destination-videos-for-visitors/ Mon, 11 Apr 2016 04:25:00 +0000 /interactive-map-links-to-destination-videos-for-visitors/ Add / Remove There is only so much you can tell about a place from the description in a guide book. We have already seen a Turkish startup offer potential visitors remote smartphone tours from locals, and now TripGlimpse is also enabling tourists to preview their destination via an interactive map and curated video footage. ...

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There is only so much you can tell about a place from the description in a guide book. We have already seen a Turkish startup offer potential visitors remote smartphone tours from locals, and now TripGlimpse is also enabling tourists to preview their destination via an interactive map and curated video footage.

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TripGlimpse is an online platform consisting of an interactive map and a database of video content. Prospective travelers can browse the map for a city they are interested in. Once they have chosen one, they click on it and are shown a more detailed map, with videos placed according to geolocation. Each icon links to a YouTube video and is accompanied by a short description of the landmark. There are also interactive links to videos of hotels, so that users can preview potential accommodation and seamlessly book one that they like the look of.

How else could video be used to help people preview experiences?

Website: www.tripglimpse.com
Contact: feedback@tripglimpse.com

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Open source robot helps automate lab work /open-source-robot-helps-automate-lab-work/ Mon, 11 Apr 2016 04:20:00 +0000 /open-source-robot-helps-automate-lab-work/ Add / Remove Automated technology that can help complete complicated and delicate tasks is already seeing developments in the medical field, with the first full-scale surgeries using an autonomous miniature robot taking place this year. Now, a new robot could make everyday laboratory tasks a little less laborious. OT.One, a micropipette robot from Opentrons, is helping ...

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Automated technology that can help complete complicated and delicate tasks is already seeing developments in the medical field, with the first full-scale surgeries using an autonomous miniature robot taking place this year. Now, a new robot could make everyday laboratory tasks a little less laborious.

OT.One, a micropipette robot from Opentrons, is helping to automate lab work. The robot is marketed as an affordable lab tool, and Opentrons is offering open source programs and software for download and use on the OT.One to run experiments.

Rather than doing experiments delicately by hand, which consumes large amounts of time, OT.ONE functions as a platform for scientists to design their experiments in their browser, and use the robot to quickly conduct repetitive tasks.

Opentrons’ journey started on Kickstarter in 2014, when the company successfully raised more than USD 125,000. In the launch video, founder Will Canine says Opentrons “is full open source: hardware, software and protocols. No one has ever opened up automated biology protocols to peer-to-peer development before.”

The OT.One is now on sale for USD 3,000 and is being used in labs in Japan, China and Australia. What other lab processes could be made more efficient and accurate by robot assistance?

Website: opentrons.com
Contact: info@opentrons.com

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Global record label for street musicians /global-record-label-for-street-musicians/ Mon, 11 Apr 2016 04:10:00 +0000 /global-record-label-for-street-musicians/ Add / Remove There are a huge array of talented street musicians around the world, and we have seen a couple of projects such as a Paypal method and a Bitcoin portal for buskers, which make it easier for passersby to support them through online donations. Now, Sound of Change is a record label for ...

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There are a huge array of talented street musicians around the world, and we have seen a couple of projects such as a Paypal method and a Bitcoin portal for buskers, which make it easier for passersby to support them through online donations. Now, Sound of Change is a record label for street musicians, which aims to expand their audience and support network by bringing their music online, through the videos of up-and-coming filmmakers.

Sound of Change is a global project launched by Hungry Boys Creative Agency. The company has already begun to work with three artists from Amsterdam, Moscow and Madrid. For each musician, the label commissioned video producers to create a short promotional film, and recorded one of their tracks in a studio. The video and music have since been uploaded onto the Sound of Change website along with links to buy the songs on iTunes or listen to on Spotify. Now, the project is crowdsourcing the rest of its roster by asking audience members to record a video of street musicians they love, geotagging them, and sharing them with the hashtag #soundofchange, along with the musician’s contact details. All proceeds raised go directly to the musicians.

Are there any companies who could benefit from associating themselves with this project?

Website: www.sound-of-change.com
Contact: infosoundofchange@gmail.com

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Site for making regular donations to climate change campaigns /site-for-making-regular-donations-to-climate-change-campaigns/ Fri, 08 Apr 2016 04:40:00 +0000 /site-for-making-regular-donations-to-climate-change-campaigns/ Add / Remove Promoting and fundraising for good causes online can be an effective way to raise awareness and money quickly, but worthy projects can easily get lost on big crowdfunding websites. And while one time donations are welcome, getting support over time can be difficult. That’s why Cool Effect, a crowdfunding website focused on ...

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climatechange

Promoting and fundraising for good causes online can be an effective way to raise awareness and money quickly, but worthy projects can easily get lost on big crowdfunding websites. And while one time donations are welcome, getting support over time can be difficult. That’s why Cool Effect, a crowdfunding website focused on climate change, is helping individuals work together to support projects that tackle global environmental issues.

While the prospect of global warming makes many feel helpless, Cool Effect allows donators to make a tangible difference by supporting projects, many of which are in developing countries that can benefit from carbon credits as a result of the reduced emissions. Supporters can make a one-time contribution, and unlike many crowdfunding sites, can subscribe and make donations over time.

Cool Effect specializes in carbon reduction projects, curating the best ones to help reduce climate pollution. They work with a group of climate scientists to choose the best projects to feature on its platform, and ensure transparency by making sure each one is providing real carbon reductions.

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Developments they have supported include fuel-efficient cooking stoves in the Andes, installing bio-digesters in Vietnam, and saving rainforests in tropical Peru. Speaking at the Paris climate change conference last December, director Dee Lawrence said: “We wanted to give every individual the chance to be part of the solution.”

We have already seen how new solar micro-grid technology is being deployed in Kenya to provide clean energy to rural communities. How else can projects like these make use of green technologies and benefit communities in developing countries?

Website: www.cooleffect.org
Contact: info@cooleffect.org

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Smart speaker reads emotions to play music /smart-speaker-reads-emotions-to-play-music/ Fri, 08 Apr 2016 04:30:00 +0000 /smart-speaker-reads-emotions-to-play-music/ Add / Remove We have already seen headphones that stimulate nerves to let users feel their music. Now, a new speaker system is claiming to use human moods to learn what tunes users want to listen to. Moodbox uses its artificial intelligence system to work out what music users most want to listen to. Users ...

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moodbox

We have already seen headphones that stimulate nerves to let users feel their music. Now, a new speaker system is claiming to use human moods to learn what tunes users want to listen to.

Moodbox uses its artificial intelligence system to work out what music users most want to listen to. Users interact with the Moodbox by voice control, and can keep a diary of their moods using the speaker’s smartphone app. The system can work out what music to play by listening to what users say and their tone of voice. Then, depending on the situation or time of day, Moodbox can make music choices, reacting to, for example, how the user feels first thing in the morning, or when they are coming home from work.

Hong Kong based-developers Ivo say Moodbox uses an emotional intelligence program known as Emi. Emi learns different moods and plays music and lighting accordingly. The program uses AI to analyze the voice of the user and their musical preference against millions of songs and lyrics to pick the perfect songs. The speakers are wireless and fully voice-controlled, and a number of Moodboxes can be set up in a house and linked together, playing music at the same time.

Moodbox has already surpassed their crowdfunding goal on Indiegogo, raising more than USD 50,000 from nearly 300 backers.

How else can artificial intelligence be used to improve the way we listen to and discover new music?

Website: www.mymoodbox.com
Contact: info@ivo.hk

 

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Offline app teaches passengers about the places they are flying over /offline-app-teaches-passengers-about-the-places-they-are-flying-over/ Fri, 08 Apr 2016 04:30:00 +0000 /offline-app-teaches-passengers-about-the-places-they-are-flying-over/ Add / Remove Long flights can often seem impossible to fill, regardless of the huge array of entertainment now provided by most airlines. Now, Flyover Country is taking another tact — encouraging passengers to think about the world they are flying over rather than distracting them from it. The offline app was created by the ...

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Photo: George Alexander Ishida Newman

Long flights can often seem impossible to fill, regardless of the huge array of entertainment now provided by most airlines. Now, Flyover Country is taking another tact — encouraging passengers to think about the world they are flying over rather than distracting them from it. The offline app was created by the University of Minnesota with funding from the National Science Foundation. It provides mid-flight education through route-specific maps and information about the places they are flying over.

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To use, passengers enter their flight details into the free app. The app curates the relevant interactive geology maps from Macrostrat.org, fossil localities from Neotomadb.org and Paleobiodb.org, and core sample localities from LacCore.org. It also offers Wikipedia entries for any points of interest that the aircraft will be flying over. Next, the user downloads the entries they are interested in, enables their GPS, and turns off their wifi. Then, as the journey progresses, the data and resources remain available for the user to peruse as they travel.

The app can also be used during road trips, hiking, and other outdoor activities such as field trips. What other resources could be made available for passengers to enjoy offline during flights?

Website: www.fc.umn.edu
Contact: unews@umn.edu

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Marketplace for properties with existing, reliable tenants /marketplace-for-properties-with-existing-reliable-tenants/ Fri, 08 Apr 2016 04:20:00 +0000 /marketplace-for-properties-with-existing-reliable-tenants/ Add / Remove Buying property to let can be a lucrative investment, but the hassle of finding and securing reliable tenants can often put people off. Now, based in Oakland, California, Roofstock is a marketplace for already-rented homes. The business recently raised USD 13m in funding and is about to launch in central Florida. Roofstock ...

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Buying property to let can be a lucrative investment, but the hassle of finding and securing reliable tenants can often put people off. Now, based in Oakland, California, Roofstock is a marketplace for already-rented homes. The business recently raised USD 13m in funding and is about to launch in central Florida.

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Roofstock is an online marketplace that specializes in occupied single-family rental properties. Home-owners wanting to sell their property can sell it through Roofstock, without needing to vacate their current tenants or wait for their lease to expire. Instead, all the houses listed are inspected, all the tenants verified, and rental prices are set. Then, potential investors can browse properties online, in full knowledge of the rental value of each property. Once an buyer chooses an investment, Roofstock facilitates the purchase with electronic document delivery and e-signatures, speeding up the process.

Could other investment processes be similarly simplified?

Website: www.roofstock.com
Contact: support@roofstock.com

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Bacteria could generate sustainable light for smart cities /bacteria-could-generate-sustainable-light-for-smart-cities/ Thu, 07 Apr 2016 04:40:00 +0000 /bacteria-could-generate-sustainable-light-for-smart-cities/ Add / Remove As culturing bacteria becomes more accessible, we’re seeing more technologies use their unique characteristics to create smart devices, such as temperature-adaptive clothing and bacteria-powered robots. Glowee, a Parisian startup, believes bacteria could also provide an alternative to electric lights. Glowee cultures the bacteria that give squid their bioluminescence — the ability to ...

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As culturing bacteria becomes more accessible, we’re seeing more technologies use their unique characteristics to create smart devices, such as temperature-adaptive clothing and bacteria-powered robots. Glowee, a Parisian startup, believes bacteria could also provide an alternative to electric lights.

Glowee cultures the bacteria that give squid their bioluminescence — the ability to glow in the dark. These bacterial cultures are grown in ‘shells’ that can be customized into functional shapes — such as shop front signs — and requires no external energy source to produce light. Glowee is currently seeking seed funding, and working to extend the lifespan of their cultures (currently limited to three days of light) and the intensity of their glow. The eventual aim for the startup is to use the bacteria as an alternative energy source and power city infrastructure such as light grids.

Where else could we see bacteria-powered light sources be used?

Website: www.glowee.eu
Contact: contact@glowee.fr

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Inner-ear stimulation cures VR motion sickness /inner-ear-stimulation-cures-vr-motion-sickness/ Thu, 07 Apr 2016 04:30:00 +0000 /inner-ear-stimulation-cures-vr-motion-sickness/ Add / Remove Having covered how a tilting seat can be used to reduce nausea while VR gaming, we bring news that vMocion have developed a system that makes the user feel like they are actually experiencing motion. Motion sickness occurs because of a disconnect between what the eyes see and what the inner ear ...

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Having covered how a tilting seat can be used to reduce nausea while VR gaming, we bring news that vMocion have developed a system that makes the user feel like they are actually experiencing motion.

Motion sickness occurs because of a disconnect between what the eyes see and what the inner ear perceives. vMocion’s 3V platform overcomes this by using Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (GVS), where four pads are placed across the skull to send 3D motion signals from one inner ear to the other. Widely used in aerospace training during flight simulations, GVS has been adapted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic to sync up with what the user is seeing in real-time, so that their brains are tricked into ‘feeling’ what they see. While plans are underway to offer the system to VR headset developers, vMocion believes their platform could also enable the film industry to create more immersive sensorial experiences.

What other industries could benefit from vMocion’s system?

Website: www.vmocion.com
Contact: info@vmocion.com

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Database of local activities for children /database-of-local-activities-for-children/ Thu, 07 Apr 2016 04:00:00 +0000 /database-of-local-activities-for-children/ Add / Remove Nearly 3 percent of American children are homeschooled. While this can provide an enriching education, it often means that kids miss out on group activities or school trips, which they might otherwise get to experience. San Francisco-based company Outschool is helping to change this, by offering dozens of workshops and activities for ...

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Nearly 3 percent of American children are homeschooled. While this can provide an enriching education, it often means that kids miss out on group activities or school trips, which they might otherwise get to experience. San Francisco-based company Outschool is helping to change this, by offering dozens of workshops and activities for children to enjoy in groups.

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Outschool is a database of local workshops that parents can enroll their children in online. Guardians can browse the listings by activity type, date or location. There are a huge range of activities on offer: everything from squid dissection to a tour of KQED radio and TV studio. Prices vary widely depending on the class — a creative writing course is USD 10 per session, while a three hour blacksmithing workshop is USD 99. Once the user has chosen an activity, they can book and pay for it through Outschool. Parents can see who else is enrolled and share the class with other local families. Some activities are one-off classes, while others are courses spread over several weeks.

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Outschool has a selection of in-house activity leaders and also welcomes local people to list and lead new activities. Could similar programs be developed in other cities?

Website: www.outschool.com
Contact: support@outschool.com

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Platform enables architects to rapidly catch marginal errors /platform-enables-architects-to-rapidly-catch-marginal-errors/ Thu, 07 Apr 2016 03:50:00 +0000 /platform-enables-architects-to-rapidly-catch-marginal-errors/ Add / Remove With large-scale construction projects, any slight deviation from design during the building process can have significant consequences downstream. SKUR have developed software that enables users to rapidly detect any variance between design and build. Users take a laser scan of the material (usually LiDAR scans), which provides what’s known as a ‘point ...

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With large-scale construction projects, any slight deviation from design during the building process can have significant consequences downstream. SKUR have developed software that enables users to rapidly detect any variance between design and build.

Users take a laser scan of the material (usually LiDAR scans), which provides what’s known as a ‘point cloud’ — a large and noisy dataset that can require lengthy analyses. SKUR’s algorithmic software is able to rapidly compare a point cloud to original 3D model designs (in .dwg format), pinpointing precisely where levels of unacceptable variance occur using easily interpretable color-coding and arrows, which show the direction of the fault in space, highlighting exactly where correcting work needs to be done.

By enabling companies to constantly assess construction accuracy, SKUR hopes to save the industry time and money by detecting errors early. How else could algorithms analyze and present errors in design?

Website: www.skur.com
Contact: sales@skur.com

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