Printable Batteries

A California startup is developing flexible, rechargeable batteries that can be printed cheaply on commonly used industrial screen printers. Imprint Energy, of Alameda, California, has been testing its ultra-thin zinc-polymer batteries in wrist-worn devices and hopes to sell them to manufacturers of wearable electronics, medical devices, smart labels and environmental sensors.

The company’s approach is meant to make the batteries safe for on-body applications, while their small size and flexibility will allow for product designs that would have been impossible with bulkier lithium-based batteries. Even in small formats, the batteries can deliver enough current for low-power wireless communications sensors, distinguishing them from other types of thin batteries.

The batteries that power most laptops and smartphones contain lithium, which is highly reactive and has to be protected in ways that add size and bulk. While zinc is more stable, the water-based electrolytes in conventional zinc batteries cause zinc to form dendrites, branch-like structures that can grow from one electrode to the other, shorting the battery. Ho developed a solid polymer electrolyte that avoids this problem, and also provides greater stability, and greater capacity for recharging.

Imprint has also been in talks about the use of its batteries in clothes and “weird parts of your body like your eye,” Ho says. The company also recently began working on a project funded by the U.S. military to make batteries for sensors that would monitor the health status of soldiers. Other potential applications include powering smart labels with sensors for tracking food and packages.

Why It’s Hot:

As we get into more wearables and more technology, one of the best ways to make them smaller and not take as much space is batteries. It can also help with the issue of electronic waste. Every year, people throw out their phones with these huge lithium batteries that can’t be recycled or reused in anyway. With these new batteries, the amount of waste would go down and phones can have more space for the better processors or larger camera.

Typing without a Keyboard!

Typing on mobile devices such as tablets and phones is notoriously dodgy. It can be done, but it’s awkward, inefficient and frustrating. Sort of like rooting for the Chicago Cubs.

A startup in Austin, Texas, may have found a way to solve the mobile keyboard problem: Get rid of the keyboard entirely.

The AirType project — currently in early prototype phase — is a “keyboardless keyboard” accessory that allows you to type on any surface, or none at all. Unlike projection keyboards, which use a virtual keyboard image displayed on a flat surface, the AirType has no visual component whatsoever.

Instead, the Air Type system uses a pair of cuff-like sensor units that go around your hands and over the knuckles. The units track your finger moments to detect which keys you’re striking, or would strike, on your mobile tablet keyboard — which isn’t there, mind you.

Why It’s Hot

In this day and age where things are becoming smaller and more mobile, a new invention like the Airtype will surely be a hit. It’s a great tool to carry around with you and saves a lot of space than having to carry around a keyboard for your tablet. Especially with all this talk about wearable technology. It may take some guessing used to with people mistaking them for brass knuckles, but who knows? That may be a hidden function in the future.

Paralyzed Man moves his hand with his mind!

Ian Burkhart had barely finished his freshman year of college when he broke his neck.

Standing on top of a cliff in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, which overlooked an orange sandbar jutting into the Atlantic Ocean, he dove hands-first toward the deceptively shallow water below.

The impact with the sandbar broke his vertebrae at what’s called the C5 level, paralyzing his body from the elbows down. He spent the next four months recovering. Doctors told him he’d never be able to use his arms again.

That was four years ago. But on June 23, Ian made a fist with his right hand using only his brain waves, transferred through an innovative chip implanted in his head. In other words, he moved his paralyzed hand just by thinking about it.

The groundbreaking move is thanks to a microchip technology called Neurobridge, developed by researchers with medical nonprofit group Battelle. Neurobridge interprets brain signals as a way to “bypass” the duties of the spinal cord.

More about this:

Why it’s Hot:

It’s amazing to see technology in the medical field constantly evolving. Although this technology is still in the early stages, there a lot of different applications this could be used for. It can prove very useful in the future for those who no longer have control of their limbs. It’s almost a sneakpeek into the future.

Virtual Reality for less than $100?!

Google surprised all of the attendees with a piece of cardboard during the Google I/O keynote. However, it’s not just any piece of cardboard. It’s also a virtual reality kit. How does a piece of cardboard become a virtual reality kit? I can tell you it’s not just by using your imagination. By taking lenses, rubber band, magnets, velcro and your android phone, you can make your very own makeshift Oculus Rift. The name of this kit is… well it’s just ‘Cardboard.’

Google wants developers to combine Cardboard with its experimental VR Toolkit to build immersive virtual experiences.

Two Google employees at the Google Cultural Institute in Paris built Cardboard as part of a 20% project. Their bosses loved the smartphone housing so much, it inspired a larger group to build an experimental SDK.

There is an app that works with this little gadget to assist with this virtual reality experience. It can be founded on the Google Play store and is also called ‘Cardboard’.

Why it’s Hot:

Even with virtual reality becoming more popular, it’s still not very accessible to everyone. Sure, there is the Occulus Rift, but not many people know how to use it and it is a bit pricey. With this ‘Cardboard’ kit, virtual reality is not just more accessible, but it’s easier to use with Google’s App. I’m really excited to see what kinds of applications this will be used for.

All your Money in One Place

Our smartphones seem poised to make our wallets obsolete, thanks to a raft of payment apps—PayPal, LevelUp, Venmo, Google Wallet, etc But which of these are the best?

The problem with using a smartphone instead of a traditional wallet, as Erickson sees it, is efficiency. Each payment app exists in a vacuum, and there’s no way to sync them with your bank statement for the purpose of keeping a budget, while on the go.

There is a new gizmo that combines all sorts of payments into one place – Token.

Token would amass all of that activity in one place—similar to the promise of Coin, which Erickson says is “still anchored down the credit card form factor”—making it possible to buy a cup of coffee, transfer allowance money to your kid, see what’s left in your checking account, and then go buy a meal—all in a few minutes.

The success of the Token concept (and so far it is just a concept: the idea bubbled up through Artefact’s in-house idea lab, Startefact) hinges on a payments ecosystem that does not yet exist. In a Token-enabled world, Erickson imagines that all vendors would have technology that could accept payments beamed through Bluetooth, or that could scan a Token-generated QR code.


Why it’s Hot

In an age where accessibility is becoming more important, we begin to travel lighter. Everything is being made more compacted. There is no longer a need to carry loads of items with us. At most you need is your phone, your wallet, and yourself. However, many of us seem to have a deck of credit cards that we carry around in our wallets.

Token gets rid of the hassle of having to carry around your credit cards and checkbook, and even allows you to check your bank account all on your wrist. It even acts as its own security, only allowing the user to make transactions. With both a sleek design and safety feature, this gadget is sure to be a must in the future.