These days, innovation means taking a traditional product and making it “smart” by connecting it to the internet or collecting tons of data on the user. Sometimes you just want a better version of the product that doesn’t fall apart after 2 uses.
A New Zealand company called Blunt makes an apparently indestructible umbrella that even Mary Poppins would be impressed with. The umbrellas “can withstand winds of up to 72 mph” according to the manufacturer, though reviews on Amazon are mixed (4 out of 5 stars, but some complaints about the cheapness of the plastic parts). It retails for around $60; you’ll pay $80 if you want it in green camo.
Why It’s Hot
Sometimes improving an old design is better than re-imagining it.
MIT researchers created a robotic fish in order to study sea life. It was modeled after a real fish in order to blend in with the sea life.
“We view SoFi as a first step toward developing almost an underwater observatory of sorts,” says Rus. “It has the potential to be a new type of tool for ocean exploration and to open up new avenues for uncovering the mysteries of marine life.”
A couple of dudes named Ben Katz and Jared Di Carlo “have smashed the previous record for solving the Rubik’s cube robotically. Their machine solved the puzzle in 0.38 seconds—a 40-percent improvement over the previous record of 0.637.”
Hiding behind a locked door won’t save you from rogue killer robots anymore thanks to Boston Dynamics’ new innovation. These new models can handle a doorknob pretty well as evidenced by the company’s new teaser video.
FoldiMate debuted a prototype of its laundry-folding machine at CES 2017, but it has yet to actually deliver a product to market, though it has an updated the design that will be unveiled at CES 2018 (a few days from today).
The product video below is all style, no substance with no actual images of laundry being folded but it’s meant to be a teaser.
Why It’s Hot
If the concept works, it will probably excite the average Joe so much more than another bulky VR headset because it is practical.
A Ukranian design company called Hochu Rayu has created a noise-cancelling helmet designed to block out sound for persons who work in noisy open space offices. According to CNet, “The design company came up with the Helmfon while trying to work out ways employees can Skype at their desks without bothering their co-workers.”
This can be really useful for people who seek to improve their productivity when they’re surrounded by a wall of constant noise (*cough* 4th Floor *cough*), though, obviously, the design needs some work.
It’s hot in cases where you need to understand someone quickly in another language, especially for people who work in service-oriented fields. It’s not so hot if the main use case is to replace the learning of new languages.
Most of us have gotten used to the busted up images and less-than-perfect experience of apps like Google Maps, because the utility is what’s important. But it is nice to see that the company is minding the little details.
Ford has found a way to simulate how well their seats hold up over a ten-year period by creating a robotic butt that ‘sits’ in the seat over 25,000 times in a 3-week period. Valuable data is gathered along the way to ensure that the design holds up well.
A robot built by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics named Sophia has been granted citizenship by the government of Saudi Arabia. Nobody is saying exactly what that means but, according to Futurism, “The move seems symbolic, at best, designed to attract investors for future technologies like AI and robotics.” Saudi Arabia has been trying to up its credibility as a tech player to compete with neighbors such as the United Arab Emirates.
Sophia was “designed to look like Audrey Hepburn” according to the robot maker. I see.
Here is the full video of Sophia’s (awkward) address to the Future Investment Initiative conference, held at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Why It’s Hot
This announcement adds fuel to the debate about what rights, if any, robots will have in our society. It also calls into question if countries such as Saudi Arabia have a moral responsibility to treat their female citizens and foreign workers equally to- or better than robots.
Caspar has teamed with American Airlines to design and supply the massive airline with a slew of new sleep products. The 8 new products include “a mattress pad that fits over your seat, a regular pillow and a lumbar pillow, a pillowcase, a duvet, a blanket, pajamas and slippers.”
No, this is not a dream. It’s also not available for coach travelers. The products are solely for business class and first class travelers. You know, the people who need it the most.
You, however, will still be unable to sleep on the red eye on account of the demon toddler kicking your seat from behind during the entire duration of the flight. Happy trails!
A French startup named Moona is raising money on Kickstarter to produce a temperature controlled pillow that stays cool to help improve sleep. It also has (all together, now) an app that helps you analyze your sleep patterns.
For the last couple of years, the newer models of Roomba have been quietly mapping homes to maximize efficiency. Now, the device’s makers plan to sell that data to smart home device manufacturers and possibly to companies such as Amazon, Google and Apple (Roomba is already compatible with Alexa, for example).
“If a company like Amazon, for example, wanted to improve its Echo smart speaker, the Roomba’s mapping info could certainly help out. Spatial mapping could improve audio performance by taking advantage of the room’s acoustics. Do you have a large room that’s practically empty? Targeted furniture ads might be quite effective. The laser and camera sensors would paint a nice portrait for lighting needs that would factor into smart lights that adjust in real time. Smart AC units could better control airflow. And additional sensors added in the future would gather even more data from this live-in double agent.”
One way to avoid giving your data would be to turn off the cloud service and go analog, rendering the IoT aspect of the product useless.
It’s hot as hell for marketers because this will unlock hyper-targeted ads to people on a micro level, but maybe not as hot for consumers who feel that they have to make a big compromise with their privacy just to vacuum their floors.
Click on a blue hot spot and get an explanation of what the item is.
Why it’s Hot
This project can serve as motivation for kids curious about STEM careers, similar to the Lockheed Martin “Field Trip to Mars” project from 2016. Also, it’s a fun way to spend 15 minutes at work.
A company called American Green has created a vending machine that relies on biometrics to dispense things such as alcohol, marijuana and ammunition. Customers sign up and verify their age, prescriptions, gun permits, etc., with actual persons to keep the merch out of the hands of minors or the wrong people….because there’s no such thing as hacking, right?
A developer named Abhishek Singh recreated the first level of Super Mario Bros. as an augmented reality game on Microsoft HoloLens, giving himself a first-person perspective into a unique 3D look inside the classic setting.
This demo was done in NYC’s own Central Park.
Why It’s Hot
Seeing the game as Mario sees it is totally hot. Watching a guy in Central Park acting like he’s slowly losing his mind: not so hot.
Apple has wrangled up some A-listers, plus Gary Vaynerchuck, for a Shark Tank-meets-The Voice reality show. It’s a chance for developers to give their best elevator pitch to a panel of 4 judges who will swipe left or right and give app developers an opportunity to be funded so that “they can take the next step to creating one of the great apps of all time.”