Ever since we discovered fire and invented the wheel, innovation has never taken a break with humankind, whether it is war or peace. But how do we define our technological advancement? To answer this, let us look at a favourite cartoon from childhood - The Jetsons. Why were we so mesmerised by this cartoon? Was it because of the antics of the Jetsons family or was it the technology around them, in their household, school, office, etc.? Look around you, in your household, your social life, your office; is every little piece of technology around what you would have imagined existing 15 years ago? We often take for granted the smaller innovations around us for those larger than life inventions. For example, imagine a life without a pen or a ball pen – you would still be using a feather with an ink pot. Take for example the humble washing machine, where would you be without it?
Let’s take a look at some new small innovations which are absolutely valuable in our technological evolutions. After all, it is these small innovations in large numbers that make the difference.
This is every Sci-Fi geek’s dream come true, owning their own little Death Star, except of course in this case the laser flyswatter would be zapping mosquitoes out of the air with pinpoint accuracy. Imagine having a laser defence grid in your bedroom to fry those disease-carrying, pesky bloodsuckers.
Intellectual Ventures’ laser flyswatter (the weapon of mosquito destruction) is a device that detects and analyses mosquitoes by the frequency of their beating wings and then zaps them with a laser beam that literally burns them up mid-air (rest assured it won’t be targeting a butterfly, or your siblings if you have shrunk them with a shrink ray [reference movie: Honey I shrunk the kids]). It can even detect the difference between the male and the female mosquito. The system used to give a public demonstration was used to shoot down a few mosquitoes but was capable of ‘terminating’ 50-100 mosquitoes per second (anyone thinking Starship Troopers?).
The applications of this go beyond the bedroom; imagine having a laser fence around a village where malaria is prevalent or a laser grid around crop fields (the system can be configured to zap locusts with a higher energy output). This system could utilise solar energy to become a standalone unit.
Water atomising showerhead
How many of us have gone on water-saving missions at home and ended up frustrated because we can’t let go of that refreshing shower, as a bucket of water won’t compensate so easily? But it is this little action in our everyday life that goes ahead to save a lot of water. Showers have pretty much been the same in the past 100 years or so, spewing out large drops of water. Nebia, a kickstarter project, has taken a big leap ahead and created a showerhead that atomises water into millions of tiny droplets, thereby spreading the same amount of water over 10 times more surface area. Those who have tested it have said that the experience is different but more refreshing and hydrating.
In real-life use, the amount of water usage during a shower is reduced by an astounding 70 per cent. According to Nebia’s estimates, California could save 200 billion gallons of water or around $4 billion annually if they switch to Nebia showerheads. In a country like India with its huge population and scarce resources, an innovation like the Nebia showerhead could ensure that a lot more people have access to pure water because of the savings achieved.
The CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, and Alphabet Executive, Eric Schmidt, are the early investors of this project.
Flushable bedside toilet
We all know how difficult it is for the elderly and the sick to perform their daily task and we always wish that we could somehow make things easier for them. One of the ways of doing that is by making daily washroom activities easier for them. It is a small thing but it makes a big difference when it comes to comfort. Toto has created a flushable, moveable toilet that you can move anywhere in the house based on your requirement, independent of the house’s layout. It was created as an alternative to the currently available portable toilets that use a bucket and have to be cleaned. The Toto flushable bedside toilet on the other hand has plumbing and the waste goes into a tank and therefore doesn’t require any cleaning. The flush operates by pressing a button and it also comes with a deodoriser.
The flushable toilet can be used at home, in hospitals, at old age homes and also deployed on projects in remote areas.
On the lighter side, the flushable, moveable toilet will take glamping to a whole new level. Also, this is a couch potato’s dream come true. If this isn’t enough, imagine saving that expensive carpet in your house from the stud who had a little too much alcohol in your house party.
Nixie the Wearable and flyable selfie drone
How many times have you missed capturing those beautiful moments on video? How many times have you actually used the selfie stick that you bought last month? These are the needs of the current times (when a helmet-mounted camera won’t do) that need to be solved and the answer is in the form of a simple wearable drone, Nixie.
The concept of Nixie is brilliant, it is tiny and hence wraps around your wrist like a watch. When you press a button, it flies off your wrist to a short distance, turns around and shoots a video or photograph of you. It doesn’t have a remote, just let point it in the direction you want your selfie from and it does the rest; its sensors make it aware of the location and so you don’t need to take any effort to position it.
The wearable drone would also be a boon to those engaged in adventure sports like, rock climbing, who simply cannot free their hands to take a selfie. Also, imagine a future where this is taken further and law enforcers are equipped with a wearable drone which could quickly give them a better perception of the crime scene or their patrolling area.
If you think that our clothes haven’t evolved then think again, over the scale of time, our clothes have evolved from hides of animals to clothes made up of different types of fibers for different purposes. If you look hard enough, you will find videos of liquid ‘repellant’ clothes online. Clothing may be too mundane to think of as technology products, but this where we are wrong, pretty soon the hashtag #SmartClothes will be trending on social media. For example, Google, along with some partners, is developing smart clothes that will sense touch. Imagine controlling the functions of your phone with the help of your clothes, like for example, control the volume of your phone’s ringer or music app by sliding a finger across the palm of your glove, or change tracks back and forth by tapping the left or right forearm of your sweater. Although touch sensitive clothes are not new, the way Google is going about it is different. It is diving deeper into the concept of touch sensitive clothing by trying to make a conductive yarn. Which basically means that the tech won’t be embedded after the clothes are made, the clothes will be woven with them. The tech won’t be a wearable device; it will be the whole cloth itself.
Imagine a future where baby clothes will automatically let you know if the baby is awake in the other room just by sensing its heightened movements or clothes that can sense your body movements when sleeping and adjust the softness/rigidity of the bed accordingly.
Autonomous shopping cart
As boring as this may sound to you, this one has the potential to make a lot of difference in the way we do our shopping. Imagine not having to accompany your parent or spouse to their weekend grocery shopping at the store and getting to watch the game on the tube, or better yet, getting to frag some poor saps on an online game; the smart cart would take care of the mundane job of following around with the groceries on its own.
There is already a lot of research going on with autonomous shopping carts as they are something that will bring about a pleasant change in the mall shopping culture. Think of what self-driving cars can do for road congestion, the same can be done by the smart carts for the store lanes.
The people at Chaotic Moon have come up with the Smarter Cart that uses a Kinetic sensor paired with a Windows 8 tablet to follow the shopper around in the mall. In fact, it does more than just that; it detects the items put in the cart and matches them with the shopping list. Smarter Cart is also equipped with voice recognition so that you can ask it the location of items in the store or let it know when you are done shopping.
A very simple application of this would be on a wheelchair. Now you may think that we already have motorised wheelchair but imagine a person walking beside their specially-abled loved one, with the kinetic sensor keeping the wheelchair’s pace with them, instead of standing behind and pushing the wheelchair. The human value is immense.
Internet of thingsWhere to buy 524 (IoT) is the next revolutionary change in the way we live our lives and this is something that will affect the smallest gadgets in your house. Basically, IoT gets your regular dumb gadgets connected to the internet. Like for example, your garbage bin will be equipped with a scanner which will scan the empty juice box that you just threw in it and add it to your shopping list; going one step ahead, if you order some special brand of juice which isn’t available easily, your garbage bin could let your regular store know that you just ran out of that juice and might come shopping for it. The possibilities with IoT are endless. Some retail shops have already digitised the shopping experience; the Burberry store in Regent Street, London has electronic chips in the products which make the viewing mirrors turn into visual displays that show information about the product that you are trying on, meanwhile Tesco’s Endless Isles display allows shoppers to try on the clothes virtually.
All of us can identify with the issue of mud spreading around the house because of dirty footwear. We have tried different materials for mats to optimally clean our shoes but this in reality leaves a lot of dirt still clinging to our shoes. So what do we do here? We use the same technology, vacuum cleaner, that we developed to suck dirt from our floor and combined it with the floor mat. And voila, we have a floormat that literally sucks off the last bit of dirt from your shoes.
Japanese design company Paionia Furyokuki has come up with the product, naming it the Air Vacuum Mat. While its spring brushes scrape out the dirt, the air vacuum sucks it out thoroughly. The dirt is collected in a separate unit which can be cleaned out later. The company has made the Air Vacuum Mat energy efficient as well as it only activates the vacuum tubes under the area where the shoe is placed.
The utility of this product does not stop with the house door. This can be used in hospitals and pharmacies to maintain hygiene. This would also bring down the cleaning costs of malls.
Smart Back Brace
Many people don’t realise when they are working or walking with an incorrect posture. While we make a firm resolution to correct our posture, we often forget about it when working and get back to slouching. The Smart Back Brace helps you correct your posture with a little tech touch. While it is similar to many other clavicle braces available in the market, it differentiates itself with the fact that at its heart it has a tiny electronic unit which monitors the tension in the straps and vibrates if it detects when the user is slouching. The goal of this is to train the mind that the body will receive a vibration if it slouches, so over time the user stops slouching automatically. The device is based on a simple concept but it provides so much value to a person’s physical well-being.
No-finger-touch contact lens remover
Most people get squeamish when it comes to inserting and removing contact lenses. It takes a lot of practice to become good at the same, while some may even give up on them all together.
Medi Toreck has come up with Meruru, the tool that lets you insert and remove soft contact lenses effortlessly. The tools consist of a polycarbonate forcep with a silicone tip and a silicon stick which has suction action. The cup end of the stick is used to pick up the lens and place on the eye while the forceps with silicone tips are used to pick up the lens.
We may keep on thinking that it is always the gravity drive or the quantum computers that will propel us into the future but we fail to notice all the small and mundane technology innovations that are slowly but steadily propelling us into the future. So the next time you think we are stuck technologically, take a look around yourself and think if the tech scene was the same 10 years ago and what happens when art, innovation and technology meet.