Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Gamification is known to be effective in encouraging positive habits when it comes to health, as devices such as the T-Haler have demonstrated. Having recently reached its funding target on Kickstarter, the PIP is a device that senses stress when held in the hand and can be used to control video game characters that teach users how to manage their anxiety.

The PIP is small enough to be held between the thumb and forefinger and uses galvanic plates to detect moisture and heat – high levels of which are indicative of stress or discomfort. The device then relays the data via Bluetooth to a smartphone or tablet in real time. The PIP can act as a controller for an array of games and challenges, where users can see the effect their stress levels have on the characters. In one game, for example, players are pitted in a race against the computer where their character speeds up when users calm down. This kind of activity allows people to see exactly how methods such as breathing, concentrating or altering their environment can help them relieve stress. The video below is taken from the PIP’s Kickstarter campaign:

The most interesting aspect of the PIP is its capacity to be adapted for a wide range of uses. The device could be used as a simple method for quantifying daily stress or even as a portable lie detector – for serious uses or just for fun. Those who backed the project paid USD 99 for the PIP, which comes in a range of colors. Are there other ways games could be used to manage anxiety, or other health issues?

Spotted by: Raymond Neo

When it comes to new frontiers in the tech world, one of the major trends we’ve seen over the past year is an attempt to bring the power of the web and smartphones to traditionally non-connected objects – the so-called ‘Internet of Things‘. This is especially true for home products, with items like the Lockitron and LIFX LED light bulbs. The Ubi is another product in that category, offering smart control of home systems such as heating and lighting, as well as on-demand information from the web.

The difference between the Ubi and rival products is that it doesn’t just give consumers one more thing to do on their smartphone – by recognizing voice cues and responding with its own synthesized speech, it offers users hands-free control over their home along with its own robotic personality. Much like the HAL 9000 from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Ubi seems futuristic, which is part of the reason the device caused such a stir among backers of the startup’s Kickstarter campaign, who pledged USD 229,594 from an initial target of USD 36,000.

“Much of our success has come from striking a chord with our Kickstarter backers. People have wanted environment-based voice interaction since HAL. What we’ve done is pull together technologies that are only now coming of age and have added our own enhancements to make this type of interaction possible,” explains Leor Grebler, one of the three co-founders of the team behind the Ubi alongside Amin Abdossalami and Mahyar Fotoohi. “People have been waiting for this for a long time and we’re one of the first to provide it.”

Because of this anticipation, the team has spent the past year perfecting the Ubi, which has meant that supporters – who helped fund the device around the same time we wrote about it back in September 2012 – have yet to see the product delivered. “As a product develops, there are a lot of intricacies that reveal themselves,” Leor says, something surely every startup and entrepreneur can relate to. Rather than take short cuts to cater to the impatience of tech consumers, however, the group took the bold move of admitting that it’s estimated timeframe for shipping the product was off and backers would have to wait. “[It] was a difficult call as there’s always a lot of pressure to deliver, [but] we would rather delay shipment than ship a sub prime product.”

The Ubi has therefore spent a whole year undergoing technical tweaks and design improvements, while an entirely new app-based platform is also in the works, which will enable users to customize the way the device will work for them. The Ubi will come with a core set of apps that give it the functionalities described during the initial Kickstarter phase, but users will also be able to add new features as they become available through the startup’s own portal. “We’ll soon be releasing an API for development of the Ubi that has the potential to connect tens of thousands of Internet services and Internet-connected devices into the home and make them voice enabled,” Leor says.

Since September, the startup has struck up partnerships with dozens of likeminded companies working in the sphere of the Internet of Things with which it is partnering to bring multiple voice-enabled services into the home. It’s no doubt through these connections with the tech community and through it’s own experiences that the team now has a solid understanding of what it takes to develop an idea, improve their product and make it work on the market. While the startup is now on track to deliver the device in October 2013, it shouldn’t be the last we hear of Leor and his partners. The Ubi will be released through their company – the Unified Computer Intelligence Corporation (UCIC) – which has already grown in size and is sure to embark on more groundbreaking tech projects once the Ubi is up and running. And with a strong start, Leor’s confidence is high.

“While our estimates were off, we are really excited that our Ubis have started to come alive. We think the Ubi will be revolutionary.”

You can read more about Ubi here, or visit the Ubi website at www.theubi.com.

It’s sometimes the case that brands want to limit their marketing campaigns in order to target only those they feel belong to the product’s demographic. We’ve already seen Kraft develop a vending machine that dispenses samples of its Jell-O Temptations dessert to adults only, and now the Fan Check Machine campaign for Billboard Brasil magazine inspects the tracks on users’ iPhones to determine if they deserve a free copy.

Created by Ogilvy Brazil, the machine encourages passersby to connect their smartphone using the cables provided. Taking the view that true music fans not only want to read about their favorite artists, but also own their music, the machine then scans the handset for mp3 files which match the band or musician on the front cover of that month’s magazine. If they own more than 20 tracks by the cover artist, a copy of the magazine is delivered through the slot, free of charge. If not, then the user has to buy a copy. The video below offers a demonstration of the Fan Check Machine:

The scheme rewards the magazine’s key demographic – engaged music fans – and also promotes the physical magazine. Could vending machines be rigged to detect other aspects of the consumer’s personality in order to offer targeted goods?

We’ve already seen edible cookbooks that offer a tasty meal as well as instructions on how to cook. Now the Slice A Recipe cookbook enables kitchen amateurs to practice their knife skills, as it needs to be carefully sliced open in order to be read.

Designed by ad agency Ogilvy Bogota in collaboration with Colombian supermarket chain Carulla for those participating in the latter’s Escuela de Cocina cooking classes, the book features pages that are sealed shut at the edges. A dotted line shows where readers need to cut in order to correctly slice open the page. To open each recipe, users need a sharp knife and a steady hand. The cookbook serves to illustrate how those learning to cook need to master the art of cutting before they can continue following the recipes inside. It also provides students with an engaging challenge that will help them practice their skills. The video below explains more about the idea:

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According to its creators, the book has proven a success in the classes where it was used as an introductory tool to cooking and a second edition is being planned. Perhaps this concept could be adapted for teaching in other fields where technical skills are required? How else can physical books be designed to give them an extra practicality that can’t be accomplished with digital publishing?

We recently wrote about Russia’s Synqera platform, which uses facial recognition to offer shoppers discounts based on their mood, and now Uniqul wants to use the technology to enable consumers to pay without their wallet.

Developed in Finland, the tablet-based system is designed to be placed at retail checkout points, where – instead of asking the customer to pay by cash or credit card – biometric sensors match their face to the corresponding Uniqul account. The shopper then confirms that they want to pay by simply tapping OK. The company says that it uses “military grade algorithms” in order to ensure that the right customer is detected and their biometric data is secure, while the entire process takes around five seconds. Rolling out a pilot program in Helsinki, Uniqul prices its service based on the shopper’s distance from their chosen ‘home’ location. A EUR 0.99 fee is applied to purchases made using the system at outlets within one to two kilometers, which rises to EUR 2.99 at locations elsewhere in the city and its suburbs. A EUR 6.99 charge is added for those traveling outside of their hometown. The video below offers a vision – albeit one rendered slightly creepy by copious slo-mo footage – of the UNIQUL system:

Uniqul, just like Synqera, shows that this kind of technology – reminiscent of sci-fi films such as Minority Report – isn’t just fantasy. But will consumers be wary of its security implications or embrace it for its convenience?

While we’ve already seen Lifelens, a smartphone app that can help detect the presence of malaria from a single drop of blood, the disease is still a major problem in developing countries due to the lack of a cheap and effective preventative measure. Hoping to remedy this, Kite is a small wearable patch that can keep mosquitoes away for up to 48 hours.

Comprised of scientists, designers and public health experts, the team behind Kite wanted to create a solution to protect those most at risk from mosquito bites – residents of developing countries such as Uganda, where the product is set to be tested and where life-threatening malaria, Dengue fever and West Nile virus are rife. The patch takes into account the fact that the insects track humans based on the CO2 they produce. Much like a peelable sticker, the Kite can be stuck onto any item of clothing, where it emits a fragrance that interferes with mosquitoes’ ability to detect CO2. The patch works for around 48 hours and can be used to protect adults and children alike, without the need for the toxic chemicals found in sprays, lotions and other repellents on the market. Made with food-grade, FDA-approved materials, the Kite team is currently seeking EPA approval before delivering the stickers to customers. The video below explains more about the project:

The patch has received much support on crowdfunding site Indiegogo, where it raised over USD 300,000 to enable the team to launch the product in Africa. Could similar patches be created to deter other pests?

Dreambox vending machines have already allowed anyone to get their 3D designs printed on demand, but what if they want to share their creations? Sketchfab is aiming to do for 3D fabrication what Youtube did for video, enabling designers to publish, share and embed their files in a visual and interactive way on any website.

Although 3D printing is rapidly becoming an industry in itself, designers don’t really have an effective way to showcase their skills, especially to potential clients or consumers who don’t have the graphical software that supports popular file formats. In much the same way that Youtube enables filmmakers to embed their content on any webpage, Sketchfab allows users to present an interactive preview of the file using standard HTML5. The platform supports over 20 file types and users can easily rotate, pan and zoom, as well as share, like and comment. Use of the service is free with an upload limit of 50MB, while a premium plan is available from USD 15 a month. Below is an example of how a file looks when embedded onto a website:

Sketchfab helps 3D modellers to create an online portfolio of their work, accessible to those with little technical knowledge. Are there other digital file types that could be brought into the mainstream through shareable platforms such as this?

Spotted by: Murray Orange

The controversial dating site Miss Travel has already offered a way for travelers to find accompaniment while also making savings, and now a new site aims to do something similar. Easynest enables solo tourists to pick a partner to share their hotel room in order to take advantage of reduced rates.

Considering hotels charge the same amount for a double room regardless if the guest is using both beds, Easynest helps those who have already booked a room to fill any empty beds with others who share their travel plans. Users first log into the site using their Facebook details, after which they can search for matches and determine if they like the look of the hotel, as well as the potential partner. If they don’t, they can list their own plans to let others find them. Those who have booked can set the rate the other party pays, which is typically 50 percent but can be lower. If a user is interested, they can simply initiate communication through the site.

Although the emphasis for the site is on helping solo travelers to save money, Easynest also provides a way for them to make friends – or even find a companion – while they visit a new city. Are there other ways to make travel more affordable through the sharing economy?

Tourists often like to take in the local cuisine as well as the sights when they travel abroad. While startups such as EatWith offer a way to enjoy a homemade meal while in another city, Spain-based Gourmet Bus is now combining the two, offering haute cuisine at the same time as a trip around some of Barcelona’s landmarks.

Created by Julià Travel using platforms developed by tourism and transport tech startup BEWARE, the spacious double-decker Gourmet Bus provides a way for tourists to take in some of the famous scenery of Barcelona, from its beaches and La Rambla to the Sagrada Familia. During each trip, restaurateur Carles Gaig cooks a taster menu including a starter, main course and dessert, along with champagne, wine or beer, which is served while the coach is parked at a panoramic spot offering views of the city. Each customer is also offered an iPad, providing information about each landmark, as well as access to cameras located on the front and back of the bus. The tour lasts for three hours and runs three times a day, with passengers paying EUR 105 for the trip and meal.

Are there other ways to combine two different aspects of the travel experience to give customers more value for money?

We’ve already seen how toys such as the Auti can help children with developmental disorders learn to interact with others. Now Match is a color-coded cooking prep system that provides a way to guide autistic people of any age through the preparation of a meal.

Developed by Syracuse University graduate Amanda Savitzky for her thesis project, the system consists of a set of preparation tools that are marked to keep things more organized. Since the kitchen can be a messy and overwhelming place for those with autism, the kit includes four color- and shape-coded pots that can be used to separate the different ingredients as well as measure them out. Three extra bowls are numbered and can be used to place ingredients according to their timing in the recipe. A companion iPad app also helps to guide users through the process through customized recipes that are navigated with a simple swipe. The video below shows the kit in action:

Savitzky has since won USD 10,000 for coming first in the 2013 Metropolis Next Generation Competition, which she hopes will fund the next steps to bringing the product to market. Could similar systems be developed for those with other conditions, such as dementia or physical disabilities?

Spotted by: Murray Orange