Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Eating is about more than just the taste of the food in our mouths, and the experience can be enhanced or tainted by a whole range of factors, from atmosphere and ambience to dining partner. NY-based artist Emilie Blatz has now created Lickestra to take advantage of just that, demonstrating ice cream that acts as a musical instrument when it’s licked.

Working with fellow designer Carla Diana as well as musical group Buke and Gase, the project sees four portions of ice cream served into 3D-printed cones that are each wired up to an Arduino computer. Sensors inside the cones can detect when a tongue is making contact with the ice cream and a sound is emitted from a nearby speaker. Performers can alter the nature of the sound depending on their style of licking. The video below offers a demonstration of the strange event, performed at Manhattan’s Specials on C:

According to Diana, who spoke to Wired, the team may conduct further experiments into the field of audible food, with “sonic marzipan that could be smooshed, audible cocktails that could be sipped through conductive straws, and metal forks and spoons that would trigger tones when used to pierce food”. This kind of sensory experience is something that has previously been picked up by campaigns such as the Heinz Beanz Flavour Experience in the UK, which matched different flavors of tinned beanz with corresponding tactile bowls and musical spoons.

Although more of an art performance than a business model, there is plenty of inspiration here to encourage food marketers or restaurants to combine their products with more experiential additions to attract customers.

While wearable tech can often offer great practical uses, consumers won’t go for it if they think it looks silly — take the backlash against Google Glass, for example. Taking this into consideration, Cuff is a new collection of stylish jewelry products that come with a discreet and detachable Bluetooth module that, when pressed, lets friends and family know if wearers are in trouble.

The range features necklaces, bracelets and pendants that have all been designed to be fashionable, but to also hold a small Bluetooth-enabled accelerometer — called a CuffLinc — that acts as an emergency button. Wearers can sync the device to their smartphones, and use the companion iPhone app to set up the contacts they’d like to include in their Cuff network, such as their next of kin, parents or close friends. When users get into trouble, they can simply press the CuffLinc to instantly send a notification to their protective circle, who can see their location through GPS. Those alerted are given the contact details of everyone else in the network so that they can co-ordinate an effective response. The video below explains more about the product:

Much like First Sign — the hair clip that acts as a black box for street attacks — Cuff could be used as a rape alarm, but also for anyone who may find themselves in an emergency situation, such as the elderly. The designers have even created a key chain for men. While wearers may find Cuff jewelry to be a useful security measure, the attention placed on making the products customizable could help set the brand apart from other wearables on the market. The basic Cuff package is available to pre-order from the company’s site from USD 35. Are there other ways to make wearable tech more fashionable?

The fashion industry has come under fire for its increasing use of ultra-thin models, which promote false ideals and don’t represent the body shape of the majority of consumers. In the past we’ve seen China’s Vancl Star app enable its own customers to model their clothes, and now London-based Anti-Agency is offering a roster of unusual, creative and punky models to give fashion campaigns a more ‘real’ edge.

Founded by stylists Lucy Greene and Pandora Lennard, the agency hand selects models who actively defy the industry standard, offering personality and individualism over a ‘size 0’ waistline. The startup’s mission statement actually states that its models are “people who are too cool to be models”, and they often feature psychedelically-colored hair, multiple piercings and extensive tattoos. Many of the models represented by the agency are young students and artists who are looking to break into the creative industries. By using models that better represent consumers — or consumer ideals — Anti-Agency has secured work from well-known brands such as Uniqlo, ASOS, Urban Outfitters, Toni & Guy, and Liberty of London.

Are there other members of society who could be better represented in the world of fashion?

Regular readers of Springwise may remember Unbox Love, the subscription service that helps busy couples revive their relationships with date ideas in a box. For those whose relationships are beyond repair, Japan’s Shitsuren Box — which translates as Break Up Box — aims to soothe recipients’ broken hearts while also supporting pregnant women in developing countries.

Created by designer goods retailer Brandear, the box is designed to heal the heartbreak after the end of a relationship. The recipient receives a guide for letting go of their ex, a pack of tissues, and some ‘stress-relieving’ bubble wrap that they can take their anger out on. Once they’ve emptied the box, they can then pack it with any items leftover from their relationship that they’d rather not have lying around the house. The box also includes a courier sticker and the new singletons can send the package back to Brandear. The items inside are valued and a small remuneration is offered, while the items are sent to those in developing countries who may need them. At the same time, Brandear also donates JPY 100 to reproductive health NGOs that deal with pregnant women and couples in those countries, such as JOICFP.

The scheme aims to take the edge off a bitter relationship breakup by enabling some good to come out of it through charitable giving. Are there other ways charities and nonprofits could engage consumers through kind initiatives such as this?

Wearable tech has for the most part been focused on fitness tracking, but that’s not the only way we can keep our bodies and minds healthy. Currently seeking funding on Indiegogo, Sunsprite is a clip-on sensor that detects if wearers are getting enough sunlight.

The small device is based on scientific evidence that exposure to light can improve mood, energy and focus, while also helping to regulate the body’s sleep cycle. Featuring a sensor that tracks both visible and UV light levels, Sunsprite connects to users’ iPhones via Bluetooth and provides data about the amount of light they’re getting. Wearers can track their daily intake and receive notifications if they should get out of the house for a break. They can also set personalized goals and track their progress over time. The device features ten LEDs that show how much sunlight the wearer has been exposed to so far in the day, and it is also solar-powered, so it never needs to be charged. The video below explains a bit more about the device:

Backers can get their hands on a Sunsprite for USD 99 if they pledge before 4 April. Sunsprite doesn’t go as far as actually providing therapeutic light, which other innovations — such as the Re-Timer headset that tops up wearers’ light intake to combat jetlag and tiredness — have managed, but could the two eventually become merged to ensure users don’t have to worry about their exposure to mood-improving light?


When it comes to accidents, American workers have a sense of invincibility. But accidents happen all the time, and no one can predict when or whom they’ll strike.

Whether it’s the NASCAR driver who broke his foot playing Frisbee or the pitcher who missed a game because he strained his wrist playing Guitar Hero, accidents can be just as financially disabling as physically disabling.

Luckily, employers can help protect their workers’ financial security by offering group or individual disability insurance and it doesn’t have to cost their companies a dime. Not only are employers protecting their employees’ financial health but they are also protecting their business interests by earning the trust of their workers.

You may not be able to plan for accidents, but you can protect yourself in case they happen.

Nobody enjoys waiting in a queue, even if it’s for something they really want. Apps such as Qminder have provided a way for businesses to avoid crowded waiting rooms or long lines of customers by providing them with smartphone notifications when their appointment or reservation is ready, and now another app called Shout wants to turn queues into a marketplace, where users can buy and sell spots in line for new games consoles or a table at no-reservation restaurants.

The app operates on a fairly simple basis — those looking to skip the queue for a popular restaurant or fast-selling product can buy themselves a space from others already in line who are willing to sell their space for a fee. The spot can be physical — for example, waiting in line at Brooklyn’s Dominique Ansel Bakery for one of the limited Cronuts. Or it can be virtual — such as an already booked reservation or purchased concert ticket. If they can’t find what they’re looking for after searching, those wanting a space can make a request to the Shout community, which at the moment is limited to New York City. The price for each spot is determined by the holder and the desirability of their place in the queue.

The app is free to download from the App Store. Are there other ways to create a sharing economy around assets that aren’t usually bought and sold?

The crowd can make or break a concert — if they’re not having a good time then the entire event can fall flat, and the best performers can adjust their sets by reading the audience’s reaction. A piece of wearable tech called Lightwave now hopes to make this process easier, by delivering crowd engagement data to DJs in real time.

Created by Rana June, one of the pioneers of live iPad DJing, the band is designed to be worn by concert attendees, who would receive them at the start of the show. The bands measure data such as movement, audio levels and body temperature, and these data points are then fed through to the DJ, who can see at a glance how many people are dancing and how well those at the back can hear the music. Since DJs already often include events in their sets designed to get the crowd going — ‘dropping the bass’, for example — Lightwave aims to give them data that can help them decide the best point to do it. The system could also be set up so that crowd activity automatically unlocks an event when it reaches a certain threshold. The video below serves as an advertisement for the system:


The first ‘bioreactive’ concert to showcase the device was held at SXSW earlier this month, in a Pepsi-sponsored show by turntablist A-Trak. In the past, artists such as Dan Deacon have integrated crowds’ smartphones into the performance to bring the artist and performer closer together, and Lightwave also aims to give DJs a greater connection with their audience. How else can live audience feedback help drive creative performances, as well as ticket sales?

Plagiarism is a major concern for colleges today, meaning when it comes to writing a thesis or essay, college students can often spend an inordinate amount of time ensuring their bibliographies are up to scratch, to the detriment of the quality of the actual writing. In the past, services such as ReadCube have made it easier to annotate and search online articles, and now Citelighter automatically generates a citation for any web resource, along with a number of tools to help students organize their research.

The service is a toolbar that sits at the top of the user’s browser while they search for material for their paper. When they’ve found a fact or quote that’s useful, users simply highlight the text and click the Capture button, which saves the clipping to the project they’re working on. Citelight automatically captures the bibliographic information necessary to create a citation that reaches academic standards, and users can also add their own comments for when they come to use the quote in their essay. Citations can be re-ordered within each project to enable students to plot out a rough version of their paper before sitting down to write. The video below explains a bit more about the service:


CiteLighter automates the process of bibliography creation to help students spend more of their time and effort on their writing, potentially boosting their marks. How else can the administrative side of student work be lessened through smart tools?

Finding out information about a stylish garment found in a photo or spotted on the street can sometimes be a pain, and while visual search — as used by apps like Snap Fashion — is getting better, it’s not always accurate. ASAP54 is an app that taps both the masses and fashion experts for clothing identification and personalized recommendations.

The app works as a social network, where users can follow their friends and likeminded style gurus, and share photos and chat about their latest fashion spots or purchases. ASAP54 also includes a feature that lets users upload a photo of any garment they want to identify, using smart image recognition to deliver instant results. If the automated search doesn’t work, however, they can then call on their followers or the app’s in-house style team to help identify the item. The style team can also be called upon at any time to offer five personalized recommendations within 24 hours based on the items on their feed.

ASAP54 is free to download from the App Store. Are there other ways to more quickly link consumers with the items they’re looking for?