Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Ruining a prized possession with stains and dirt is never a good thing, and it seems there’s currently considerable effort being placed into creating more durable products. We recently saw Silic launch a Kickstarter campaign for t-shirts that repel liquid stains, and now Nissan has created what is perhaps the world’s first self-cleaning car.

Although some may consider washing their car an enjoyable ritual, for others it’s time consuming or expensive. The Japanese auto manufacturer has just finished trialling a version of its Note MPV which is coated in a “super-hydrophobic” and oil-repelling paint called Ultra-Ever Dry. The paint uses nanotechnology to create a protective layer of air between itself and the environment, which means that mud, rain and everyday dirt simply rolls off the body. Watch the video below to see how the car fares in rough conditions:

Nissan will continue to test the paint and is considering using the paint as a feature for future models, which could save drivers money as well as potentially curbing the damaging effects of mother nature. Are there other products that could benefit from a protective layer to stop them deteriorating, or even breaking?

Poverty is an issue that affects every city, where the most wealthy sections of society walk the same streets as the homeless. However, getting the former to give to latter is still a challenge. Schemes such as Suspended Coffees have helped consumers to donate a coffee to those that can’t afford one, and now Troco Coletivo — which translates as Payback Collective — is a new initiative in Brazil, which enables commuters to leave their small change at bus stops or on buses so the less wealthy can use it to travel.

Created by marketing agency Mark+, the campaign has placed bright yellow strips on bus stop posts and bus handrails that have several pockets. Text on the signs lets passengers know that if they have some change, they can leave it in the pouches, and that those who need some can take what’s there. The scheme requires an element of trust, but it’s hoped that the simple project will foster a sense of community spirit. The scheme helps both those who can’t afford to pay for a bus fare to travel, as well as those who find themselves short by a small amount. While it’s possible that some could take advantage, the creators believe that Troco Coletivo is a social experiment that has the potential to become a standard at bus stops across the country, or even the world. Watch the video below to see the posters in action:

Much like another scheme in Detroit — which saw the city bus operator implement a buy one, give one model — the initiative helps those with spare cash to do a good deed for the less fortunate members of their neighborhood. Could something similar help do good in your part of the world?

Moments of inspiration can strike at any time, and part of being a professional musician is being able to capture it when it does. While the automatic Looxcie life-capturing camera could do the job, guitar manufacturer Gibson has now created the Memory Cable, a lead featuring an in-built recorder that enables players to save every note they play in case they hit on a good idea while jamming.

Musicians will know that sometimes a great idea will come when they’re not trying at all, and it can be a mad rush to try and get it down before it disappears forever. The Memory Cable is a premium quality, low-capacitance lead that can be used for jamming sessions and rehearsals that provides continuous recording, instantly saving those ideas. The cable can be plugged into an amp, or simply connected to a guitar or keyboard on its own. Users can choose whether it records continuously or only records when a sound is being played to save space on the Micro SD placed into the dock. The cable keeps recording and deletes older files if the memory runs out. When inspiration hits, users simply press a button on the cable to start a new track and ensure the previous one doesn’t get deleted. Recordings are made in CD quality and can then be uploaded onto a computer.

The 16-foot cable is set to hit US stores from May and will cost USD 100. Are there other ways to enable anyone to automatically save moments from their life without having to think about it?

Latte art has become a common creative way to surprise coffee lovers, but new technologies are enabling more complicated communication through the medium of hot beverages. In the past, we’ve seen Textspresso demonstrate printed edible ink messages using coffee foam as a surface, and now Finland’s Muki is a drinking vessel with a built-in e-ink display, that shows a picture or message only when it’s full of coffee.

Developed by Finnish coffee brand Paulig, in collaboration with creative agency TBWA\Helsinki, the idea enables consumers to change the design of the cup as they see fit, using a companion app. Instead of featuring a fixed message, owners can upload their own image or piece of text to be displayed. Each cup features an e-ink display that is connected to a thermoelectric generator that uses a change in temperature to create electricity. When the cup is filled with hot coffee, the e-ink display is activated and the image is shown. Because the screen requires only a small amount of electricity, the display keeps running even after the coffee has been finished. The video below shows the device in action:

The product is currently in beta testing, with 2,500 people already signing up to trial the Muki, and it’s set to hit Finnish stores in 2015. While the mug provides an entertaining aside to consumers’ morning coffee, could a similar device enable cafés and restaurants to deliver up-to-date information, such as morning news or discount codes, in an innovative way?

Doors are getting smarter. In the recent past, we’ve seen the DoorBot camera enable homeowners to see who’s visiting via their smartphone. Now a similar device called Chui is adding facial recognition to automatically grant entrance to friendly faces.

Installed in place of a regular doorbell, the Chui connects to the home’s wifi and features a speaker and camera that feeds through live to users’ smartphones or tablets. The system scans faces as they approach the door and matches them to the faces of homeowners’ social contacts or previous guests, delivering a notification to their device. If the face isn’t recognized, they can view the camera feed to determine who it is. Users then have the choice to speak to the visitor via the speaker, play a pre-recorded message such as ‘Do not disturb’, or automatically let the person in when Chui eventually supports integration with smart locks such as Lockitron. The video below offers a demonstration of the device:

Chui recently completed a successful Crowdtilt funding campaign, and the developers still have 49 of the first batch left for reserving, at a cost of USD 199. How else can smart technologies be integrated into the home?

The best hotels do all they can to create a good experience for customers during their stay, but they can’t typically do a lot once they leave. As a way to offer a memorable parting gift to its customers, Peru’s Kokopelli hostel has developed an edible business card that counteracts the effects of altitude sickness.

Located in Cusco, which is nearby the Andes mountain range, the hostel caters for many hikers and climbers who stop at the venue before heading to higher altitudes. Kokopelli gives each visitor a business card with the venue’s details in case they want to return on the way back down or in the future. Climbers can often suffer from sickness at high altitudes, and the business card doubles as an edible remedy inspired by ancient Peruvian techniques. Designed by New York-based Lanfranco & Cordova, the card features a leaf imprint made of coca leaf, which can be removed and chewed, leaving the hostel’s details intact. The video below explains more about the concept:

The card serves its purpose as a reminder of the hostel’s details but also helps hikers to feel better, creating a positive connection between the brand and their travel experience. However, the card cannot be carried outside of the Peruvian border, as the coca leaf could be used to extract cocaine. Are there other remedies that could be offered by hotels to help tourists with travel sickness or jetlag?

Cards offering contactless payments have arguably made retail transactions easier, but haven’t got rid of the wallet altogether. However, there are companies working hard on smarter ways to buy goods and services, such as Finland’s Uniqul, which is developing facial recognition-powered payments. The latest is the Power Suit, a piece of wearable tech that enables owners to pay with a swipe of their sleeve.

Developed by Australia’s Heritage Bank, the suit is made from fine merino wool and tailored by MJ Bale in Japan. The NFC chip typically found in Visa payWave contactless payment cards is woven into the suit sleeve as it’s being made, and is then linked to the owner’s account. Rather than getting out a card to touch to the payment terminal, wearers can simply brush their sleeve across in order to make a purchase, providing their bill is less than AUD 100. The video below shows the suit in action:

So far, the project has seen 12 prototype suits created and sold to Heritage Bank customers, with the latest suit fetching AUD 510 through an eBay auction. The money raised is heading to autism charity 4 ASD Kids, although it’s easy to see how this merging of fashion and finance technology could become a profitable enterprise. Are there other ways that fashion could become smarter?

Shopping centers attract a wide variety of consumers and facility managers have a hard time ensuring everyone is catered for. In the past, we’ve seen Finland’s K-citymarket introduce slow checkout lanes for elderly and disabled customers, and now Meadowhall shopping center in Sheffield, UK, has created fast and slow lanes to ensure customers aren’t held up by dawdlers.

When retail outlets get busy, those with a brisker walking pace or are simply in a rush can often get held up by window shoppers and idling couples. To help better organize crowds in the rush hour, Meadowhall is now trialling separate lanes for slow and fast walkers. The pilot was prompted after the shopping center received a letter from 10-year-old customer Chloe Nash-Lowe, who said she was “incredibly disappointed” with the number of dawdlers who can cause those in a rush to be late. Shopping centre director Darren Pearce said: “The Meadowhall team liked Chloe’s idea so much that we have decided to trial an overtaking lane for fast walkers on the malls — helping them to get where they want to be on time”.

The idea is a simple way to enable customers to make their way through the center more quickly, providing a better experience and also helping them fit more shopping into their visit. Are there other offline ways to improve brick and mortar retail encounters?

We’ve already seen the Netherlands’ FlyFit offer a healthy drink that also combats DVT and jetlag, but what if travelers experience a more serious health problem while abroad? TraveDoc is a platform that enables holidaymakers to find specialist doctors that speak their language while they’re in a foreign country.

Holidays can often be marred if an accident happens or one party falls ill, but it can be made even worse if getting the required healthcare isn’t easy, often due to communication problems between tourists and health professionals. Aiming to solve this problem, TraveDoc users simply enter in the type of doctor they’d like to see, along with the city they’re in and the language they speak. The site then connects tourists with relevant, hand-picked healthcare professionals near to them, enabling users t0 schedule an appointment at the hospital or even at their hotel. The platform offers SMS notifications to ensure users don’t miss their visit and also provides directions to the hospital. The video below explains a bit more about the app:

cap

Currently available in Dubai, Ghana, Malaysia and Singapore, TraveDoc is free to register. Are there other ways for tourists to connect with others abroad that share the same tongue?

The standard model for mass market shaving products is that the greater the number of blades, the better. But for people with coarse and curly hair, this can often lead to razor bumps and discomfort. Bevel is a new five-piece shaving kit that is specifically designed with black consumers in mind.

According to Walker and Company, the brand behind the product, multi-blade razors cut facial hair below the skin level, and for people with curly hair this means a higher likelihood of ingrown hairs. The Bevel system ditches multiple blades in favor of single, straight safety razors that cut above the skin and reduce any tugging and pulling. In addition, Bevel also offers a protective priming oil, a brush for lifting hairs, a hydrating shaving cream and a restoring balm. The video below offers more information about how to use the kit effectively:

The entire Bevel kit retails for USD 60, and customers can also register for a USD 30 a month subscription. Are there other products that could be redesigned to better cater for consumers of varying ethnicities?