Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Everyone knows it’s dangerous to use a phone and drive, yet a surprising number of motorists still do it. Apps such as Rodedog have previously tried to tackle the problem with negative reinforcement, notifying friends whenever they get tempted to text behind the wheel. Now Romania’s SafeDrive wants to encourage good behavior by using a gamified points system that offers discounts on products and services when drivers leave their phone alone.

A collaboration between the Netherland’s XL Team and Romania-based KNS, the SafeDrive app enables motorists to create an account and start earning points by loading it up before they start their car. Dependent on the length and distance of the journey, drivers rack up points so long as they don’t touch their phone. If they can’t resist checking their device at a red light, the app warns them that they will lose any points gained for the journey if they choose to continue. Accrued points can then be exchanged for products and services from SafeDrive’s partners. Users can also track their trip histories and compare their results with friends.

Watch the video below to learn more about how SafeDrive works:

The app aims to provide an incentive for drivers to do the right thing when they’re behind the wheel. SafeDrive can be downloaded from Android and Windows phones, although a release date for iOS devices is yet to be announced. Are there other ways encourage drivers to stop flouting the rules of the road?

Recent research indicates that humans are not designed to sit cramped behind a desk for hours on end. It’s seen as a new threat to our health and experts are now extoling the virtues of working wile standing up. The problem is that those looking to get in on this new health trend don’t have a lot of affordable options. Ikea recently released its own standing desk at the hefty pricetag of USD 489. Currently seeking funding through Kickstarter, Refold is a portable and sturdy standing desk made of cardboard that’s relatively affordable and good for the environment.

Refold comes in three sizes — small, medium and large — with an average weight of just 6.5 kg, making it easy to travel with. Each desk is capable of being assembled as a standard sitting desk in around 2 minutes, and reassembled as a standing desk whenever users feel the need to stand. Once set up, they’re sturdy enough to take the weight of a person, and can be packed away easily. The desks are made in New Zealand and the US, and are 100 percent recyclable.

Watch the video below to see the desk in action:

The desk is available from NZD 145, so it’s still not cheap. However, the extra cash could make all the difference to schools, offices, creative studios and temporary spaces that want to keep their staff and customers healthy. The Kickstarter campaign runs until 10 November. Are there other ways to make cheap and practical objects out of cardboard to cut costs?

Kickstarter: www.kck.st/1pmmtkQ

Items that aren’t used too often can easily get left behind by accident, but can technology stop this from happening? We’ve already written about sunglasses and suitcases that use GPS to help owners locate them when they’re lost. Now Blunt has done the same for the umbrella.

Its Blunt + Tile umbrella comes in two sizes — the XS METRO + Tile and the CLASSIC + Tile. Both are packed with a built-in Bluetooth module that helps connect the umbrella to owners’ smartphones. The app communicates with the TILE sensor and users can track their umbrellas within 50 to 100 ft. If the umbrella is out of reach, another TILE user that happens to be in the area can discretely share the umbrellas location with the original owner. If it gets lost in the house, users can prompt the umbrella to emit a tune, much like Apple’s Find My Device function. Both models are specially made to endure heavy winds and withstand stormy weather situations. Prices start at USD 69 for the XS model and USD 99 for the CLASSIC.

What other commonly misplaced items could benefit from tracking capabilities such as this?

Consumers are always wanting products and services more quickly and easily. The popularity of services such as Uber, and the multiple on-demand businesses it’s inspired is testament to that. The hairdressing industry is no different, and aiming to replace appointment waiting lists and trips to the barber, Shortcut is an on-demand grooming service that comes to customers wherever they are.

Users simply provide their name, number and e-mail address and select the service they need — whether it’s a trim, a full haircut or a shave. After booking a time slot, the service then sends a professionally trained barber or stylist to their home, office or hotel room. Users can book an appointment for up to four people at a time, and the more in their group, the cheaper each haircut becomes. Price start at USD 75.

Shortcut is currently available in New York, as an iOS app. On-demand services such as these are becoming more and more popular, and it’s easy to see how the service is beneficial for those who can’t find the time to get to a hairdressers after work or at the weekends. Are there other service that could offer this kind of on-demand availability?

Home improvements are always cheaper for those with a DIY attitude, but not everyone has the skillset of a handyman or designer and it’s easy for them to suddenly find themselves stumped. These days, when a problem arises the first thing to do is open up a browser and type it into Google. But while the web has become a huge resource for sharing solutions to common problems and tutorials for complicated techniques, those browsing it can soon get lost in a black hole of links and comment threads. Fountain is an app that’s now hoping to replace the search engine when it comes to advice, instead connecting users to experts relevant to their home and garden problem within 5 minutes.

The app is a video chat and image messaging platform that features a unique way to connect homeowners with DIY experts. Rather than choosing from stock questions or receiving advice from generalists who can’t properly answer the question, users simply type in their problem much like they would if they were using a search engine. A specially-designed algorithm parses the plain English, works out the area of expertise they need, and connects them with the most suitable expert for the job within 5 minutes.

Once they’re connected, users can talk over the phone or use HD video chat, but if that’s not suitable then they can use the instant messaging, photo sharing, screen sharing and white board capabilities.

The company is currently in beta, although the service will cost USD 5 a question — offering around 10-20 minutes of chat — once it’s launched. Extra time to chat will also be available at a further USD 5. Whether the average consumer will be willing to pay for such personalized guidance — given the breadth of free content already available — remains to be seen. The app follows in the footsteps of services such as Rise, which is currently doing a similar thing for dieters. Are there other areas of life in which this kind of one-on-one advice could be useful?

The wearable health-tracking market is bigger than ever and consumers can now even take advantage of apps such as FitStar, that lets them get personalized fitness training at home. However, not everyone can afford their own gadgets and the gym is still a popular meeting place for likeminded exercise enthusiasts. Gymtrack is a system that lets venues provide wearable trackers and virtual personal training for members each time they workout.

When gym members arrive at the venue, the Gymtrack wristband can be handed over and synced with the customer’s smartphone. The NFC-enabled wearable features sensors to track activity, much like other fitness wristbands, and also communicated with smart modules located on weights and other gym equipment. The system detects the type of exercise that’s being performed and notifies members of their performance at their last attempt through their headphones. The audio feedback also guides users through exercises and creates personalized workout plans based on their abilities.

Watch the video below for an impression of how Gymtrack works:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyWIToa0kcY

Gymtrack offers its app as both an iOS or Android download and website to check up on their progress over time. While pricing isn’t public yet, according to the company there’s a per user, per week fee, plus an initial setup fee. Motion-tracking bracelets are sold to gyms for USD 50, and can be retailed by gyms to members for USD 100 for those who want to keep theirs. Gymtrack gives gyms a new service to offer to their customers while at the same time tapping the existing wearable health-tracking market. Can you think of any other services gyms can offer to improve the experience of working out?

When a medical emergency takes place, the response time can make all the difference between a life saved and a life lost. Unfortunately, ambulances can get stuck in traffic and on average they arrive 10 minutes after the emergency call has been made, in which time a cardiac arrest victim may have already succumbed to a lack of oxygen to the brain. We've already seen Germany's Defikopter use drones to ensure defibrillators are on scene by the time a medical professional arrives, but now the Ambulance Drone is an all-purpose medical toolkit that can be automatically flown to any emergency situation and used to guide citizens to make non-technical lifesaving procedures.

Created by Alex Monton, a graduate of the Delft University of Technology, the drone is custom designed to deliver in the event of an emergency. Inside, it houses a compact defibrillator, medication and CPR aids, as well as other essential supplies for the layperson to use while they wait for a medical professional. The idea is that those at the scene can phone emergency services as normal, giving their location. An ambulance and the Ambulance Drone are despatched immediately, with the drone capable of arriving in around 1 minute.

Once it's there, the call can be transferred to the drone, which has in-built speakers. This frees the caller's hands to perform tasks such as placing the victim in the recovery position and preparing the defibrillator, with vocal guidance from the emergency response team. The team can see live video of the event to make sure that any procedures are completed correctly, as well as passing on relevant info to the approaching ambulance.

Watch the video below to see the Ambulance Drone in action:

According to Monton, the speed of the drones could push survival rates as high as 80 percent. The former student is now looking for funding to make the project a reality. Are there other ways that drones could be used for benevolent purposes?

Not everyone has an eye for good design, or the skills to pull it off. And yet it's an incredibly important aspect of any business, especially in the age of the web where judgments are made at lightning speed. Blogging platforms such as WordPress and Tumblr, along with WYSIWYG, do-it-yourself builders, have made website creation much easier in the last few years, but they still require a ton of human input and control. We recently wrote about Tailor, which uses AI to create contemporary branding, The Grid is a site-building platform that intelligently analyzes content and structures it in a beautiful and easy-to-read layout.

The service enables customers to choose a 'layout filter' — essentially a theme — for their site, but rather than content slotting into that design, the design shifts dependent on the content. For example, the system analyzes images for color and alters the color of the caption box to a shade that's complementary to both the image and the site theme. Images can also be cropped to perfectly frame the content through facial and object recognition, as well as automatically resized and programmed for responsive design.

The Grid also asks users to define a purpose for their site — whether it's to gain more followers, sell a product or display a portfolio, among others. The layout is then adapted for each objective. Each theme can automatically pull in related links and content from the web depending on keywords in post text. The layout also shifts dynamically to emphasize new content, as well as posts that are being shared on social networks or are linked to trending stories.

Watch the video below to learn more about The Grid:

According to the creators, a WordPress site takes on average 18 hours to build and customize. The Grid can create an equivalent site in 3 minutes, although users need to be happy to surrender some creative control over to a robot. Although the concept uses artificial intelligence — and in some cases machine learning — to tailor sites to each user, there's always a real designer on hand to ensure layouts don't go rogue and create a design that looks awkward in human eyes. For those who want to try it out, the service will cost USD 25 a month, which is good for creating up to 7 sites. Are there other ways that AI could make content production and presentation an easier and less time-consuming task?

When it comes to coffee, caffeine lovers are very particular about the specifics of their favorite brew. Once they've found a coffeeshop with a consistently good latté, a morning visit becomes part of the daily routine. When there's too much of a rush to enjoy barista-style coffee however, we've previously seen robot vending machines such as Briggo introduce personalization to automated brews, and now the smartphone-controlled Arist lets owners tweak their favorite recipes to perfection at home.

Although it looks like a standard espresso machine, the device can be linked to owners' smartphones to offer a degree of control typically reserved for coffeeshop equipment. The taste of coffee depends on a number of factors — grind size, water temperature, pressure, water flow, ground weight — all of which are typically controlled by a barista. Through the Arist app, consumers can find their perfect brew by tweaking these details, even down to the foaminess of the milk. The app offers a number of preset recipes that owners can try, and if they need extra ingredients they can be ordered through the app. When they've found their favorite coffee, the settings can be saved and the machine will recreate it exactly every time. Owners can even place a cup ready for the morning and activate it from their bed when they wake up.

Watch the video to find out more about how the device works:

The machine is available to pre-order from USD 299 until the campaign ends on 23 November. Are there other ways to make high street quality food and drink at home?

Kickstarter: www.kck.st/1rsuB3q