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We have seen a number of corporate wellness programs that aim to create a healthier workforce, which will in turn save employers money on health insurance payouts. EatRight Rewards offers employees cash returns when they purchase healthy foods and FwdHealth enables companies to track their workers’ exercise regimes in order to lower their premiums.

But these initiatives only work if employees actually participate and, as the rise of gamified exercise proves, one of the best ways to get reluctant adopters onboard is to disguise their task within a game. Step Ahead: Zombies does exactly this — the latest fitness game from wellness platform FIX is a story-themed walking challenge that encourages workers to escape an in-game zombie invasion through IRL activity.

Employers can sign their company up to participate and players can take part using a variety of devices, including smartphone, tablet and desktop. The game splits the workforce into teams who must race to get to a safe house. The teams progress through the game in accordance with their average step count, so if a lazy player is letting their co-workers down they’re likely to feel their wrath. If the team fails to reach the safe house, they get eaten and join the zombie team. Players can use wearables to input their participation and even log a healthy diet which will make them more resistant to zombie contact.

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FIX have seen impressive results already, one firm saw employee engagement rise by 20 percent. The company are currently working on other versions of the game including an alien-themed edition. How else could employers use gamified exercise to stimulate their workers?

www.astepaheadchallenge.com/get-started

Everyone has experienced the pain of having to wear in new shoes but recent developments in 3D printing could put an end to that misery — by enabling companies to manufacture shoes to perfectly fit customer’s feet. We have already seen SOLS use 3D printing to create the personalized insoles and now Feetz are taking it one step further, enabling customers to order custom fit, personalized footwear via their smartphone app.

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Feetz is currently welcoming Beta customers who want to try out the personalized shoes. To begin, users sign up on the website and download the Feetz app. They then take three photos of each foot as directed by the app, which are used to create a model of the customer’s feet. Next, they can customize their design — choosing from a variety of colors for the sole and main body. The shoes are then created using additive manufacturing. To begin with, Feetz will be made in the USA using American-made materials and labor, but eventually Feetz hope to have pods worldwide, so that they can complete orders at a local source and reduce the environmental impact of shipping footwear around the world.

Feetz are not the only company making 3D printed shoes: Nike’s Vapor Ultimate Cleat american football boot is created using a combination of 3D printing and 3D knitting which provides a sock-like fit for athletes. But Feetz are the first to open up the technology to the average consumer and enable them to order the product from their own home rather than having their feet scanned instore.

What other clothing could use 3D printing to create better fits for customers?

Despite their intriguing surfaces, painted masterpieces are usually consigned to the realm of the visual, excluding blind visitors from experiencing them. However, an unusual exhibition at Madrid’s Museo Nacional Del Prado is currently displaying six 3D replicas of famous paintings by Goya, Velazquez and more, which visually impaired visitors can explore through touch, enabling them to experience the masterpieces directly.

The exhibition is called Touching the Prado and was created by Spanish printing studio Estudios Durero using a printing technique they invented called Didú. The replicas are produced through a painstaking forty hour process which sees the printers selecting textures and volumes, including tiny details which will help to guide the blind person’s hand around the painting, helping them to understand the composition. The textures are printed first and a chemical method gives the image volume. After this, the original image is printed on top. The 3D paintings will be on display until June 28th.

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We have seen other projects such as The Smart Replicas also using 3D printed reproductions in an attempt to make museum visits more hands on. Are there other ways of using replicas to help visitors experience visual arts in new ways?

In order for eco-friendly forms of transport such as EVs to become a truly viable alternative, they need to be as convenient and accessible as their petrol guzzling counterparts. We have already seen numerous initiatives from companies such as Ubitricity and Smartscooter looking to make electric cars and scooters a more attractive proposition by making them easier to recharge. Now, a development at Bellnix Co Ltd in Japan could do the same for the electric bike.

Researchers from Bellnix and Saitama University have co-created an electric bike which can charge wirelessly. In the past, an electric bike’s battery pack had to be detached and connected to a separate charger, but Bellnix use wireless power transmission technology and a power-recieveing coil attached to the side of the front wheel. This could prove extremely useful for streamlining the expansion and upkeep of electric rental bicycles, which are popular in urban centres and tourist resorts in Japan and China.

The bike takes five and a half hours to recharge completely, which enables it to travel around 55km. Since the bike simply needs to be placed on a parking device to recharge, it would be possible to have unmanned stations located throughout cities, enabling the bikes to be rented and returned to docking stations as easily their pedal-powered cousins.

Could this development help increase the popularity of electric bikes in the US and Europe?

Drone technology is continually being improved and updated — but an Isreali start-up now wants to step in to speed up the process. The new add-on system called Percepto will enable developers to pool their resources and offer consumers access to new developments quickly and cost-effectively.

Percepto is a camera that attaches to existing drones and syncs with the user’s smartphone. The tiny add-on will give drones the capacity to host multiple applications — meaning consumers can add features and capabilities to their drone as and when developers create them, as easily as they do on their smartphone.

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Percepto is currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo where pledgers can pre-order the device from USD 399. From the start, Percepto will give extra computer vision intelligence to existing models, including professional video photography, an intuitive follow-me feature and a host of aerial games. These are apps that the start-up have created themselves, but the company is also creating an open source platform so that developers can add their own apps and even improve Percepto’s vision software.

Possible features could include collision avoidance, gesture control and urban navigation, but it is the unknown possibilities that independent developers will contribute that make the project truly exciting. Percepto has already surpassed its USD 60,000 goal with two weeks of fundraising remaining. What other uses are there for this flexible device?

The majority of significant algorithmic developments take place at either large self-contained companies such as Google, who are likely to keep their findings to themselves, or at academic institutions around the world. Countless groundbreaking innovations are made every day in computer science and research departments, but these mostly end up in academic papers and not in the hands of companies and app developers who could use them.

Now, Algorithmia is a US based start-up which hopes to fix this: it is an open, live, crowdsourced marketplace, which enables the computer scientists who are building groundbreaking algorithms to get their developments into the right hands quickly and easily. The growing database is both marketplace and online community — it aims to make algorithms more accessible, for use as building blocks towards something bigger.

The database already contains more than 800 algorithms. Algorithm developers can host their work on the site, making it available for free or for a fee per-use. App developers can search the growing library or request specific algorithms through the Bounty system. Members can then develop that work for a fee before adding it to the database. Algorithmia operates using a credit system. Users can create a free account which comes with 10,000 credits to start them off. They can then purchase more from the site — 1,100,000 credits cost USD 100. The cost of each algorithm is determined by its author.

Are there other fields which could make use of a crowdsourced marketplace in this way?

Charities know that one of the best ways to encourage people to part with their money is to make it fun for them to do so. Recognizing this, Charity Arcade has given the donation box a major upgrade, installing classic arcade games in the baggage terminals of Swedish airports.

The gaming consoles offer celebrated cult classics — Space Invaders, Pac-man and Galaga — on custom machines which can accept any currency. They enable people to use up their left-over travel coins, make a donation to the Red Cross and kill time while they wait for their bag — all in one go.

The project is a collaboration between Alranda Airport and the Red Cross. Could charity gaming consoles become a regular feature of airports?

Stompz is a new wearable device which enables players to immerse themselves more fully into the virtual realities made possible by VR headsets such as Occults Rift. The controllers strap onto the feet or shoes of the player, connecting wirelessly to their gaming device and enabling them to control their in-game movements with their own two feet.

Stompz use high-end IMU sensors and 9-axis motion trackers to capture the wearer’s movements, translating small on-the-spot actions into an array of avatar actions, including running, jumping, turning and crouching. It enables players to explore virtual environments in a safe and exciting way and gives them a low-intensity workout while they’re at it.

The device is compatible with any head-mounted device that has a USB input, as well as with non-VR games and many exercise machines. Those with hacking tendencies can even program additional actions into their Stompz controllers.

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Stompz are currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter. Pledgers can pre-order a set for USD 99 and early bird orders are expected to be fulfilled in November 2015. Are there other uses for the VR device outside of gaming?

It’s not uncommon for promising athletes to receive scholarships and bursaries to help them stay in school and develop their skills in semi-pro college teams — but balancing athletics with schoolwork is never easy, and often their academic work is neglected. Now, a crowdfunding site called FanPay is enabling sports fans to help out too — by offering monetary pledges to incentivize performance in the classroom.

For those who are unimpressed by the low graduation rates of college athletes, FanPay is a simple platform which enables fans to pledge monetary gifts to players, which they will receive if they graduate. To begin, users search the database for their favorite college player. If they can’t find them they can create a new FanPay page on their behalf. They then make a contribution by credit card or e-cheque, which is held for the remainder of the school year. If the student graduates, they are offered the gift, but if not, it is returned to the fan.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWllrAwfhB8

FanAngel is another platform that adopts a crowdfunding model to enable fans to pledge monetary rewards, but this site deals instead with on-field performance. Similar to FanPay, the site manages pledges and offers them to college athletes if and when they graduate. However, FanAngel also welcomes pledges for athletes in professional teams. These donations are designed to encourage brilliant performances and to persuade individual athletes to stay with their current team. Of course, it would need huge numbers of fans to get involved for the monetary rewards to stand up against the huge salaries that professional athletes earn.

Are there other ways to help college athletes to balance their academic and athletic challenges?

There are already countless devices which aim to enhance people’s fitness routines. Systems such as Gymtrack and Fitstar are just two such examples to have recently graced our pages. Now, two new products — the Atlas Wristband and the SmartSpot smart mirror — take it to the next level by recognizing multiple different exercises, offering tracking and feedback accordingly.

The Atlas Wristband is a fitness tracker which uses aircraft grade sensors to differentiate between over a dozen different exercises such as bicep curls, pulls ups and jumping jacks. The user wears the device on their wrist and it monitors motions through three dimensions. The wearable is water resistant, so it can be used in and out of water and its learning algorithms can even identify differences between similar exercises — such as backstroke and front crawl. Atlas recently completed a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo and is expecting to deliver the first batch of product later this year. The company is adding new exercises to the repertoire every day and promotional material shows users what they can expect, although the system is still being developed.

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Smartspot, meanwhile, offers similar tools to weightlifters — it is a smart mirror which can differentiate between eleven of the most popular weight exercises, tracks the users performance and offers feedback and motivation. The mirror can be installed in any gym that has internet access and requires only a minimum of five feet of operating space between the machine and the user. The mirror displays counts and analytics in real time, enabling the user to perform to their best, adjusting angles and rest times to push themselves and make sure they are performing safely.

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What other features could fitness wearables develop to make them stand out from the crowd?