Create the Future. Today

In remote regions of developing countries, the healthcare infrastructure can be limited, and we recently wrote about a smart necklace that aimed to improve child vaccination rates in India. Now BabyLifeBox is a low-cost solution to emergency newborn care.

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Targeting grassroots healthcare in India — where 300,000 infant mortalities occur each year — student Malav Sanghavi from Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art designed the BabyLifeBox for emergency care of infants born prematurely or underweight. The initial design meets the basic requirements of a neonatal incubator while using the lowest cost materials available, mostly cardboard, perspex and a simple heater. BabyLifeBox will begin a crowdfunding campaign soon, and potential pledgers can sign up to receive updates.

Could other low-cost devices help improve healthcare in remote regions of the developing world?

We’ve seen startups offer easier ways for companies to interview potential employees online, such as this video interviewing platform, and now HiringPad is helping recruiters test coding engineers remotely.

Through HiringPad’s platform, recruiters create a custom URL for a virtual interview room, inviting candidates and other panel members to attend when scheduled. HiringPad then automatically sends out reminder emails to all attendees, who click the link to begin the video conference. Potential hires then have their coding skills tested on the spot with real-time coding software. Upon completion, the candidate’s evaluation becomes archived for reference and the link becomes redundant. Recruiters can receive monthly subscriptions free of charge for 10 interviews a month, or pay USD 50 for 30 interviews.

The demand for web-based hiring tools will grow as more and more recruiters (who already conduct interview via Skype) look for potential employees overseas. In an increasingly globalized workforce, what other industries could make use of virtual interviews and tests?

We’ve seen how autonomous robots — such as these smart ecological management devices — can help protect vulnerable environments. However, the use of autonomous robotics has so far been limited by their need for high energy and inconvenient refueling. Now, Bristol Robotics Laboratory has designed Row-bot, which uses bacteria to self-power as it cleans polluted water.

With a design inspired by water boatmen insects, Row-bot will skim the water surface, filtering out pollutants. Integrated microbes in the device’s ‘stomach’ will break down the pollution into clean byproducts, and in doing so generate a voltage that powers its battery. This microbial fuel cell acts as an autonomous energy source, charging Row-bot’s low-power swimming and filters for extended periods without human intervention.

The team’s microbial fuel cell design could enable many other robots to function alone without needing to recharge. How else could robots help clean up the environment?

Children with special needs are often unable to participate in activities due to safety concerns, but we have seen a number of initiatives help to make fun recreations such as cooking and playing music more accessible to them. Now, Morgan’s Inspiration Island is a new ultra-accessible water park at Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonia, Texas, which can be enjoyed by children and adults in wheelchairs alongside those with or without special needs.

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The splash park will be located next to Morgan’s Wonderland — an accessible theme park that has been open since 2005, named after owner Gordon Hartman’s daughter. The tropical themed water world, which is expected to open in spring 2017, has been designed in conjunction with designers, doctors and special needs therapists. It will include five play areas, including Rainbow Reef and Shipwreck Island, all of which will be completely wheelchair accessible. Features will include raintrees, pools, falls and tipping buckets, as well as an adventure ride through a jungle setting.

Guests will also be given a waterproof wristband with RFID technology, which will enable parents to keep an eye on the location of their kids in the playground. What other recreational parks could be adapted to suit the special needs of disabled guests?

As the maker movement advances, nurses are able to create customized hospital equipment, just as beatmakers are able to invent parts for their production tools. Netherlands-based collective Post-Couture brings the concept to clothing, producing customizable designs that users assemble in their local makerspace.

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Post-Couture’s range uses Spacer fabric — a 3D-knitted material made from recycled PET plastic bottles. Users first choose a design on the collective’s website, and input their measurements — they can even customize the design file using Illustrator or Rhinoceros. They then receive the fabric and download the pattern, which they use to etch out the item with laser-cutting equipment at their local makerspace. Interweaving tabs form the seams of the pieces, meaning that material can be assembled into the correct shape without any need for sewing. Users also have the option to receive the materials pre-cut, or buy the digital design files from EUR 5 to print themselves. Any trimmings or discarded garments can be returned to Post-Couture for recycling.

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With an opening range designed by fashion label mphvs, Post-Couture’s products are priced between EUR 40 — 130. What other ways can fashion facilitate greater consumer customization?

Businesses are beginning to connect offline marketing with direct online sales — we’ve already seen print magazines that let users ‘like’ products on their Facebook page. Inspired by QR code functions, Hitchly has developed a simpler approach using phone numbers generated from URLs.

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Hitchly’s platform creates a unique short phone number from a complex URL that businesses feature in their physical advertising, such as billboards and TV ads. Unlike QR codes, users are not required to download an app to use Hitchly — they simply call or text the number and receive a text back containing the link to a video, app or product. Though QR codes link consumers directly to the product, some may not have or know of the functionality of the codes — advertisers can bet on the fact that most users know how to dial a number. Businesses are also able to track how often their number is used, gather data on campaign successes, and access those numbers for followup promotions.

How else can offline marketing direct consumers to make online sales?

Touchscreen technology keeps growing in function — we’ve already wrote about a projector that turns any surface into a touchscreen. Qeexo’s FingerAngle goes a step further to register the angle of the finger at contact with the screen, so users can control content by leaning or rotating their finger.

Touchscreens currently read finger movement along the X and Y axis, limiting interactions to touch, swipe and pinch. The software is algorithm based, so it can be added to existing devices and content, and applied to zoom and scrolling functions and rotating dial adjustments. The function will be especially useful for devices like smartwatches, where the display is too small to accommodate dual finger movement.

Enhancing the range of touchscreen controls enables a greater level of content interactivity. Qeexo has already developed FingerSense, which lets users manipulate screens with their knuckles and nails. How else can we accommodate greater touchscreen interactivity?

We’ve already seen a Carvana is getting in the action too, with their huge gamified vehicle delivery machine.

Caravana customers purchase their vehicle online, but visit the dealership to collect it. Upon arrival they are given an oversized coin, which they insert into a slot — as though making a purchasing from a vending machine. Then they can watch their vehicle being retrieved by a robotic arm and delivered to them.

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Carvana’s robotic tower is five stories high and can contain 20 cars at any one time. The benefit for customers is a memorable experience, happily lacking in the usual car lot haggling experience. Customers can also choose to have their vehicle delivered to them at home.

Are there other online purchases that could be completed in this way?

There has been much talk of the necessity for retailers to introduce digital features to the physical shopping experience, in order to keep up with the customer’s taste for online shopping. But British designer Allison Crank has gone the other way, creating a virtual reality mall, that uses fantasy and interactivity to redefine the ecommerce experience.

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Users access the Reality Theatre mall using the Occulus Rift headset, which enables them to wander freely among brightly colored animals, neon signs and virtual people. They navigate the space using a controller, traveling up and down escalators to any place. The platform is a blend of fantasy, retail and gaming. Crank envisions customers meeting and liaising with designers in the virtual space, enabling both parties to collaborate on products that could then be ordered as physical products — much like an immersive second life that merges with reality. (There could even be the potential for shop assistants to work from home.)

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Crank’s project is very much an art piece but it does raise very interesting questions about how virtual reality could be used to enhance online shopping in the future. How could existing ecommerce businesses set themselves apart using virtual or augmented reality?

We’ve seen geotagged sharks sending tweets when they approach popular beaches in Australia, and now Israel-based JellyOh is aiming to provide a similar warning system for jellyfish.

Because jellyfish appear in such large numbers and cannot be physically tagged, JellyOh uses a crowdsourced app with geolocation data, so that users can tag where they’ve sighted a jellyfish. Anyone else using the app will then be notified that jellyfish are present in their vicinity.

JellyOh uses a similar approach to apps that crowdsource researchable data, like the mosquito-tracking app we wrote about previously. What other useful geolocation information can be crowdsourced?