Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Spotted:

US-startup StayTuned wants to make it easier to post videos on social media and other platforms. Videos are becoming increasingly popular not just with publishers but with companies of all types. But navigating the wide variety of platforms can be overwhelming, according to StayTuned CEO Serge Kassardjian, a former Google executive. Knowing which videos work best on which platforms is also an issue.

StayTuned is offering to simplify things by giving customers a one-stop shop. It will publish videos across all platforms, including Instagram, video apps, and on Over-The-Top (OTT) applications like Netflix. In addition, the service will optimise clients’ videos to fit the requirements of different channels. StayTuned plans to help “push” clients’ content to attract a wider audience as well, and analyse impact so clients can learn to use videos more effectively. The startup caters to all content creators, from big sports media to small local businesses, according to the founders.

The concept was unveiled in February 2019. The startup has received $2.5 million in funding. It plans on releasing a beta version of the service over the next several months. Kassardjian founded the company with Randy Jimenez, former CTO at SinglePlatform.

Spotted:

Four Israeli students have designed an easy way for tourists to find public toilets. They came up with the concept after a frustrating trip to Europe where they spent far too much time looking for loos. Their concept is simple. Called the P-pass, people pay a small fee for a list of local bars, restaurants and shops that allow them to use the facilities, even if they’re not customers.

The first generation of the scheme, piloted in January 2019, offered a four-day pass for select locations in Tel Aviv. The second pilot, scheduled for March, includes a website with a list of available toilets and links to directions. The third larger pilot is planned for May. It will coincide with the 64th Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, and the founders say it will include an app.

The idea, they say, transforms “a usually awkward activity” into potential profits for businesses.

Spotted:

UK-based crypto startup Polkadot plans to reshape the internet using blockchain. The goal is to create a 3rd wave (Web3) of the web — one that lays the foundation for a secure peer-to-peer platform.

A blockchain is a chain of digital information (known as blocks) stored in a public database (chain). The challenge is that while blockchains are growing in popularity, they struggle to speak with each other. Polkadot, a global network of blockchains, provides a framework for blockchains to communicate, thereby connecting them.

Blockchain advocates say this system is more trustworthy and secure than the internet we currently use. This is because information is shared only with blockchains you trust. This helps protect against viruses and malware.

The new network would allow applications from one blockchain to work seamlessly on any other blockchain. To make this happen, Polkadot envisions a network made up of three main components. The first piece, parachain, will gather and process information. That information will be passed to a relay chain (the second piece) and then to a bridge, where it would be reconnected to a main chain, like Ethereum.

Dr Gavin Wood, the co-Founder of Ethereum, is a co-founder of the startup.

The human brain is often compared to a computer. Yet in reality, the human brain is much more complex than any computer. But that has not stopped researchers from working to develop computers and software that act in ways similar to the human brain. One of these is a type of software called an artificial neural network (ANN). Neural networks are the systems that power artificial intelligence. So, what are artificial neural networks, and how do they function like the human brain?

An ANN is designed to simulate the way that cells in the brain communicate with each other. They are made up of interconnected processors, similar to how the brain is made up of billions of interconnected neurons. While a traditional computer uses a central processor to take instructions and do what it is told, an ANN uses many simple processors, called units.

The units in an ANN are connected in layers. First is an input layer, which receives data that the network will process. The data then moves through many other “hidden” layers. As it moves from one unit to another within the hidden layers, the data is weighted. The higher the “weight”, the greater the influence that each unit has on the next unit. The data with the highest weight has the most confidence, or accuracy. In this way, the network “learns” more about the data as it passes through the layers. Finally, the data passes to the units in the output layer. This layer then transmits the processed data to the outside world.

In order for ANNs to learn, they first need to be “trained” with a large amount of data. For example, if researchers want to teach an ANN how to identify an image of a dog, they must first input thousands of images of dogs. During the training, the ANN’s output is compared to the correct answer. If the ANN does not reach the correct answer about a particular image, it is instructed to go back through the layers and alter the weighting. This is known as back propagation, or deep learning, and is what makes an ANN network “intelligent”.

After the training, the ANN will reach the point where it can be presented with an image it has never seen before, and it will be able to determine whether or not the image contains a dog. In this way, the ANN starts to think like us. It recognises patterns and uses them to make decisions.

Neural networks can be applied to a wide variety of these pattern recognition tasks. For example, LinkedIn uses ANNs to detect spam. YouTube and Netflix use ANNs to make recommendations for what to watch next, based on viewing history.

There are some concerns about ANNs, however. They require a huge amount of data for training, and consume a great deal of energy. Also, because they can predict how people will act in certain circumstances, they can potentially be used to manipulate peoples’ behaviour.

But ANNs may soon be ubiquitous particularly as they become cheaper and faster. Already, they are useful in image and voice recognition, and are used in fields as disparate as security, translation, marketing, medicine and astronomy. At Springwise, we have covered the use of ANNs to create and evaluate art and to help e-commerce businesses personalise prices and promotions based on customer locations.

Spotted:

An app by Hungarian-based Language Drops is giving global exposure to te reo Māori, the native language of New Zealand. The program, called Learn Māori, is one of more than 30 apps from the language learning company. It is the the first major multi-language app to add te reo Māori. Another of Drops’ apps teaches Hawaiian, which is also an endangered language.

Te reo Māori (known locally as Māori) has fewer than 127,000 native speakers worldwide — making it an endangered language. The global reach of the app could encourage more people to learn it, according to the company. The Learn Māori program includes 2000 words. Apparently that is enough to understand 80 percent of the language, according to the company.

The format is picture-based. It is divided into categories like food, objects and transportation. The app provides a Māori word, along with the correct pronunciation. The app then prompts the user to swipe to the corresponding picture.

The app is a free download for Andriod and iOS. Premium packages are also available for $9.99 monthly, $69.99 yearly, or $159.99 for lifetime access.

Spotted:

UK-based Nwave’s smart sensors use the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve parking efficiency. The sensors (roughly the size of a 1p coin) are installed on parking spaces. Because they communicate across a variety of existing apps and programs, drivers can use their smartphones to find parking spots. Nwave says it has installed 2,000 sensors in two years. The sensors are currently being used in cities including London, Coventry and Reading.

The information from the sensor goes to a server, where it is collected in real-time and can provide insights into driver behaviour. According to the company, the sensors are 10 times more accurate than other parking sensors, due to the fact that three different sensors and complex algorithms are used to calculate accurate vehicle data. The sensors have a high battery life of up to a decade, making maintenance easier.

Spotted:

UK and Hungary-based FrancisKodak Design Lab has created a virtual reality (VR) immersion safety course for drivers. The product, Another Set of Eyes (ANET360), combines traditional driver training methods with VR to teach better safety skills. It is the latest example of using total immersion technology to improve learning retention.

ANET360 puts students in real-life situations and hypothetical scenarios. Once hooked into the headset, the student is immersed in a 360-degree experience. The training course is based on situations every driver faces. It can also be tailored to client demands. The programme has improved driver reaction time by 20 percent and reduced training costs by 50 percent.

The programme also uses machine learning, which allows it to record user reactions across an unlimited number of scenarios. Once analysed, the information can provide valuable insight into human decision-making and reactions in various situations. The knowledge will help improve road safety, the company says.

ANET360 is the first accredited VR hazard awareness training programme under the Transport for London and Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) in the UK.

Spotted:

Dutch design studio, MVRDV, is using cutting-edge design to create Albania’s tallest skyscraper, a so-called “vertical village”, and piece of art. Called Downtown One, the 140 metre (459 ft) tall building will be located in the capital city of Tirana. Featured on its facade is a pixellated map of Albania. The topographical map-like effect is produced by staggering sections of the uniform windows at different heights and lengths. The created space allows for terraces, designed to encourage conversations between neighbours. The result is a vertical, 37-storey village, according to the project’s architects.

The mix-purpose building will include business space and residential apartments. Every house or office will represent an actual village or town in the country. Residents will be able to identify their apartment or business with a spot on the map, MVRDV says.

The plans include an onsite playground and underground garage. The building will open in 2024.

Spotted: A pilot programme at the National University of Singapore will allow students to create their own course modules for part of their curriculum. Students can pursue subjects of interest, which aren’t offered by the university. They can suggest how this coursework should be taught, by whom, and when and where they will take place. Students must organise themselves into groups of 10 or more, and get approval from faculty.

The modules don’t count towards students’ grade point averages. But they will allow students to study subjects that genuinely match their goals and interests, according to the university. Students can invite a specialist from a particular sector to teach them, or can create modules from online courses available through edX, a not-for-profit open online course provider.

The goal of the programme is to engage students and encourage them to develop their own “learning journeys”, the university said. Some students have already expressed interest in learning so-called soft skills, like teamwork. The programme will start in August 2019.

Spotted:

Norway-based architectural design studio Helen&Hard is working with Indigo Vekst and Gaia Trondheim to create a new commercial model for co-living. The project, called Vindmøllebakken, is based on the new housing model called “Gaining by Sharing” and gives residents ownership to the project.

The idea of “Gaining by Sharing” influences the design of the living space and architecture. The concept also addresses social issues, like loneliness. The layout and design of the residence “facilitates sharing” and participation among the community, Helen&Hard says. Vindmøllebakken uses sustainable types of wood and other material that minimizes the carbon footprint of the building.

Old factory parts that remain from an existing structure on the site are being reused and recycled as part of the construction process, according to Helen & Hard. The project envisions 40 units which differ in size, placement and price allowing for a multiplicity of residents.