A Few Examples of Some Great Emerging Tech from #reworktech

The Re:Work conference was a multi-disciplinary event packed with some interesting tech, from health to connected objects to urban design. Here’s just some of the things that caught my eye:

Bots, bots and bots …

  • Mobile Bots – Some very handy tech from Helical Robotics  that solve problems in hard to access places. They’ve developed climbing bots that are able to inspect and repair wind turbines. Most impressive were a set of autonomous mobile bots that could assemble pipelines in remote environments.
  • Shape shifting robots – using the principles of Origami, these are small robots that can reconfigure themselves – called ‘Robogami’. There are a many applications for the tech, but these bots are particularly useful in the medical field – they can help with facial paralysis by becoming a therapy tool that fits the shape of the wearer’s head.

  • Pancake making bots – whilst it’s not exactly going to take the drudgery out of everyday life, here’s an example of a bot that taught itself to make pancakes with instructions from Wikihow. Is it churlish to say that using pre-mix pancakes is cheating? Next up, the blini making bot.

2D, 3D and 4D Objects …

  • Connected print (2D) – I love simple, accessible solutions that harness existing technologies. Using conductive inks, Novalia showed a poster of a fully working drum kit. Their examples connected to small, cheap soundboards, but the printing could also connect Makey Makey, Arduino  or Raspberry Pi boards.
  • The 3D printed house – many people have talked about the concept, but DUS Architects in The Netherlands are actually doing it. Using a giant 3D printer they are building a canal-side house over the course of 6 months.
  • 4D Objects – Yes, 4D! The fourth dimension is time. Printing complex objects in 3D is all very well, but putting them together can be a very time consuming, manual process. The solution is to create self-assembling objects that use little or no energy. Skyler Tibbits from MIT’s Self Assembly Lab http://selfassemblylab.net/ is part of a cross disciplinary team developing 4D. Of course, we’re probably all thinking one thing; wouldn’t it be great if our Ikea furniture could assemble itself. See this video to understand how it works:

And a few more interesting bits …

  • The invisible cycle helmet – An elegant solution to the problem of looking silly in a cycle helmet. It’s been widely covered in the tech press, but if you missed it, here’s see how the helmet works.
  • Interaction – Joel Gethin Lewis (from Hellicar and Lewis) has made some really cool work. Some for brands (such as Coca Cola/Maroon 5), some are health projects and others as pure art.

Two great examplesfrom Hellicar and Lewis are:

Somantics – a superb fee app that helps young people on the autistic spectrum to express themselves – download the app!
Hello Cube – an art interactive art project designed by Yayoi Kusama and controlled by Twitter users

Best of all, they open source all their work, even the brand projects. You can download some useful code their Github site.

For more on the Re:Work conference, there’s a useful Storify here: http://storify.com/elisenardin/re-work-tech-2013-a-recap or visit the Re:work site.

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What is Innovation?

A good example of innovation is this. A defibrillator that can be delivered to remote areas, quickly, by a drone quadracopter and managed from a smartphone. The reason why it is innovative is not the use of technology, but the application of it to address a real problem.

You can read more on it here: http://www.fastcoexist.com/3017084/this-drone-defibrillator-can-fix-your-heart-in-the-middle-of-nowhere#3

Brands, Mobile and The Future

Predicting the future is never easy, but I gave it a go at a TEDxUCL talk in the spring …

The future is …

By 2045 we will have reached the point of singularity when the devices that are now smartphones will become the size of a grain of sand and 1 billion times more powerful. At that point the computers become sentient and run the world in a Matrix style.

So what happens between now and then? Read the synopsis below, or you can simply watch the video!

Well the first problem is that largely speaking, consumers just don’t care about brands that much. Pointless apps, or social media campaigns fail to ‘engage’ the audiences. The solution is around service. Brands should do what they do, and use channels such as mobile to simply do it better. Some brands understand this. Look at someone like Gatwick Airport who use Twitter as a service channel. They encourage their visitors to Tweet any problems and a small team sets about putting it right. Similarly car companies such as Mercedes are using QR codes in a useful way, by embedding them in cars to help emergency services know how to get access quickly in case of an accident. Or an augmented reality app that shows you how to change car parts.

When it comes to the future of smartphones themselves then we’ve pretty much reached the conclusion. They’ll become faster, brighter etc, but the functions that we have will remain large the same. People were surprised when Apple launched the 5S and 5C that there was nothing radically different. But that’s not the point. The radical change was the introduction of the device itself. From then on, changes are simply incremental. So the next generation are the ‘connecteds and wearables’. Google Glass is seen as a major innovation. It probably won’t be the device that everyone adopts, but it is a good indication of where things are going. However, there are many issues particularly around privacy. Where is the place for brand engagement.

A good brand example of a connected device is the Nike Fuel wristband. Although millions of $s were spent on its development, innovation is not about money, or spending, it’s about ideas. There are many good examples, such as Red Tomato Pizza’s fridge magnet. Simply press the button and it connects to your phone and orders your favourite pizza. A simple idea, well executed. Even more interesting are developments in the world of health. In Kenya they have been using it to track the spread of malaria, for example. Or in Switzerland they have hooked sensors up to the brains of sheep. When a wolf is in the area, it can sense their distress and send a text to the farmer. A simple, effective use of mobile.