Eye-catching Technologies from 2011

Chris B-J looks at some technologies highlighted by the "Smart Planet" website

01. Thomas Crapper - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[Thomas Crapper - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Contrary to urban legend, this gentleman did not invent the WC - but he did invent the Ball Cock.

02. The toilet, re-imagined: four water-saving designs | SmartPlanet

Essence of these is to use washbasin water to flush the loo, and to use more water for "number 2" than for "number 1"

03. Video: Turn any surface into a touchscreen | SmartPlanet

This week, Microsoft and Carnegie Mellon researchers are unveiling OmniTouch, a system that turns any surface into a touchscreen.

Composed of a depth-sensing camera and laser-based pico projector (more on that in a second), the contraption looks like a flattened-pancake version of R2D2 and sits on the user’s shoulder. The user first creates a screen wherever he or she likes — such as a hand, arm, wall, table or pad of paper — and then, just like with any other touchscreen, uses fingers to navigate it.

Not sure f I want to go around looking like a cyborg

04. Medical device takes the guess work out of speech therapy| SmartPlanet

One out of every 15 kids has a speech impediment. When a toddler says "wabbit" instead of "rabbit," it may be cute, but as the child grows older, it can be the source of cruel taunts and teasing. What's more, conventional speech therapy can take months and may never completely fix the problem. But now a new device arms therapists with a set of tools that can correct the problem with unprecedented precision and speed.

Some solutions are simple as well as effective

05. Inside the Lytro camera, and the start-up's 3D future | SmartPlanet

SmartPlanet meets Ren Ng, founder of Silicon Valley start-up Lytro, to see how it's re-imagining the digital camera with its patented light-field photography technology. We also talk to Ng about his future plans, including the ability for users to capture images that are more three dimensional.

06. A timely gift: biodegradable watches | SmartPlanet

Still searching for a unique gift? SmartPlanet's Sumi Das shares Sprout watches. Sure, you could go with a Rolex or a Tag, but are those compostable? Find out just how eco-friendly these timepieces are.

Nuts (or corn)

07. Accuracy drastically improved in intraoperational radiation therapy | SmartPlanet

MADRID–If you could know the consequences of a medical procedure before receiving it, would it change your mind? What if technology made the procedure more accurate? There’s no doubt that radiation therapy can be, at times, life-saving, while very life-draining. The first of its kind in the world, a new simulator can evaluate and predict the specific reactions a patient could have, and then it can guide decision-making for surgical intervention and radiation treatments.

The video is in Spanish - but you can see the simulations.

08. NASA video shows global warming is real | SmartPlanet

If there were any doubt that a real warming trend is upon us, scientists at NASA have produced a visualization that depicts the recent rise in global temperatures as felt over a span of 130 years.

While the video shows a clear pattern of seasonal temperature changes along with momentary spikes throughout the centuries, you can see that it’s only recently that temperatures in most regions of the world (represented with intensified colors) started to really peak. In fact, since the year 2000, we’ve experienced nine of the 10 warmest years on record.

09.Electric vehicles: 2011's hottest headlines | SmartPlanet

Electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt may have gotten most of the attention this year but electric motorcycles also turned heads. The year also brought innovations such as an electric vehicle that you can also use to power your house. SmartPlanet takes a look back at the evolution of EVs in 2011.

10. Robots at hospital pharmacy mean more accurate dosages

The new pharmacy at the University of California at San Francisco is believed to be the most automated hospital pharmacy in the country. Robots now track and prepare doses of pills, IV bags, and syringes. These medications, untainted by human contact, are more efficient and ensure far fewer errors. Experts predict that in the not-too-distant future, manual pharmacies will be but a relic of the past in major medical centers.

11. Metallic glass: The strongest, toughest material yet? | SmartPlanet

Robert Ritchie, a professor of material science at U.C. Berkeley, has created metallic glass, a material he believes is the strongest and toughest to date. Ritchie hopes metallic glass could one day be used for airplane engines and large structures such as bridges.

//The video is lots of fluff - with no real substance. Metallic Glass (or amorphous metal) has been around since the 1960's. Most metals are crystalline, and can break easily. They want to make a metal which is tough and not prone to fracture. One way is to make an alloy which is not crystalline, i.e. more like glass structurally. This stuff is still in the lab.

12. Word Lens: Using your smartphone to translate language | SmartPlanet

San Francisco software developer Otavio Good created Word Lens, an app that uses your smartphone's camera to translate language from English to Spanish and vice versa. SmartPlanet takes a trip with Good through San Francisco's Mission District to test out the app.

Note: apparently most folks only use four or five apps on their smartphones … is the app industry over-blown?

13. Scientific Learning unveils software to help improve brain function in autistic children | SmartPlanet

"Autism Spectrum Disorder" is on the rise, with as many as 1 in 100 children born with the condition. Children with the neurological condition often struggle with reading and comprehension. But there's evidence that new software can actually help bring about positive changes in the brain, improving both reading and social skills."

Actually Autism is more frequently spotted and diagnosed these days. Not sure if it is really "on the rise" or just noticed more often.

14. Paper and plastic are upcycled to create a designer chair | SmartPlanet

Modern design takes a sustainable turn with Artek's Shigeru Ban 10-unit System Chair. SmartPlanet's Sumi Das explores the possible configurations of this modular system.

15. A look at the world's largest solar-powered boat | SmartPlanet

Quiz : What are its drawbacks ?

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