Wednesday, September 4, 2013

From Poland, virtual interior design brought to the human scale

Decolabs has already harnessed the power of augmented reality to let interior designers see what products might look like in situ through the iPad. Bringing this service to the human scale, Polish retail store designers A+D have developed a new service to help create lifesize virtual spaces for its clients. Aimed at those looking to open a retail store, the platform uses a projector to show the planned design in 1:1 scale, enabling customers to see a virtual representation of the space that is true to life – standing in front of the display creates the illusion that one could walk into the space. Clients can use the platform to see what an existing design will look like, or begin with a blank space and gradually add furniture, lighting and design elements using an iPad. The service allows designers to tweak and perfect their designs or accurately determine the measurements of fittings before they even begin to spend money on their store. As with other virtual reality design platforms, the A+D service could save its clients time and money, enabling them to spot mistakes before they happen in the real world. Although created with retail store owners in mind, it’s easy to see how this innovation could have applications in a wide range of industries.

EEG headband tracks focus and mood to help users improve their lifestyle

We recently saw the Mico EEG headphone and app that automatically detects wearers’ moods and plays matching music. Now Melon is another example of the technology, tracking user focus to give data on the time of day and activities during which they concentrate best. The sleekly-designed rubber ring has been developed to feel comfortable worn around the head during activities ranging from exercise, study, work and listening to music. While undergoing these activities, the Melon uses an EEG sensor to monitor brainwaves and detect when the mind is focused. Users initiate a session through the companion smartphone app, entering the type of activity, their location, what music they are listening to, whether they’re with other people or alone, and what emotions they’re feeling at the time. When enough data is collected, the app is able to paint an accurate picture of which environments the user is most comfortable in. Users can view trends based on the data – for example, the app may indicate that listening to classical music is good for focus while working at night, or that exercising with friends is more stressful than when alone. It also offers advice for helping users relax or concentrate when it senses that they need it.

Travel comparison site puts emphasis on flight quality over quick arrival times

Not all consumers are after the same thing when it comes to booking a holiday, and platforms such as GetGoing have offered discounts to those who aren’t too fussy about their destination, but are concerned about cost. Now Routehappy aims to cater for tourists who would rather ensure they traveled in comfort than take the most direct flight. The company has created a database of information about flights around the world, detailing attributes such as seat type, legroom, entertainment options, wifi access, dining and other amenities. Routehappy uses this research to assign a Happiness Score out of ten for each airline flight it has investigated. Users can then check to see whether their planned route will provide the facilities they’re after and book an alternative airline or arrange a better route if not. Through the site’s free iPhone app, fliers can also add their own comments and images to share their opinions with fellow travelers.

Camera and toy enables owners to remotely entertain pets with their iPhone

iPet Companion has already enabled internet users to remotely entertain cats in rescue shelters, and now a new device is bringing a similar idea into the home. Petcube is a camera and robotic laser that lets owners check up on their dog or cat when they’re out of the house, as well as play with them. Developed by Ukraine-based trio Alex Neskin, Yaroslav Azhnyuk and Andrey Klen, the Petcube takes the form of a stylish 10 x 10 x 10 cm box containing a wide angle camera, microphone and speaker. The device is connected to the household’s wifi and – through the Petcube mobile app – owners can then view a live video stream of their pet from any location. The speaker allows users to call their pets if they’re not in view, and the system also features a controllable laser pointer that can entertain the animals. Those downloading the app don’t need to have a Petcube – or even a pet – but can browse the public live feeds and play with other people’s pets.

Through platform, fans commit to fund Youtube artists’ every upload

Since the advent of file sharing, musicians have come up with a multitude of novel ways to fund their work, such as Pikup, the app that tracks users’ music listening habits and remunerates artists accordingly. Using the crowdfunding model, new startup Patreon enables fans to automatically donate money each time online content creators upload a new piece of work. Where platforms such as Kickstarter help to fund one-off projects for artists and new businesses, they don’t really help those – such as online musicians, film-makers and comedians – creating smaller pieces on a regular basis, requiring just as much time and financing. Created by Jack Conte – one half of the boyfriend-girlfriend band Pomplamoose, who achieved fame through their Youtube channel – Patreon gets fans to commit to donate a small amount for each piece of work completed by the artist. Fans set the amount they want to offer – usually USD 1 to USD 5 – and are able to set a limit for the month to stop from going over budget if the artist happens to have a prolific month. This means that the content creators on Patreon get a guaranteed sum for each piece of work, enabling them to continue investing time in their ongoing project.

Monitor sends heart patients’ health data to doctors in real time

One way health professionals can keep track of their patients when they aren’t able to be in attendance is telepresence robots, such as the ones developed by InTouch Health. An alternative, however, is mobile monitoring. Created by Preventice, BodyGuardian RMS is a smartphone-based system that continuously tracks the health of those with heart conditions and sends the data straight to doctors. While the platform has been in development for the past few years, Preventice recently gained FDA approval to offer the remote health monitor as a solution for those with non-lethal cardiac arrhythmias. The RMS consists of three parts: firstly a small sensor that can be easily attached to the chest of patients and worn under clothes. This device sends information about the user’s heartbeat, respiration and activity levels to either the patient’s smartphone or one given to them by their doctor. The data is then sent to health professionals who can analyze their patients in real time. If the patient feels discomfort, they can push a button on the sensor to immediately contact their doctor. One of the benefits of this system is that doctors don’t have to keep patients in hospital in order to monitor their vitals, and yet can still provide round-the-clock care.

App provides real-time wait estimate for any queue

We’ve already seen how businesses can implement a fair turn-taking policy to help consumers avoid queues with the Qminder app. Now Waitbot wants to aggregate crowdsourced data to give consumers information about any waiting times for any business. The team behind Waitbot plan to use a number of technologies to glean their data from multiple sources – including social network updates, smartphone GPS positions and reports from its userbase and partner businesses. By developing an algorithm to automatically sort this data, determine how busy each location is and estimate a wait time, the startup hopes the app – expected to launch first in Chicago – will give users an idea of whether it’s worth heading to the bank right now, or if they should choose a different restaurant to go to that evening. Once up and running, Waitbot will also be able to track historical data for each venue and include that in its algorithm. It hopes that companies will want to partner with Waitbot in order to offer transparency to their customers and enable a more even spread of business throughout the day.