Posts about invention

iPhone Addition as Alternative to Expensive Ophthalmology Equipment

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have developed two inexpensive adapters that enable a smartphone to capture high-quality images of the front and back of the eye. The adapters make it easy for anyone with minimal training to take a picture of the eye and share it securely with other health practitioners or store it in the patient’s electronic record.

The researchers see this technology as an opportunity to increase access to eye-care services as well as to improve the ability to advise on patient care remotely.

The standard equipment used to photograph the eye is expensive — costing up to tens of thousands of dollars — and requires extensive training to use properly. Primary care physicians and emergency department staff often lack this equipment, and although it is readily available in ophthalmologists’ offices, it is sparse in rural areas throughout the world.

“Adapting smartphones for the eye has the potential to enhance the delivery of eye care — in particular, to provide it in places where it’s less accessible,” said Myung. “Whether it’s in the emergency department, where patients often have to wait a long time for a specialist, or during a primary-care physician visit, we hope that we can improve the quality of care for our patients, especially in the developing world where ophthalmologists are few and far between.”

“A picture is truly worth a thousand words,” he added. “Imagine a car accident victim arriving in the emergency department with an eye injury resulting in a hyphema — blood inside the front of her eye. Normally the physician would have to describe this finding in her electronic record with words alone. Smartphones today not only have the camera resolution to supplement those words with a high-resolution photo, but also the data-transfer capability to upload that photo securely to the medical record in a matter of seconds.

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sOccket: Power Through Play

In a fun example of appropriate technology and innovation 4 college students have created a football (soccer ball) that is charged as you play with it. The ball uses an inductive coil mechanism to generate energy, thanks in part to a novel Engineering Sciences course, Idea Translation. They are beta testing the ball in Africa: the current prototypes can provide light 3 hours of LED light after less than 10 minutes of play. Jessica Matthews ’10, Jessica Lin ’09, Hemali Thakkara ’11 and Julia Silverman ’10 (see photo) created the eco-friendly ball when they all were undergraduates at Harvard College.

photo of sOccket creators: Jessica Matthews, Jessica Lin, Hemali Thakkara and Julia Silverman

sOccket creators: Jessica Matthews, Jessica Lin, Hemali Thakkara and Julia Silverman

They received funding from: Harvard Institute for Global Health and the Clinton Global Initiative University. The

sOccket won the Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award, which recognizes the innovators and products poised to change the world. A future model could be used to charge a cell phone.

From Take part: approximately 1.5 billion people worldwide use kerosene to light their homes. “Not only is kerosene expensive, but its flames are dangerous and the smoke poses serious health risks,” says Lin. Respiratory infections account for the largest percentage of childhood deaths in developing nations—more than AIDS and malaria.

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Watch a June 2010 interview on the ball:
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Nikola Tesla – A Scientist and Engineer

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was born an ethnic Serb in the village of Smiljan, in the Austrian Empire (today’s Croatia), he was a subject of the Austrian Empire by birth and later became an American citizen. Nikoka Tesla studied electrical engineering at Technical University at Graz, Austria, and the University of Prague.

Tesla’s patents and theoretical work formed the basis of modern alternating current (AC) electric power systems, including the polyphase system of electrical distribution and the AC motor, which helped usher in the Second Industrial Revolution.

In 1882 he moved to Paris, to work as an engineer for the Continental Edison Company, designing improvements to electric equipment brought overseas from Edison’s ideas.
According to his autobiography, in the same year he conceived the induction motor and began developing various devices that use rotating magnetic fields for which he received patents in 1888.

He emigrated to the United States in 1884 and sold the patent rights to his system of alternating-current dynamos, transformers, and motors to George Westinghouse the following year.

In 1887, Tesla began investigating what would later be called X-rays using his own single terminal vacuum tubes.

Tesla introduced his motors and electrical systems in a classic paper, “A New System of Alternating Current Motors and Transformers” which he delivered before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1888. One of the most impressed was the industrialist and inventor George Westinghouse.

The Tesla coil, which he invented in 1891, is widely used today in radio and television sets and other electronic equipment. Among his discoveries are the fluorescent light , laser beam, wireless communications, wireless transmission of electrical energy, remote control, robotics, Tesla’s turbines and vertical take off aircraft. Tesla is the father of the radio and the modern electrical transmissions systems. He registered over 700 patents worldwide. His vision included exploration of solar energy and the power of the sea. He foresaw interplanetary communications and satellites.

“Within a few years a simple and inexpensive device, readily carried about, will enable one to receive on land or sea the principal news, to hear a speech, a lecture, a song or play of a musical instrument, conveyed from any other region of the globe.” – Nikola Tesla, “The Transmission of Electrical Energy without wires as a means for furthering Peace” in Electrical World and Engineer (7 January 1905)

“Money does not represent such a value as men have placed upon it. All my money has been invested into experiments with which I have made new discoveries enabling mankind to have a little easier life.” – Nikola Tesla

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Engineering: Cellphone Microscope

UCLA Professor Aydogan Ozcan‘s invention (LUCAS) enables rapid counting and imaging of cells without using any lenses even within a working cell phone device. He placed cells directly on the imaging sensor of a cell phone. The imaging sensor captures a holographic image of the cells containing more information than a conventional microscope. The CelloPhone received a Wireless Innovations Award from Vodafone

a wireless health monitoring technology that runs on a regular cell-phone would significantly impact the global fight against infectious diseases in resource poor settings such as in Africa, parts of India, South-East Asia and South America.

The CelloPhone Project aims to develop a transformative solution to these global challenges by providing a revolutionary optical imaging platform that will be used to specifically analyze bodily fluids within a regular cell phone. Through wide-spread use of this innovative technology, the health care services in the developing countries will significantly be improved making a real impact in the life quality and life expectancy of millions.

For most bio-medical imaging applications, directly seeing the structure of the object is of paramount importance. This conventional way of thinking has been the driving motivation for the last few decades to build better microscopes with more powerful lenses or other advanced imaging apparatus. However, for imaging and monitoring of discrete particles such as cells or bacteria, there is a much better way of imaging that relies on detection of their shadow signatures. Technically, the shadow of a micro-object can be thought as a hologram that is based on interference of diffracted beams interacting with each cell. Quite contrary to the dark shadows that we are used to seeing in the macro-world (such as our own shadow on the wall), micro-scale shadows (or transmission holograms) contain an extremely rich source of quantified information regarding the spatial features of the micro-object of interest.

By making use of this new way of thinking, unlike conventional lens based imaging approaches, LUCAS does not utilize any lenses, microscope-objectives or other bulk optical components, and it can immediately monitor an ultra-large field of view by detecting the holographic shadow of cells or bacteria of interest on a chip. The holographic diffraction pattern of each cell, when imaged under special conditions, is extremely rich in terms of spatial information related to the state of the cell or bacteria. Through advanced signal processing tools that are running at a central computer station, the unique texture of these cell/bacteria holograms will enable highly specific and accurate medical diagnostics to be performed even in resource poor settings by utilizing the existing wireless networks.

This is another great example of engineers creating technologically appropriate solutions.

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Bike Folds To Footprint of 1 Wheel

Inventor’s Bike Folds Into Its Own Wheel

Dominic Hargreaves‘s bike, The Contortionist, has been shortlisted for this year’s James Dyson Award for innovation. It may bag the young inventor £10,000.

The 24-year-old, from Battersea, London, said he wanted to create a decent folding bike after the one he was using collapsed. “I couldn’t find a folding bicycle I liked,” he added. “I wanted something that could take a bit of punishment and that you could have fun with. “So I made one myself.”

Mr Hargreaves has been in contact with various manufacturers and hopes to get the bike into production soon.

His bike lock system (see photo) won the Toyota IQ Awards.

Related: New Engineering School for EnglandCost Efficient Solar Dish by StudentsEngineering a Better World: Bike Corn-ShellerThe Glove – Engineering Coolness

1979 “iPod” Music Player

1979 music player patent application by Kane Kramer1979 music player patent drawings by Kane Kramer, from Gizmodo

Suspiciously Prescient Man Files Patent for iPod-Like Device in 1979 by Dan Nosowitz

Kane Kramer, an inventor by trade, came up with a gadget and music distribution service almost eerily similar to the iPod-iTunes relationship that predates it by three decades. The guy predicted details down to DRM and flash memory’s dominance.

Kramer’s device, the IXI, was flash-based, even though flash memory in 1979 only could have held about three minutes of audio, and featured a screen, four-way controls, and was about the size of a cigarette pack. Even weirder, he envisioned the creation and sale of digital music and foresaw all the good and bad that would come from this: No overhead, no inventory, but a great push for independent artists, with the risk of piracy looming large.

He predicted DRM, though he didn’t go into many specifics, and in his one concession to the time, guessed that music would be bought on coin-operated machines placed in high-traffic areas.

Related: Freeware Wi-Fi app turns iPod into a PhoneGoogle Patent Search Fun2008 Lemelson-MIT Prize for Invention

Moth Controlled Robot

photo of moth controlled robotPhoto of moth controlled robot from Ryohei Kanzaki’s bio-machine page. The moth is on top of the ping pong ball in the middle of the robot.

Japanese scientists to build robot insects

Ryohei Kanzaki, a professor at Tokyo University’s Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology, has studied insect brains for three decades and become a pioneer in the field of insect-machine hybrids.

His original and ultimate goal is to understand human brains and restore connections damaged by diseases and accidents – but to get there he has taken a very close look at insect “micro-brains”.

Insects’ tiny brains can control complex aerobatics such as catching another bug while flying, proof that they are “an excellent bundle of software” finely honed by hundreds of millions of years of evolution, Prof Kanzaki said.

In an example of ‘rewriting’ insect brain circuits, Prof Kanzaki’s team has succeeded in genetically modifying a male silkmoth so that it reacts to light instead of smell, or to the odour of a different kind of moth.

Such modifications could pave the way to creating a robo-bug which could in future sense illegal drugs several kilometres away, as well as landmines, people buried under rubble, or toxic gas, the professor said.

It is nice to be reminded of the cool research being done by professors all over the globe.

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Toyota Develops Thought-controlled Wheelchair

Toyota has developed a thought-controlled wheelchair (along with Japanese government research institute, RIKEN, and Genesis Research Institute). Honda has also developed a system that allows a person to control a robot through thoughts. Both companies continue to invest in innovation and science and engineering. The story of a bad economy and bad sales for a year or two is what you read in most newspapers. The story of why Toyota and Honda will be dominant companies 20 years from now is their superior management and focus on long term success instead of short term quarterly results.

The BSI-Toyota Collaboration Center, has succeeded in developing a system which utilizes one of the fastest technologies in the world, controlling a wheelchair using brain waves in as little as 125 milliseconds (one millisecond, or ms, is equal to 1/1000 seconds.

Plans are underway to utilize this technology in a wide range of applications centered on medicine and nursing care management. R&D under consideration includes increasing the number of commands given and developing more efficient dry electrodes. So far the research has centered on brain waves related to imaginary hand and foot control. However, through further measurement and analysis it is anticipated that this system may be applied to other types of brain waves generated by various mental states and emotions.

Related: Honda’s Robolegs Help People WalkReal-time control of wheelchairs with brain wavesToyota Winglet, Personal TransportationToyota RobotsMore on Non-Auto ToyotaHonda has Never had Layoffs and has been Profitable Every Year

The First Web Server

photo of the first web server

Photo by sbisson from Geneva, Switzerland, November 2006 .

In a glass case at CERN is an unpreposessing little NeXT cube. It’s hard to believe that this little workstation changed the world, but it did. It’s Tim Berners Lee‘s original web server, the world’s first.

NeXT is the computer company Steve Jobs founded after he left Apple. Then he left NeXT to buy out Pixar. And then, of course, went back to Apple.

Related: The Web is 15 Years OldThe Second 5,000 Days of the Web2007 Draper Prize to Berners-LeeGoogle Server Hardware Design

Automatic Dog Washing Machine

I think this is pretty cool; I’m sure some will object though. It was “designed by a team of veterinarians and engineers to clean the dog very very well. Its very very safe.” You probably can’t afford one for your house though: it cost $30,000. The
The Dog-Washing Machine is available in France and elsewhere, too (the video above is from Vancouver, Canada).

The brainchild of French entrepreneur Romain Jerry, the Dog’O’Matic takes about 30 minutes: 5 minutes for the actual washing with soft jets of water and a mild shampoo and an additional 25 minutes for drying with warm air.

A French reporter tried the invention with her own dog, and though the pooch initially tried to jump out of the machine, the dog quickly calmed down once the process started and completed the wash.

I imagine some will react emotionally that it must be mean because a machine sounds mean. I don’t really see why it must be mean. Plenty of people pay others to wash their dogs and the dogs jump around and bark and shake when they are getting lathered up. That isn’t cruel, I don’t see why this would be.

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A Whale of a Turbine

A whale of a turbine

a flipperlike prototype is generating energy on Canada’s Prince Edward Island, with twin, bumpy-edged blades knifing through the air. And this summer, an industrial fan company plans to roll out its own whale-inspired model – moving the same amount of air with half the usual number of blades and thus a smaller, energy-saving motor.

Some scientists were sceptical at first, but the concept now has gotten support from independent researchers, most recently some Harvard engineers who wrote up their findings in the respected journal Physical Review Letters.

when models of the bumpy flippers were tested in a wind tunnel, Fish and his colleagues found something interesting. The flippers could be tilted at a higher angle before stall occurred.

The scientific literature had scant reference to the flipper bumps, called tubercles. Fish reasoned that because the whale’s flippers remained effective at a high angle, the mammal was therefore able to manoeuvre in tight circles. In fact, this is how it traps its prey, surrounding smaller fish in a “net” of bubbles that they are unwilling to cross.

In 2004, along with engineers from the US Naval Academy and Duke University, Fish published hard data: Whereas a smooth-edged flipper stalled at less than 12 degrees, the bumpy, “scalloped” version did not stall until it was tilted more than 16 degrees – an increase of nearly 40 percent.

Fish then partnered with Canadian entrepreneur Stephen Dewar to start WhalePower, a Toronto-based company that licenses the technology to manufacturers.

It has all been a bit of a culture shock for Fish, who is more at home in the open world of academia than the more secretive realm of inventions and patents. Two decades ago, his only motivation was to figure out what the bumps were for.

“I sort of found something that’s in plain sight,” he says. “You can look at something again and again, and then you’re seeing it differently.”

Related: Finspiration, Whale-Inspired Wind TurbinesDeep-Sea Denizen Inspires New PolymersWind Power Technology BreakthroughEngineer Revolutionizing Icemakers

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