Tomorrow’s World #2

High-Tech on another level: As startups and innovations multiply apace, we take a look at the latest tech and its most interesting applications


Omni Present

What? An interactive system for gift-giving

Why? To share a moment

When? TBC – in testing

When the recipient of a gift opens its box, the light-activated Omni Present contacts the sender and lets them hear the reaction



What? A smart water bottle with its own app

Why? Perfect hydration

When? Pre-order now

Two Texan brothers who are “passionate about hydration” have, via a Kickstarter push, proved that a lot of other people are, too. Trago, their smart water bottle, knows how much you should be drinking. It links to a smartphone via Bluetooth and accurately measures and logs water intake against your calculated ideal for that day. It also takes factors like sleep, weather and exercise into account (it pairs with fitness wearables). Plus Trago predicts how much water you’ll need before a football match or marathon


Orbital Insight

Mabira Forest Reserve, Uganda: 27 nov 2001 (left), 25 Jan 2006 (right)

What? Technology that monitors deforestation

Why? To protect the world’s forests

When? Now  

Californian startup Orbital Insight has partnered with Global Forest Watch to create a system that monitors and flags up suspicious changes around forested areas, such as unexpected new roads. As the system’s neural network recognises more and increasingly detailed patterns, it will become more accurate at detecting changes and helping to prevent illegal deforestation



What? A bionic arm controlled by muscle signals and a smartphone

Why? To change people’s lives

When? In the near future

This is not a prop from a futuristic sci-fi movie – bionic limb technology is here, thanks to the wonders of 3D printing. Japanese company Exiii have developed this smart arm, which uses sensors to capture electric signals from the user’s muscle movement and translate them via a smartphone app. What’s more, the Handiii is expected to cost considerably less than a conventional prosthetic arm when it hits the market



What? A clever clock

Why? Relationship saver

When? Pre-order now

This alarm clock eases you into the day with a beam of light and gentle sounds that grow brighter and louder. But that’s not what makes this device essential for couples: controlled via a smartphone app, Waké’s heat sensor detects your exact location in bed, and its parametric speakers focus the alarm sounds in a narrow beam at you only – leaving your other half in peace. Plus it switches itself off when you get out of bed

A clever alarm clock that wakes you but leaves your partner undisturbed  



What? A digital micro-roaster

Why? For top-class coffee at home 

When? Next February

This digital micro-roaster takes home coffee-making to the next level: just download an app and roast a batch of IKAWA’s ‘green’ beans at the touch of a smartphone icon. Ten per cent of the revenue from the beans goes back to the farmers, too



What? An autonomous camera drone that does the arty close-ups for you

Why? So that all you need is your flying friend

When? Later this year

The brainchild of professional snowboarder and filmmaker Xavier De La Rue and tech team Squadrone System, Hexo+ removes the need for a second person to monitor the shots when filming action scenes with a camera drone. Simply select your preference (close-up, panoramic or circling flight) on the Hexo+ app and the drone keeps you in the frame by following your smartphone’s GPS signal


Life Paint

What? A reflective paint in a can that increases the visibility of cyclists to other road users at night

Why? To increase road safety and save people’s lives

When? Now 

“The best way to survive a crash is not to crash,” reads the strapline for Volvo’s latest innovation, and it’s hard to argue with that. The stats on the car company’s website reveal the bleak truth: every year in the UK, more than 19,000 cyclists are involved in accidents. With this in mind, Volvo have developed Life Paint, a spray that makes cyclists more visible to drivers at night. The paint, which contains reflective particles that are invisible by day but show up brightly under the glare of car headlights, can be sprayed onto bikes, clothing, helmets and bags – and even dog leads and collars. It lasts around a week, but can be washed off at any time, leaving no trace

Innovator: Vishal Sharma  

The former Google vice-president created one of the world‘s most complex virtual assistants in Google Now. But, says Sharma - currently working on a secret startup - the revolution is yet to come …

Vishal Sharma

Vishal Sharma, creator of Google Now

© Weinberg-Clark Photography

THE RED BULLETIN: Even the most advanced virtual PA can’t communicate in a convincingly human way. Why is that?

VISHAL SHARMA: There’s definitely a way to go. A virtual assistant has two choices when it doesn’t understand: it can make a joke out of it and distract you with a new conversation, or it can say, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you just said.”

So it’s all about speech recognition? 

Human language is so enormously flexible and expressive – there are millions of expressions and emotions. Virtual assistants try to break down the input and match it the best they can. Some people say speech recognition is a technology that’s always five years away. I’m not that pessimistic.

How do machines learn?

There are two different models. Say you want to teach a robot how to move: you could create some elements of movement in the robot and embed algorithms that tell it how to use them. Or there are self-learning robots: the robot is given abilities, but it doesn’t know what they are. So you give it a limb with three degrees of movement, then give it a task of getting a ball closer to a goal. The robot has to figure it out. Over time, it builds a model of its limb and what it can do. In some ways, the robot grows conscious of what it is.

What was the last tech that amazed you?

It happens constantly. When I’m late and my phone tells me about the traffic, it somehow predicts my future and that’s astounding. 

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09 2015 The Red Bulletin

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