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Braingate

The mission of Braingate is to restore communication, mobility, and independence by creating neurotechnologies for people with neurologic disease, injury, or limb loss. Their team consists of physicians, scientists, and engineers.

Recently they helped a paralyzed woman pick up a cup and take a drink using a robotic arm controlled by her brain. See the video below for details.

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A Light Powered by Gravity

The kerosene lamp is widely used in developing countries to provide light. Jim Reeves and Martin Ridiford have been looking for a better solution. Initially they set out to create a light powered by solar energy, buy they discovered something even better. The light powered by gravity that they created will cost under $10 and have no running costs. A village’s investment will be payed off within 3 months of using the light instead of purchasing kerosene and will have no cost from that moment into the future.

How does Gravitylight work? A plastic belt hangs from the device and attaches to a bag, filled with something like dirt or rocks. When the bag is lifted up to the device it slowly lowers the bag to power the LED bulb. It can provide up to 30 minutes of light before the bag needs to be raised up again. See the video for a demonstration. Learn more on their successful Indiegogo project page or deciwatt.org.

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ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

You have probably seen videos of people dumping a bucket of ice water on their head in your social media feeds. It has proven to be an extremely effective way to raise money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Here’s how it works. Someone with a bucket of ice water challenges three people to either dump a bucket of ice water on their head within 24 hours or donate $100 to a ALS charity. That person then dumps the bucket of ice water on their own head to complete the challenge that was previously extended to them and donate $10 to a ALS charity of their choice.

The first video of the Ice Bucket Challenge was created by Jeanette Hane Senerchia on July 16th, 2014 to raise awareness for ALS on behalf of Anthony Senerchia Jr. It appears that the challenge was popularized by Boston College baseball player Pete Frates on Twitter, who also has ALS. There are now more than 1.2 million Ice Bucket Challenge videos on Facebook alone.

Even celebrities including Aaron Rodgers, Conan O’Brien, Justin Timberlake, Jeff Bezos, as well as the Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page have accepted the challenge. Yesterday Mark Zuckerberg challenged Bill Gates who took it to another level. Oprah is getting ready today to take the challenge. To see a running list of celebrities accepting the challenge check out Ice Bucket Challenge on Wikipedia.

How well is it all working? Awareness has obviously increased, new ALS donors total 150,000 as of yesterday, and 5.5 million in donations have come in since July 29th.

To donate or learn more visit the ALS Association.

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New Microchip Inspired by the Brain

For six years IBM has been attempting to engineer a microchip that is inspired by the brain. Named TrueNorth, it has “one million individually programmable neurons–sixteen times more than the current largest neuromorphic chip.” It also contains 256 million programmable synapses. The architecture breaks from the von-Neumann structure of today’s computers. That traditional structure is good for logic tasks, similar to the left side of the brain, while TrueNorth processes sensory data and recognizes patterns, similar to the right side of the brain. The goal is to combine the capabilities of both sides into one processor.

The architecture can solve a wide class of problems from vision, audition, and multi-sensory fusion, and has the potential to revolutionize the computer industry by integrating brain-like capability into devices where computation is constrained by power and speed.

All of this and it only uses about 70 milliwatts of power for its 5.4 billion transistors. Other processors with 1.4 billion transistors use about 140 watts. Learn more on IBM’s blog: Introducing a Brain-inspired Computer.

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A Smog Eating Roof for $5

A cheap coating applied to roofs can make big difference for the environment. How much smog can it eat? Each year it could “remove the same amount of nitrogen oxides as a car emits when driving 11,000 miles.” Other chemical solutions do exist but they are not this inexpensive.

The titanium dioxide in the coating strips the harmful elements from the smog and rain will wash the harmless remains away. If this coating is applied to a million roofs, 21 tons of nitrogen oxides would be eaten each day. To learn more, see Co.Exist’s article, Delicious: With A $5 Investment, Your Roof Could Start Eating Smog.

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Apple has been well known for their ad campaigns throughout the years. One thing that I think they do really well is highlight what their devices can do for people instead of solely talking about the device’s specifications. I was immediately impressed with their latest ad, which has a great emotional value to it. Apple users love their devices and personalize them to make them their own.

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The Tree of 40 Fruit

Through the process of grafting, Sam Van Aken has created a tree that produces forty different types of fruit. To see a picture of the tree and learn more, check out his website.

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Uber and Lyft Announce Carpooling Option

Uber and Lyft allow people to use their own cars to make money by giving strangers rides to wherever they would like to go. Some people work full time as drivers while others clock in whenever they have time to provide rides, which creates a good micro job option for those with other careers.

This service has upset traditional taxi companies that are seeing a decrease in rides as they go to the new and trendy companies.

This week Uber announced UberPool and Lyft announced Lyft Line. The idea is essentially the same. If you are going in the same direction as another person using the service, you can split the fare by carpooling together. Uber estimates savings up to 40% by using this new option and Lyft estimates savings up to 60%.

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In my quest for finding wireless earbuds (earphones) I stumbled across a couple Kickstarter projects. One was simply what I was looking for and the other was even better. An ENT (Ear, Nose, & Throat) doctor named Eric Hensen came up with wireless earbuds that do so much more.

Some of the features include:

  • Similar exercise metrics of other tracking devices (e.g. calories, distance, etc.).
  • A built in heart rate monitor that can get that information from your ear.
  • Other biofeedback metrics like O2 saturation.
  • Depending are where you are exercising, you can adjust the volume to allow for environmental sounds (e.g passing cars, bikes, etc.) to get through.
  • Audible feedback about what you are doing.

They have almost met their goal. Check out the FreeWavz Kickstarter project.

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American Experience: Silicon Valley

Finished watching a PBS show called American Experience: Silicon Valley. It is the story of how the beautiful Santa Clara Valley filled orchards quickly became filled with technology companies, start-ups and entrepreneurs. A group of several men decide to break from the norm of joining a company and staying for their whole career to take a chance on their own ideas. They end up changing the world as we know it. Check it out on PBSNetflix, or Amazon.

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