(Pocket-lint) – Technology is constantly evolving, some of it is weird and wonderful, some thoroughly useful and capable of changing our lives for the better.
We’ve been on the lookout for some of the most interesting gadgets and gizmos from around the world. The tech we’ve found just scratches the surface of how incredible things can get.
Come with us on a journey of technological discovery and marvel at what’s on offer.
A plastic eating robot fish
Researchers at Sichuan University in China have been working on a fish-like robot which can absorb microplastics while it swims through water.
The plan is to use this sort of fish-bot to capture plastic pollutants in the ocean and transport them to a place they could be properly disposed of.
The bot can swim like a real fish and can even self-repair when damaged too. Perhaps in future, we’ll see schools of these fish cleaning up our planet’s oceans.
Warning lights for smartphone addicts
Smartphone addiction is a real thing and if you look there are plenty of examples of people getting hurt while not looking where they’re going because they’re too busy on their smartphone.
In Germany Stadtwerke Augsburg, a public-works provider is fitting experimental warning lights to the floor near pedestrian crossings. These lights are meant to catch the attention of smartphone users and potentially save their lives. A brilliant idea, but really something we shouldn’t need.
Sweat powered electricity
Engineers at the University of California San Diego have been working on a wearable device that uses sweat from your fingertip to generate small levels of electricity.
This tech is designed even to work when users are asleep. Touching your fingers on things also helps make more juice. So the engineers say that typing, texting or even playing the piano could help generate more energy.
Apparently, 10 hours of sleep wearing the device is enough to generate 400 millijoules of energy which in turn could power an electronic wristwatch for 24 hours.
This piece of tech doesn’t technically change lives, but it is a magnificent work of musical art.
A giant wooden machine that plays music using 2,000 marbles. It has to be seen and heard to enjoyed fully, so be sure to watch the video.
Hip’Safe fall protection airbags for seniors
As people get old and frail in later years, they often become prone to falls and tumbles that could potentially result in serious injuries.
Hip’Safe is a wearable airbag that’s designed to inflate when a fall is detected – resulting in protective air cushions softening the impact before the wearer hits the ground. A brilliant solution that could easily save lives and help keep the elderly safe across the world.
Seabin ocean pollution removal
Pollution of our oceans with plastic waste is an ever-growing problem. There are several different technologies being designed to help combat this issue by cleaning waste from the seas, Seabin is one such solution.
This simple bit of tech works like a drain, collecting rubbish as it washes over the rim of the bin. Similar, larger scale systems have been developed to cover bigger parts of the ocean and remove waste, but this is a brilliantly simple example that we love.
Touch hear text recognition
This technology actually dates back a few years now, but we liked it for the potential applications. Touch-hear text recognition reads words to you as you run your finger over them in a book.
Not sure how to pronounce a word? Need a translation? Need to find out more about a phrase on a page? The possible applications for this device are incredible. It could also theoretically improve lives for the visually impaired too.
Landmine removal drones
It is estimated that there are around 110,000,000 landmines deployed around the world in around 65 countries. These mines are left over from decades of wars and conflict. They cause over 6,000 casualties a year and it is thought that it will take nearly 1,000 years to clear them all with current methods.
That’s where Mine Kafon comes in. These are landmine removal drones designed to remove dangerous mines without putting people into harm’s way. Numerous drones have been built to help clear areas while keeping costs down – both financial and human. Making a better world for people in the regions and saving lives at the same time.
This gadget might be slightly more amusing, but still useful.
This invention from Japan is a simple tie for the humble businessman that just so happens to double up as a portable umbrella. Could come in handy when winter is on its way.
In Singapore, pedestrian safety is being improved through the use of glow-in-the-dark paths.
These areas are created using a mixture of materials including gravel, grass, concrete and non-toxic UV absorbing minerals.
The result is a path that absorbs light during the daytime and uses the UV rays to emit a safe glow at night. Simple safety for the masses – something everyone can appreciate.
A toy to help autistic children socialise
People with autism often suffer from issues in social situations struggling with normal emotional responses, but also interactions with others.
Difficulties include problems understanding gestures, facial expressions, simple direction and more. This can lead to issues with social skills that can make it hard for kids to make friends.
In steps Leka, a small interactive and multi-sensory toy built to engage with children and help them learn autonomy and life skills through interactive play. It’s also customisable and capable of being adapted to a child’s specific needs too.
Scientific advancements can be both astounding and terrifying in their potential at the same time. Embryologists from Cambridge University have been working on creating embryos using just stem cells.
These scientists discovered that placing stem cells carefully together could result in the cells communicating and lining up in an embryo-like manner. This self-organisation of cells shows a potential for synthetic embryos being created in the future without any sperm or egg. The next step? Artificial human embryos.
Jelly drops for Dementia
These simple little Jelly Drops were invented to solve a problem with dementia. Those suffering from dementia often have issues from memory loss and difficulties with everyday tasks including basic healthcare like drinking enough water. As a result, the sufferers can become unwell quite quickly due to dehydration.
Lewis Hornby set about solving this problem, first by sensory deprivation techniques and virtual reality tools to experience what life might be like for the elderly suffering with these problems, then by researching how to create super-hydrating foods.
Jelly Drops are the result. These colourful drops are made from 90 per cent water and include extra ingredients to further support hydration. They’re flavoured and coloured to make them more enticing and testing found people with dementia were more likely to eat lots of them than remember to drink water. The life-saving potential for this simple solution speaks for itself.
Edible aid drones
There’s no better altruistic tech use than disaster relief – putting gadgets to work to aid those most in need during desperate times is the ultimate human endeavour.
We’ve seen technologies employed in different ways to help save and aid people in regions that have been hit by natural disasters (tsunamis for example), but this is one of the most interesting.
The Pouncer is an inexpensive drone that’s designed to be able to reach remote disaster areas where roads are blocked or impassable. The drone can not only deliver life-saving resources but is also capable of having its wings stuffed with food to provide sustenance for those in need. The frame can also be deconstructed and used for firewood, while coverings can be used for shelter. A brilliant design concept.
Glasses that help the colourblind see colour
Colourblindness is a problem that affects 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women – meaning roughly three million people in the UK alone are colourblind as are millions more around the world.
The condition is caused by the way the retinal cone cells respond to light and how the brain interprets the information it sees. Usually, this is due to having an overlapping response to lightwaves making it hard to distinguish between colours.
A simple solution came about after over a decade of research and testing in the form of EnChroma sunglasses. These glasses have lenses that selectively remove particular wavelengths of light to counter the overlap problem. They, therefore, allow wears to see colours as a normally sighted person would or at least get a more vivid and colourful view of the world.
See the reaction of a first-time wearer here.
Augmented reality glasses that help the blind see
These are augmented reality glasses designed to help the visually impaired to see like never before.
Researchers at Oxford University worked on the development of these smart glasses. The glasses are made to help people who have some sight loss by giving them information about their surroundings to help them go about their everyday lives.
This tech essentially allows wearers to get a better view of the world and help them live life to the fullest. It is hoped that these smart glasses well help transform many lives in the future.
Sonic fire extinguisher
In 2017, researchers at George Mason University were experimenting with new technologies to deal with fire. They discovered that the right sounds, namely heavy bass, could work well when putting fires out. In future, this technology could be used by firefighters to avoid water waste while saving lives.
Solar panel roads and heated roadways
Roads, roads, everywhere. Tarmac is so old-school now though. Some clever boffins have come up with the idea of replacing standard roadways with photovoltaic solar panels encased in textured glass. The idea has actually been tested in several Countries include the US and France.
The concept aimed at helping generate electricity for the national grid, while also providing safe roads for drivers. The panels are textured and heated preventing problems with ice and snow in the colder months. This theoretically makes roads both more ecological and safer too.
Researchers at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, have managed to create a material that can be used with regular house bricks to turn them into energy storing devices.
Using a conducting coating, known as Pedot, the bricks essentially become a supercapacitor that are apparently able to “store a substantial amount of energy.” Combined with solar panels they could be used to store and distribute electricity in interesting and useful ways.
Robotic guide dogs
Scientists are working on a mix of robotic and AI technology with the aim of replacing guide dogs with intelligent robots. These bots could help steer visually impaired people around obstacles in the real world and help them get about safely too.
Robot guide dogs won’t need expensive training or the regular care that a normal dog would though they won’t be as cuddly.
Sweat powered tech
Scientists at the University of Glasgow have been working on a flexible type of supercapacitor which uses sweat to power devices.
The material absorbs the user’s sweat and then uses the positive and negative ions contained within that to generate energy. That energy can then be used to power smartwatches and the like.
Solar glass panels
Solar panels are great, but what if everyday glass windows could generate electricity?
That’s been the goal of researchers at the University of Michigan who have been working on transparent window material that can generate energy. With enough of this glass installed, the researchers suggested that the US could generate 40 per cent of its electricity from these windows.
A venom extractor
Here’s a nicely simple bit of life-saving technology – a pump which can be used to remove dangerous venoms from wounds. Snake bites could easily be treated in very quick time.
This is a concept of an Ambulance Drone which would be used to deliver a defibrillator system to heart attack victims.
The idea is the drone could quickly get to people in need and to deliver equipment, then the drone pilot could talk the people on scene through how to use the life-saving tech.
Plastic eating microbots
Plastic waste is a serious problem. It’s causing all sorts of issues for our environment and for marine life as it makes its way into the oceans.
Now researchers from the University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague have begun a study using self-propelled microrobots designed to clear up the waste. These bots are said to be about the size of a red blood cell and are able to use solar power to move while destroying microplastics as they go.
Let’s hope it pays off. In this photo you can see the bots in action. The microbots are seen as blue dots. They are using visible light to break down the dangerous plastics and clean up the environment. Impressive stuff.
Glow in the dark plants
A team of engineers at MIT has been working on creating glowing plants to take the place of street lamps and other nighttime lights in cities around the world.
The idea here is to create a passive lighting source that would help reduce light pollution and the impact bright night lighting has on both human and animal sleep cycles.
A printed vaccine patch
A team from Stanford University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have crafted a 3D printed vaccine patch which they say gives an immune response ten times greater than a vaccine delivered into an arm muscle with a needle.
Obviously, it has many other benefits too. It can be self-administered and is a great solution for those who hate the idea of needles.
Bots inspired by starfish larva
Researchers at ETH Zurich have been working on tiny bots that move in the same way as starfish larva.
These bots are able to move by sound waves and their design includes tiny hairs used to influence the fluid surrounding them. This enables them to move accurately and in a way that will make it possible to use them for accurate drug delivery.
This technology is thought to have interesting use cases including delivery of life-saving drugs to hard-to-reach places inside the human body in the near future.
Solar panels that work at night
Stanford engineers Sid Assawaworrarit and his colleagues have been working on technology that uses solar panels to generate electricity at night.
This works by outfitting standard solar panels with thermoelectric generators. At night solar panels emit infrared radiation and on a clear night, this process actually cools the solar panels to temps lower than the surrounding air. It’s this difference in temperature that researchers have been harnessing to generate fifty milliwatts for every square meter of solar panel.
The science behind it is pretty fascinating and could represent an exciting change for the future of energy generation.
Writing by Adrian Willings.