Night Vision Contact Lenses

University of Michigan engineering researchers have developed infrared technology that doesn’t need bulky cooling equipment to work.

“We can make the entire design super-thin,” said Zhaohui Zhong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. “It can be stacked on a contact lens or integrated with a cell phone.”

Infrared light starts at wavelengths just longer than those of visible red light and stretches to wavelengths up to a millimeter long. Infrared vision may be best known for spotting people and animals in the dark and heat leaks in houses, but it can also help doctors monitor blood flow, identify chemicals in the environment and allow art historians to see Paul Gauguin’s sketches under layers of paint.

Unlike the visible spectrum, which conventional cameras capture with a single chip, infrared imaging requires a combination of technologies to see near-, mid- and far-infrared radiation all at once. Still more challenging, the mid-infrared and far-infrared sensors typically need to be at very cold temperatures.

Graphene, a single layer of carbon atoms, could sense the whole infrared spectrum—plus visible and ultraviolet light. But until now, it hasn’t been viable for infrared detection because it can’t capture enough light to generate a detectable electrical signal. With one-atom thickness, it only absorbs about 2.3% of the light that hits it. If the light can’t produce an electrical signal, graphene can’t be used as a sensor.

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Google Glass for Fitness

I am not a big fan of Google Glass or running (basketball is my sport, and I also swim to stay in shape) but this is a pretty cool product combining those two things (you can also use it for biking and skiing): Race Yourself.

You can have your previous runs added into your view using Google Glass. This product is in development.

Related: Fast HovercraftSelf Balancing Enclosed MotorcycleTry on Clothes and Accessories Virtually

Turn Windows Into Sound Cancelling Filters

Sono is a conceptual gadget to turn windows into sound cancelling filters (similar to noise cancelling headphones). A microphone listens to noise coming in and then a speaker sends out sound waves to cancel the noises that have been set to cancel. In this way they are even cooler than noise cancelling headphones as you can tune the filter to let in birds singing and filter out car alarms, etc.

diagram of pieces of the sono device

Very cool, I hope this becomes a gadget we can buy (it is only conceptual now). Read more at Dyson design award site.

Noise canceling works not by blocking sound but by using properties of the wave pattern of sound to send sound waves that add to the existing sound waves to effectively eliminate the sound wave – thus we don’t hear anything. This is know as Active noise control or active noise reduction. It isn’t blocking the noise but adding other sound waves that combine with the noise you want to filter to eliminate the sound wave – it actually doesn’t eliminate it, as countering the sound wave exactly is not likely possible, but it results in a very limited sound.

Active noise reduction is best for low frequency sound (due to the nature of waves – low frequency has longer wave lengths). My guess is this will mean this product has difficulty blocking high frequency sound nearly as well as it will do with low frequency sounds.

Related: Gadgets to Mask Noise and Help You Sleep or ConcentrateDealing with Noise Pollution in Your CondoZeo Personal Sleep ManagerUniversal Translator on the Way

Celluon Magic Cube Laser Projection Keyboard and Touchpad

image of laser keyboard

Keyboard projected onto desktop using a laser

The Celluon Magic Cube turns any table or surface into a virtual keyboard or multi-touch mouse with its amazing laser projection and motion detection technology. The Magic Cube is smaller than a pack of cards – easy to use, and a great travel companion projection keyboard for mobile, tablet, and laptop devices. Do read the reviews on Amazon, it isn’t so much magic as a bit of cool engineering that might be a bit ahed of ready for prime time. Still if you like to try cutting edge gadgets and are willing to accept the drawbacks they sometimes have, this might be worth looking into.

  • Projects a virtual laser keyboard onto any table and detects keystrokes. The experience of typing on a projected keyboard is different than a standard keyboard. Projects a condensed QWERTY layout. The Magic Cube detects movement just above the surface of each projected key. Practice using included tips is recommended. Devices with automatic keystroke correction, like the iPad, iPhone, and iPod improve accuracy significantly.
  • Acts as a standard keyboard via Bluetooth (wireless) or USB (wired)–no drivers needed
  • Great companion wireless keyboard for tablets and touch phones. Small. Light. Charges via USB
  • Compatible with Win XP SP2+, Mac 10.4+, iOS 4.3.5+ (iPhone/iPod/iPad), etc
  • Mouse mode projects a standard two-finger multi-touch pad (Windows 7 only. Not iOS capable)
  • Related: Self Balancing Enclosed MotorcycleWearable Computer with Projection and Gesture RecognitionResearching Direct Brain Interfaces for Text Entry

Wearable Computer with Projection and Gesture Recognition

Pattie Maes presentation at TED shows a very cool prototype for wearable, useful computing spearheaded by Pranav Mistry (who received a standing ovation at TED). It’s a wearable device with a projector that paves the way for profound interaction with our environment.

The prototype of the system cost only $350. The software, created by them, obviously is the key, but how amazing is that, $350 for the hardware used in the prototype! There is a useful web site on the Sixth Sense project.

The SixthSense prototype is comprised of a pocket projector, a mirror and a camera. The hardware components are coupled in a pendant like mobile wearable device. Both the projector and the camera are connected to the mobile computing device in the user’s pocket. The projector projects visual information enabling surfaces, walls and physical objects around us to be used as interfaces; while the camera recognizes and tracks user’s hand gestures and physical objects using computer-vision based techniques.

The software program processes the video stream data captured by the camera and tracks the locations of the colored markers (visual tracking fiducials) at the tip of the user’s fingers using simple computer-vision techniques. The movements and arrangements of these fiducials are interpreted into gestures that act as interaction instructions for the projected application interfaces. The maximum number of tracked fingers is only constrained by the number of unique fiducials, thus SixthSense also supports multi-touch and multi-user interaction.