Catching Up With Tech, Part 1

The following is the first of a two-part series looking at some brief technology articles you may have missed, but should take a second look at in order to be aware of what is on the technology horizon, or at least be in the know when someone brings the topic up at a party or on Facebook.  The second part will appear next month.

Let Your Fingers Do the Reading

MSN News recently reported on a new device that is being developed at MIT, a finger-based audio reading system for the blind and visually impaired.  The device is a ring that slips on the reader’s index finger and uses a camera to scan text that is then converted into spoken word, making it easy to read items such as signs, menus, and forms.  The FingerReader also makes it easier for the visually impaired to be able to access reading materials in a timely manner, instead of having to wait for a service to convert text of items such as magazines and newspapers into audio versions, a task that can sometimes take a day or more under the best circumstances.  The device also features vibration and audio clues to help the reader stay on the page and in line with the text on the page.  The FingerReader can even read off of screens, such as an eReader or computer monitor, but the designers admit that touchscreens pose a problem and they are working on possible solutions to make the device more compatible with touch devices.  Finally, the prototypes have been manufactured using 3D printers, so it may be possible to obtain one that is custom-fit to the user’s finger once the prototype is finalized into a final working design, following testing that is currently being done with a group of visually impaired beta testers.

All About LED Bulbs

The mainstream media did a very good job of covering new energy regulations banning the sale of convention incandescent light bulbs starting in 2013, but very little has been made of the expanded ban going into effect this year.  Previously, only 75- and 100-watt bulbs were banned, but the new regulations have added in 40- and 60-watt bulbs.  While it is still possible to purchase specialty bulbs for certain fixtures and appliances, the majority of lighting fixtures need to be switched over to either CFL or LED lights.  Green America does a nice job of explaining the ban and breaking down the pros and cons of the CFL and LED lighting options.  Keep in mind, however, that the article is dated 2010 and does not take into consideration the newest LED bulb models, which are designed to be more like a traditional incandescent and can be offered in more varieties than the CFL.  The newer LEDs are also less expensive than the original versions that came out four years ago.  For more details on the newest in LED lighting and how much the bulbs have improved over the last few years, check out the article from Fox News comparing LEDs and CFLs.

Reheat and Count Calories

As America becomes more conscious about fitness, technology has been changing to meet new exercise, sleep and eating goals.  New items like fitness trackers and watches with built-in heart monitors can do everything from track pulse rate to the quality of your sleep.  Now, GE is developing a new plate that uses microwaves to count the number of calories on the dish.  The dome, as reported by c|net, uses feedback from the microwaves to measure the amount of fat and water in the food, giving a pretty accurate calorie count on the display at the top of the dish’s dome.

A Spoon for Parkinson’s

Late last year, Fast Company reported on a new spoon that has been developed to help patients with Parkinson’s and Essential Tremor.  The spoon uses accelerometers like those found in cell phones and video game controllers to detect if the user’s hand is trembling and then engages a set of actuators in the spoon to counteract the trembling, making it easier to eat without spilling soup or other liquid-based food.  If the spoon is a hit, perhaps a fork and knife may not be far behind.

- Laura N.

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