Live-streamers, listen up! If you’ve been dreaming of giving your viewers a better viewing experience the Insta360 Nano S iPhone VR Camera is here to help. It attaches right to your iPhone and is currently available for just $199 via New Atlas Deals.

If you want to keep your followers, friends and family in the loop, Insta360 is the perfect solution.The lightweight camera connects to your lightning port and instantly transforms your iPhone into a 360-degree video camera, while letting you share to social media with just a touch.

Friends and family will feel like they’re there with you thanks to the immersive, real-time view Insta360 gives on video chat. And if you’re a fan of Facebook or Instagram live, followers won’t miss a beat thanks to Insta360’s ability to capture everything in just one shot. Insta360 even counteracts wobbles and shakes with its super-accurate gyroscope, ensuring smooth footage at 4K quality.

Hoping to create VR content? Insta360 does that too! And it even lets you show it off on social media or text with one touch.

Turn Your iPhone Into A 360° Camera With This Attachment [New Atlas]

What if running at the gym could produce more than just sweat? A new treadmill from SportsArt creates electricity from the user’s kinetic energy, banking renewable power with each step.

The Verde treadmill generates up to 200 watts of electricity per hour through a micro-inverter built inside the machine. These tiny devices are also used in solar panels and wind turbines to convert the harnessed direct current (DC) power into an alternating current (AC) that can be sent to the grid. With the Verde, gyms could theoretically produce some of their own energy — and some already are.

“We’re excited to be bringing the world’s first energy producing treadmill to market and to continue trailblazing the green fitness space,” Ivo Grossi, CEO of SportsArt America, said in a press release this spring.

“It’s always been important for us to create quality equipment that will appeal to the largest fitness market demographic –  the millennials. At SportsArt, we are committed to constantly revolutionizing the fitness industry with our green initiatives and have worked hard to perfect these new products.”

In addition to the Verde, SportsArt also offers the N685 treadmill. While both treadmills harness electricity from their users’ pounding feet, the Verde draws a small amount of power through its plug. The N685, on the other hand, is completely non-motorized and self-powered.

But the treadmills are not SportsArt’s first foray into green gym technology. The company has a whole range of energy-producing gym equipment. The appropriately named ECO-POWR line includes seven different stationary bikes, three elliptical machines, and a combination elliptical-stepper cross-trainer.

This equipment has already helped gyms reduce their reliance on dirty power sources. The Eco Gym in Rochester, for instance, switched to 100 percent renewable energy by stocking some of the bikes and ellipticals — and supplementing the rest of their power needs with rooftop solar panels and small wind turbines.

Now the Verde treadmills are hitting gyms worldwide. Sacramento Eco Fitness added the Verde to its roster of SportsArt equipment in April, while the Eco Gym in Brighton, U.K., ordered some this September.

In addition to its unique energy features, the Verde comes with smart brake technology, electronic speed and resistance control, and a USB port that lets users charge devices as they run. It can be paired with an app to track your workout — so you can see how many calories you’ve burned, on top of all the power you’ve produced.

This Treadmill Generates Electricity As You Jog [Green Matters]

It’s not just big names in footwear like Adidas, Reebok and Puma that have been making strides to attract eco-conscious consumers of late, a new company launched last year to market shoes made from algae and a UK startup Rothy knitted its shoes from yarn made from recycled bottles. Germany’s eco-lux footwear brand nat-2 has been making sustainable footwear for a few years, and has now launched some sneakers made from recycled coffee, with some recycled plastic bottles thrown in for good measure.

nat-2 has previously launched footwear made using tree fungus, real stone, hay/grass/flowers and sustainable wood. As the name suggests, the sneakers in the company’s new Coffee line feature uppers fashioned from “sustainable recycled coffee, coffee beans and coffee plant.”

The unisex sneakers are handmade in Italy and have been designed not to look like “the usual eco stuff.” And the company says that wearers can even look forward to a familiar whiff of coffee as they walk along.

Coffee is reported to make up about half of the material used in the uppers, depending on the style selected, with the suede-like material actually coming from recycled PET bottles. The glue is animal-free, the outsoles are made from real rubber and the anti-bacterial, padded insoles are made using cork.

The 100 percent vegan-friendly nat-2 Coffee Line commands a luxury price tag of €390 (about US$445) per pair.

Luxury sneaker maker wants you to wrap your feet in recycled coffee [New Atlas]

A new smart clothing line promises to help you get your yoga moves right when you’re at home and without an instructor. It’s called Pivot Yoga and it claims to give feedback through small sensors on the clothes that can tell you whether you’re in the right position.

“We know how hard it is to learn yoga, how much yogis want to improve, and how many yogis want to practice at home,” Joe Chamdani, who’s the CEO and co-founder of TuringSense, the developer behind Pivot Yoga, said in a press release.

The Pivot Yoga clothes are supposed to “look, feel, breathe, wash, and perform” like regular yoga clothes, but also maintain a wireless connection to the company’s mobile app. You can take online yoga classes through the app and the sensors will insert a “live avatar” of your body into the video so you can easily compare your movements with the teacher’s.

The app has voice control capabilities so you’re supposed to be able to tell it to pause and start again. The app will say, “Garments detected,” and then you can command it to start by saying, “Begin.” You address the smartphone’s voice assistant by saying, “Pivot, how’s this look?” and the assistant will respond to correct your posture with lines like, “Move your right knee six inches.” You can also cast the app to an Apple TV, any compatible Chromecast device, a Samsung TV from 2013 or newer, or connect it directly via HDMI.

While the premise of the app and clothes sounds like it’d be a huge boon to yogis, it’s difficult to see how the sensors are able to give accurate readings of a body’s movements while the body is in motion. Pivot tells The Verge, “It’s a big challenge, since every yogi’s body is different, and a good question. We’ve designed the clothes so that sensor movement is relatively rare. And we’re designing the clothes and the entire system so that any remaining sensor movement is handled automatically.”

That seems to imply the clothes stay relatively still while a person is moving, which might not be the most comfortable fit, and definitely means that Pivot is constrained from offering a wide variety of sizes. (Indeed, the clothes are available in XS to XL, but there’s no sizing chart to indicate the precise ranges these sizes run.)

The clothes charge by Micro USB and run on 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi. They’re made of aluminum, leather, fabric, and plastic. There’s a non-replaceable battery that gives roughly five hours of continuous use, according to Pivot. You’re able to machine wash the clothes in cold water, but you cannot put them in the dryer.

Pivot costs $99 for the top and pants, and the online videos cost $19 per month. The app is only available on iOS 11 or higher for iPhone 7 and up, although the company says an Android version is “expected later.” Preorders are now available, and they’re currently only open to residents in the US and Canada. Pivot tells The Verge the clothes can be expected to ship in spring 2019.

Carbohydrates have been developing a rather bad reputation as the 21st century has progressed. From low-carb/high-fat diets to more restrictive ketogenic regimes, it seems the growing consensus has simply become “carbs are bad.” However, a new study from the University of Sydney suggests a low-protein/high-carb diet can promote healthy aging and improve brain health, perhaps even slowing the onset of dementia.

The research was spawned by the observation that, while we have a large volume of evidence pointing to the many benefits of caloric restriction, it may not be the most sustainable dietary recommendation for many people in the modern world.

“We have close to 100 years of quality research extolling the benefits of calorie restriction as the most powerful diet to improve brain health and delay the onset of neurodegenerative disease in rodents,” says Devin Wahl, lead author on the new study. “However, the majority of people have a hard time restricting calories, especially in Western societies where food is so freely available.”

The new study, conducted in mice, compared the effects of four different diets that varied in protein and carbohydrate content against a standard 20 percent caloric restriction diet. The results found that a diet low in protein but high in complex carbohydrates resulted in comparable brain aging benefits to caloric restriction.

The research examined behavioral and cognitive differences between each diet using spatial awareness and memory tests, but only modest improvements were observed. The most dramatic effects the researchers found came when they studied the changes in gene expression, particularly in the hippocampus.

“The hippocampus is usually the first part of the brain to deteriorate with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s,” explains senior author on the study, David Le Couteur. “However, the low-protein high-carbohydrate diet appeared to promote hippocampus health and biology in the mice, on some measures to an even greater degree than those on the low-calorie diet.”

The results follow on from several prior studies from the University of Study revealing low-protein/high carbohydrate diets to be comparable to low-calorie diets in promoting cardiovascular health and extending lifespan. The correlation between healthy brain aging and a small volume of carbohydrate consumption is also one echoed by other research, particularly a study from 2008 finding that low-carb diets can impair cognition.

The research also compellingly mirrors a huge amount of study affirming the health benefits of diets rich in complex carbohydrates and low in protein, such as those seen in the Mediterranean and some parts of Japan.

“The traditional diet of Okinawa is around nine percent protein, which is similar to our study, with sources including lean fish, soy and plants, with very little beef,” says Le Couteur. “Interestingly, one of their main sources of carbohydrate is sweet potato.”

So while this study isn’t suggesting all carbohydrates are good and we should go crazy on the bread and pasta, it is a reminder that healthy eating isn’t as simple as just saying fat is good and carbs are bad. Instead, a well-rounded and healthy diet is a little more complicated, much to the chagrin of those looking for a straightforward and easy diet plan.

Not all carbs are bad: Study shows high-carb diets can promote healthy brain aging [New Atlas]

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, approximately 15 percent of diabetics will develop chronic foot ulcers. A large percentage of those people will in turn require amputations. Help could be on the way, though … in the form of a rubber insole.

Developed at Indiana’s Purdue University, the prototype two-layered insole is made of polydimethylsiloxane, which is a type of silicone. Its bottom layer is actually a chamber that contains oxygen gas, while the top layer is laser-ablated to be particularly oxygen-permeable right at the point where the ulcer is located.

The idea is that as the wearer walks throughout the day, placing pressure upon the insole, oxygen is continuously forced out of the bottom layer, up through the top layer and into the oxygen-deprived tissue of the ulcer – there, it helps accelerate healing. Even when they’re sitting, the patient’s foot will still exert enough pressure to deliver some oxygen to the wound.

Based on simulations, it is estimated that the present prototype could provide oxygen under the pressure of a person weighing 53 to 81 kg (117 to 179 lb) for at least eight hours. That said, the permeability of the insoles could be tweaked to accommodate patients of different weights.

And while the prototype was created from a mould via a laser-machining process, it is hoped that packs of the insoles could ultimately be 3D-printed for individual patients based on photos of the soles of their feet (see image above). Those patients could then stay mobile and go about their daily duties, while also treating their ulcers. By contrast, traditional hyperbaric oxygen therapy requires them to remain immobile for extended periods of time.

The team is now looking for corporate partners to help commercialize the patent-pending technology. Clinical trials on diabetic patients are also in the works.

Oxygen-dispensing insole designed to treat diabetic ulcers [New Atlas]

In many New Hampshire towns, residents pay a premium for their waste. Since the 1990s, the state has embraced “pay-as-you-throw” trash programs, which charge locals $1-2 for their trash bags. The bags come in different sizes, but they are the only bags the garbage haulers will collect, so they naturally encourage residents to waste less.

The state capital of Concord adopted this system in 2009, following at least 35 other New Hampshire communities who had enacted similar policies long ago. The city of Dover, for instance, has been paying for throwing since 1991.

But do these pay-as-you-throw programs actually work? According to new research, yes. The University of New Hampshire recently studied 34 programs across the state and found that they significantly reduced trash disposal rates — in some cases, by more than 50 percent.

The UNH researchers evaluated the waste programs of 180 New Hampshire towns, representing 90 percent of the state’s population. The 34 towns with pay-as-you-throw programs saw waste disposal rates drop by 42 to 54 percent compared to towns without trash pricing. These towns averaged only 780 pounds of annual waste per household, while the towns without pay-as-you-throw programs generated an average 1511 pounds.

“Households respond to economic incentives,” John Halstead, a UNH professor of natural resources and the environment, said in a press release. “With unit-based pricing, the cost to the household may increase to dispose of trash, but the incentive to recycle is greater.”

The research was published in the Agricultural and Resource Economics Review earlier this year, with Halstead listed as one of three authors. (Ju-Chin Huang, a UNH professor of economics, and Christopher Wright, an adjunct professor for Montana State University, also worked on the report.)

The men studied data from 2008 to reach their conclusions, which was, as they note, a year of recession. Analysis from previous years showed “smaller impacts,” leading the researchers to wonder if the results were skewed by the economy.

Accordingly, the report recommends additional research on the impact of trash pricing over time, as well as their effect on recycling rates. While pay-as-you-throw programs are usually associated with a spike in recycling, the researchers did not find a statistically significant difference in recycling rates between New Hampshire towns with and without the programs.

Pay-as-you-throw has gained traction in cities and towns outside the Granite State. The last EPA reporton the subject found 7,095 “PAYT” communities in America. They were especially popular in Oregon, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, and New Hampshire — all states where the percentage of PAYT communities was 75 percent or higher. And they’re incredibly old news in some areas, which have been charging for trash since the 1970s.

New Hampshire’s Pay-As-You-Throw Programs Are Reducing Waste By 50 Percent [Green Matters]

Keurig is best known for popularizing the coffee pod machine, designed to make your morning cuppa joe more convenient. But realizing it’s always five o’clock somewhere, the company is now taking the concept out on the town with the Drinkworks Home Bar, which cooks up cocktails (or beer and cider, for some reason) from the same kind of premixed pods.

At a glance, the Drinkworks Home Bar looks like a regular old coffee machine, measuring 13.5 x 13 x 13.5 in (330 x 343 x 330 mm) with a 50-oz (1.5 L) tank of water. Once you pop in a pod, the device chills the water to a refreshing 35° F (1.6° C), then carbonates it from a replaceable CO2 cartridge and mixes all the prepackaged ingredients together. According to the company, the machine recognizes which pod is in there at any given time and will adjust the water and carbonation levels accordingly.

Home Bar will launch with 15 different cocktail recipes, including cosmopolitan, gin and tonic, daiquiri, Long Island iced tea, mojito, Moscow mule, old fashioned, red sangria, white Russian, white wine peach sangria, lime vodka soda, mai tai, margarita, classic margarita and strawberry margarita.

For those with less of a sweet tooth, the Drinkworks Home Bar can also dispense beer and cider. At launch, the beer pods pack brews from Bass and Beck’s, and the cider is supplied by Stella Artois.

Cocktails in pod form make perfect sense – after all, it can be a pain to mix them up just right, especially after you’re already a few drinks into the night. Plus to get this kind of range, you’d need a well-stocked home bar, which can be a pretty pricey investment. Slapping in a pod and pressing a button is an enticing alternative. What we’re less sure of though is the need for beer and cider pods – this seems like more work, and more room for something to go wrong, than just cracking open a bottle.

The Drinkworks Home Bar isn’t the first attempt at streamlining the cocktail experience at home, but it does look like the neatest so far. The Somabar, for example, has canisters that need to be filled from your own liquor collection and it can’t chill the water for you. Pernod Ricard’s Opn smart cocktail system packages individual ingredients into cartridges and then makes you mix them yourself – with some guidance, of course.

The Drinkworks Home Bar is available for US$299, with cocktail pods selling for $3.99 each and beer or cider pods going for $2.25 each, which is much cheaper than bar prices or keeping your own liquor supply well-stocked. For now, the machine is only available in St. Louis as part of a limited test run, but Keurig says it’ll open up to more places in 2019.

Keurig switches from AM to PM with pod-based cocktail maker [New Atlas]

Melting gold normally requires temperatures upwards of 1,064° C (1,947° F), but physics is never quite that simple. A team of researchers has now found a way to melt gold at room temperature using an electric field and an electron microscope.

Although we’re all familiar with the phenomenon of melting, most of us don’t really think about the physics behind the process. Essentially, when something melts all that’s happening is that the bonds between its molecules break down and they begin to move more freely. For instance, they might transition from the well-ordered structure of an ice cube to the less ordered state of a shapeless puddle of water.

Heat is the usual trigger for the change, but it’s not the only one – pressure plays a part too. Experimenting with those conditions has let scientists do all sorts of unexpected things recently, like making water freeze at temperatures well above its usual boiling point.

In the new study, the researchers tested another trigger: an electric field. The team placed a small piece of gold in an electron microscope, and observed it at the highest level of magnification. Then, they slowly ramped up the strength of an electric field to see how the gold atoms reacted.

When they looked back at the data afterwards, the researchers realized that the electric field had excited the atoms in the top layers of the gold. That made them break free of the bulk of the object, effectively melting the material at room temperature. The change was also reversible, as switching off the electric field can solidify the gold again.

“I was really stunned by the discovery,” says Ludvig de Knoop, first author of the study. “This is an extraordinary phenomenon, and it gives us new, foundational knowledge of gold.”

The team isn’t entirely sure how the technique works to melt gold at ambient temperatures, but it may be due to a phenomenon known as low-dimensional phase transition. The researchers plan to investigate that in the future, which may help unlock some applications for the discovery.

“Because we can control and change the properties of the surface atom layers, it opens doors for different kinds of applications,” says Eva Olsson, an author of the study. “For example, the technology could be used in different types of sensors, catalysts and transistors. There could also be opportunities for new concepts for contactless components.”

Scientists find way to melt gold at room temperature [New Atlas]

We’ve already heard about “microneedle” patches that near-painlessly deliver medication through the skin. Well, scientists at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore have now taken the same approach to treating eye diseases. They’ve developed a tiny patch laden with even tinier needles, which get poked into the eyeball.

While eye drops are the most frequently-used means of delivering medication to the eye, they have a problem – much of the medication simply gets washed out of the eye by tears. One alternative involves using hypodermic needles to inject medication right into the inside of the eye, although patients have to go to a clinic for each injection, plus of course it’s not a pleasant procedure. Additionally, it can cause infections.

The NTU Singapore patch reportedly combines the painlessness and ease-of-use of eye drops with the effectiveness of injections. Developed by a team led by Prof. Chen Peng, it’s made of hyaluronic acid, which is naturally found in the eye. The device measures 2 by 2 mm in its current configuration (a larger version is in the works, see photo below), and its underside contains nine tiny needles that can be loaded with medication. Each needle is thinner than a human hair, and is pyramid-shaped for optimal tissue penetration.

The patch simply gets pressed once against the cornea (the surface of the eye) and then withdrawn, apparently causing very little discomfort. When it’s pulled away, however, the microneedles break off and remain in the outer layer of the cornea. They then proceed to slowly dissolve, gradually dispensing their payload of medication into the eye as they do so.

In lab tests, the technology has been used to deliver an antibody known as DC101 to mice with corneal vascularisation – this is a condition in which blindness can result from blood vessels growing into the cornea. After just a single 1-microgram dose, there was a 90-percent reduction in the area of blood vessels within the animals’ corneas. By contrast, in a group of mice that received a single and much larger 10-microgram dose of the medication in drop form, there was no significant reduction.

Additionally, one week after treatment with the patch, no puncture wounds were visible on the surface of the eyes.

“The microneedles are made of a substance found naturally in the body, and we have shown in lab tests on mice that they are painless and minimally invasive,” says Peng. “If we successfully replicate the same results in human trials, the patch could become a good option for eye diseases that require long-term management at home, such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.”

Patch delivers medication by breaking needles off in the eye [New Atlas]

The City of London may soon receive an unusual new addition to its skyline courtesy of Foster + Partners‘ aptly-named Tulip observation tower. Assuming it goes ahead, the building will offer viewing points and glass slides, as well as pod rides on its exterior.

On completion, the Tulip will be one of London’s tallest buildings and rise to a height of 305.3 m (1,001 ft), which is just short of the Shard’s 306 m (1,004 ft) official height. It’ll be located next to the Norman Foster-designed Gherkin – with another culinary-themed building, the Cheesegrater, not too far away either.

Structurally, the tower will comprise a concrete shaft measuring just 14.3 m (47 ft) in diameter, steel and aluminum framing, and a glazed facade. Its design consists of a thin “stem” rising to a glazed egg-like area at the top.

Notable attractions include glass slides and gondola pod rides on the building’s exterior. Elsewhere, Foster + Partners plans restaurants and a sky bar offering 360-degree views of the city. The top of the Tulip will be given over to an educational space.

Some thought has been given to its efficiency too. Heating and cooling will be handled by “zero combustion technology,” while integrated solar panels will generate electricity and reduce the building’s draw on the grid.

The tower will extend publicly accessible space with the creation of a new park and two-story pavilion with a rooftop garden and green walls.

The Tulip has been submitted for planning permission. If all goes well, Foster + Partners expects construction to start in 2020 and for it to be completed by 2025. However, we wouldn’t be surprised if there was pushback against this strange building becoming a permanent fixture of London’s skyline, so time will tell.

Striking Tulip observation tower planned for London [New Atlas]

Cities along the coast have typically relied on sea walls to keep the ocean out. These concrete and steel embankments mitigate flooding when storms whip the waters onto land, and they currently protect the residents of countless ocean-adjacent towns.

But according to Stateline, U.S. city leaders are reconsidering their flood defenses. Instead of sea walls, they’re increasingly opting for waterfront parks that welcome the tides in and pose less of a threat to local marine life.

The idea of opening the coast to stormy waters rather than blocking them with a large, solid wall is central to the Dutch approach to flood management. The Netherlands has long preached living with — rather than fighting — water, but the concept is now catching on in America. City planners like the idea because it gives them a better opportunity to divert the flooding wherever they want it to go, all while avoiding some of the issues that are typically attached to sea walls: Coastal erosion, soaring costs, and interference to turtle nesting.

Boston is one of the larger cities ditching sea walls for parks. The New England metropolis originally planned to construct a massive four-mile barrier around the Boston Harbor. But as the projected price climbed to $11.8 billion and UMass researchers warned it was a short-term solution at best, city officials changed their strategy.

Last month, Mayor Martin Walsh announced a new plan to build a network of waterfront parks. Statelinereports these parks would ultimately add 67 acres of green space to the coast — and restore 122 tidal acres. Boston city planners will also elevate certain areas that are more vulnerable to flooding, and put up small-scale barriers, some of which will be removable.

“I’m not sure if any other city in America has quite planned this way,” Walsh told reporters at a press conference on Oct. 15.

“They have after the fact. New Orleans had to plan after Katrina. But we want to get ahead of this game and plan before before something happens like that.”

But Boston isn’t alone in its newfound affinity for flood parks. Stateline points to similar projects in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, which have relied on sea walls since the 1960s. With the water levels there rising 14 inches since 1930, the communities are now considering more parks and wetlands.

The rising sea levels and severe flooding spurred by climate change are forcing cities to rethink their commitments to sea walls. Yet Stateline argues that the barriers “may be necessary in some circumstances.” Sea walls are so ingrained in cities along southern Florida that it’s difficult to avoid them entirely. As the older ones crack and crumble, city planners must decide how much to invest in their maintenance and how much to spend on greener alternatives.

Still, the push for waterfront parks is a boon for environmentalists, who worry about the walls’ impact on coasts and marine life, as well as their long-term sustainability. And it’s also a win for city residents, who will be able to enjoy more greenery during the less stormy seasons.

Coastal Cities Consider Waterfront Parks Over Sea Walls To Combat Flooding [Green Matters] 

Cars aren’t the most eco-friendly option for getting around but Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors are trying to change that. The two companies jointly announced that starting next year they’ll begin installing electricity-generating solar panels on select vehicles, along with supporting internal combustion, hybrid and battery electric vehicles with additional electrical power.

“In the future, we expect to see many different types of electricity-generating technologies integrated into our vehicles. The solar roof is the first of these technologies, and will mean that automobiles no longer passively consume energy, but will begin to produce it actively,” said the developer of the technology Jeong-Gil Park, Executive Vice President of the Engineering and Design Division of Hyundai Motor Group.

Basically what this means is that by offering vehicles with solar panels on their rooftops, vehicles will have a supplement to the car’s power system, but it won’t outright replace it. With the sustainable addition, drivers will not only reduce their CO2 emissions, but also save more money on gas with improved mileage.

So how does the technology work? The solar charging system is composed of a solar panel, a controller and a battery. As the panel absorbs photons of light from the sun, it creates electron-hole pairs in silicon cells, enabling current to flow and generating electricity.

When a 100W solar panel is equipped, it can produce up to 100 Wh of energy (in ideal conditions: summer noon, 1000 W/m2 intensity of radiation). The controller features Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT), which controls voltage and current to increase the efficiency of electricity harvested by the solar panel. This power is converted and stored in the battery, or utilized to decrease load on the vehicle’s alternating current (AC) generator, thereby increasing vehicle range.

But this is only the beginning of how automakers hope to make their products more environmentally friendly. Hyundai Motor Group is launching its first generation of this technology into its vehicles after 2019 to help meet global regulations targets and improve vehicle fuel efficiency then they’ll move onto a second generation where a semi-transparent solar roof can be applied to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

According to the company’s release, the semi-transparent technologies can be integrated with a panoramic sunroof, letting light through into the cabin, whilst charging the vehicle’s battery at the same time. Applying solar charging systems to ICE vehicles will help them comply with ever more stringent global environmental laws regulating CO2 emissions.

Hyundai and Kia estimate that their first-generation solar roof tech will reach vehicles in 2019, but timelines for the second and third generation have not yet been announced.

If You Buy A Car In 2019, It Might Come With A Solar Roof [Green Matters]

There’s still some conjecture about exactly who got to the North pole first, but you can have a say in who goes there next. Swedish company OceanSky is selling a 30-hour travel package taking folk for a luxury picnic lunch at magnetic North, in the world’s largest aircraft, the Airlander 10.

The trip starts out in Svalbard, Norway, and you’ll spend most of the first night trying to get some sleep aboard the gigantic helium-lift “hybrid aircraft” you’re traveling in, which we hope has been fitted out with the promised luxury tourism trim, and which we also hope has concluded the crashing, and breaking free of its moorings and deflating stages of its development.

The Airlander’s passenger cabin is some 151 feet long (46 m), and since it’ll be flying below between 1,000 and 6,000 feet for most of the trip, there’ll be plenty of white to take in via the floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows and glass floor ports as you sip drinks from the Skybar.

Come lunchtime, it’s time to float this unique aircraft down onto the ice, no runway needed, where you can disembark straight onto a spot that would’ve taken you the best part of a year to get to back in the early 1900s when man first set foot up there – and that’s if you were lucky enough to survive one of the harshest adventures known to man.

No frostbite, starvation, mad dashes over cracking ice or dog sleds for you, though. You’ll tiptoe down a ramp with your mittens on and be right there ready to enjoy a security briefing, instruction session and “outdoor activities” as you wait for your lunch to be brought out and watch your compass go bananas trying to work out what the holy hell’s going on.

Bellies full, it’s back into the aircraft for an afternoon cruise back over the ice, taking time to spot wildlife if it’s around. A fancy dinner, a cocktail party with an Arctic expedition lecture, and a few hours later you’ll be back at Svalbard ready to tell the tale.

There’s no mention of price on the OceanSky website, but put it this way, you’re taking a remarkable, gigantic luxury aircrafp – the biggest aircraft in the world, no less – and sharing it with no more than 18 other passengers, plus crew and a chef, for about 30 hours. Even if these marvelous hybrid aircraft, which combine features from airships, helicopters and airplanes, only cost as much as a 747 to run, it ain’t gonna be cheap.

It might even be more expensive than doing a similar trip aboard Russia’s gargantuan 50 Let Pobedy nuclear icebreaker, 13 days of which will cost you a tidy US$30,000 or so per ticket.

But we’re not talking about visiting the Jersey shore here, this is the storied North Pole we’re talking about, where you can take photos of a whiteness even more vast and total than that of the audience at a Hootie and the Blowfish concert. Reservations are open now.

OceanSky offers a luxury scenic cruise to the North pole, in the world’s biggest aircraft [New Atlas]

Passive RFID (radio frequency identification) tags are small, inexpensive, battery-less labels that are already used to track and identify a wide variety of items. If MIT’s experimental RFIQ system enters general use, they may also soon allow consumers to check if food products are contaminated.

Upon being temporarily powered up by radio waves emitted from a handheld reader device, passive RFID tags use a tiny integrated antenna to transmit a radio signal back to that device. That signal contains information on the item to which the tag is adhered, such as its stock number, batch number or production date.

When one of those tags is stuck to the outside of a container, the radio waves emitted by the tag travel back through the wall of that container, and are subtly distorted by the molecules and ions of its contents. As an example, the signals from identical RFID tags placed on identical containers filled with either water or air will be distorted in different ways, upon being received by a reader device.

RFIQ takes advantage of this phenomenon, which is known as “weak coupling.” Linked to a reader, a computer is trained by humans to identify the unique signal distortions associated with specific contaminants within specific foods or beverages. Machine-learning algorithms help the system to subsequently build upon that training.

When lab-tested, RFIQ was 97-percent accurate at detecting varying concentrations of methanol that had been added to distilled ethanol (“drinking” alcohol), and 96-percent accurate at detecting different concentrations of melamine within baby formula. The researchers are now working on building up its database, and on compensating for differences in the shape and size of containers, along with various environmental variables. Once perfected, the technology could conceivably be integrated into smartphones.

“In recent years, there have been so many hazards related to food and drinks we could have avoided if we all had tools to sense food quality and safety ourselves,” says Asst. Prof. Fadel Adib, co-author of a paper on the research. “We want to democratize food quality and safety, and bring it to the hands of everyone.”

RFIQ tech uses cheap stickers to detect tainted food [New Atlas]

With holiday festivities around the corner, ’tis the season to ensure you and your loved ones get enough zzz’s. Innovative Swannies blue light blocking glasses are not only stylish, but also help improve the quality and duration of sleep by providing an all-natural solution to filtering out blue light before bedtime.

This includes blue light emitted by electronic devices – from smartphones and tablets to television and computer screens – that are known to affect the body’s natural release of melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep and potentially reducing the quality of sleep.

Unlike other blue light blocking glasses that are intended to help screen-addicted Americans prevent eye strain and discomfort but do not block enough blue light to prevent sleep disruption, Swannies – worn up to two hours before bed – have been proven in studies to help users fall asleep quicker and sleep deeper and longer.

With frames available in a variety of colors and styles – for both adults and kids – there’s something for everyone on your shopping list.

Swannies retail from $69 to $89, depending on the model, with prescription lenses starting at $179.

California-based electric car startup Faraday Future might have a strange new ally in its roiling fight with main investor Evergrande: the Trump administration. The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) issued an update on Wednesday to its “Section 301” investigation into China’s alleged practices of intellectual property theft and technology transfer, and Faraday Future was listed among the many examples cited in the refreshed report.

The USTR says in the report that Evergrande’s $2 billion pledge to Faraday Future is an “illustrative example” of how the Chinese government “directs and unfairly facilitates the systematic investment in, and acquisition of, US companies and assets by Chinese companies to obtain cutting-edge technologies and intellectual property.” News of the inclusion of Faraday Future was first reported by the South China Morning Post.

Faraday Future has made similar claims across the last month, arguing that Evergrande shut off funding to push the EV startup into bankruptcy, making it possible to walk away with the IP, which includes some 400 patents. Access to Faraday Future’s patents, as The Verge first reported in April, was a major component of the investment.

China’s government has pushed the country’s domestic car industry to heavily invest in “new energy vehicles” in recent years, and so deals like the one with Faraday Future were encouraged, even as overseas investments trended downward, according to the report. The report also highlights Evergrande chairman Hui Ka Yan’s close connections with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as evidence that the Chinese government may have influenced the deal, including a speech where he said that “everything that Evergrande and I have, it is all given by the Party, given by the State, given by society.”

“The US government has now taken notice of Evergrande’s conduct toward Faraday,” Brian Timmons, a partner with Quinn Emanuel, who represents Faraday in the dispute with Evergrande, said in a statement. “Faraday is on the brink of producing a revolutionary electric vehicle, and Evergrande’s actions are jeopardizing both the introduction of this new technology in the U.S. and the jobs of more than a thousand American workers.” Representatives for Faraday Future, Evergrande, and the USTR did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Evergrande invested in Faraday Future at the end of 2017, during a time when the EV startup was facing the real threat of running out of cash. The Chinese real estate conglomerate committed $2 billion to Faraday Future, which was to be doled out over the course of three years. The EV startup received the first installment of $800 million by early spring.

But by July, basically all of that money was gone. More than $400 million went to getting the company’s California factory ready for production of its luxury SUV by the end of 2018, as well as hiring between 300 and 400 new employees, while $130 million was earmarked for paying back suppliers, recent court documents showed. About $200 million was also directed at bringing production online in China.

Facing another cash shortage, Faraday Future CEO and founder Jia Yueting — who has been blacklisted in China because of massive debts he racked up at another company he founded, LeEco — asked Evergrande for an advance on the $1.2 billion remaining on the contract. Evergrande initially agreed to let $700 million loose in small installments through the end of the year, and in return was promised that Jia would distance himself from the company, according to recently revealed court documents.

But Evergrande never made those new payments, claiming that Jia had not truly divested himself from the company, and that he was still operating as a “shadow director.”

While the two sides argued back and forth in private over this, Faraday Future once again started to miss payments to suppliers. In an October filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Evergrande outed Jia’s plan to break the investment deal, and accused him of “manipulating” the board of directors set up after the investment.

The companies continued to trade blows in public, and Faraday Future was awarded some relief: a Hong Kong arbitrator decided in October that the startup could seek new funding. But in the meantime, Faraday Future had to resort to salary cuts, layoffs, and eventually a furlough for hundreds of employees that is still in effect. A co-founder and a number of other significant executives all resigned, and while the startup says it is drawing interest from investors, it only has enough cash in the bank to last through mid-December, The Verge previously reported.

China’s cavalier treatment of intellectual property rights has been a touchy subject in the auto industry for years. The government long mandated that any foreign automaker who wanted to make cars inside the country had to partner with a Chinese manufacturer, and could not own more than 50 percent of the joint venture. This helped the government quickly build up knowledge and skill at big state-owned automakers as China transformed from a primarily agrarian society to an industrial one. But foreign car companies — and, now, the Trump administration — often complained about these close relationships and the risk they presented for protecting assets like patents and trade secrets.

China recently announced plans to relax some of those joint venture rules. But the new USTR report claims that the CCP is already establishing roadblocks that will incentivize foreign automakers to stay close to Chinese automakers, regardless of the rule change. In the meantime, China’s domestic car industry has boomed in recent years, especially for electric and hybrid vehicles. The country leads the world in EV sales, and nearly 500 new EV startups have cropped up, according to a recent report.

While we all appreciate the importance of limiting our exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, actually keeping track of the amount can be difficult. L’Oréal’s new My Skin Track UV is designed to help. It’s described as “the first battery-free wearable electronic to measure UV exposure.”

Developed by L’Oréal’s skincare brand La Roche-Posay (in collaboration with Northwest University materials scientist Prof. John Rogers), the waterproof device measures 12 by 6 mm, and is affixed to the user’s clothing via an integrated wire clip. A prototype version of the product was unveiled at this year’s CES show, under the name UV Sense.

It’s activated by exposure to the sun, automatically logging up to three months worth of cumulative exposure to both UVA and UVB rays. To access that data, users just tap the device with their NFC (near field communication)-enabled smartphone. An iOS/Android app on that phone then displays not only their UV exposure over a given time period, but also information such as the local UV index, air quality index, pollen levels and humidity.

If users see that they’re approaching their maximum safe amount of UV exposure – or have even exceeded it – they can proceed to seek the shade.

My Skin Track UV is available now in US Apple retail stores and via the Apple retail website, priced at US$59.95. A rollout to other markets is forthcoming. For a cheaper and lower-tech alternative, there are already a variety of UV-measuring bracelets on the market.

L’Oréal’s new electronic wearable tracks UV exposure, without batteries [New Atlas]

This startup uses shoplifters to get their message through

By connecting digital billboards to store alarm systems, shoplifters got unexpected real life push notifications, reminding them not to forget to pay. Klarna, the Swedish payment provider behind the initiative found an unorthodox way to help people who often miss their payments.

Since the launch of the new Klarna app the amount of late payments have dropped drastically. 68% less invoice reminders are sent to people using the app, than to non-users. To highlight this to everyday shoppers, Klarna equipped digital billboards around Stockholm with confetti, flashing sirens and audio. So when someone forgot (or “forgot”) to pay, they got a sensational surprise – with the message “never miss a payment with Klarna’s app”.

–  Our mission is to create a cultural impact and show the world that there is no other payment provider quite like Klarna. To highlight some of the benefits of our new app, we chose to make a humorous and fun payment reminder as a smoooth real time push notification – so no one would forget to pay again, says Christian Cabau, Marketing Director, Klarna Sweden.

With more than 6 million small businesses in the U.S., it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that there isn’t room for one more. It’s almost guaranteed that there will be competition, and in an industry like fleet transportation, going head-to-head with other small companies, never mind the “big guys,” you might think that you don’t have any chance of being successful.

It doesn’t help, either, that new entrepreneurs are often encouraged to think big and avoid limiting themselves, but the fact is that when you do the same thing as everyone else and try to serve an entire market, you face more competition. However, there is a saying in business that you should do one thing and do it well. Specializing and finding a niche market to fill is almost always a better approach to starting a business than attempting to be all things to all people.

Why You Need a Niche

There are several good reasons that you need to find a niche for your fleet business.

A niche guides the development of your business. The market you plan to service determines everything, from the type of equipment you purchase, the staff you hire and the fleet management software you use to the routes you travel and the rates you charge. Because there are so many variables to consider, focusing on a specific market niche makes some of those decisions easier.

Stand out from the competition. There is plenty of competition in the fleet transportation industry. When you choose a niche, you can work toward becoming the authority within that segment, while also providing a service that no one else offers.

Easier to market. When you work within a specific niche, it’s easier to describe what you do, which in turn makes it easier to market your services. For example, if a local farmer is looking for a company with refrigerated trucks to transport his products, searching for a local trucking company online will return a wide range of services. However, if you offer refrigerated trucking in a particular region, someone searching specifically for that term is more likely to find you. Having a niche also makes it easier to identify your customers and market yourself to the businesses that are most in need of your services.

Potentially recession-proof. Serving a specific market niche, such as fresh food transportation, is less likely to be affected by market factors like recessions as there will continue to be a need for such goods, whereas general trucking companies may see significant market shifts depending on the economy.

Higher revenues. Depending on your niche, you may be one of only a few providers in the area, which allows you to charge higher prices. It’s much like being referred to a specialist when you have a medical issue; a physician with training and experience in a specific condition typically charges more than a general practitioner — and it’s no different in the fleet transportation industry. Keep in mind that some of those revenues may be offset by the need to invest in specialized equipment, but in general, specialized transportation companies charge more than generalists.

Determining Your Niche

So how exactly do you go about determining your niche? It’s really no different within the fleet transportation industry than in any other. For starters, you need to look at the market conditions, determine your competition and who they serve and what you can do to differentiate your business. In the transport industry in particular, you also need to look at the availability and expenses associated with equipment, drivers, specialize training and permits and other factors associated with that particular niche.

It’s also vital to avoid becoming too specialized. Otherwise, you risk entering a saturated market or finding that your chosen specialty doesn’t have enough demand to be profitable. Some of the options to consider might include transporting refrigerated goods or hazardous materials or providing for-hire or courier services. Regardless of the specialty you select for your trucking business, though, keep in mind that you need a solid business plan and enough perseverance to keep going. However, determining the right niche and filling that need is the best place to start.

It’s a recipe for success: take a mundane but essential daily task, then invent a way to do it better and in a fraction of the time. That’s exactly what the creators of the UNOBRUSH have done by completely reimagining the toothbrush.

On average we will spend nearly 30 hours each year standing in front of your mirror brushing our teeth. In a world where it seems almost every minute is accounted for, many of us would all agree that this time could be better spent on other things.

That’s where the Danish-designed UNOBRUSH comes in. Looking nothing like a traditional toothbrush, it uses an an ergonomic, patent-pending medical-grade sponge-like mouthpiece and pulsing sonic vibrations to clean all of your teeth simultaneously in just 6 seconds!

The ergonomic mouthpiece is designed to fit every type of mouth – you just bite down and it forms to every tooth, cleaning 99.9% of the surfaces and crevices on your teeth as well as protecting your gums.

Once you’re done you simply slot the UNOBRUSH into its docking station, which uses UV light to clean 99.9% of all germs.

Most current toothbrush technology will only clean between 40% to 80% of your mouth and most of us don’t or won’t adhere to dentist recommended brushing techniques. And with most modern diets which consist of processed foods which are harmful to our teeth and gums. We are fighting an uphill battle to achieve oral hygiene.

The UNOBRUSH will solve the majority of problems of regular toothbrushing, and save time! It seems that Kickstarter backers agree, with the UNOBRUSH having already surpassed its funding goals almost two weeks out from the end of the campaign.

The world’s smartest toothbrush cleans teeth in just 6 seconds [New Atlas]

REVO Party Barge Beverage Tub is a multi-use insulated premium cooler.  It has easy and inviting access that avoids cold hands from digging through ice.  Everything is visible with easy and inviting access.  Comes with condiment trays and an ice scoop.

We’re big fans of beautifully designed urban beehives on Inhabitat, and Mexico-based design studio MaliArts’ new shelters for solitary bees are just as buzz-worthy. Dubbed ‘Refugio,’ the project currently consists of three distinct and sculptural beehives aimed at attracting different species of solitary bees. Built with natural materials, each shelter offers a resting place and access to food and water for the insects.

When most of us think about bees, it’s the sociable honey bees and bumblebees that first spring to mind. However, the solitary bees — which, as the name suggests, are lone bees that don’t belong to any colony — make up most of the bee species around the world. Though they’re less popularly known because they typically produce neither honey nor beeswax (and have a weak or nonexistent sting), solitary bees are powerful pollinators and have important roles to play in our food system.

“When we talk about bees, we usually imagine the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) when in reality, around 90 percent of the bee species are considered solitary,” Gabriel Calvillo of MaliArts told Dezeen. “The fact that solitary bees do not generate any ‘consumable product’ for humans has meant that they are not given much attention, but recent studies point to the fact that they are possibly the most efficient pollinators in nature.”

To bring attention to these bees and create habitats for the endangered insects, MaliArts created three Refugio structures each tailored to the different nesting and refuge preferences of solitary bees. Stylish enough for a wide range of urban settings, each bee hotel is built of pine and teak wood finished with natural oil, a ceramic roof or body and steel legs. Feeders and waterers are integrated into the design. Each shelter will also be accompanied by explanatory reading material for passersby.

MaliArts designs city-chic beehives to save solitary bees [Inhabitat]

By Danny Tomsett, CEO, FaceMe 

“Hey Alexa – what comes next…?” 

Almost every strategy article today sets the scene with stats that scream: “The world has gone digital…so should you.” Brands are increasingly turning to AI to automate customer services and assistants like Amazon Echo are playing a key role in doing so – you only have to utter the words: “Alexa, open Dominos and place my Easy Order” when hungry.

The age of humanless customer experience is well and truly here – but will the future really be all about voice-led commands directed at plastic boxes of different shapes and sizes? With smartphone saturation on the cards and businesses in danger of digital-disconnect (or worse – anonymisation), now is the time to ask: what’s next? 

Siri, I’m bored… 

Voice-based user interfaces are gaining popularity and have changed how we interact with computers. Astonishingly, nearly 1 in 5 US adults have access to a smart speaker, and the adoption of voice-powered devices has grown to 47M in just two years. (By way of comparison, it took 13 years for televisions to reach a similar mark, and 4 years for internet access to achieve the same.) (CBInsights.com)

 

Consumer experience has well and truly entered an ‘automation apocalypse’ – 74% of consumers say they have used voice search in the past month, while daily use is up 27% compared to last year (HubSpot). In 2017, 35.6 million Americans used a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month – a jump of 128.9% over the previous year (eMarketer).

But despite the novelty, consumers are already asking: what’s next? CBInsights reports that consumers are increasingly looking to their devices for immersive media experiences. “Mixed reality (MR) offers a new digital experience that isn’t confined to handheld mobile screens. The tech — also known as hybrid reality — refers to the merging of real and virtual worlds.”

This unbundling of the smartphone’s grip on consumers will see the next mobile computing and augmented reality platforms emerge. Consumers will start to seek out more immersive experiences in which virtual, augmented, and mixed reality undergird the shift away from traditional screens. What’s more, the demand for AR/VR is projected to reach $80B by 2025, according to Goldman Sachs, while Citigroup pegs it at more than $2T by 2035 as industries and use cases increase.

In the next decade or so, mixed reality is expected to overtake current AR/VR markets to become the dominant technology for everyday computing, with its three main drivers being MR technology, voice driven virtual assistants and anticipatory AI. This could see the adoption of new mobile computing platforms and expand the mobile experience away from screens.

We’re also seeing a shift away from command explicit interaction in which the end user instructs the computer to do something vs implicit understanding in which the computer observes the user’s behaviour and infers, predicts, and responds to user intent. (CBInsights.com)

Put simply, the average Joe is tired of Siri…

Digital disconnect

In addition, although businesses have delivered exactly what consumers want when it comes to self-service, research consistently drives home that the human touch is still critical to customer satisfaction. Harvard Business Review reports that “Research across hundreds of brands in dozens of categories shows the most effective way to maximize customer value is to move beyond customer satisfaction and connect with customers at an emotional level.” There is also a growing body of research that suggests that over-automation is damaging to brands.

Rachel Barton, Managing Director, Advanced Customer Strategy, Accenture, believes “Companies abandon the human connection at their own risk and are facing the need to rebuild it to deliver the varied and tailored outcomes that customers demand.”

The question we’re now asking is: has going digital caused a ‘digital disconnect’? Somewhat counter-intuitively, it was our desire to be more connected (customers to businesses) that caused the disconnect.

My Customer puts technology’s emergence into perspective: The more technology enhances us, the more it creates the opportunity for a human touch. It also calls for “the new machine” – one that delivers superior customer experiences.

Who would have thought, pre-digital, that we’d be asking the question: how can technology make the customer experience more human?

The rise of the ‘invisible’ brand

Equally as concerning for brands is phenomenon we like to call the rise of the ‘invisible brand’. Within a voice-led future in which consumers turn to Alexa and others with increasing frequency, how do brands ensure their customers value them and not their voice-activated assistant? Put another way – when every bank allows voice-activated account setup, account balance enquiries or transfers via Siri, the only way to compete is price. Brands will become anonymous, unless they can stop big brand behemoths from coming in between them and their customers. Earlier this year, KPMG cautioned: “Retail banks could become largely invisible to consumers. Customers already trust tech companies such as Amazon more than their primary bank.”

This trilemma: higher and higher consumer expectations; a digital disconnect and the anonymisation of brands bodes well for emerging digital human technologies as the ‘next’ of customer service. Essentially a way of wrapping the best of humanity around the best of the intelligence of machines to create a better, more engaging experience, chatbots and voice-led tech are the start of this journey as brands fight for their relevance.

In a recent paper on how digital assistants communicate, the authors put forward that “In persuasion one has to convince with logos (rational argumentation), ethos (the persuader’s credibility and reliability), and pathos (the appeal to the emotions…).” While chat and voice-based technologies might tick the first two boxes, it’s the third one that they fall short on. It’s also this one that successful brands of the future are starting to hone in on.

Experiments have been done for years around how we as people can connect the dots between interfaces and experiences. Previously, technology has been the only barrier, but the emergence of digital humans is the promise of a universal way of connecting the two. In future, 3D rendered humans will be able to understand the tone of your voice, facial expression and non-verbal cues like body language. Companies will use them to embody their brand in a way that other digital channels can’t and to engender loyalty and trust through face-to-face interaction that drives emotional connection and engagement. These digital humans will deliver better conversion and provide real-time analytics about their level of customer support.

What’s next, you ask? Perhaps instead of Alexa connecting you to information, she becomes a global directory for connecting you to specialist Digital Humans. People don’t have to talk to plastic boxes. They can have meaningful conversations and come away feeling valued. Digital Humans offer an incredible future for brands…but not only this. They could revolutionise mental health, healthcare and a number of other specialist fields currently under the resources pump. It’s a future that is being made possible today.