Deepak Vatti, vice president of AbleChair product development, told Digital Trends that the goal of AbleChair is to help increase users’ independence by giving them the means of mechanically supporting their body no matter the scenario. If a regular wheelchair is akin to a set of crutches, he said, AbleChair is more like a bionic arm.

“With its unique floating-chair design, users get the most flexible positions, contributing to their productivity, health, and independence,” Vatti said. “Individuals who use power wheelchairs have specific needs including various positions for pressure relief and functional benefit. The user can have eye-level conversations while strolling down the street. They can reach things on a high shelf. They can even pick up a dropped cell phone.”

The AbleChair also boasts some neat features, like an in-built charging station for the aforementioned phones. Even with all of this functionality, however, it is still able to to fit in the same space as any other power wheelchair, and can even be made to fit inside a minivan for transportation. As Vatti told us, “We want this chair to be an extension of the user’s body.”

The AbleChair is the result of two years of intensive work, but it builds on close to two decades of experience by the team in adaptive gait-training technology. This has been used in hospitals, rehab centers, and homes.

“Our experience over the years, with people needing various adaptive aids, revealed a gap that has yet to be filled: A power wheelchair that can aid in improving the overall wellness of the individual,” Vatti said. “Being able to stand and even take a step or two can have a dramatic change in a person’s well-being. Being able to perform physical therapy at home is a very important concept to us.”

As ever, we offer our usual warnings about the risks inherent in crowdfunding campaigns. However, if you’re aware of these and still want to get involved, head over to the project’s Kickstarter page. Prices start at a relatively steep $7,995, although that’s not overly expensive considering the tech involved. Provided everything goes according to plan with fundraising and manufacturing, shipping should take place in October 2019.

Though there are a few notable exceptions – including the excellent Nuraphones – most headphones on the hi-fi store shelf will deliver a “one size fits all” sonic experience to listeners. But that’s not how we hear sounds around us. Finland’s Genelec is looking to inject more realism and accuracy into headphone sound reproduction with some software and a smartphone camera.

Exactly how we hear the sounds around us depend on something called the Head Related Transfer Function (HTRF), where the acoustic properties of a person’s anatomy affect what sounds reach the eardrums. And since everyone is different, it stands to reason that we all hear sounds differently.

Genelec has come up with a way to determine an individual’s HTRF using a smartphone camera and some software smarts. Recording a video as a modern phone’s camera moves 360 degrees around the head, shoulders and upper torso creates a detailed 3D model in the Aural ID app.

The video is then uploaded to a web-based calculation service, which converts this information – which includes data on exactly how audio approaches the head from hundreds of different angles – into a personal data file containing all of the modifications necessary for the delivery of accurate and realistic sound to the user’s ears. This SOFA file can then be used by audio engines “to precisely render stereo or immersive content via headphone.”

Initially, Genelec is pitching the technology at academics and VR games developers, but it could evolve for use in home hi-fi systems too.

“In the same way that our monitor loudspeakers established the sonic reference for professional audio monitoring, and GLM calibration software revolutionized the way studio monitors could be optimized for any acoustic space, we are determined to help bring standards of sonic truthfulness to headphone reproduction,” said the company’s Siamak Naghian.

“With an increasing number of audio professionals relying on both in-room monitors and headphones, Genelec Aural ID is a significant first step towards the use of headphones for actual reference audio monitoring and listening.”

The Aural ID system will be available for purchase during Q2 2019, no pricing details have been given at this time.

Genelec promises monitor-like audio realism from headphones [New Atlas]

 

As you fumble with your keys before opening the front door, there’s a good chance that the door’s lock is made by Yale. But the Assa Abloy subsidiary has more than locks in its home security portfolio. The company has just released an All-in-One outdoor camera that deters would-be intruders with light and sound. And it comes with voice control too.

The All-in-One camera records at 1080p resolution, and features a night vision mode for round the clock monitoring. The built-in spotlight with adjustable brightness can be set to auto illuminate when the IR sensor detects motion, and there’s a cooked-in siren to dissuade unwanted visitors from approaching.

Event notifications can be sent to a smartphone running the Yale View app, and the camera works with Amazon Alexa via devices like the Echo Show and Echo Spot, so you can ask the security camera to show you the front door, then converse with callers using the integrated microphone and speaker.

IP65 weather-proofing makes it a good fit for mounting outside, but it can be used indoors too, and SD card storage in the camera means that costly monthly cloud-based subscriptions can be avoided.

“The front door is the most common way for burglars to break into a home, so it’s really important to make sure it’s as secure as possible,” said Yale’s Stephen Roberts. “The new All-in-One camera helps to ensure your home is safe, as well as making daily life that little bit easier.

“You can now know exactly what’s happening at home when you’re away, with instant app alerts allowing you to keep track of parcel deliveries, friends coming to stay or even the dog walker popping in.”

Yale’s voice-controlled security camera shines a light on intruders [New Atlas]

Contraceptives like the Pill are only effective if you remember to take them. In an effort to integrate into the lives of women more seamlessly, researchers at Georgia Tech have developed contraceptive patches that can be attached to jewelry.

Contraceptive patches have been on the market for decades, but to work properly they usually require a pretty strict routine of applying and changing them. So the Georgia Tech team figured that incorporating it into jewelry might make it more convenient, particularly for some women who already wear jewelry regularly. At the same time, hiding it under a watch would be more discreet.

“The more contraceptive options that are available, the more likely it is that the needs of individual women can be met,” says Mark Prausnitz, an author of the study. “Because putting on jewelry may already be part of a woman’s daily routine, this technique may facilitate compliance with the drug regimen. This technique could more effectively empower some women to prevent unintended pregnancies.”

The contraceptive drug levonorgestrel is loaded into a small patch, which has an adhesive on one side to stick to jewelry and a skin adhesive on the other. This is then attached to the part of a piece of jewelry that comes into contact with skin, where it can slowly release the hormones into the bloodstream over the hours that it’s worn.

The patches themselves are designed to be universal, working with essentially any piece of jewelry. After all, the convenience factor is lost if it doesn’t fit on someone’s favorite pieces. That said, the team points out that the method works best for jewelry like earrings and watches, which stay pressed against the skin for the whole day.

To test out the contraceptive jewelry, the researchers stuck 1-cm2 (0.2 in2) patches on the backs of earrings and put them into pigs’ ears. After that was found to successfully transfer the drug into the skin, the team then experimented with hairless rats. They wore them for 16 hours before they were taken off for eight hours, to simulate women taking the jewelry off overnight.

The team found that levels of levonorgestrel stayed well above the contraceptive level in humans over that time. Even during the eight-hour stretches where the patches were removed, those levels dipped noticeably but still stayed high enough to work.

The next steps for the team are to test the system on humans. Whether or not women would actually want to use them is another matter, but as the researchers say, having more options is a good thing.

“We need to understand not only the effectiveness and economics of contraceptive jewelry, but also the social and personal factors that come into play for women all around the world,” says Prausnitz. “We would have to make sure that this contraceptive jewelry concept is something that women would actually want and use.”

While the jewelry patches might be handy for some people, other contraceptive patch designs sound more convenient in general. Just a few months ago, some of the same team members showed off a microneedle contraceptive patch that only needs to be applied for five seconds, once a month.

Contraceptive jewelry could be easier to stick to [New Atlas]

Although many of us may balk at the thought of drinking arsenic, the toxic chemical does occur naturally in the drinking water of some regions – and its levels definitely need to be monitored. An inexpensive new device allows people in developing countries to do so, and it works with a smartphone.

Developed by a team at the University of Edinburgh, the flat rectangular tool incorporates 384 tiny wells, joined together by microfluidic channels. Each well in turn contains genetically-altered Escherichia coli bacteria, suspended in a gel.

When a water sample is introduced, it flows through the channels, going into each well. If any arsenic is present in that water, the bacteria will react by producing fluorescent proteins. The E. coli in different parts of the device have different sensitivities to arsenic, so they will likewise produce differing amounts of fluorescence.

The result is an illuminated pattern, which is read by the camera of an attached smartphone. An app on that phone subsequently analyzes that pattern and then displays the water sample’s arsenic levels, in a volume bar-type layout.

According to the university, the device is much more sensitive than other arsenic biosensors, it can be operated in the field with minimal training, and it’s also quite cheap to use – each test costs about 30 pence, or around 40 US cents.

“We tested our sensors with samples from wells in a village in Bangladesh,” says lead scientist, Dr. Baojun Wang. “The arsenic levels reported by the sensors was consistent with lab-based standard tests, demonstrating the device’s potential as a simple low-cost-use monitoring tool.”

San Francisco city officials recently proposed new legislation that would essentially ban the sale of all e-cigarettes in the city until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducts a thorough public health review allowing the products to be sold. The proposal is the first of its kind in the United States and questions both the overall safety profile of e-cigarettes, and whether vaping acts as a gateway for young people into using tobacco products.

E-cigarette prohibitions have quietly been spreading around the globe in recent years. Singapore, Thailand and Brazil, are just a few countries with complete e-cigarette bans, while many others either heavily regulate sales or disallow nicotine-based vape liquids.

Hong Kong is the latest region to propose strict regulations, recently beginning the process for a blanket ban on the sale, importation or promotion of e-cigarettes. At this stage the local government is only concerned with stemming the importation and sale of e-cigarettes, so it will remain legal to use the products – for now. In a comment to CNN, a Hong Kong official suggested the government views e-cigarettes as, “a gateway to the eventual consumption of conventional cigarettes.”

San Francisco officials echo the “gateway” hypothesis, suggesting that alongside potential safety questions, the big concern with e-cigarettes is that young people are taking up the habit, and potentially ending up with a nicotine addiction that may ultimately lead to tobacco use.

“E-cigarettes have been targeting our young people with their colors and flavors that entice adolescents and predatorily pull them towards addiction to nicotine,” San Francisco City Supervisor Shamann Walton said recently in a statement. “Companies like Juul are contributing to increased numbers of people addicted to nicotine – people who would have never picked up a cigarette. Banning vaping products that target young people and push them towards addiction to nicotine and tobacco is the only way to ensure the safety of our youth.”

Juul, kids, and making vaping cool

The name-dropping of Juul in Shamann Walton’s statement is not accidental. Juul is a massive player in the vaping business, reportedly claiming over 75 percent of the total e-cigarette market in the United States. This Silicon Valley startup only launched back in 2015, yet in a few short years has cultivated a multi-billion-dollar market with its USB-shaped vape pens and sweet-flavored nicotine e-liquids.

A Stanford research team, investigating how the company marketed itself between 2015 and 2018, recently revealed Juul clearly targeted youth audiences, particularly in its first six months on the market. The striking analysis suggested Juul’s aggressive youth targeting played a major role in the rapid growth of teenage e-cigarette use in the United States over the past three years.

By late 2018 one study concluded over 20 percent of US high school students used e-cigarettes. This represented an incredible 78 percent increase from the year prior. At the same time Altria, parent company of Philip Morris and one of the world’s biggest tobacco conglomerates, bought a massive 35 percent share in Juul.

Spending more than US$12 billion to invest in Juul, Altria’s move into the e-cigarette business raised a whole host of questions. Why would a tobacco company invest in a product many see as a cigarette alternative? Is it a way of shoring up profits as traditional cigarette smoking inevitably declines, or is this a tacit admission that e-cigarette use is a way to hook a whole new generation on nicotine?

The gateway to smoking

There are two fundamental questions that hover around any e-cigarette regulation debate. What are the health risks associated with e-cigarettes? And, does adolescent or young adult e-cigarette use increase the likelihood of the subject eventually taking up tobacco smoking?

The first question, on e-cigarette health risks, is still a big focus for scientists around the globe. It is becoming increasingly clear that while e-cigarettes may not be as harmful as combustable cigarettes, they are certainly not harmless. A variety of research is slowly revealing the uniquely damagingeffects of e-cigarettes, and while they certainly may help wean current smokers off traditional cigarettes, they are certainly not a “healthy alternative.”

The second question surrounding e-cigarette regulation is a much thornier one. There is a considerable growing body of evidence to suggest e-cigarette use by the young does indeed increase their risk of trying conventional cigarettes. One massive report published in 2018 was strongly divided in its conclusions over the public health effects of e-cigarettes. It found “substantial evidence” to suggest that e-cigarette use by young people increases their chances of using conventional cigarettes, but also found that e-cigarettes can also improve the health of adult smokers by offering a way to move away from combustable cigarettes.

“E-cigarettes cannot be simply categorized as either beneficial or harmful,” says David Eaton, chair of the committee behind the 2018 report, summarizing the conflicted nature of the study’s conclusions. “In some circumstances, such as their use by non-smoking adolescents and young adults, their adverse effects clearly warrant concern. In other cases, such as when adult smokers use them to quit smoking, they offer an opportunity to reduce smoking-related illness.”

A more recent study again came to the same conclusion on e-cigarettes acting as a gateway for young people into cigarette smoking. Examining over 6,000 subjects between the ages of 12 and 15, the study found those adolescents using e-cigarettes were four times more likely to move onto cigarette smoking than non-e-cigarette users.

It’s difficult to clearly conclude causality from these studies. E-cigarette advocates suggest one of the key metrics to debunk this purported association is to look at current rates of youth cigarette smoking. While teen vaping rates have dramatically surged in recent years, teenage cigarette use has consistently declined. There has to date been no notable upswing in teenage tobacco use across the past few years. In fact, the rates of teen smoking in the US have fallen from around 11 percent in 2015 to just over 7 percent in 2018.

So what can we be sure of?

We can certainly say that adolescent e-cigarette use is rapidly increasing. So much so that in 2018 the US Surgeon General declared e-cigarette use among America’s youth was a national epidemic.

It is too soon to tell whether e-cigarettes are hooking a whole new generation on nicotine or whether e-cigarettes definitively cause significant long-term health damage. It’s also too soon to tell whether e-cigarettes conclusively help traditional adult smokers quit or whether they just end up maintaining a person’s nicotine addiction through a different, albeit potentially safer, medium.

Despite Juul’s adamant claim that, “Juul is intended for adult smokers only who want to switch from combustible cigarettes,” the reality is that the vape market is rapidly growing and it consists of a large volume of young non-smokers.

Currently, global approaches to e-cigarettes span the gamut from complete blanket bans (Brazil, Singapore, Thailand), to an absolute and free open market (Russia, the Netherlands, Armenia). In between those extremes there are a huge variety of different approaches. Australia and Japan, for example, allow e-cigarettes but ban the addition of nicotine to e-liquids.

This regulatory debate is certainly nowhere near a conclusion, and while e-cigarettes may be safer than tobacco cigarettes, that is undeniably a low bar to be working off. Dennis Herrera, City Attorney for San Francisco reasonably suggests the need to consider the fact that most e-cigarettes still trade in an addictive product – nicotine. Herrera notes that while e-cigarette companies may claim they are selling a safe product geared towards harm reduction, they are still addicting consumers to nicotine. And the big question that remains unanswered is whether the public health benefits of weaning adult smokers off cigarettes outweighs the harm of potentially hooking a whole new generation on nicotine.

“Like the cigarette companies, they are in the business of getting people addicted to nicotine or keeping them addicted to it,” Herrera says. “That’s particularly true when it comes to young people. Any purported health benefit of these devices over conventional cigarettes, even if proven at some point to be true for some smokers, is not an excuse to turn another generation of kids into addicts. Common-sense regulations to prevent youth addiction need to be in place – and should have been in place from the get go.”

The new gateway drug? E-cigarettes and their growing global prohibition [New Atlas]

Never get caught short on coffee again. A Y Combinator startup is preparing to roll out a Wi-Fi-connected scale that sits under your coffee jar and orders freshly roasted beans to arrive just as your supply runs out.

You calibrate the Bottomless scale to the weight of your coffee jar or container, and it monitors your consumption, ordering fresh beans to arrive at the perfect time, with a warning a day or two beforehand so you can switch up beans if you want to

The service costs US$36 a year, including use of the scale, and the coffee costs roughly as much as it would at the supermarket, even with delivery factored in, starting at US$11.29 a bag. There’s a bunch of different options, and the company says getting them straight from the roasters gets you fresher beans than pulling something off the shelf in the supermarket that may have sat there for a while.

You can look on this Seattle company as an example of everything that’s wrong with the tech world, and the horrific laziness of connected living – or you can look at it as a smart way to keep your home stocked with consumables, given that there’s little joy to be had in buying the same things over and over again.

Bottomless could easily expand its business model to take care of other things that run out – washing powder, toilet paper, milk, rice – but none of those carry a price tag worth taking a piece of, or the same kind of emotional weight people place on their morning stimulants. So coffee it is, for the moment. The company is accepting beta tester sign-ups now ahead of a wider rollout.

Bottomless coffee scale makes sure there’s always fresh beans in your jar [New Atlas]

What we put on our skin is just as important as what we put in our bodies. Although the skin is the body’s largest organ, many of us take it for granted. As part of Orijin’s mandate to promote self-care and mindfulness, Orijin has developed the 100% all-natural and biodegradable Orijin Sponge. Made from Japanese Konjac Plant Root and infused with anti-microbial bamboo charcoal, the Orijin Sponge will provide your skin with the TLC it deserves while also heightening your showering experience.

While many people use cargo bikes to haul their small children from place to place, how do they cart their tykes around upon reaching their destination? Well, in the case of the Dragonfly 2in1, the kid-carrying cabin simply detaches from the rest of the bike, becoming a stroller.

Made by German company Libelle, the 2in1 has actually been around for a few years. At next month’s Spezi specialty bike show, however, the new-and-improved 2019 model will make its debut.

The bicycle and its cabin are constructed largely of carbon fiber and Kevlar, the two units weighing in at a combined 23 kg (51 lb) depending on configuration. A maximum payload of 180 kg (397 lb) is possible.

Standard equipment includes a Shimano Alfine 8- or 11-speed rear hub transmission with a belt drive, a dynamo-powered Busch and Müller headlight, and a Magura front rim brake along with an Avid rear mechanical disc brake. To add some oomph to their pedalling power, buyers can also opt for a 250-watt Pendix bottom-bracket motor.

But yes, the 2in1’s cabin/cargo compartment does come off. It gets detached via a quick-release mechanism within a claimed 15 seconds. Additionally, a set of small wheels are folded down from its underside, to support its rear end. The bike’s handlebars, which stay attached to the unit, are used to push it around.

According to Libelle, the cabin is capable of safely carrying two children who are no more than seven years old. They’re protected from the elements by clear roll-back side panels, and can be secured in their seats via optional five-point harnesses.

Should you be interested, pricing for the Dragonfly 2in1 starts at €3,340 (about US$3,760). And for a different take on a cargo bike/baby-buggy combo, check out the Salamander Bicycle Stroller.

Cargo bike’s front end comes off to become a stroller [New Atlas]

 

It was back in 2013 that California chiropractor and triathlete Vincent Marcel took to Kickstarter, to finance production of his bizarre-looking but supposedly very comfortable Infinity Seat bicycle saddle. Well, it’s become a commercially-available product since then, and guess what? It works!

The Infinity Seat has actually been available for some time now, although the E2 model was just released this year. Designed in response to user requests, it’s 1.25 inches (32 mm) shorter than the standard version. Among other things, this allows road racers to more easily drop down onto the top tube when going downhill, maximizing their aerodynamics.

In general, though, the idea behind the Infinity Seat is that the rider’s sit bones and pubic bones are suspended in mid-air, with the fleshier sides of the buttocks absorbing the rider’s weight over a wider area. This is claimed to greatly reduce butt pain, along with genital numbness. In fact, in tests performed in Arizona, pressure mapping of the Infinity Seat as compared to some popular conventional saddles did apparently show a marked decrease in pressure points and friction temperature.

Because there’s not much to it, the seat is also quite light. The E2 tips the scales at 245 grams, and features a flexible polymer body, steel alloy rails, and neoprene closed-cell padding that’s hand-wrapped in Italian leather.

Given that the roads are still covered with snow and ice where I live, I tested the E2 by putting it on my road bike, then riding on a set of rollers. Perhaps more so than with other saddles, it’s very important that you get the angle, seatpost height and other factors just right. To that end, “Dr. Vince” actually offers to guide buyers through the setup process via a Skype chat. Given that most customers probably won’t bother with that, though, I decided that I should also just follow the provided instructions.

Upon first trying it out, I noticed that one really sits in the Infinity Seat, not on it. And it doesn’t feel like you’re sitting in nothing – your butt is still pressing down on an immovable object, so you are aware of the edges of the saddle. After several rides, though, I have to say that the thing really iscomfortable. Because it isn’t easy to stand up while doing so, roller-riding does tend to lead to a lot of rear-end and “down there” discomfort, but that wasn’t a problem with the E2.

One thing that should be noted, however, is that the Infinity Seat isn’t ideal for mountain bikers. Because it’s a bit wider than a regular saddle, along with the fact that it sort of kicks up at the rear, all-terrain riders would likely have some difficulty sliding off the back to transfer their weight rearward on steep descents.

And yeah, it does look kinda weird. Depending on the buyer, that could either be a selling point or a detractor.

The Infinity Seat E2 is available via the company website (linked below), and is priced at US$297. Buyers can also go for the more general-use $297 E1X, or the fancier $397 E3.

Review: Infinity Seat is barely there, but it’s big on comfort [New Atlas]

When launched in 2017, the KO1 monowheel scooter – a kind of cross between a Segway and a Solowheel – offered a range of 20 miles and a top speed of 20 mph. The KO1+ has a very similar look to the original, but is quite a different animal.

Kiwano’s latest monowheel features LG battery cells stowed away in the scooter’s handlebar stem for 25 miles (40 km) of range for every one hour on charge. The 1,000 watt hub motor tops out at just 12 mph (19 km/h), which is less than the original but should be zippy enough for most riders. It should be able to tackle 30 percent inclines though.

Constructed from carbon fiber, flexi poly-carbonate and zinc alloy for a premium feel, IP54 weather resistance and durability, the KO1+ rides on a chunky tire that’s ready for grass, sand, dirt or pavement, with shock suspension to smooth out any bumps along the way.

The company’s Auto Deck Smart Control System is reported to make riding fairly straightforward – just step on the slip-resistant, fold-out foot pegs, lean forward and off you go. As with similar setups, the rider leans left or right to turn and back to come to a stop.

LEDs light top front and bottom back, an LCD display shows battery status, speed and trip info, and there’s a built-in, fold-down kickstand. A companion app allows for customization, such as changing handling modes, setting launch angle and can even activate a follow-me mode. The app can also serve as a digital key for peace of mind security.

Available now for US$1,299, buyers can choose urban or all-terrain tires, as well as optional accessories like an actioncam mount, additional charger and Kiwano helmet. The video below has more.

Kiwano rolls out updated self-balancing monowheel electric scooter [New Atlas]

Don’t let the name fool you. The Onewheel Pint certainly isn’t a slouch when it comes to features. It’s a bit smaller and narrower than its forebears, but it isn’t a massive step down in terms of power and performance.

In fact, in just about every way that matters, it’s either on par with the Onewheel Plus or better. It boasts just as much range (six to eight miles per charge), just as large of a motor (750 Watt), and yet it’s smaller and more lightweight, tipping the scales at just 23 pounds. The Onewheel Plus only has an edge in speed, since the Pint tops out at 16 miles per hour instead of the Onewheel Plus’ 19 miles per hour.

The Pint’s range looks less impressive next to Future Motion’s flagship, the Onewheel Plus XR, which can travel up to 18 miles. Still, what it lacks in range it makes up for with a handful of innovative features. For example, it’s got a fancy new light system that lets you know what the board’s sensors are doing, there’s an integrated handle to help you carry the board when you’re not riding, and new software makes dismounting easier than ever before.

All things considered, the Pint looks damn good on paper. But what about real-world performance?

ON PAVEMENT

The Onewheel Plus is nimbler and more playful under your feet. It might only be a few pounds lighter than previous models, but the difference is immediately apparent when you hop on. It’s easier to throw around and initiate turns, and because the wheel is narrower, the transition from heelside to toeside feels snappy and immediate. In other words, it’s super lively on pavement, and is arguably more fun to ride than a full-sized Onewheel Plus.

The other features are just icing on the cake. The Pint’s new Simplestop technology makes dismounts clean and easy, while the integrated handle makes it a breeze to pick up the board after you’ve hopped off. These improvements directly address two of Onewheel’s biggest pain points — tricky dismounts and cumbersome carrying.

The result is a riding (and carrying!) experience that’s more frictionless than ever. No more awkward bobbling as you try to dismount, and no more leaning sideways to counterbalance the hefty board dangling at your side.

VERDICT

Though marketed as a smaller, more pared-down version of the Onewheel, the Pint is, in my opinion, on par with the Onewheel Plus XR. It’s not less than its big brother. It’s just designed and optimized for a different kind of rider.

The real clincher, though, is the price. It’s only $950 bucks! That’s still a lot of money, but it’s dramatically more affordable than not only the $1,800 OneWheel Plus XR, but also most other high-end electric skateboards on the market right now.

In my eyes, it’s a no-brainer. If you want a rideable device but don’t want to break the bank, the Onewheel Pint is the board to get.

Onewheel Pint hands-on review [Digital Trends]

Caused by autoimmune diseases, chemical burns, or sometimes even as a side effect of eye surgery, corneal melting is an incurable disease that’s a major cause of blindness. It could someday be treated using a contact lens, however, which is currently in the works.

The disease does indeed involve a “melting” of the cornea, and it occurs when a person’s cornea-located immune cells uncontrollably start producing enzymes known as matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). These enzymes are dependent on the presence of zinc ions, which they contain.

With this in mind, some existing treatments involve the injection of medications that bind with such ions within the MMPs, subsequently removing those ions and thus neutralizing the enzymes. Unfortunately, though, such pharmaceuticals also bind with zinc ions in other parts of the body, causing severe side effects.

Being developed at the University of New Hampshire, the contact lens would incorporate a hydrogel consisting of a polymer called poly(2-hydroxyetyl methacrylate) and an organic compound called dipicolylamine – the latter binds with zinc ions. In lab tests performed on extracted corneal tissue, this gel has been shown to deactivate the three major types of MMPs involved in corneal melting. And, if applied directly to the cornea via a contact lens, its effect should be limited to the eye.

The university’s commercialization branch, UNHInnovation, has filed for a patent on the technology. A paper on the research was recently published in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering.

Hydrogel contact lens could save wearers’ vision [New Atlas]

Every year, millions of tonnes of perfectly good food are wasted around the world because people aren’t sure it’s still fresh. To cut down on this, researchers at Fraunhofer are developing an infrared pocket scanner that will let consumers, supermarkets and other food handlers determine if a food item has gone bad and even its degree of ripeness.

According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Association, one third of all the food produced in the world is lost or wasted. That’s about 1.3 billion tonnes annually. In the developed world, which has the highest percentage of waste, that works out to US$680 billion dollars down the garbage disposal each year.

There are a number of reasons for this wastage, but a large factor is that consumers tend to have trouble determining if a food item is still edible. Often meat and produce will be judged on aesthetic grounds, or the “sell-by date” will be confused with a “use-by date.”

To combat this, the Bavarian Ministry of Food’s “We Rescue Food” alliance, has launched 17 initiatives, one of which is the Fraunhofer pocket scanner. The device is designed to be an inexpensive solution for determining the edibility and shelf life of foods from farm to table.

The scanner is based on a high-precision near-infrared (NIR) sensor. An infrared beam is shined on the food and the reflected light is measured across the IR spectrum. By comparing the absorption spectrum from the food with that of a known sample, the device can determine not only if the food is still edible, but also its ripeness and even if it’s a counterfeit, such as trout being passed off as salmon.

It’s a technique already used in laboratories, but the tricky bit is reducing the size and cost of the device without sacrificing function. This is managed by using new, small, inexpensive sensors.

According to Fraunhofer, the scanner is still in the demonstrator stage. Currently, it can only handle homogeneous foods, so it can analyze a potato, but not a pizza with its many toppings. The hope is that hyper-spectral imaging and fusion-based approaches using color images, spectral sensors and other high-spatial-resolution technologies may overcome this in the future.

Another aspect under development is a machine-learning algorithm that will allow for better pattern recognition. So far, the team has worked with tomatoes and ground beef using statistical techniques to match the NIR spectra with the rate of microbial spoilage and other chemical parameters, allowing them to measure the germ count and the shelf life of the meat.

This is done by sending the scan data over Bluetooth to a cloud database for evaluation. The results are then sent to a mobile device app to show if the item is still good, how much shelf life is left, and tips on how to use the food if its sell-by date has expired.

The research team says that supermarket tests are slated for later this year to see what consumers think of the scanner. The technology can not only be used for foods, but also for wider applications, such as sorting plastics, wool, textiles, and minerals.

Pocket scanner blasts food with infrared light to determine its freshness [New Atlas]

Whether you’re cycling to the office and don’t want to arrive too sweaty and out of puff, or you just need some help getting up a steep hill, e-bikes can be a great way to get around. For many though, buying a brand new bicycle when you already have a perfectly good one just doesn’t make sense. That’s where add-ons like the Copenhagen Wheel and the Rubbee come in, transforming an existing two-wheeler into an e-bike. The latest to join the add-on kit party is UK-based Revolution Works, with the three-part Revos system.

Currently raising production funds over on Kickstarter, Revolution Works reckons that riders will be able to go from standard non-powered bicycle to pedal-assist e-bike in under 10 minutes with no special tools. The kit will come as a drive unit, a pedal-assist sensor and a battery.

The 250 W aluminum alloy drive unit is clamped on the seat tube, between the seat stays, with the unit’s roller resting on the tire of the rear wheel. A battery holder is mounted on the down tube, in place of a bottle holder perhaps. Then one of two available Li-ion battery packs (100 Wh or 209 Wh) is slotted into the holder and cabled up to the drive unit. Finally the magnetic pedal sensor is zip-tied to the chain stay and directed toward the cassette at the rear. The sensor is also cabled to the drive unit.

Once fitted, all a rider needs to do is start pedaling, the sensor will detect movement of the cassette and the Revos drive unit will kick in and help out until a speed of 15.5 mph (25km/h) is reached. The drive unit will only engage while a rider is pedaling, so will stop while coasting. And if you want to turn the unit off completely during a trip, you simply back pedal by half a turn. Then if you notice a particularly threatening incline approaching, the system can be reactivated with another half turn back pedal.

“The drive unit (patent applied for) and motor controller ensure that pedal assist is provided extremely efficiently,” company director Mark Palmer told us. “This gives the rider a very positive experience as well as maximizing the available energy stored in the battery. When people see Revos, their first reaction is that its too small give significant help. Once around the car park and they’ve changed their minds.”

The Kickstarter campaign has already met its crowdfunding goal, with a little over 2 weeks left to run. Pledges start at £349 (US$465) for a 100 Wh battery kit, and £439 (US$585) for the 209 Wh version. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in October. The video below has more.

Revos kit converts almost any bike into an e-bike in less than 10 minutes [New Atlas]

It seems that the more technology progresses, the easier it becomes to produce convincing counterfeit goods. Scientists at the University of Copenhagen are fighting back, however, with product tags that they claim cannot be replicated – even by an item’s legitimate manufacturer.

Known as the physical unclonable functions (PUFs) system, the technology was developed by researchers Riikka Arppe-Tabbara, Mohammad Tabbara and Thomas Just Sørensen.

They created 9,720 of the tags by laser-printing QR codes onto regular paper, then spraying a translucent microparticle-containing ink over top of each one. While the codes were still readable, the particles also showed up as patterns of tiny white spots on a black background (when magnified). Because of the random scattering nature of the spraying method, those patterns were unique to each tag.

The scientists next photographed every one of the tags with a smartphone camera, in order to create a digital registry in which each microparticle pattern was linked to its corresponding tag.

When the tags were subsequently photographed by different smartphones, and the images of their particle patterns were compared to those in the registry, it was possible to tell which pattern belonged to which tag with an accuracy rate of 76 percent – in some cases another photo had to be taken with the “reading” phone, as the original was out of focus, or the tag was dirty. In no cases did the system incorrectly match a pattern to a tag.

It is hoped that once the technology is refined, the tags could be manufactured utilizing commercial printing and coating processes. They could subsequently be affixed to items such as luxury goods or medications before shipping, then used by stores or customers to authenticate that those items are the genuine article.

Product tags take a spotty approach to thwarting counterfeiters [New Atlas]

In 2015, Steinway & Sons launched a line of Grand pianos that, with the help of an iPad, allowed owners to tap into an archive of performances by some of the world’s top players, and have the piano play them back. Now the iconic maker has introduced the next generation of this piano – the Spirio | r – which can record a musician’s own live performance and play it back, while also allowing for tweaking and sharing through a companion app.

The original Spirio piano could certainly be played by musicians, but it was also aimed at well-heeled listeners. It came supplied with an iPad, onto which was loaded an app that gave listeners access to an ever-growing list of piano performances from top players and current Steinway artists – of which there are more than 2,000 – and legendary players from yesteryear, including Duke Ellington and Art Tatum.

When music was selected, the piano would start to reproduce the chosen piece, perfectly. This was no player piano from a dusty saloon in an old western, Steinway promised a level of accuracy that would make a Spirio experience virtually indistinguishable from a live performance. It would, in effect, be just like having the artists themselves playing live in the room.

The new Spirio | r extends the functionality of the original to include the ability to record live performances of folks actually sitting at the piano, as well as allowing for playback of pre-recorded music from the content library.

“Steinway’s culture of innovation has truly reached its pinnacle through Spirio | r, which provides artists with the capabilities to perform, record, and perfect their performances in a groundbreaking new way,” said the company’s Ron Losby. “Never before have artists been able to capture the nuance and soul of their playing so precisely on a Steinway. As the maker of the world’s finest piano, we are proud to introduce this new evolution of our beloved instrument, and look forward to the opportunities this technology will bring to professional and amateur pianists alike.”

Available as a flagship Concert Grand and a shorter Grand, live recordings can be captured to Steinway’s own high resolution format, MIDI or high quality MP3 for easy sharing. And the Spirio app running on the included iPad Pro now features an editor for tweaking recordings, “allowing users to edit every nuance of their Spirio recordings.”

Steinway hasn’t revealed pricing for the Spirio | r, but it’s likely to be nipping at the heels of a hundred thousand bucks, maybe even more.

Steinway’s latest piano can record and play back your performances [New Atlas]

Back in 2016 we first heard about the Bluetooth-equipped Coros Linx bike helmet, which streams audio from the user’s smartphone to bone conduction transducers in the head straps. Well, Coros is now trying something different and reportedly better, with its SafeSound line.

Bone conduction transducers work by converting sound waves into vibrations that pass through the user’s cranial bones, bypassing the eardrum and transmitting directly to the cochlea – it’s the sensory organ that translates sound into nerve impulses for the brain to interpret.

On the Linx, a couple of the transducers are located on the straps just in front of each ear, where they buzz the wearer’s cheekbones. This leaves the ear canals open to hear important sounds such as traffic noise. When taking phone calls, the user’s voice is picked up by a wind-resistant microphone in the front of the helmet.

Instead of bone conduction, the new SafeSound helmets use what is known as the Ear Opening Sound System (EOSS). This replaces the transducers with what are essentially tiny water-resistant speakers with openings in the back, that funnel sound into the ear canal while still leaving that canal open.

A Coros rep tells us that as compared to bone conduction, EOSS has less sound leakage, the straps don’t need to be as tight against the skin, there are no vibrations, the volume can be set higher, and it accommodates a wider variety of head shapes.

Wearers utilize an included wireless bar-mounted remote to adjust volume, skip music tracks, take/end phone calls, and perform other tasks. That remote can also be used to power up and switch between modes on an LED tail light that’s built into the helmet.

In the event of an accident, sensors in the helmet detect the telltale impact. This triggers an accompanying app to send an alert to people on a predetermined emergency contacts list (that alert including the user’s current GPS coordinates), plus it causes the tail light to start flashing in a Morse code SOS pattern. The Livall smart helmet offers similar functionality, as does the ICEdot Crash Sensor, which can be installed on third-party helmets.

Prospective buyers can choose between Urban, Road and Mountain versions of the Coros SafeSound helmet, priced at US$180, $200 and $220 respectively. They weigh between 300 and 340 grams – depending on the model and size – with battery life sitting at a claimed maximum 10 hours per charge.

Coros takes a SafeSound approach to bike helmet audio [New Atlas]

In the United States, the name Dr.Scholl’s makes one immediately think of shoe inserts to make walking a bit more comfortable. But, if you remember, the company has had foot scanners at Walgreens and other pharmacies for many years before the terms “personalized medicine” and “3D scanning” were common terms.

The company, a part of Bayer, now offers 3D printed shoe inserts that can be designed using a special Dr.Scholl’s smartphone app while you’re at home. The app takes a series of pictures of your foot, creates a 3D model of your foot, and then uses the data to manufacture a real insert custom built specifically for you.

Dr.Scholl’s Custom 3D Prints Shoe Inserts for Your Foot: CES 2019 [Medgadget]

 

If you’re after a Google-powered smartwatch, and you need a wearable that can cope with everything the great outdoors can throw at it, the new Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 could be the perfect fit. We’ve been spending some time with the watch, and here’s our verdict.

The look of the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30, with its 2.12-inch by 1.93 inch casing, tells you immediately what sort of smartwatch this is: one built for adventuring rather than evening dinner parties. It’s stylish, but in a rugged, chunky way – it won’t suit everyone, but we like the look of the watch, which you can get with a blue, black or orange trim.

And that rugged design does have its benefits: the watch passes US military standards for vibrations, shocks, and extreme temperatures, and it’s also waterproof to 50 meters. This is not a wearable that’s going to wear out easily.

The plastic strap supplied with our review unit was comfortable and wasn’t chafing or digging in after a day of use (you can also swap it out for a strap of your own if you prefer). If the appearance of the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 suits you, you shouldn’t find it disappoints in terms of comfort.

As for the software on board, you’ve got the latest Wear OS 2.6 from Google. Despite the occasional lag on current-gen hardware (not just on the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30, but all Wear OS watches of the moment), the wearable operating system is now perfectly competent in most areas – and even works with iPhones.

Recent updates to Google Assistant and Google Fit have made Wear OS more useful than ever before, bringing the focus back to the two areas that are the main reasons for getting a smartwatch in the first place: fitness tracking and quick access to your phone from your wrist. You can read and compose messages, get directions, control music playback on your phone, and access all the usual features that every Wear OS watch has.

On top of this Casio has added some of its own apps, which we found came in handy. These include widgets for altitude, atmospheric pressure and daily steps, as well as special modes for particular activities, like cycling or fishing. You can configure alerts when specific “moments” are hit, like when the sun is about to set or you reach a certain altitude.

In theory there’s a good idea here, but in practice it’s a bit clunky and we didn’t end up using it much. On the mapping side, you’ve got either Google Maps or Mapbox, both of which are clear and easy to use.

In our time with the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30, it was in the walking and hiking that it really shined – which is maybe why there’s a “Trek” in the name. With GPS, an altimeter, and a compass on board, this will get you home even after your phone’s battery dies, and you can even cache maps for offline use.

Another reason to pick this smartwatch over others is battery life management. Casio has packed in a few tricks to keep the Pro Trek WSD-F30 lasting as long as possible between charges, perhaps to improve its credentials as a wearable for those long days exploring away from home.

First there’s a dual-layer watch face, which means when you’re not actively using the watch it defaults to a monochrome layer (other watches have something similar). We weren’t huge fans of the look of this second face but it does the job it needs to.

Secondly, there are modes to extend the smartwatch’s battery life beyond the standard day-and-a-bit. You can either shut down Wear OS completely and just use the monochrome layer to up to a month of use, or disable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and limit Wear OS to just the software on the wearable for up to three days of use.

We found these estimations mostly correct, though we’d rather see more than a day of use to begin with. It seems like a makeshift workaround to have to disable watch features to squeeze out more battery life, but that seems to be where the technology is at right now –not just with the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30, but with smartwatches in general.

You don’t get NFC (for mobile payments) or heart rate tracking with the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30, which is a shame for a premium-level smartwatch in 2019. You might be able to live without them, but it’s something to consider while you’re weighing up a purchase for what is undoubtedly an expensive smartwatch.

It’s really only worth spending this much if you’re going to make full use of those mapping tools and that military-grade robustness – if you are, the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 is worth a look. It’s available now for $549.99 direct from Casio.

Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 review: A watch that excels in the great outdoors [New Atlas]

First announced at the Consumer Electronics Show last month, the Soul Blade wireless earbuds made their public debut on Indiegogo on Wednesday, February 13. The crowdfunding campaign recently got underway, but Soul already smashed through its $30,000 goal in just a few hours. That means, the Blade should go into production later this year and become available for purchase in October.

So what makes these earbuds so special? For starters, they have the ability to track the user’s heart rate during a workout without the need to wear a bulky chest strap to collect that data. But that’s just the beginning, as the Blade earphones can also track motion, monitoring distance traveled, speed, cadence, stride length, and a bunch of other metrics. Soul says this is possible thanks to a system called the BiomechEngine from Beflex, which is a tiny chip build for wearables and designed specifically with fitness applications in mind.

Soul has paired the BiomechEngine with an onboard artificial intelligence to give runners real-time coaching tips while they work out. That feedback comes in the form of a voice in their ears, prompting them to change their cadence or stride in an effort to run more efficiently and avoid injury. The A.I. coach examines the runner’s movement, including his or her stride and force of impact. It even claims it can detect posture in order to more accurately offer suggestions on how to improve a runner’s form.

The Blade earbuds come with a charging case, which Soul says provides up to 96 hours of run time. The wireless earphones use Bluetooth 5.0 technology to improve battery life and sound quality, and even offer an IPX7 water-resistance rating. They are expected to carry a price tag of $249, although early bird supporters can reserve a pair now for $129. Of course, as with any crowdfunding campaign, it is important to understand the risks that come with spending your cash on a product that isn’t released yet.

These wireless earbuds use an A.I. to get you moving faster [Digital Trends]

There is no shortage of folding chairs that can be packed into neat and compact packages for easy carry into the great outdoors, with the two-legged Bip and bottle-sized Go Chair just a couple of recent examples. The HoverChair might take slightly more work to pack onto your back, but promises supreme levels of comfort with a hanging design, breathable materials and an optional foot hammock to rest those weary legs.

Not unlike a swinging hammock chair that you’d find in a typical garden store, the HoverChair is made to hook up to a tree or other overhead support, with a 10-foot (3 m) adjustable hanging strap allowing the height to be tuned to user requirements.

A spreader bar distributes the load across the length of the air-cushioned seat, while a mesh support should stop you from toppling over and keep your back free from sweat. Other useful features include pockets designed to securely store smartphones, bottles and other tidbits while you swing for the fences, while an additional foot hammock can remove the ground from the equation entirely.

When not in use, the HoverChair can be packed into a sack measuring 40 cm long and 25 cm tall (15.7 by 9.8 in), while the total weight is 1.8 kg (3.9 lb). This makes it a bulkier item than the folding chairs listed above, but what the HoverChair lacks in portability, it makes up for with hovering ability. And if things got a little muddy at camp, the entire chair can be put through the wash.

The HoverChair is the latest item from gear maker Crua Outdoors, which successfully crowdfunded its Koala hammock on Kickstarter last year and its Clan tent system before that. The company has again returned to the platform to get the HoverChair into production, where early bird pledges of US$49 will have one sent your way in June if everything goes to plan, while $59 will see the hanging foot hammock thrown in.

HoverChair and foot hammock combo lets outdoor folks hang in comfort [New Atlas]

Typically, the amount of personalization that you squeeze out of your license plate is entirely dependent on how clever you can get with seven or eight characters. That’s about to change for residents of Queensland, Australia. Starting March 1, the state will give people a wealth of new ways to customize their license plate, including the ability to add an emoji.

Personalised Plates Queensland, the official license plate vendor of Queensland, Australia, had decided to give the current license plate options a modern update that makes the plates reflect what you’d find in a person’s text messages. Drivers will be able to choose from five different emojis. The options include the face-with-tears-of-joy (or crying laughing) emoji, sunglasses emoji, winking emoji, smiling emoji, and heart-eyes emoji. If you were hoping to slap an eggplant or other potentially suggestive emoji on your license plate, you’re out of luck for the time being.

Rebecca Michael, a spokesperson for Royal Automobile Club of Queensland told 7 News Brisbane that emojis are just a natural extension of the current customization options available for license plates. “For quite some time, we’ve seen that you can support your favorite team or your favorite town with a symbol on your number plate,” she said. “And using an emoji is no different.”

Others aren’t so sure that the plates are just a bit of personal expression. Some, including Queensland Law Society President Bill Potts, believe the plates may prove to be a distraction on the road and may cause confusion. “Clearly, the government is trying to sex up number plates, with a view to making more money, and I can understand that,” he told the Brisbane Times. “But the purpose of number plates is for the police to be able to identify vehicles. How do you write down the emoji in your number plate after an accident?”

The question seems like an easy one to solve: The emojis aren’t actually part of the license plate. They are purely decorative. Queensland already allows drivers to choose custom plate colors and themes, and use logos from local sports teams. None of those are required when writing down a plate number. Queensland’s new emoji plates can be ordered for 475 Australian dollars, or around $340 U.S.

Emojis hitch a ride on personalized license plates in Australia’s Queensland [Digital Trends]

Metal fibers are strong, but can’t be stretched very far. Rubber fibers are stretchy, but they’re not very strong. Well, scientists have combined the selling points of both materials into one type of hybrid fiber. It could be used in applications such as soft robotics, packaging materials, or high-tech textiles.

Developed by a team at North Carolina State University, the new fiber has a gallium metal core – a wire, in other words – which is surrounded by a SEBS (styrene-ethylene-butylene-styrene) elastic polymer sheath. When subjected to mechanical stress, the fiber initially has the strength of the core. Once that core does break, however, the polymer is still there to stretch, keeping the fiber as a whole from breaking.

“Every time the metal core breaks it dissipates energy, allowing the fiber to continue to absorb energy as it elongates,” says lead scientist Prof. Michael Dickey. “Instead of snapping in two when stretched, it can stretch up to seven times its original length before failure, while causing many additional breaks in the wire along the way.”

As an added bonus, until it breaks, the metal core is capable of carrying an electrical current. And after a break has occurred, the gallium can be melted down to form back into a continuous unbroken core. And yes, the polymer does have a higher melting point than the gallium.

“A rubber band can stretch very far, but it doesn’t take much force to stretch it,” Dickey says. “A metal wire requires a lot of force to stretch it, but it can’t take much strain – it breaks before you can stretch it very far. Our fibers have the best of both worlds.”

The scientists now plan on experimenting with other materials for both the core and sheath. A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Science Advances.

Hybrid fiber combines strength of metal and elasticity of rubber [New Atlas]

If you’re a winter cyclist, then you’ll know how off-putting it can be to press your butt down onto an ice-cold saddle. Slovenian inventor Drago Beravs is out to remedy that situation, with his heated Sweet Saddle.

Plans actually call for the device to be offered in three versions: one that blows warm air onto the rider’s derrière, one that provides a cooling effect by blowing non-heated ambient-temperature air, and one that can be switched between heating and cooling modes.

All three models will incorporate a fan that pushes air up trough an array of gaps in the polycarbonate saddle – the prototype in the photos looks like carbon fiber, but that’s just a faux finish. The heated versions will also utilize a heating element.

Power is provided by a hard-wired 12-volt/9,800-mAh lithium-ion battery pack, which is carried in a separate Velcro-strap-mounted nylon frame bag. One charge of that battery should be good for a claimed 24 hours of run time in cooling mode, or two hours when blowing heated air. Buyers can choose between a rectangular bag that also accommodates an iPhone in a waterproof transparent compartment on top, or a triangular bag that attaches at the point where the frame’s top tube and seat tube meet.

The saddle does not mount on a standard seatpost, so what is basically a “headless” seatpost is included, along with a saddle-rail mount that is fastened to its top. Weight figures sit at a claimed 600 grams (21 oz) for a saddle that includes a heating element, with the seatpost and mount tipping the scales at a combined 410 g (14.5 oz).

Should you be interested, the Sweet Saddle is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. Assuming it reaches production, a pledge of US$140 will get you a cooling-only saddle, $160 will get you a heating-only model, and $170 is required for a saddle that does both.

Heated saddle puts cyclists in the hot seat [New Atlas]