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Recent Innovations

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A smart contact lens that can monitor the glucose levels of diabetes sufferers was developed by Google in January 2014. Coming out of the company’s Google X Skunkworks division, best known for developing Google Glass, the contact lenses use chips and sensors the size of glitter to offer an early warning to the wearer by analyzing tears. “As you can imagine, tears are hard to collect and study,” the Google engineers said. “At Google X, we wondered if miniaturized electronics – think: chips and sensors so small they look like bits of glitter and an antenna thinner than a human hair-might is a way to crack the mystery of tear glucose and measure it with greater accuracy.”

The camera that captures light at 4.4 trillion frames per second was invented by researchers in Japan, setting a record for the world’s fastest camera. The Sequentially Timed All-optical Mapping photography (STAMP) camera is so fast that it can capture the movement of light. “High–speed photography is a powerful tool for studying fast dynamics in photochemistry, spintronics, phononics, fluidics and plasma physics,” the researchers said.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge developed a new method to manufacture invisible “metamaterials” using lasers, leading to the possibility of invisibility cloaks. Using unfocused laser light to stitch particles of gold together, the researchers created a material that reflected light through inverse refraction, making objects covered by it appear invisible. Like a lot of technology in this field, the cloaking device is most likely to find its first application in the military.

A flexible, long-lasting rechargeable battery that holds the potential to transform wearable devices was developed by a California–based startup in 2014. Imprint Energy overcame the current limitations of available battery technologies by using a zinc-polymer battery, enabling a new generation of power units that could be used in medical devices wearable sensors and on-body electronics.“(ZincPoly) enables the production of ultrathin, flexible, high energy density rechargeable batteries for significantly lower cost and without the design limitations of safety concerns of other battery technologies,” Imprint Energy said.

A breakthrough in quantum dot research by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory paved the way for windows that double as solar panels. Quantum dots (nanocrystals made of a semiconductor) were embedded in a transparent polymer to capture the sun’s energy and harvest it as power. “The key accomplishment is the demonstration of large-area luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs) that use a new generation of specially engineered quantum dots,” said Victor Klimov, lead researcher at the centre of advanced solar photophysics at Los Alamos.

Smartglasses designed to assist blind and partially sighted people by using a specially adapted 3D camera were developed by researchers at the University of Oxford. The camera separates and highlights objects ahead and projects them on the lens to maximize the remaining vision of the wearer. They are now being developed further through a partnership with the Royal National Institute of Blind People, with hopes that they will be available commercially in 2016.

A major advancement was more in soft robotics, an emerging field that ditches rigid parts used in traditional robots to deal with uncertain and changing tasks and environments. Engineers from Cornell and Harvard Universities created a shape-changing robot to be used in extreme conditions in ways robots never could be used before.

“The soft robot is safe to interact with during operations and its silicone body is innately resilient to a variety of adverse environmental conditions,” a paper describing the technology stated. “(These include) snow, puddles of water, direct exposure to flames, and the crushing force of being run over by an automobile.”

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed the world’s first bionic plant in March, capable of replicating and even improving upon a plant’s natural ability to photosynthesis. Carbon nanotubes were integrated into the leaves of several lab plants to allow them to absorb light 30% more efficiently than a normal plant. “They repair themselves, they are environmentally stable outside, they survive in harsh environments, and they provide their power source and water distribution,” said lead researcher of the MIT team, Michael Strano.

The first-ever commercial brain scan to record thoughts and memories for future playback took place in September 2014. The inaugural patient of Millenium Magnetic Technologies (MMT) thought recording technology was software developer Anthony Broussard from Houston Texas, who paid around £1, 200 to have his memories preserved. “Some people call it thought identification but it’s essentially mind reading,” Donald Marks, founder and chief science officer of MMT, told IBTimes UK. “The visual reconstruction (of the thoughts) is kind of crude right now but the data is there on the way to get better, it’s just a matter of refinement.” “That information is stored – once you have recorded that information it’s there forever. In the future, we’ll be able to reconstruct the data we have now much better.”

A London-based student developed a bio-reactive expiry label that decays at the same rate as food, potentially making a massive dent in the millions of tons of food wasted around the world each year. The Bump Mark, which was the UK finalist of the James Dyson Award, uses a natural substance to tangibly show when a food product goes off. “The Bump Mark contains gelatin – a protein – that reacts to environmental conditions, like temperature and light and anything that affects food,” SolveigaPakstaite, designer of the smart expiry label, told IBTimes UK, “Gelatine sets solid but it has the property that when it is fully expired it loses its structure.”

ABES Institute of Technology, a first-of-its-kind engineering institute, has recently set up an AI-based Centre of Excellence in association with nVIDIA for students and faculty where they’ll be provided exposure to industry standards with high-quality in a competitive and challenging environment. This is the first-of-its-kind Centre of Excellence established in any private institute in the affiliating university of AKTU, Lucknow, and NCR Region.

This initiative aims at building an “Industry-Ready” AI talent pool and promoting AI research in the Institute. nVIDIA offers industry-leading solutions combined with extensive expertise and a broad ecosystem that helps educational institutes to create or expand an AI Centre of Excellence for both teaching and research needs across all disciplines.

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