Category Archives: Health

Will Electronic Eyeglasses Work for You?

If you happen to be someone who wears prescription glasses which have bifocal or progressive lenses in them, you may want to sit up and pay attention right now. Thanks to PixelOptics, your life – and your eyes – could make a drastic change in the near future. Beginning in June, the company will roll out their electronic glasses. The spectacles – called emPower – allows you to quickly switch between different perscriptions. You can use one for reading things close to your face and one for looking at things from afar.

These specs use a very thin layer of little liquid crystals stuffed in between the plastic layers. Electronic current from the rechargeable battery changes the focal power of the lens faster than you can blink. The emPower can be run for about three days on a single charge, so you won’t have to worry about this every few hours. The company promises that the way your eyes work will be revolutionized:

  • Focus as fast as you can blink your eye.
  • Provide an invisible electronic near focus zone when desired.
  • Offer three modes of operation: automatic, manual on, manual off.
  • Provide wider fields of view compared to a progressive addition lens.
  • Allow for less distortion than a progressive addition lens.
  • Vision correction for all ranges of sight: far, near, and in between.
  • Allow you to turn near reading power off when desired.
  • Rechargeable hidden battery.

The glasses are expected to hit the market in only two areas at first – Virginia and North Carolina. However, the company has plans to quickly expand across the country prior to the end of 2011. The spec won’t be cheap: a pair will cost you around a thousand bucks. It’s a matter of comfort and convenience, I suppose. I know I will totally take a look at these myself.

What about you? Would you trust your eyesight to a pair of high-tech “electronic” glasses?

How to Save Money on Ultrasound Technology

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Ultrasound image processing equipment that is used in hospitals and clinics is expensive. The cost of this type of machinery increases the medical costs already associated with prenatal care. This makes it prohibitive for many pregnant women to access this type of testing and diagnostics. The BearPaw team from BYU designed a cloud-based image processing solution, which couples with a tablet computer and USB ultrasound devices to dramatically reduce the cost of capturing – and processing – ultrasound images.

I met with this team when I helped to judge the recent Imagine Cup USA finals. This competition allows students to create real-world software and services applications which make use of Microsoft tools and technology. The winner received an automatic bid to compete at the Worldwide finals later this year.

The Mobile Ultrasound is a solution which uses the Cloud to not only process the images, it also allows input of real patient information and the gives the ability to upload to a server for future processing and retrieval.

This type of testing is not only done on pregnant women to detect fetal complications. It’s also used to diagnose kidney stones, appendicits and many other human body issues and defects. It’s a simple matter to plug the device in to a USB port and grab the information quickly. It gets rid of the traditional – and expensive – parts which cuts way down on the costs.

Doctors will be able to retrieve this information at any point in time, no matter where they may be. As long as they have an Internet connection, they could receive the video file and images. The images are saved in a .JPG format so that they can be viewed even on a mobile device. It doesn’t matter where a doctor happens to be – or what device he uses to access the Internet – he or she will be able to have the needed information at their fingertips instantly.

As a prototype, this device was made for just over two thousand dollars. The traditional big systems cost well over a hundred thousand bucks, people. Just one of these devices will save so much money that doctors and hospitals won’t know what to do with it all.

Great work to the team at BearPaw, and good luck to all of you in the future.

Lifelens Brings Malaria Detection Tool to Mobile Applications

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I had a fantastic time helping to judge the Imagine Cup 2011 US Software Design category in Redmond last week. I’ve already written about the winner in that category, Note-Taker. The runner up is definitely no slouch. The work this team is doing is very important and can help save a countless number of lives.

Lifelens is introducing something truly innovative: a point-of-care tool which will diagnose Malaria using a mobile phone application. This project addresses the high child mortality rates which are caused by the lack of detection and available early treatment. The solution has a huge potential to reduce the high costs of diagnosis and treatment of Malaria. This will allow more children around the world to be treated under the amount of funding that is available already.

As of right now, you have to go through a long process in order to diagnose Malaria, including looking at samples under a microscope. With Lifelens, that process is much faster with a scanning algorithm. The app is able to count cells and find out everything going on very quickly. Millions of people die from Malaria every year, and this project may cut that number down drastically. They’re taking technology which is old and slow, putting it literally into people’s hands and then save a lot of lives.

The software scans and detects how many infected cells there are. The person can then upload the data to the Cloud and geo-locate exactly where the sample was taken. Doctors and scientists can use the data to hopefully begin to help predicting patterns and ways to prevent an outbreak.

The team also has plans to be able to detect other blood-borne viruses and diseases in general, such as Anemia and Sickle-Cell Disease. Talk about life-changing technology! Kudos to this team of talented young people.

How Does Music Influence Your Life?

If you’ve tuned into my live stream lately, you’ve heard the awesome 8-bit music that’s playing. I can’t stand silence. There’s always something making noise here in my office. This sound can come from the television, or from music I have playing. My tastes are pretty out there as far as style goes. The beauty of music, though, is that there’s something for everyone.

One of our LockerGnome contributors recently asked about music which influenced other members. This made me stop and think about music in a very broad sense. I know so many people – my assistant Kat included – who claim they cannot think, work or sleep without music playing. I cannot honestly say that I am the same way, but I do agree that what I listen to has a lot to do with the mood I am in.

Our tastes change depending on what is going on in our head. If you’re in the writing zone, you may prefer to have classical music humming through the speakers. However, others insist they have to have some hard bass pumping in their blood before they can type the first word. We go through life stuffing people into pigeon holes and deciding for them what they are most likely to enjoy. But when it comes to our listening style, every profile is thrown out of the window.

The grandmother of four down the street probably likes rock music, but the teenager on the bus has Jazz soothing her soul on the ride home. That young man with black fingernails and clothing isn’t listening to some “weird” punk stuff… he’s enjoying Mozart and smirking at you as you walk by. The little old lady with blue hair on her way to the supermarket isn’t playing something from the 1930s – she’s cranking up the Beatles and bopping her head along in time.

There’s something about music that reaches out and grabs you by the soul. It doesn’t matter what genre you happen to prefer – music is going to touch you in some way. You’re going to identify with it and you’re going to crave it. Why do you think there are hundreds of ways to get your fix? Crank up a radio, turn on the CD player, slap in an 8-track or cassette, tune in to your favorite online station or grab an instrument and play whatever is in your heart.

How does music influence your life each day? What do you listen to?

Imagine Cup US Winner – Note-Taker

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Many people may not know this, but Macular Degeneration runs in my family. My grandmother had it and my mom has it, as well. The chances of me developing it in the future are very high. I take it very seriously when I see a piece of technology come along which can aid those people who cannot see as well as others.

One of the student teams that I was judging at the Imagine Cup is responsible for US winning software design entry Note-Taker.

Fewer than 40% of low-vision adults participate in our work force, and this team feels that lack of educational tools contributes to that. They are passionate about helping these students achieve their goals by giving them a tool to help them succeed. Using someone else’s notes – even those taken down by a mentor or student helper – doesn’t always work. Being able to take down notes from a lecture on their own is paramount to helping students absorb and understand the material.

Note-Taker combines an integrated software solution for Microsoft OneNote with a user-controlled camera to provide low-sight individuals with the ability to take notes in class more effectively. The camera allows the user to zoom in on specific sections of the front of the class, back up in time to review, and generally have better access to all the same visual experiences people with unimpaired vision.

The Imagine Cup encourages teams to compete in one of the 8 areas identified as part of the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed upon by 189 nations around the world more than nine years ago. They encompass universally accepted human rights such as freedom from hunger, the right to basic education, the right to health, and a responsibility to future generations. Now, less than four years from the date of 2015 by which the Millennium Development Goals are to be achieved, it’s time we made a difference.

Earth Hour 2011 Geek Style

Earth Hour 2011 is nearly upon us and it’s time to decide if you are going to participate. It’s pretty easy to shut off the lights and power down your electronics for a single hour. Geeks have never done anything halfway, though, and this should be no exception. There are several other ways you can show your support for this fantastic event, as well as many ways you can make some serious life changes.

At 8:30 PM on Saturday 26th March 2011, lights will switch off around the globe for Earth Hour and people will commit to actions that go beyond the hour. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has lent his voice to Earth Hour’s global ‘lights out’ action calling on citizens of the world to use the moment to make a commitment to one ongoing environmental act: “Switch off your lights and switch on to the meaning of Earth Hour. Join this global call by the people, for the planet.”

How can you take part other than turning off the lights in your home? Why not consider turning the lights off on Twitter? By signing in with your account and choosing your time zone, you’ll be ready to join what could potentially become millions of others in showing solidarity across the popular micro-blogging platform. Once signed in, the application will automatically send out a Tweet to show your support. Then, when Earth Hour hits in your time zone, your avatar will change to a darkened one automagically.

Please note: your avatar will NOT change back! You can either manually change it yourself or click here to put the old one back in its place.

How can you go beyond the hour in your own life? There’s more to it than simply shutting off lights, folks. You can find many ideas on Beyond the Hour, including:

  • Cutting down the use of plastics.
  • Rollerblading, biking or walking to work instead of driving.
  • Switching bulbs to more energy-efficient ones.
  • Recycle products whenever possible.

… and the list continues. You can even add your own pledge and suggestions to help others.

You may not think that it’s such a “big deal” to work on saving this Earth, but I’m pretty sure your kids and grandkids will thank you for it.

Stuck in an Internet Rut

Unless you’re an early adopter, the chances of you becoming stuck in an Internet rut are actually quite high. We tend to allow this to happen in our offline lives all too often. We become stagnant – stuck in our ways. We don’t branch out to try new things and go new places. It’s easier and less frightening to go with what we already know and are used to, isn’t it? The same thing can happen when you’re online, and that saddens me.

The Internet stretches even further than your own imagination. If you want to find it – it’s out there. Trying new things should be easier online than anywhere else. We have that anonymity when we’re behind a screen, remember? That doesn’t mean you can act like an idiot and treat others badly. It does, however, give you a window in which you can stretch your wings and do something outside of your comfort zone.

I tend to get pretty angry when I see someone saying online that they are bored. In fact, if you say that in my chat room, the bot will tell you that “If you’re really bored, then leave. There’s plenty else to do on the Internet. By yawning or stating that you’re bored here, you’re only illustrating your extreme level of apathy and inability to keep yourself entertained. If you’re not engaged, you’re doing something wrong – and it’s nobody’s fault but your own.” I cannot reiterate how true that is: if you’re bored online, it’s your own fault.

If you’re painfully shy and have always dreamed of being the center of a large group of people, the Internet will let you do that. There are millions of forums and chat rooms out there, folks. You can join general ones or those which are geared towards specific interests. I’ve known plenty of people who were terrified to meet new people who reported that making friends online was a whole new ballgame.

Perhaps you are someone who always wanted to try their hand at cooking – why not sign up for a course on the Internet? You can follow along via your notebook right in your own kitchen. Maybe you think you’d like to learn Yoga but are afraid of looking stupid in front of others as you attempt to stretch your body into those God-awful positions. Guess what? You can figure that out online, as well.

There’s truly no excuse for becoming stuck in a rut when you have access to the Internet. If you cannot force yourself to try new things out in the physical world, why not attempt them in the online one?

How to Help Japan Thanks to SXSW

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The recent earthquake and Tsunami in Japan took thousands of lives, left millions without homes and destroyed a countless number of businesses and farms. It will take many years to rebuild some of what was lost, if it can be rebuilt at all. The country and its citizens are still reeling from aftershocks and fearing the worst with the issues at the nuclear plants. Even the parties at SXSW this week couldn’t completely obliterate the haunting video footage from our minds.

People such as Hermione Way of the The Next Web didn’t sit on their laurels drinking mimosas. They got out there and did their part to send relief to this country so ravaged by nature. She and a friend decided to raise money using only their iPhones, a Square device and their humor. Hermione performed several fun tasks in exchange for donations to the Japan relief effort.

Our buddy Drew Olanoff donated some money. Several other people did, as well, including a whopping $1111.11 donation from Tim Ferris. Tim challenges you to double his donation – are you up to the task?

The girls raised about $4500 in less than 36 hours, doing everything from being thrown into a swimming pool fully clothed to chugging a full beer – a task that Hermione hopes she never has to repeat. She also reportedly gives good neck and back rubs! They will continue to raise money over the next several days via IndieGoGo.

Another group has begun an “official” SXSW fund-raising effort called #SXSWCares. In just a few days, around $57,000.00 has been raised! This shows how much heart geeks really have, folks. We aren’t only concerned about the next big tech gadget or newest location service. We care about our fellow humans – often in a very big way.

The SXSW committee is putting their money where their mouth is: as of the writing of this blog post, they are offering up:

The next to donate $900+ receives a 2012 SXSW Platinum Pass. Only 1 left.
The next to donate $650+ receives a 2012 SXSW Gold Pass. Only one left.

That’s a pretty sweet deal, folks. If you have ever seen the cost of those particular passes, you’ll know that’s a bargain. Not only are you getting the ticket at a good price, the money you “spend” is actually going directly to the Red Cross to help the victims in Japan.

You can contribute to the SXSW Cares cause in one of three ways:

You can, of course, also help spread the word on Twitter, Facebook, your blog and any other websites you visit regularly.

Even a few dollars will go a long way towards helping the people who are facing devastation on such a large scale that it’s hard for us to imagine as we sit here in our homes following the announcements, product launches and parties that together make up SXSWi. If you can, I urge you to donate. If you cannot, please keep the people of this beautiful country in your thoughts, and spread the word to others where you can.

How to Diet and Exercise When You Travel

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Conferences are a fantastic way to educate yourself and make new connections with people. They’re also a great way to network at after-parties and gain a little weight. Let’s face it: most conference parties offer food which is full of carbs, sugars and other icky substances. Even though it tastes fantastic, our bodies may not thank us for partaking in the morning. What’s a geek to do to stay in shape while spending so much time attending events? Jake met up with Tim Ferriss – author of The 4-Hour Body – to find out.

Sticking with proteins and veggies can be done at SXSW and any other event you may be traveling to. Don’t feel you have to sample all of the food offered to you during conference lunches and dinner or during parties thrown for attendees. Additionally, if you feel you must drink alcohol, try ordering a NorCal Margarita. This is comprised of soda water, high-grade tequila and the juice from at least four limes. These drinks are the “lesser of many evils” according to Tim, since many types of booze contains a lot of calories.

Exercising in a hotel room can be tricky, and you usually don’t quite feel up to going for a morning run during conference days. Tim has a few ideas to help Jake out there, as well. Packing a few mini bands allows you to quickly do your resistance exercises. You can also adapt several normal types of exercise to give you more of a workout: try doing one-armed pushups against a desk at an angle. Do your squats with one leg raised. Make sure you aren’t a klutz like me before attempting any of these things, though.

If you don’t have any weights in your suitcase or hotel room to help with your workout, try making your exercises much slower than usual. If you’re performing squats, go down slowly at a count of five and come back up at a count of five. The same goes for many other types of stretches and lunges.

Lastly, Tim recommends looking into doing an intense workout the day before traveling which requires giving your body 5-7 days to recover before doing another. This sort of covers you for the days you are gone and cannot work your body to its usual pace.

Tobii Lets You Use a Computer with Your Eyes

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Tobii Technology touts themselves as the world leader in eye tracking and eye control. Their eye tracking technology allows computers to know where the users are looking. When I first sat down to test the software, I was amazed at how quickly it worked, taking less than two seconds to calibrate and figure out what I wanted to do. This seems much easier for users than the intendiX setup I demonstrated a few days ago.

There are millions of people in this world who cannot use a computer in the “normal” way, due to various physical challenges they may have. Some may not be able to use their hands to type or click a mouse, and that’s where the technology from Tobii can make a difference.

Tobii has revolutionized the field by developing eye trackers that work for basically any user without requiring any manual adjustments. Tobii eye trackers combine high accuracy and precision with an extremely high tolerance for large head movement and a variety of environments. The technology is compact enough to integrate into a wide range of devices and applications.

The Eye Tablet was developed using cutting-edge technology whose precision is almost incomprehensible. Not only is this tablet perfect for those with physical impairments, it also works very well in settings where your hands may not be available:

  • hospital room or surgeries
  • malls and stores
  • public venues
  • exhibitions, trade shows, conferences or fairs

It takes only a few moments to set up the Tobii tablet and eye control module. You don’t have to do weird things or wear strange-looking objects. Simply put yourself in front of the screen and perform a speedy one-time calibration. No other adjustments are ever needed. The eye control is fully automatic and simple to use, no matter what experience level you have with computers in general.

The eye control module itself has one of the market’s largest head movement boxes. This is the imaginary box where sensors can track your eyes. This means that it’s not critical to stay in the same place: you can move your head around if you wish. You won’t have to worry about interrupted tracking or losing any functionality. If you accidentally (or purposely) move out of the eye tracking area, the tracker will pick up where you left off when you return – without needing to be calibrated again.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: we have talked many times over the years about “the future of technology.” I’d say that future is here. I can’t wait to see the things we’ll have at our disposal in the next few years.