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Innovation Lab: The Biggest Ideas in Tech This Week

Tim Maytom

If you've been to one of Dot Media's events, you'll know that our Innovation Lab hosts companies presenting cutting-edge technology that's poised to transform the market with groundbreaking ideas and solutions.

In that spirit, we've taken a step beyond the world of apps, ads and handsets with slightly bigger screens, in order to share some of the tech world's most innovative ideas. They might be interesting, disruptive or just outright strange, but these are the stories that have caught our eye over the past week.

Oculus Rift-controlled Robot to Beam Footage Back from the Moon

astrobotic_0Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in America are developing a robot that will be controlled by the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, as part of bid for Google's $30m prize for sending video back from the moon. The team has partnered with space firm Astrobotic and is planning to send the robot to the moon using Elon Musk's SpaceX company.

The lunar rover robot will feature dual-mounted cameras controlled by the motion-sensitive Oculus Rift headset back on Earth, enabling users to explore the surface of the moon in real time. The team is one of 18 worldwide competing for the Lunar X-Prize.

Click Your Heels Together to Call a Taxi with the Dorothy



DC-based iStrategy Labs has developed a wearable solution that will put users on the road to the Emerald City. The Dorothy consists of a smartphone app linked to the 'Ruby', a Bluetooth-connected device that slips inside your shoe.

Upon detecting you clicking your  heels together three times, the Ruby sends an alert to the app and triggers a preset action, which could be making a call, sending a text alert to up to three friends, sharing your location or even calling a cab via Uber.

Hendo Hover Aim to Kickstart a Working Hoverboard

hendo-hoverboards-001-1500x1000Inviting comparisons to Back to the Future II, tech company Hendo Hover has developed a hoverboard that enables users to float above the ground. The company are funding the project through a Kickstarter, which has already surpassed its target with 51 days to go.

The board uses four large disc-shaped electromagnets, and requires a non-ferromagnetic, conductive floor to work, so is unlikely to be seen on the streets soon, but the technology could well be used in warehouse situations for transporting loads above pre-built metal tracks.

British Developer Transforms Cassette Player to Stream Spotify

cassette playerCombining cutting-edge tech like the Raspberry Pi computing system and NFC tags with old-school aesthetics, developer Matt Brailsford has converted an old cassette player into a device to stream Spotify playlists.

Most of the internal components of the original player have been stripped out and replaced with a Raspberry Pi running a version of Music Box with Spotify streaming features loaded on it. The cassettes are fitted with NFC tags associated with particular playlists on Spotify, which the player recognises and streams, while custom modules enable users to play, pause and skip tracks with the original buttons, or change the volume with the dial.

3D Printing Project Transforms Photographs into Objects for Blind People

Creative agency Pirate 3D has created a 3D printer that recreates old photos as physical objects, enabling blind people to 'see' them for the first time. They revealed the project in a short film on YouTube, which features several individuals who have lost their eyesight demonstrating the impact that being able to interact with these images from their past has.



"We realised that most people were not interested in purchasing a 3D printer for their homes because they didn't know what use they could give to the technology," said Fred Bosch, the project leader, speaking to Fast Company. "We purposefully focused on creating an experience that could only be made possible by 3D printing.

"There were very long silences while we saw emotions wash over their faces as if they were being transported in time, but Daniela was perhaps who stands out the most. She chose a memory that not only brought her back to her childhood and the ski holiday she spend with her family, but also reminded her of intimate details that she had forgotten, like the wool cap she was wearing at the time and the crunch of the snow beneath her boots."