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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.

First Feature-length Oculus Rift Film is a Hallowe'en Horror



The first ever feature-length film for Oculus Rift has been released, just in time for a terrifying Hallowe'en. The film, a horror movie called The Banshee Chapter, was originally released through video-on-demand in 2013, but has been given a virtual reality overhaul by VR company Jamwix.

While the film doesn't take advantage of any of the Rift's interactive features and, more importantly, doesn't offer a 360 degree experience, instead delivering a 120 degree field of view that wraps around the viewer, it does support head tracking with 3D depth, which should serve to immerse viewers into the film more. The film is available for free through the Oculus Rift website, but requires the DK2 version of the headset and a Mac to be viewed.

nextdoor_treatmap_iphoneNextdoor Launches 'Treat Map' to Find Best Trick or Treating Routes

Hyperlocal social network Nextdoor has created a 'Treat Map' on its app for Hallowe'en trick-or-treaters that enables users to highlight houses that are giving out the best sweets.

App users can mark locations with a candy corn-shaped icon to notify others within the neighbourhood that they have a particularly good stash of chocolate treats. Houses can even tag themselves to encourage visitors or get rid of leftovers, although as a security feature, the app requires locals to prove they reside in the area using a phone call or credit card address verification.

 

Smart Cocktail Shaker Guides You Through Process and Measures as you Pour



With the Christmas party season rapidly approaching, those hoping to impress with their mixology skills might well want to back the B4RM4N smart cocktail shaker on its Kickstarter page. A standard three-piece cocktail shaker, the B4RM4N features an integrated high-precision weight sensor, accelerometers and Bluetooth chip to connect to smartphones.

Using an accompanying app, the shaker can fetch recipes then guide users through the mixing procedure, with a coloured LED indicator displaying when you have added enough of each ingredient.

smartcaneIndian Institute of Technology Develops SmartCane to Assist Blind Pedestrians

Researchers at Assistech, part of the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, have created a vibrating SmartCane to help visually impaired people detect obstacles above knee height and from a greater distance, aiding them in navigating their everyday life.

The SmartCane has received a grant from the Wellcome Trust R&D for Affordable Healthcare in India initiative, and aims to replicate the effects of other visual impairment-aids at a fraction of the price for users. The device utilises ultrasonic sensors to detect obstacles up to three metres away, with feedback delivered to the user through vibrations.

"It feels great to be able to move around alone," said Indirani Sankari, who has used the SmartCane. "I no more need to hold anyone's hand for my mobility. I can just be myself. Family and friends now have the confidence in me that I can travel independently without getting hurt or injured."

Warblr App is Shazam for Songbirds

warblr prototypeMuch like popular apps Shazam and SoundHound, Warblr transforms smartphones into a microphone that can analyse and identify sound. However, rather than using it to pinpoint pop songs, the app uses the technology to identify birds by their distinctive calls.

The app, which is currently seeking backing on Kickstarter, has to adapt for the varying speeds and cadences that different birds of the same species may employ, as well as the fact that individual birds often develop a large repetoire of calls and songs. However, the app's user interface is simple, with users pressing a button and the app returning relevant information such as the bird's name, species and defining characteristics.