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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.

Japanese Bank Introduces Robotic Greetersnao robot bank assistantA 58-centimeter tall robot named NAO is the latest employee at several branches of the Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ in Tokyo, where it will greet customers as they enter and answer basic customer-service questions.

The robot, developed by French robotics firm Aldebaran Robotics, speaks 19 languages, and can also analyze customers' facial expressions and behaviour. A larger unit by the same company, Pepper, was introduced into SoftBank's Tokyo stores last week, but the bank claims that this is the first robotic assistant to be used in a major financial institution.

"We can ramp up communication with our customers by adding a tool like this," said Kazunobu Takahara, a spokesperson for the bank. The bank will add the robots to one or two branches in April, then introduce more if customer feedback is positive.

pacifi-overviewSmart Pacifier Monitors Your Child's Temperature

It was only a matter of time before the smart home revolution gave worried parents a new way of keeping an eye on their young children, and UK-based startup Blue Maestro have tapped into that market with Pacif-i, a Bluetooth-enabled dummy.

The Pacif-i links to an accompanying app for Android and iOS that gives you real time feedback on your child's temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit via a sensor inside the device's silicon teat. The app also enables you to record when you have given a child medicine, and dosage amounts, perfect for busy parents caring for a sick baby, and share the information with medical professionals should you need to.

Shot_03_C_0029 copyBiometric Shirt and App Combine for Remote Personal Training

OmSignal has been producing biometric shirts for a while, measuring heart rate, breathing, movement, intensity, calories burned and 'push', your overall effort. Now, it's introduced a companion training program which connects you with a personal trainer, enabling you to get the same kind of feedback and motivation a trainer can provide from the comfort of your own home.

The shirt provides the personal trainer with real-time feedback of your biometric data, and also enables them to keep track of your personal workouts even when they're not directly involved. The app can connect with video-calling technology, allowing your trainer to give you advice while monitoring a display with all your data.

OmSignal is in the process of certifying trainers, gyms and health studios so they are confident using the technology, and able to create workouts that make the best use of it.

Petcube Lets You Tease Your Cat Over the Internet

Anyone who has spent any amount of time with a cat and a laser pointer knows that it can lead to hours of hilarity as they chase the uncatchable red dot. Petcube taps into exactly that effect to create a device that not only allows you to monitor your pets while you are away from home, but also interact with them.

The Petcube incorporates a wi-fi enabled camera that offers streaming video and two-way audio communication via the accompanying app, letting you chastise your pets when you notice them scratching the furniture from afar. The device also includes a built-in laser point that you can control by sliding your finger across the screen.

waytools-textbladeWayTools TextBlade Packs a QWERTY Keyboard into a Pack of Gum

Both official and third-party keyboards have worked hard at making touchscreen typing more natural on smartphones and tablets, but when you have a lot of text to enter, they still fall short of the physical feedback you get from a true QWERTY keyboard. Phones with built-in keyboards tend to dramatically increase the weight and size, and peripherals are usually equally large. That's where WayTools' TextBlade comes in.

A Bluetooth keyboard that works with Android and iOS devices, the TextBlade features a full QWERTY keyboard with 19mm finger spacing (the same as a standard keyboard), but uses a unique snap together magnetic design to fit into a tiny package a third the size and weight of an iPhone.