Innovation Lab: Furry Wetsuits, Singing Vacuums and Sarcastic Catbots

At Mobile Marketing were proud to help tech companies showcase their cutting-edge solutions, whether its on our website, in our magazine or at our Mobile Marketing Summits. Giving a platform to companies that are breaking new ground in their market brings audiences one step closer to the ideas and developments that will shape tomorrow.

In that spirit, our Innovation Lab feature takes a step beyond the world of apps, ads and handsets with slightly bigger screens, in order to share some of the tech worlds 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.

MIT Designs Beaver-inspired Wetsuits to Keep Surfers Warm

Aquatic mammals like beavers and sea otters are the inspiration behind the latest creation at MITs School of Engineering. These creatures can remain warm and agile in and out of the water, despite the lack of a thick layer of blubber, thanks to their uniquely dense fur which traps pockets of warm air.

Following a trip to a wetsuit manufacturer by MITs Sports Technology and Education program, one researcher began work on a wetsuit that would be lighter and more flexible than conventional designs, and turned to nature for inspiration.

The team fabricated fur-like rubbery pelts and used them to identify the mechanism by which air is trapped between individual hairs, enabling them to better understand how these animals stay warm and dry, and create a model for future bioinspired materials.

“We have now quantified the design space and can say, If you have this kind of hair density and length and are diving at these speeds, these designs will trap air, and these will not. Which is the information you need if youre going to design a wetsuit,” said Anette Hosoi, professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. “Of course, you could make a very hairy wetsuit that looks like Cookie Monster and it would probably trap air, but thats probably not the best way to go about it.”

cocorobo anime versionSharps Robot Vacuum Cleaner Now Sings While It Works
The Cocorobo, Sharps answer to the Roomba, has been available for several years now, and already boasted a number of features to distinguish it from other automated vacuum cleaners, including LED lights, remote control via an app and voice commands.

Now, after hearing customer complaints over the noise the device made while operating, Sharp has gone one step further, and integrated vocaloid software into its latest prototype, recently unveiled at the CEATEC trade show in Japan, enabling it to sing while it works.

The Vocaloid voice synthesis software was created by Yamaha and already powers several virtual J-Pop (Japanese pop music) stars. While the Cocorobo wont be using algorithms to write music, as some of the more advanced Vocaloid performers do, it will be able to play songs based on a user playlist or recommend tunes for a particular mood.

The software isnt just being used to sing – its also being used to power voice feedback on the Cocorobo, enabling it to talk back to its owners, confirming commands or alerting them when it needs emptying.

Hacked Google Chip Gives Your Mobile A Sense of Touch

Googles Project Soli, which was unveiled at the companys I/O developer conference in 2015, is a tiny chip that uses radar to distinguish between tiny variations in hand movements, intended to launch a new way of interacting with mobile devices.

However, students at the University of St. Andrews have found a new application for the chip – providing mobile devices with a sense of touch. When different materials are placed on the chip, the fixed radar profile is as unique as a fingerprint, and machine learning enables it to recognise the changes.

The technology, called RadarCat, is sensitive enough to identify the difference between an empty drinking glass and a full one, the front and back of the same phone, and plates made from ceramic and porcelain. The creators already have a number of applications in mind, but the potential for the technology is huge.

nailbotNailbot Can Put Custom Art On Your Nails in Seconds
If youre looking to put some interesting designs on your nails but lack a steady hand, then the Nailbot is what youve been waiting for. The device, currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, can print custom nail art directly onto your fingernails in five seconds.

Users still have to prep their nails with a light background colour, but once they are dry, they can use their smartphone to select from over 3,000 emojis to print on them, or even use photos from their phones camera roll or online.

The creators have ambitious plans for the future of the device, too, with in-app design tools enabling users to customise images further planned, and even an augmented reality function that will enable you to preview the art on your nails before you print.

KiQ is a Personal Assistant with a Sense of Humour

With digital assistants one of the hot new technologies of the moment, designers and developers are on the lookout for ways to distinguish their creations. KiQ certainly does that, by coming in the form of a cuddly but sarcastic cat.

The smart toy links wirelessly to your phone and performs all the usual tasks youd associate with a digital assistant, notifying you of calls, messages and appointments. However, the cat is also a comedian, with a constantly-expanding library of jokes written by comedy writers that.

KiQs alerts are flavoured with personality and humour, and owners can also ask it to perform for them, giving tactile feedback to tailor its sense of humour to their own by patting its head or push its nose. The device is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, so if youre in the mood for a snarky pet that will answer your calls, youre in luck.