Innovation Lab: Mapping Robots, Tough Drones & Smartphone Tasers

Tim Maytom

At Mobile Marketing we're proud to help tech companies showcase their cutting-edge solutions; the Startup Showcase at our Mobile Marketing Summits gives a platform to those companies, and brings audiences one step closer to ideas and developments that are breaking new ground in the market.

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 world's 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.

Full Colour 3D Printing Opens up World of Possibilities

While home 3D printing has progressed leaps and bounds in the past few years, there are still some hurdles that have been holding back the technology, like the fact that objects produced this way had to be constructed entirely from one material in a single colour.

Mosaic Manufacturing have found an ingenious solution to the problem with the Palette, which can precisely measure when filaments need to change colour by analysing the 3D models, then melts together different coloured spools of material which can then be feed into an existing home 3D printer.

The Palette doesn't just limit you to differing colours either - by incorporating some of the exotic filaments available for 3D printers, such as conductive, magnetic or carbon fiber infused materials, the device enables 3D printers to create complex objects with different materials integrated into the design.

apple mapsApple Deploys Army of Robots for Indoor Mapping Project

Apple has reportedly set an army of Roomba-style robots to the task of mapping out its own offices in Cupertino, as part of its indoor mapping project that will enable users to navigate major buildings.

The robots, which are equipped with beacons to transmit data back to a hub, will traverse the building to produce a digital map which will then be accessible in the company's iOS Maps app.

While the feature is not expected to go live until at least 2016, Apple has plans to map a number of locations such as airports, train stations and museums in an effort to help people find their way around.

The project is part of several efforts the company is making to improve its mapping solution, which has lagged behind Google Maps for several years. The firm recently bought hyper-accurate location firm Coherent Navigation, whose GPS technology is reportedly accurate to within a few centimetres.

Robotic Arm Uses Brain Implants for Smoother Actions

Researchers at Caltech have used brain implants that monitor intentions to create a robotic arm capable of much smoother, faster movements for patients with paralysis or amputations.

Normally, neural prosthetic devices are implanted into the brain's movement centre, the motor cortex, in order to control devices. However, because this area governs the actual steps required to take an action, the motion it produces can often be delayed and jerky.

"When you move your arm, you really don't think about which muscles to activate and the details of the movement – such as lift the arm, extend the arm, grasp the cup, close the hand around the cup, and so on. Instead, you think about the goal of the movement. For example, 'I want to pick up that cup of water,'" said Richard Andersen, professor of neuroscience and the principal investigator on the project.

By implanting monitors in the posterior parietal cortex, which forms the intent to make movements, the researchers were able to generate far smoother actions in the robotic arm, including fluid hand-shaking gestures and even playing 'rock, paper, scissors'.

stun gunCell Phone Stun Gun Delivers 1m Volts Instead of Push Notifications

You wouldn't mistake it for a contemporary smartphone, what with the small screen, physical buttons and thick form factor, but the Secret Cell Phone Stun Gun created by True Swords is more concerned with being able to deliver 1m volts to an attacker than competing with the iPhone 6.

According to the description, "the 'hidden in plain sight' design lets you keep this device ready in hand while walking in high risk areas", and while it may not actually function as a phone, it does also include a safety button and extra-bright LED flashlight.

The device is perfect for those worried about personal safety, or just those who want to live out their James Bond gadget fantasies. Just be careful you don't mix it up with your actual phone and accidentally shock yourself while trying to read a text.

Durable Drone Built for Outdoor Adventuring

Drones are becoming increasingly popular for outdoor photography, especially for consumers involved in extreme sports like rock climbing, mountain biking and kayaking. However, many drones aren't able to compete with their owners in terms of toughness, with lightweight frames and exposed elements that mean soft landings are a must.

Ascent Aerosystems aim to solve that problem with its Sprite drone, which is designed to be easy to use, modular and above all tough. The drone is entirely enclosed, with a rugged, high-impact waterproof airframe, and retracting blades that fold close to the body in less than a second.

The drone, which is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, boasts all the standard features too, with a hi-def 2-axis camera, an accompanying app that enables users to set sophisticated flight modes and a range of up to 4 miles.