Innovation Lab: The Biggest Ideas in Tech This Week

If youve been to one of Dot Medias events, youll know that our Innovation Lab hosts companies presenting cutting-edge technology thats poised to transform the market with groundbreaking ideas and solutions.

In that spirit, weve taken a step beyond the world of apps, ads and handsets with slightly bigger screens, in order to share some of the tech worlds 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.

Game Creates Christmas Shopper Simulator

Computer game retailer Game is preparing its customers for the festive rush in an unusual way – with a free computer game that aims to recreate the experience of a crowded shopping centre in the midst of the Christmas period.

The game, based on on the equally mundane Goat Simulator, is free for both Windows and Mac, and comes “complete with all the disappointment, frustration and suspension of the laws of physics that youd find in a real shopping centre”.

Hawking4-blog-cropSwiftKey Creates Personalised Keyboard for Professor Stephen Hawking

Third-party keyboard developers SwiftKey have revealed they had spent two years working with physicist Professor Stephen Hawking to develop a bespoke predictive typing system that has dramatically increased the speed and accuracy of his typing.

Professor Hawking, who has motor neuron disease, uses a muscle in his cheek to activate a tiny sensor which types on his keyboard. Working with Intel, the SwiftKey team developed a personal language model based on his extensive body of work, including unpublished documents.

While the typical SwiftKey system is aimed at improving accuracy for fast, inaccurate typists composing texts or tweets, Professor Hawkings system focuses on enabling him to write and speak with greater ease for longer periods, and work on long-form lectures and books.

tommy-hilfiger-solar-jacket-rear-970x548-cTommy Hilfiger Designs Solar Charging Jacket

Weve seen more and more companies from the fashion world enter into the realm of wearable technology, as the demand for stylish technology that looks good as well as functioning well grows. Now designer clothing brand Tommy Hilfiger has entered the market with a limited edition Solar Powered Jacket.

The jacket, designed in conjunction with solar energy experts Pvilion, costs $600 (£385) and can charge two devices at the same time through built-in USB ports. While the back-mounted array of flexible, water resistant solar panels are hardly high-street fashion, the setup can also be removed when not needed.

jewliebotsSmart Friendship Bracelets Aim to Teach Girls to Code

Hardware accelerator Highway 1s latest project aims to introduce girls to the basics of coding, in an attempt to encourage more young women into science and technology careers.

The charms that make up the Jewliebots friendship bracelets include a Bluetooth receiver, small motor and neopixels to generate light. The bands are made from coloured silicone and come in a variety of designs, and with a variety of charms, which can be programmed via a smartphone app to pair up with other bracelets, and react in different ways. Theres also an option for more advanced programmers to create custom reactions, and upload them to the Jewliebots website.

PR2 Robot Can Fold Your Laundry and Fetch You a Beer

It may not sound like a great leap forward, but the software that enables the Willow Garage Personal Robot 2 to fold clothing and towels is actually incredible complex, due to fabrics deformable nature, meaning a shirt will look different based on whether its hanging neatly in a wardrobe, or scrunched up into a ball on the floor.

“Many important problems in robotics and computer vision involve deformable objects,” said Pieter Abbeel, assistant professor of Berkeleys Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, who worked on the software, “and the challenges posed by robotic towel-folding reflect important challenges inherent in robotic perception and manipulation for deformable objects.”

Its not all hard work though, as the team at Willow Garage have also developed a program that enables the robot to deliver beer to their desks while they are busy programming. The robot even features facial recognition, and will not allow you to take a beer unless it knows you asked for one.