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Innovation Lab: Spermbots, Shrunken Street View and Simulated Dementia

Tim Maytom

At Mobile Marketing we're proud to help tech companies showcase their cutting-edge solutions, whether it's 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 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.

spermbot
Microscopic Motors Could Speed Up Sperm


Every year, tens of millions of couples struggle to conceive a child, with solutions like in-vitro fertilisation and artificial insemination proving both costly and relatively low in terms of success. Low sperm mobility, where sperm cells are unable to reach the egg, is a major cause of low male fertility, but now a team of German scientists have a solution - microscopic motors for individual sperm.

The 'spermbot' is a tiny metal spiral that fits over the tail of the sperm, but isn't wide enough to slip over it's 'head'. By using a rotating magnetic field, researchers can direct the spiral to an individual sperm, then use it as a motor to drive the sperm towards the egg.

When the sperm reaches the egg, the two cells merge as normal and the micromotor simply slips off the end of the sperm's tail. The magnetic field doesn't cause harm to any of the cells involved, so it's perfect for use on living tissues.

The research, which was published in the Nano Letters scientific journal, still has a lot of work to do to get beyond the experimental stage, but in theory it could be significantly less costly than other assisted fertilisation technologies, which can cost up to thousands of pounds per session.

Google Shrinks Down Street View for Model Town


Google's Street View technology has gone from extraordinary innovation to mundane in a few short years, but the mapping solution that provides users with a 360-degree view of cities around the world is still finding ways to impress and delight, as it proved recently by mapping out streets no human could ever walk down.

The Miniatur Wunderland is the world's largest model railway, and one of Hamburg's most successful tourism draws. The attraction recently teamed up with Google and Unilabs to make tiny cameras that could be fixed to model cars, trains and even boats, capturing the wealth of detail that the team behind the display have put into it.

With over 8,000 miles of railway track and a population of over 200,000 model inhabitants, the huge display recreates various German cities and locations, from Hamburg's airport (with working aircraft) to winter sports in the Alps. The Google website lets you appreciate the display from 'street' level, with high-definition images from a wide variety of locations.

"For a full year, Google has been experimenting, developing and digitising the Wunderland," said a spokesperson for Minatur Wunderland. "The Street View camera technology was minaturised and inserted into vehicles specially designed for capturing every nook and corner of the exhibition. Driving along streets and tracks, they provided us with completely new and stunning panoramic views of our small world that you can navigate within."

chromatIntel Collaborates on Bio-responsive Dress
Tech giant Intel has teamed up with sportswear and fashion designer Chromat to integrate its wearable-focused processor the Curie Module into a dress that reacts to the wearer's body temperature, adrenaline and stress levels, changing shape accordingly.

Fashion and technology brands are increasingly collaborating, and the latest creation by Becca McCharen, whose designs can be seen in the video for "Bad Blood" by Taylor Swift, takes the principal of the quantified self to the next level by growing and shrinking based on the user's stress levels.

The Curie Module, a button-sized processor that was designed with wearable technology in mind, enables the dress to respond to both internal and external stressors, and the dress itself is made of a pliable memory alloy that can return to its original shape after stretching or shrinking.

"By serving as an extension of our sensory systems, the responsive garments reflect a concept known as biomimicry, where nature is used to solve complex human problems," said a Chromat spokesperson.

Sony's New Smart Light Can Control Your Home and Call Your Family


Sony's new Multifunctional Light may not boast the most imaginative name, but in terms of smart home capabilities, it goes above and beyond what most people would expect from an Internet of Things light fixture.

The disc-shaped device attaches to your ceiling and, like most smart home equipment, connects easily to your smartphone so that you can alter its brightness from the comfort of your sofa, as well as programming it to come on at specific times.

However, the sensor-packed device also acts as a smart home hub, able to activate heating or air-conditioning when it detects changes in temperature or humidity, or even turn on the TV when you enter the room. It even has a built-in speaker, enabling you to route calls through it and address the whole room with ease if you don't fancy yelling that dinner's ready.

protrainingbusSimulated Dementia Experience Tours the UK
Dementia care is an increasing priority for health services in developed nations, as aging populations put growing pressure on care providers. However, in order to properly care for people suffering from dementia, it helps to understand exactly how the condition can affect people's perceptions and thoughts.

The Mobile Virtual Dementia Tour by Training2Care is aiming to do just that. The truck, which is touring the UK, contains a mock-up of a person's home. People who take part in the experience wear a pair of glasses that blur their vision and simulate macular degeneration, while headphones are used to create chaotic sounds and noise, both of which can affect dementia sufferers.

In addition, gloves and insoles are used to recreate peripheral neuropathy, dulling your sense of touch and making it feel like you're stepping on needles. People who have tried the tour have described the experience as disorienting and scary, and have struggled to carry out basic tasks like dressing themselves or navigating the room.

"The Virtual Dementia Tour helps you to understand what people with dementia experience every day," said Glenn Knight, managing director of Training2Car. "it gives you an opportunity to understand what we need to change to keep our loved ones at home longer, improve our practice and improve the quality of our care."

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