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24 Mar

Soundscape, an iPhone app from Microsoft, helps create a three-dimensional map for blind people in the United Kingdom, providing directions and offering descriptions of local areas.

Users simply need to designate a beacon at their eventual destination; this in turn triggers 3D sound cues that give users clues as to their immediate surroundings. The app also interacts with global map services in order to describe the names of streets.

Connecting to a stereo headset allows users to independently explore the world around them. The app's 3D audio gives the impression that sounds are being transmitted from the area of interest. This way, the user can construct a mental picture of what’s nearby from ambient sounds and the Soundscape app.

22 Mar

For the many patients who are rendered paralyzed at some point, the loss of simple functions like hand movements can be debilitating. But a new wearable robot can restore that mobility, allowing someone who has paralysis due to a stroke or other event to grip items, lift objects, and even use a toothbrush.

The robot, called the Exo-Glove Poly, is made of a polymer that is both comfortable and easy to clean. The wearer merely slips the glove onto the affected hand, hooking it over a thumb, index finger, and middle finger, and an internal motor moves wires in the glove for maneuverability.

20 Mar

Just when you think every type of watercraft has been imagined, creators come out with something new. An upcoming bicycle from a New Zealand startup called Manta5 has the ability to transport riders completely on top of the water.

The water toy is made using a product called hydrofoil, which is a foil used to lift watercraft so that it can ride on top of the water’s surface. Manta5’s creation is called the Hydrofoiler XE-1, which has electric power that supplements a rider’s own pedaling to keep it moving forward.

18 Mar

The small land area available to residents of the Netherlands means that expanding into the surrounding ocean is necessary in order to support a growing population.

The Dutch have done this throughout history by building dikes to reclaim land. However, that model of land reclamation might not be viable nowadays.

One possible contemporary solution: The building and maintaining of floating islands, as envisioned by the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN).

The organization's artificial, floating island consists of sizable triangles that interlock in modular ways. In terms of structure, the MARIN islands function along the lines of Italian Floating Piers and walkways, albeit on a huger scale. According to MARIN, its version of floating islands could wind up covering areas as much 3.1 miles (5 km) wide. They could also be used for many different purposes, including fishing and seaweed-harvesting facilities, renewable energy configurations, docks for the loading and unloading of ships, and public spaces.

16 Mar

As more people flee their homelands due to civil strife, natural disasters, or simply the desire to live and breathe free of oppression, citizens and governments of destination countries find themselves faced with myriad problems: Where will the newcomers be housed? How will they be fed? Is it possible for huge throngs of people to assimilate into another culture within a short period of time? Is it even desired, on anyone's part?

Even if there could be agreement on those as well as other pressing issues concerning refugees, how effectively could policies be communicated across language barriers? How can refugees make their needs and wishes known?

Translators Without Borders (TWB) may offer at least a partial solution. The non-profit organization was originally founded in 1993 in France as Traducteurs sans Frontières by Lori Thicke and Ros Smith-Thomas as a way to connect translators from around the world to trusted non-profit organizations whose missions encompass the areas of education, nutrition, and health.

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