1. ReMix – MIT’s ‘GPS’ to locate implants in the body
So far, swallowing long tubes with built-in cameras or cutting open a patient are generally the options sought by a physician, to investigate any anomaly inside the human body. To provide a less expensive,invasive and time-consuming method, MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory(CSAIL), along with researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), have developed an in-body GPS system known as “ReMix” which can pin-point the location of ingestible implants inside the human body using low-power signals. The locator or implant does not need to make physical contact but just needs wireless signals and math. The technology used,bounces radio signals from the patient,using an algorithm to track the implant.The team demonstrated during the animal testing that they can track the implants with centimeter-level accuracy. During the testing, the team first implanted a small marker in the animal tissues and then to track its movement, they used a wireless device that reflected radio signals off the patient. A special algorithm then used those signals to pin-point the exact location of that marker. Noticeable point: the marker inside the body does not need to transmit any wireless signal, instead it simply reflects the signal transmitted by the wireless device outside the body. But since there are other signals reflected off a person’s skin, the team had to develop a semiconductor device called “diode”that mixes up signals together which can then filter out skin-related signals.One potential application for ReMix: proton therapy for cancer treatment which essentially requires high degree of precision to bombard tumours with beams of magnet-controlled protons.With a small marker like ReMix, doctors could better determine the location of a tumour in real-time and either pause the treatment or steer the beam into the right position due to shifting nature of the tumour sometimes. So, in times to come,Remix could be the key to delivering medicine to locations in the body which are either very hard to reach or very specific in nature. These implants could also be used as tiny trackers on shifting tumours to monitor their slightest movements. ReMix is not yet accurate enough to be used in clinical settings and does need refinement to reduce the margin offer or close to a couple of millimeters for actual implementation. In future,the researchers want to combine the wireless data with the medical data like MRIs to improve system’s accuracy. The team is still working on its improvement – overcome its deficiencies to enable accurate and reliable point of care. The working team comprises of Katabi and Vasisht who co-wrote the paper with MIT PhD student Guo Zhang; University of Water loo Professor Omid Abari; MGH Physicist Hsaio-Ming Lu; and MGH Technical Director Jacob Flanz.
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2. Method developed to send messages using vibrations on skin
Researchers at Purdue University have developed a method to send messages in English by using vibrations on a person’s skin. The device used works by playing a specific vibration assigned to a given English ‘phone me’ or the smallest unit of sound on a user’s forearm. For each speech trait, the device is encoded to generate distinct sensations. The device is based on Haptic technology or kinesthetic communication or 3D touch that creates an experience of touch by applying forces, vibrations or motions to the user. It is developed under the guidance of Professor Hong Z. Tan,Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Purdue University.
3. Pocket Scanner with Infrared Rays to Determine Food Freshness
According to United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization,about 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted annually which is nearly one third of the food produced in the world. There are many reasons for this loss. A large factor – consumers discard food as they have trouble determining if a food item is still fresh and edible, especially for meat and other non-vegetarian items, which are sold with labels mentioning “sell-by-date” or “use-by date”. Considering this, the Bavarian Ministry of Food “We Rescue Food’ alliance has launched 17 initiatives, one of which is the Fraunhofer pocket scanner. Researchers at Fraunhofer Society, a German Research Foundation,are developing an infrared-based pocket scanner that will enable the consumers,supermarkets and other food handlers to determine if the food item has gone bad and its degree of ripeness.The scanner is based on high-precision near-infrared (NIR) sensor wherein the infrared beam is shined on the food and reflected light is measured across the IR spectrum. A comparison is done between the absorption spectrum from the food item and a known sample to determine whether the food item is still edible, its ripeness and even if it is a counterfeit, such as trout being passed off as salmon. This technique is already being used in labs, the challenge is to reduce the device’s size and cost. The scanner is still in the demonstrator stage and can currently be used to analyze the shelf life, ripeness of homogenous foods like potatoes, tomatoes but not a pizza with its many toppings. The team so far has worked with tomatoes and ground beef using statistical techniques to match the NIR spectra with the rate of microbial spoilage and other chemical parameters, to measure the germ count and the meat’s shelf life. In this process,the scan data is sent via Bluetooth to a cloud database for evaluation. The results of which are then sent to a mobile device app to show if the food item is still good, how much of its shelf life is left and tips on how to use the food if its sell-by-date limit has expired. Researchers intend to use hyper-spectral imaging and fusion-based approaches using color images, spectral sensors and other high spatial resolution technologies in later stages. A machine-learning algorithm, which will allow for better pattern recognition, is under development. Research team also claims that this scanning device will have wider application in other categories like wool, plastics, textiles and minerals.
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4. Epiwear – A Syringe Watch
Students at Rice University have developed a very innovative device which is not much larger than the size of a wristwatch that hides a fold able epinephrine syringe inside it to take during a life-threatening medical emergency. The watch like device is known as “EPIWEAR”. It is simple to use. In case of an emergency, the user just needs to unfold it and flick the safety lever and then push a button when he/she is ready to inject the medicine into one’s thigh. The three piece folding design of the watch makes it effectively impossible to trigger the needle by accident. Also,there are plans for a case that would prevent the button from touching anything until the shot is necessary. EPIWEAR is made of 3D printed parts. The team is still working on its refinement in terms of reducing its size further and adding more watch like features to it rather than it just acting as a watch which, in reality,is an injection dispenser. So, in a nutshell EPIWEAR is a syringe watch that puts a life saving anti-allergy injection on your wrist and you never know it may become a permanent part of a person’s wardrobe sometime in the near future.
5. Implantable Device Powered by Heartbeats Invented
A new research study from Darmouth College has shown that the heart’s motion is so powerful that it can recharge devices to save our lives. Engineers at the Thayer School of Engineering at Darmouth College, alongside clinicians at the University of Texas in San Antonio, have invented a coin-sized device that turns the kinetic energy of the heart into electricity – to power a wide range of implantable devices. Many patients rely on defibrillators, pacemakers and other life-saving implantable devices which are battery dependent and need replacement every 5 to 10 years. This procedure is costly requiring surgery and can be a source of infections and complications. With the aim to create an effective source, so that the device or implant will serve its purpose during the entire life span of the patient without the need of surgery, the research team developed this small device.The implantable device works by adding a thin piece of polymer piezoelectric film called PVDF to devices like pacemakers and other implants to convert even a small or mechanical heart motion into electricity. Thus, an energy source is created within the body nullifying the requirement of surgery for battery replacement. The team proposes to modify pacemakers to harness the kinetic energy of the lead wire that is attached to the heart, converting into electricity to continuously charge the batteries. The device is bio compatible,flexible, light weight and low profile which is scalable for future multi functionality. The results of the three year-long study were recently published in the cover story for Advanced Materials Technologies. The first round of animal studies has been completed and the team will come out with the device’s commercialization in another five years.
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6. ‘The Pod’ Made for Better Sleep at Night
It is a known fact that human body temperature changes during the night, and to comfort the sleeper throughout the night, an American company Eight Sleep, world’s first sleep fitness company has launched a smart bed called “THE POD”. The smart bed changes its temperature all through the night to provide better sleep to the user. The bed is based on artificial intelligence and has bio-feedback sensors which helps it to determine the best temperature for undisturbed sleep between 55 to115 degrees Fahrenheit through out the night.The bed is also equipped with an adaptive foam which consists of four distinct layers that allows it to adapt to any sleeping position to further comfort the user. The smart bed is divided into two sections, each side of the bed has its own temperature control and bio-metric tracker. The temperature is controlled through water cooling. The pod has an inbuilt reservoir known as the Hub that lets the bed – warm and cool -as per the user’s specifications with a temperature range mentioned above.An alarm can be set to wake-up the user by using the thermo alarm in the bed. The Pod seems to be a very useful equipment in healthcare space and is surely there to stay in times to come, providing ease of sleeping to disturbed sleepers.
7. Air Pressure and Artificial Intelligence Used to Move Fingers on the Robotic Hands
Festo, German Electrical Automation firm has developed a soft and flexible robotic hand that manipulates fingers by using air pressure and artificial intelligence. The fingers have tactile sensors with a flexible circuit board and is made up of 3-dimensional knitted fabric using elastic and high strength fibres. The bellows inside the fingers move the joints as they fill and empty with air. At the base of the thumb and index fingers,pneumatic swivels allow the movement of the fingers from side to side and nearly two dozen proportional peizo valves in the hand that makes the wrist work as a part of the total hand movement. There is freedom of 12 degrees that allows the hand to manipulate objects with dexterity.The hand uses self-learning technology powered by artificial intelligence to learn to move its fingers and has successfully learnt to roll a dice without dropping it. Once the engineers give the robot an objective, 3D cameras and depth sensors create a virtual copy of an object. The Bionic soft hand’s AI then runs myriad simulations to help it figure out what action needs to be taken. Thus,the fingers of the robotic hand are manipulated by air pressure wherein AI is only a part of the project which fastens the learning ability of the hand. The Bionic soft hand can easily interact with humans due to its soft texture, but it will take time to make its commercial presence in the market as it still needs refinement and broaden its functional capabilities.
8. Kerala Students Have Finger-Sized Water Purifiers to Their Credit
Lamaara Technologies Private Limited, are cent start-up registered in the name of two engineering students from Kerala, Anto Biju and Thomas Cyriac, has made its name due to its innovation of organic purifier that filters dirty water.The unique features of the filter – it is finger-sized,low cost, uses activated carbon cartridge which costs INR 60, needs replacement only every five years. The purifier eliminates foul smell, harmful metals and color from the water and requires no electricity.These purifiers have been approved by the Bureau of Indian Standards and had recently raised INR 4.5 crores. The two young innovators had also made a pen that could detect the elements present in water to list out its impurities. Thus, it was only an identifying instrument and not a solution to impure, dirty water. In order to improve upon their efforts, the duo later made this purifier which proves to be problem solver in a country like India where clean drinking water is still a far-fetched dream in most remote areas. Its USP is the organic make, unlike other purifies made from synthetic fibers. These small purifiers were put to testing during the Kerala floods of 2018 where around 200 purifiers were donated to relief camps in the flood affected areas. This innovation is surely here to stay and save millions of lives by providing the basic amenity of clean drinking water to all.
Also Read: Indian Healthcare Roadmap
9. IKEA Becomes Innovative for Differently Able
Swedish furniture maker IKEA has an Israel arm which has collaborated with non-profit organizations, Milbat and Access Israel to make a series of 3D printed furniture items that make it easier-to-use for the differently-able. The furniture line known as “THISABLES” is a line of 3D printed add-ons for IKEA furniture and it includes 13 items like easier to grab door handles and bumpers to protect cabinets. The available 13 designs slip over IKEA’s existing furniture and accessories to overcome hiccups like turning small button into a giant one or lift a couch couple of inches from the ground to aid in getting up.The items or the 3D printing files can be downloaded for free from the project’s website and can be 3D printed anywhere globally. For assembling the furniture item,detailed instructions are available on the website. Installation methods for 3D modifications are available and demonstrated on IKEA Israel’s YouTube page. The web page also has a column for welcoming suggestions to add more products to these 13 items.