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Who Puts The Tech In Technology?


A Harvard University professor developed a fingerprint-size medical lab that costs only one cent. The chip’s water-repellent comic-book ink saturates several layers of paper, funneling the patient’s drop of blood into tree-like channels, where the blood reacts with treated paper, creating diagnostic colors. Several diseases – as well as their severity – can be diagnosed simultaneously. Patients in third world countries could take a picture of the chip with a cell phone and send it to the nearest doctor. Because more complicated and expensive lab-on-a-chip technology exists, paper chips are “chips off the old block”.

A 30-year-old graduate student at Harvard and MIT invented a high-tech shoe insole to help older people improve their balance, thus decreasing their risk of falling. Because the key to balance is how well a person can stand still, the “iShoe” tracks weight-shifting when standing. Well-balanced people shift their weight about every 40 seconds, but people who have dangerous balance problems shift their weight every second or continually. Using digital sensors, the battery-powered insole transmits data to a computer to be interpreted by doctors for treatment. However, until the iShoe is on the market, help is “in the balance”.

A science fair student invented an instrument to measure reaction time. His invention consisted of a hockey puck attached to a stick, which he had marked in centimeters. The subject whose reaction time is being measured sits with his forearm on a table and his fingers loosely around the stick. When the stick is dropped, the subject grabs it as fast as possible. Where the stick is grabbed shows the reaction time. The student’s doctor/father saw the instrument as a tool for immediately screening athletes for concussions and found that reaction times for such athletes were 15% slower. Although a patentable model is being developed, the diagnostic reliability of the puck-on-a-stick sticks.

And then there’s the technology to make daily life easier. – like the Automower 260ACX made by Husqvarna. It’s a remote controlled lawnmower that supposedly needs no supervision. Ultrasonic sensors prevent the machine from hitting anything and it automatically returns to its charging station when necessary. If anything does go wrong, the mower is able to send a text message to its owner requesting help. The 260ACX is basically a $5,300 Roomba for lawns that’s available only in Europe. What’s needed to bring it to the U.S. in 2010 is a “grass roots movement”.

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