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15 Real Products Created from Children’s Wildest Ideas

Awesome “Inventors!” project by British designer and inventor Dominic Wilcox (who we posted about last year). After gathering over 600 ideas from over 450 children across Sunderland and South Tyneside, UK, Wilcox whittled down the entries to 60 and challenged local manufacturers to create exactly what the kids envisioned. See more of the original imaginings paired with the real-life creations here!

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Proof of concept could create electronic displays on contact lenses - Taking augmented reality to the next level

A polymer film coating with the ability to turn contact lenses into computer screens is set to transform the wearable visual aids into the next generation of consumer electronics.

Scientists from the University of South Australia’s Future Industries Institute have successfully completed “proof of concept” research on a polymer film coating that conducts electricity on a contact lens, with the potential to build miniature electrical circuits that are safe to be worn by a person.

UniSA researcher from the FII, Associate Professor Drew Evans said the technology was a “game changer” and could provide one of the safest methods to bring people and their smart devices closer together.

READ MORE ON PHYS.ORG

Ref: Hydrophilic Organic Electrodes on Flexible Hydrogels. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (23 December 2015) | DOI: 10.1021/acsami.5b10831

ABSTRACT

Prompted by the rapidly developing field of wearable electronics, research into biocompatible substrates and coatings is intensifying. Acrylate-based hydrogel polymers have gained widespread use as biocompatible articles in applications such as contact and intraocular lenses. Surface treatments and/or coatings present one strategy to further enhance the performance of these hydrogels or even realize novel functionality. In this study, the conductive polymer poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT) is deposited from the vapor phase onto hydrated hydrogel substrates and blended with biocompatibilizing coconstituents incorporating polyethylene glycol (PEG) and polydimethyl siloxane (PDMS) moieties. Plasma pretreatment of the dehydrated hydrogel substrate modifies its surface topography and chemical composition to facilitate the attachment of conductive PEDOT-based surface layers. Manipulating the vapor phase polymerization process and constituent composition, the PEDOT-based coating is engineered to be both hydrophilic (i.e. to promote biocompatibility) and highly conductive. The fabrication of this conductively coated hydrogel has implications for the future of wearable electronic devices.

motherboard.vice.com
A New Advocacy Group Is Lobbying for the Right to Repair Everything
As all our things become ‘smart,’ companies are increasingly saying that fixing them is illegal.

Last summer, when the Copyright Office asked if anyone wanted to defend the right for video game console jailbreakers to mod or repair their systems, no one had a formal legal argument prepared.  A new association representing repairmen and women across all industries was just formed to make sure nothing like that ever happens again.

Repair groups from across the industry announced that they have formed The Repair Coalition, a lobbying and advocacy group that will focus on reforming the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to preserve the “right to repair” anything from cell phones and computers to tractors, watches, refrigerators, and cars.  It will also focus on passing state-level legislation that will require manufacturers to sell repair parts to independent repair shops and to consumers and will prevent them from artificially locking down their products to would-be repairers.

“It’s long overdue,” Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of the group, told me.  “We have all these little businesses trying to repair stuff and running into what they thought were different problems in different industries.  We realized it was all just the same problem.”

That problem — that manufacturers of everything are trying to control the secondary repair market — has two main sources, Gordon-Byrne said.  First, manufacturers use federal copyright law to say that they control the software inside of gadgets and that only they or licensed repair shops should be allowed to work on it.  Second, manufacturers won’t sell replacement parts or guides to the masses, and often use esoteric parts in order to specifically lock down the devices.

These problems have been well known in the smartphone, computer, and consumer electronics for years, and it’s why groups like iFixit and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have been able to mount successful challenges to the DMCA in recent years.  Increasingly, however, these problems are spilling over into just about every other industry.

The Repair Coalition — which is also calling itself repair.org — includes members from the EFF, iFixit, PC Rebuilders & Recyclers, The Fixers Collective, Public Knowledge, and a series of other smaller industry groups.

“All consumer appliances, from refrigerators to microwaves, very much have repair monopolies from manufacturers, even if you are able to buy parts,” Gordon-Byrne said.  Customers who have dared to repair their refrigerator will get to a certain part of a repair and find that components for thermostats or valve controls are locked down via passwords that manufacturers only give to licensed repair shops that they themselves control.  The problem is only going to get worse as the Internet of Things takes hold.

“We’ve had these kinds of issues for a long time, but now with the electronics-fication of everything, they’re affecting literally everything in the world that is complex enough to have digital components,” Kyle Wiens, the CEO of iFixit, told me.

And so The Repair Coalition will primarily work at a federal level to repeal Section 1201 of the DMCA, which states that it’s illegal to “circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under [the DMCA].”  Thus far, activists have tried to gain “exemptions” to this section — it’s why you’re allowed to repair a John Deere tractor or a smartphone that has software in it.  But the exemption process is grueling and has to be done every three years.

“I don’t like exempting equipment because it’s all conceptually the same problem,” Gordon-Byrne said.

On a state level, the group will push for laws such as one being proposed in New York that would require manufacturers to provide repair manuals and sell parts to anyone — not just licensed repair people — for their products.  The thought is that, if enough states pass similar legislation, it will become burdensome for manufacturers to continue along with the status quo.  At some point, it will become easier to simply allow people to fix the things they own.

“We want to become an umbrella organization for repair,” Gordon-Byrne said.  “We want to help the small repair technicians that aren’t getting help from anywhere else.”

“They’re affecting literally everything in the world that is complex enough to have digital components” – in an increasingly connected world, that’s a big problem.

sciencealert.com
NASA's new light-based modem will transmit data up to 100 times faster than radio signals
Crunching data at the speed of light.
By Peter Dockrill

NASA is developing a first-if-its-kind modem that incorporates light-based technology to help enable dramatically faster communications between spacecraft and ground stations.

The device, which is scheduled to be tested on board the International Space Station in 2020, is part of a broader NASA project called the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD). This laser system, which the space agency says could dramatically overhaul today’s radio frequency (RF) communications, will enable data transmissions at rates 10 to 100 times faster than what’s currently possible.

It’s not the first time NASA has experimented with laser communications in place of radio signals. In 2013, the agency achieved record-breaking download and upload speeds to and from lunar orbit – at 622 megabits per second (Mbps) and 20 Mbps respectively – with its Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE).

The LCRD project, however, is designed to be the basis of an ongoing operational system once initial tests, due to begin in 2019, are complete. And part of what will help NASA demonstrate the feasibility of its laser communications setup is the new integrated-photonics modem.

Continue Reading.

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Here’s a mechanical chameleon!

Electronic engineers Guoping Wang, Xuechen Chen, Sheng Liu, Chingping Wong, and Sheng Chu have invented a mechanical chameleon which blends in real time with color backgrounds. The “chameleon” is a 3D-printed model covered in plasmonic displays.

They said in their paper: “The development of camouflage methods, often through a general resemblance to the background, has become a subject of intense research. However, an artificial, active camouflage that provides fast response to color change in the full-visible range for rapid background matching remains a daunting challenge.

To this end, we report a method, based on the combination of bimetallic nanodot arrays and electrochemical bias, to allow for plasmonic modulation. Importantly, our approach permits real-time light manipulation readily matchable to the color setting in a given environment.”

read more here and here 
Credit: ACS Nano (2016). DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.5b07472 

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Film coating transforms contact lenses into computer screens

A polymer film coating with the ability to turn contact lenses into computer screens is set to transform the wearable visual aids into the next generation of consumer electronics.

Scientists from the University of South Australia’s Future Industries Institute have successfully completed “proof of concept” research on a polymer film coating that conducts electricity on a contact lens, with the potential to build miniature electrical circuits that are safe to be worn by a person.

UniSA researcher from the FII, Associate Professor Drew Evans said the technology was a “game changer” and could provide one of the safest methods to bring people and their smart devices closer together.

“We’re talking about anything from a simple sensor that can measure the amount of glucose in your blood through to actually creating electronic displays so rather than having something like a pair of glasses that’s acting like a computer, you can actually generate images directly on your contact lens,” Assoc Prof Evans said.

“We have always known that our film coating technologies had potential for many applications and now we have taken that a step further by proving that we can make biocompatible, conducting polymers at the nanoscale and grow them directly on a contact lens.”

Read more.