5 Gadgets From Last Week: Electric Sweat, Robot Butler

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to boost the battery life of those small smartwatches and wearables? There are a few researchers that have some interesting theories on how to engineer more energy-efficient devices and maybe even get more juice for your wearable just by exercising.

Research and prototypes are the main theme of this week’s issue. Nothing below is available quite yet, but it gives hope for future innovations and features that may help improve your gadget-filled world.

Source: Thinkstock
Source: Thinkstock

Reflected Wi-Fi signals

Gadgets are getting smaller, and maintaining a long battery life comes at a premium these days. It’s difficult for a tiny watch to maintain a Wi-Fi connection and have a battery life that extends past a few days. Researchers at UCLA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory may have a solution. By reflecting the signals your wearable sends to your Wi-Fi router, the team used these ambient carrier waves to create a low power way to transmit data. Rather than generating its own signal, the device would just feed off of what’s already bouncing around in the air.

The UCLA team was able to reach data transfer speeds of 3 Mb/s between a signal source and a test device that stood about 8 feet away. The team is hopeful that they can get better range results in the future without compromising speed.


Electric Sweat

When you’re out and about, you need power for your devices. There are situations — like marathons and hiking trips — that rarely have easily accessible outlets. But what if you could power your devices with all the sweat you’ve been building up?

A team at the University of California San Diego have developed a temporary tattoo that keeps tabs on how much work you’re doing and converts any sweat you may be expelling into electricity. There’s an enzyme on the sensor that collects electrons form a substance in your sweat called lactate (the more active you are, the more it’s produced.) In testing, the sensor was only able to funnel in 70 microWatts per square centimeter of skin. But researchers are working to boost the biofuel system so it’s powerful enough to charge small devices.


Switchable USB

We’ve all been there: Fumbling to plug in our USB device into the USB slot. Flipping it over and over. Countless amounts of time has been wasted trying to plug something in. But there’s a new standard in town called USB type-C, and it has been finalized. It’s the size of a micro-USB connector and you can shove it into a USB slot any way you like.

Type-C also boasts 10Gb/s, which is twice as fast as the current USB 3.0 standard. The new standard will support power delivery to devices and will be able to carry up to 100 watts — enough to power a laptop. There aren’t any laptops or devices on the market that support this standard, but it’s assumed most future laptops will be adopting it soon enough.

Epilepsy Detector

Epilepsy is an uncomfortable condition to live with, worrying about when a seizure will begin — if a seizure will begin. Bioserenity, a French medical company, alongside several organizations want to make living with Epilepsy more manageable with its WEMU smart clothing system.

It’s capable of monitoring epileptic seizures so medical professionals can make smarter diagnosis and educated decisions when prescribing medication. The sensors on the shirt and hat monitor cardiac, muscle, and brain activity. The smart wearables send this information to an app on your smartphone where it’s stored for reference.

The wearable was up for funding on IndieGoGo, however, it did not meet its goal to raise $200,000.

Robot butler

The robotic future isn’t far off. One hotel, the Aloft in Cupertino, has introduced its A.L.O Botlr. The robot’s deployment date is August 20, so it should be assisting customers soon. It will call the room’s phone to let you know you have a delivery from the bot when it’s outside your door. It rolls from room to room and comes outfitted with a touchscreen display for users to select options — even tweet about the ALO robot and their experience with it during their stay.

The ALO has a holding spot for small items — like towels and soaps — on the top of the device. It will chirp and beep happily all the while; it’s a rather cute device, as it’s designed to be seen. Researchers wanted to make sure the bot appeared approachable and plesant.

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