There have been many wonderful inventions over the years with the wheel being a prime example of how one technological advancement can change lives for ever. Wheels and castors can be found everywhere from hospital beds to household furniture and new inventions are constantly cropping up left, right and centre. In fact, 2015 was a wonderful year for techy improvements so let’s take a look at what hit the headlines.
Buy a new car these days and it’ll probably come equipped with all the latest gadgets including inbuilt satnav systems, Bluetooth connectivity with hands free calling and electric windows, but many vehicles will soon boast another feature in the near future – car-to-car communication. This type of technology was tested throughout 2015 and warns drivers of an impending collision helping detect the size, speed, direction, brake status and steering wheel direction of other vehicles.
Everyone’s scared of the big C. The word ‘cancer’ is enough to send shivers down your spine, but scientist including Dennis Lo – a Chinese doctor who was the first to show that a foetus sheds bits of its DNA into the bloodstream of its mother which in turn has led to safer, simpler screening for Downs Syndrome – are on the case. Lo, along with many other medical professionals, are trying to develop a cancer screening test based on a simple blood draw which is thought to be possible as dying cancer cells also shed DNA into a person’s blood.
Growing human brain cells
Growing brains in a jar might sound a little bizarre, but by taking a brain organoid and turning it into an induced pluripotent stem cell and then into a neuron, scientists can now see how networks of living human brain cells develop and function and how they respond to certain medicines and treatments. This is exciting news as it could, essentially, unlock the mystery behind many neurological disorders including dementia and schizophrenia, which are still poorly understood.
Speeding up plant growth
Hunger and starvation-related deaths affect people on a massive scale across the world, but there is light on the horizon. Scientists recently revealed that they’ve made significant advances in engineering rice plants which will essentially give crops a boost and feed billions more people. The science behind it all is as complicated as you’d expect, but basically it involves a form of supercharged photosynthesis which works by capturing carbon dioxide and concentrating it into particular leaf cells.
Mobile payment technologies
Gone are the days where you had to go to the bank and withdraw cash to make a payment or use a credit card or cheque. Today, you can go into almost any store and pay with a tap of your mobile phone. Google Wallet is notoriously popular but the 2015 launch of Apple Pay complete with compatible technologies that retailers can use to make payments has resulted in more and more people using their phone as a one-stop shop for all their daily activities.
Technological advancements will never stop. They will, quite literally, keep on coming, so keep a look out for new inventions to hit the market.
As we’re on the cusp of a new year, people are making their new years resolutions, and for many people, that we mean trying to quit smoking, and are looking for alternatives. When Hon Lik, a 52-year old pharmacist from China, developed the first electronic cigarette in 2003, he probably didn’t realise how big of an impact it would have on smokers trying to kick the habit all over the world.
But in 2015, global sales of vaping devices hit £6bn according to data from Euromonitor International, with companies like Phoenix eliquid supplying wholesale cigs to small businesses so they can capitalise on this consumer trend.
While most ‘vapers’ won’t think twice about how their electronic cigarette works, others are a little more inquisitive. So, if you’ve ever wanted to know about the technology behind e-cigs, here is a quick insight.
The components of an e-cig
Although the look and feel of e-cigs can vary, from those resembling standard tobacco cigarettes to incredibly ornate and futuristic-looking devices, the vast majority will feature the following components:
- A cartridge – This contains a liquid consisting of nicotine, flavouring, and other chemicals such as glycerin or polyethylene glycol.
- An atomizer – This features a heating coil that warms up the liquid.
- A battery – This is usually a lithium battery, charged via USB cable.
- A mouthpiece – This is where the user inhales.
- A sensor – This registers when the user inhales and activates the atomizer.
- An LED – This isn’t a feature on all e-cigs, but is meant to simulate a burning cigarette.
How e-cigs work
When the cartridge holding the liquid is inserted into the electronic cigarette, it makes contact with the atomizer’s bridge. Through gravity and capillary action, the liquid is then absorbed into the atomizer’s steel mesh reservoir.
As soon as the user inhales on the mouthpiece, the liquid is sucked from the reservoir into the ceramic atomizer pot. The liquid is again absorbed but this time by the aromatic polyimide wick, situated inside the ceramic pot. Simultaneously, the device heats the coil around the wick, warming up the liquid until it becomes vapour, which the user breathes in.
Some electronic cigarettes feature a manual switch, which when pressed will activate this process and only vaporise the liquid already in the ceramic pot. No more liquid will be drawn into the pot or absorbed by the wick without the user inhaling.
The difference between e-cigs and traditional cigarettes
In many respects, the only similarity between e-cigs and traditional cigarettes is that they both contain nicotine. Despite its addictive properties, nicotine is frequently used for its performance-enhancing effects on cognition, alertness and focus.
However, the main and most crucial difference between e-cigs and traditional cigarettes is combustion. While e-cigs simply heat-up liquid containing nicotine, traditional cigarettes must burn tobacco to release nicotine. In turn this produces smoke, which contains over 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known cancer-causing (carcinogenic) compounds and 400 other toxins.
For this reason, e-cigs are a much safer alternative and can also be used as a cessation aid to help quit smoking altogether. Even though the EU and US are set to introduce new electronic cigarette regulations in 2016, their popularity will undoubtedly continue to rise.
If the person you’re buying for has more tech in their home than actual furniture or clothes (a robotic hoover will always surpass the traditional kind) then locating the right gift should be an easy task. If you’re looking for geeky tech then check out the following eight gift ideas below:
Ever wanted your very own droid companion? Well, the guys at Star Wars have created a cute, rolling droid that can be controlled via smartphone, tablet and even voice – and it’s the perfect gift for the Star Wars geek who loves innovative tech. Watch the little guy in action here.
Price: £21.49 per quarter, for Amateur Photographer magazine
Tech lovers are usually the ones behind that DSLR camera when you jet off on holiday or at a family event so feed their love and passion for great quality images with magazine subscriptions for a professional, photography publication. Not only will it give them some great ideas for when they’re next snapping away but it will also improve their skills with a camera – and all tech geeks like to do!
This innovative pen allows you to create drawings in 3D, physically drawing whatever comes into your head in the air! It is essentially a handheld 3D printer that will inspire the geekiest of tech lovers to get creative and comes with accessory packs of coloured ABS plastics and a Jetpack that allows you to draw in 3D on the go!
Perfect for any tech lover, a quadcopter is another remote controlled gift that should delight any recipient who is still a child at heart. Look for a model that features a camera to capture aerial footage they can review later – spying on your weird neighbours has never been so easy!
If the recipient of your gift is a tech lover, then they probably need a docking station to charge their devices on. Opt for a wireless charger which frees them from wires and the amount of devices that can be charged. Wireless chargers allow you to power up your smartphone, tablet and iPod (if you’re still old school like that) and remove those messy cables which most tech geeks hate to see around.
Joystick for touchscreens
This is a great stocking filler gift for those who love retro gaming and fun tech to use with their smartphone. This joystick allows you to control classic games such as Tetris or Pac Man on your smartphone, and works by simply attaching the sucker over the on screen controller and playing! It also comes on a keyring, so it’s great for commuters who look for new ways to stay entertained on the train or bus to work.
If the person you’re buying for is between 6 and 12, the chances are they’re a big Minecraft fan. It’s a game that immerses the creative and technologically minded and has a huge range of merchandise available, perfect for gift giving, from scarves, to figures, to these Minecraft inspired pencils. All great gift ideas for your digital block obsessed youth.
Virtual Reality Headset
You probably thought a virtual reality headset was an expensive piece of kit, but you can pick one up for a super reasonable price online. The set linked to the above allows you to pop your smartphone in the headset and experience a whole new world via the free or paid for apps you can download to use with the headset.
According to teacher Matt Britland, technology shouldn’t just be a part of everyday schooling, it’s crucial to modernising the way schools teach children effectively. In an article for the Guardian, Britland says cloud computing will help teaching by reducing the numbers of things that can go wrong for schools – no troublesome software updates, no new training to get up to speed with the latest programs.
“The future is about access,” Britland writes, “anywhere learning and collaboration, both locally and globally. Teaching and learning is going to be social. Schools of the future could have a traditional cohort of students, as well as online only students, who live across the country or even the world. Things are already starting to move this way with the emergence of massive open online courses (MOOCs). For me, the future of technology in education is the cloud.”
In addition to being a fundamental part of the framework on which lesson plans are built, technology is in itself, something for children to study, as well as use in its many forms. Classroom equipment from established, traditional suppliers such as Hope Education is being augmented by sophisticated, yet simple to use computers, tablets and digital media; and, teachers themselves are able to call upon a range of helpful apps to create more engaging, interactive lessons.
Children of today are growing up as digital natives, people to whom touchscreen technology and the universe of information available via the internet are completely intuitive. Technology as a subject encourages children to develop new skills almost without even realising it and grasp how new systems and concepts work. They’ll ask more questions, seek to find their own answers and add layer upon layer of knowledge – and because technology is fundamentally linked to the gadgets that hold so much appeal, they’ll be eager, not reluctant, to learn.
Technological innovations and trends have proved disruptive to many established industries, necessitating shake-ups and rethinks which push those sectors forward. But in lots of schools managing the disruption posed by Facebook alerts, Twitter notifications and WhatsApp messages, it has put many teachers off embracing technology in lessons. (Although Google believes even these could help learning, in this Daily Mail report.)
Yet other teachers find that interactive classroom sessions make lessons linger longer in students’ memories, helping them to retain information more effectively, improve performance and even make them look forward to subsequent lessons. Teachers are also able to pass on feedback via channels that suit their pupils, while mobile devices can help classwork be accessed, monitored and assessed at times that suit both teacher and pupil.
Readily accessible technology such as iPads and laptops means that a wealth of information is available to help with homework and lessons. Indeed, it becomes the teacher’s job to recommend the best sources of information, acting as curator as much as provider.
As technology evolves, it’s not so much that the schools adopting it better support their pupils. It’s more that they display the adaptability and open-mindedness to try new avenues for better results – and that curiosity of spirit often rubs off on the pupils themselves.
Ahh, the humble telephone… Once a purely practical device, tethered to a single location allowing two people to converse over long distances. Now, it’s a pocket computer and communications device which is essential to daily life for a lot of people. Because it’s the thing we always have with us, we like to make our phone feel our own by adding customisations to it. That’s not just changing the background picture, but adding custom cases, charms, and a host of other things. Here’s a few ideas to choose from.
There’s a huge selection of designs that will show off your liking for anything from pets to retro design or photography on custom iPhone cases. A decent website will allow you to upload and alter the look of the case before ordering; it’s probably a good idea to go for an upright rather than landscape – as you’ll usually be holding it up to your ear.
Edit the photograph choice before uploading to add the effects you want using a free package such as Picasa or Fotor (or any of these other options). Also consider creating two or more photographic cases with different designs as perfect gifts for family and friends, but don’t forget that if the actual device changes then most likely its size will as well – who knows when the latest and greatest iPhone will muscle its way into the market.
A gift that can be created from chains, cords, ribbons or any other similar materials, to be combined with jewellery, badges, and even cuddly toys. The careful charm creator will look for something that will not fall or or tear, and won’t be jagged enough to tear clothing or handbags when pulled out. The charm can be combined with a keyring, or ring, and easily transferred from one phone to the other when the newer models emerge.
Music connoisseurs might baulk at altering their expensive brand headphones, and no-one would advocate attaching anything that could ruin the phones and make them impossible to use or sell on.
That said, the actual choice of headphone itself is a way of distinguishing yourself in the busy arena of musical listening on the move, and described in this Guardian piece as an accessory rather than a gadget. Retro is back in the form of these Master and Dynamic old-schoolers, a stereo world away from Beats, for example.
A quick search across the internet will reveal some spectacular and artistically beautiful example of iPhone laser engraving, and sometimes at unexpectedly cheap prices. Names, Marvel superheroes, faces of loved ones, and individual patterns are among the options. Consider matching up the designs with your tablet for the complete package.
There are plenty of excellent holders on the market for propping up your iPhone when you want to watch a video or read an e-book, but can’t be bothered to hold it up. Here are several examples of an item for an occasion when you won’t want to be touching the screen; when you’re getting messy with ingredients in the kitchen and you want to read the recipe without gunking up the screen.
Other potential options available to buy include simple wooden blocks with a name carving, and even a slotted human pillow, while home-made ideas could include creating a holder from an old cassette case – time to look back through your 80s and 90s compilation for some retro inspiration.
This week, we have a bunch of products on Geektest for you. These first 2 will help you out when you find your power is running low on the plethora of USB powered devices you now have in your life.
Intocircuit 15000mAh Power Bank
First up is the Intocircuit Power Castle – a 4.8A Output Dual USB External Battery (aka a Power Bank) so you can charge up your devices on the go. I collected a number of power banks over the last few years, and they each work with varying degrees of success. This one though, is one of the most impressive I’ve used.
First thing you notice is the solid construction. The entire shell is (expect the ends) is covered in brushed metal, so it feels sturdy and looks great. Given you’re likely to taking this out and about, that’s no bad thing. On one side there is an LED display which shows power level, charging and discharging status.
It also comes with 2 USB ports, which will let you charge any two USB-charged devices at top speed simultaneously, partly thanks to it’s SmartID technology, which can identifying what specific device is attached, and ensure it’s outputting the maximum charging efficiency and speed.
The massive 15000Ah capacity means 1 charge should give you the ability to recharge your smart phone around 4-7 times (depending on the phone), and an iPad more than once.
The whole unit costs less than £30, and is well worth the money if you’re looking for a solid, reliable battery backup.
9/10 – Extremely impressive power bank at a really good price.
iClever 6 Port USB Charger
The next item we had up for a Geektest is iClever’s 6 Port USB Charger. Like the Power Castle above, it use SmartID Technology, so it can identify the device that’s attached, and maximize the device-charing efficiency. It’s small, light-weight, and lets you charge up to 6 devices at once. Each port outputs 2.4A, so you could happily use it to charge 6 iPads, if you happen to be Mr. Moneybags, or just a really obsessive Apple fan. It will of course charge any other USB devices too. I’ve been using it for weeks now with my Nexus 5 and 7 with no problems at all. Even used it to charge the Power Castle mentioned above.
It’s also extremely well put together, and covered with a lovely smooth matte black layer of that rubbery plastic stuff, so it feels good to carry around. It runs on a standard wall socket, so you just need to plug it in and get charging! It runs AC 110-220V input voltage makes it ideal for international travel. Overall, I really can’t fault it.