At Mobile Marketing we're proud to help tech companies showcase their cutting-edge solutions; the Startup Showcase at our Mobile Marketing Summits gives a platform to those companies, and brings audiences one step closer to ideas and developments that are breaking new ground in the market.
In that spirit, our Innovation Lab feature takes a step beyond the world of apps, ads and handsets with slightly bigger screens, in order to share some of the tech world's innovative ideas. They might be interesting, disruptive or just outright strange, but these are the stories that have caught our eye over the past week.
E-Ink High Heels Can Change Design at Touch of a Screen
E-ink is one of those technologies that is slowly breaking out from its original use (in this case, eReaders) into other areas, like the Pebble smartwatch, e-ink pricing tags for supermarket displays and now, high fashion.
The Volvorii Timeless peep-toe heels, designed by Lithuanian startup iShüu Technologies, comes in both black and white, and integrates a flexible e-ink display into the shoe's upper, with a Bluetooth receiver placed inside the sole, enabling the wearer to use an accompanying app to change the display from black to white, or show a variety of patterns.
The shoes, which are currently seeking funding on IndieGoGo, will also have options for physical customisation, with anchors on the top of the toe and back of the heel for attaching accessories like bows, flowers or ankle straps.
Amazon Announces Robot X Factor for Smart Packers
Amazon is preparing to hold a talent competition for robotic shelf stackers, hoping to accelerate the pace of warehouse automation and identify the latest wave of innovation in machine learning and computer vision.
Participating robots will have to locate products sitting somewhere on a stack of shelves, retrieve them safely and pack them for shipping, with points awarded for speed, accuracy and efficiency, and lost for damaging or mishandling the objects. The team behind the best robot will receive $25,000 (£16,800) in prize money.
Amazon already employs automation in some of its cavernous fulfillment centres, using robots designed by Kiva Systems, which Amazon bought for $678m in 2012. While robots currently send shelves to human workers, no automated systems have yet been able to match the accuracy and speed of humans, who pick and package the individual products.
Among the products which will be used to test the robots are dog toys, pencil cups, PVA glue and Oreo cookies. "We tried to pick out a variety of different products that were representative of our catalogue and that pose different kinds of grasping challenges," said Pete Wurman, chief technology officer of Kiva Systems.
Google Patents Cancer-detecting Wearable
Even though we're still in the early days of mHealth technology, the ability to monitor metrics like blood pressure, heart rate and sleep quality is providing people with a chance to improve their fitness before it becomes a medical issue. However, that's nothing compared to the wristband just patented by Google, which aims to proactively detect cancer cells.
According to MDT, the device would work in concert with a cancer-detecting pill that uses magnetic particles to search for malignant cells. The particles would then interact with a sensor built into the wristband, providing wearers with an alert if significant buildups were detected, and enabling medical professionals to make faster diagnoses.
The product is at least five years away from an approved model, according to Google, but if it proves successful in detection, it could be expanded to help destroy cancerous cells early, replacing chemotherapy, or even target other cells such as proteins that cause Parkinson's disease, or HIV-infected cells.
Jamstik+ Aims to Transform Guitar, from Learning to Recording
App-powered guitar Jamstik has already seen considerable acclaim when it first launched on Kickstarter two years ago. Now, the more advance Jamstik+ is seeking funding with the promise of transforming everything from guitar lessons to recording studios.
The device works with a selection of apps for iOS devices and Mac, supporting every type of user from first-time players to professionals. It connects using BluetoothSmart technology, and integrates infrared sensors into the fretboard to detect precise variations in finger placement so there's no delay between playing and hearing sound.
The Jamstik+ is also a MIDI controller, meaning it can be used to synthesize a wide variety of instruments, and works with music software including GarageBand, Loopy, SampleTank and Ableton, enabling skilled musicians to construct whole songs with a single instrument.
Listening Table Aims to Eliminate Note-taking with Smart Microphones
The Semantic Listening Table, created by the New York Times' R&D Lab, is a prototype that hopes to simplify the often chaotic process of note-taking at meetings by employing dynamic microphones and software that can identify important conversations.
The table's sensors attempt to extract meaning from the conversation that's carried out around it, maximising communication while also ensuring that relevant information is recorded and transcribed to an Android tablet, from where it can be shared.
Participants can also press on a capacitive strip embedded in the table to mark that the conversation is particularly relevant at any given moment, highlighting the transcript around that instance.
"Here at the Lab, it's important that we implement authentic and robust technologies in a working prototype, but it's even more important to consider and address the social aspects that accompany such technologies," wrote the team behind the project in a blog post. "It's one thing to make a table that transcribes everything, and quite another to make a table whose very appearance makes it obvious what it is doing."