TIME Innovation

WATCH: This Ring-Shaped Device Reads Text to the Blind

Hot off the presses of a 3-D printer, a prototype that could open the world of letters to the blind

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Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a ring-shaped device that slips around a user’s pointer finger, scans any text above the fingertip, and reads it aloud in a robotic voice that could help open the world of letters to the visually impaired.

The FingerReader is still just a prototype, hot off the presses of a 3D-printer. It comes with an embedded camera that pinpoints words, a clipped robotic voice that reads them aloud as the finger moves across the page, and motion sensors that can detect when the finger strays off of the text or hits the end of the line.

Researchers hope the proof of concept will attract investors and smooth the pathway to commercialization, which they say could help roughly 2.8% of the population that currently lives with visual impairment.

TIME Startups

Now There Are Instant Coffee Pods for Beer

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Coffee machines, move over. A different kind of buzz is coming to town

It sounds like a beer lover’s fantasy: all around the country, everyone could have beer dispensers on their kitchen counters next to their coffee machines, spouting cold bitter brews into eager glasses throughout the day.

But this is for real. SYNEK—a St. Louis startup that just launched its Kickstarter campaign last month—is creating a draft system that serves beer fresh from the tap even if you’re miles from the nearest bar.

The startup is signing on local breweries who put their beer in SYNEK bags, which have a long shelf life and can be transported relatively easily. The bags are then put into a dispenser that looks a little like a toaster-oven-sized coffee machine and plugs into the wall. Consumers can then serve beer wherever there is a dispenser.

Steve Young, SYNEK’s 28-year-old founder, says that his company will make it cheaper to ship beer to consumers without worrying about the headaches of bottling, and increase profit margins for craft breweries.

The machine pressurizes using carbon dioxide, and allows users to adjust SYNEK’s temperature. Beers by brewers including Harpoon Brewery, Schmaltz Beer Company and dozens of others are available through SYNEK already.

Young seeking $250,000 through Kickstarter by the end of July. Backers who pledge $299 get the dispenser along with 5 to 10 bags.

TIME Innovation

How Well Do You Know The iPhone?

On the 7th birthday of the smartphone that changed phones forever, see how knowledgeable you are about Apple's revolutionary device

TIME Innovation

7 Years of the iPhone: An Interactive Timeline

It's been seven years since the very first iPhone was sold on June 29, 2007, and now, the smartphone is ubiquitous: Here are the highlights from iPhone's seven sensational years

TIME Dating

Geniuses in Love: Mensa and Match.com Partner For a New Dating Site

Heart in a petrie dish
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Mensa, the society for people with high IQ, and Match.com are teaming up to create a new dating site for highly intelligent people, reports Match.com.

According to Match, smart is attractive: More than 80% of singles claim a partner’s equal or higher intelligence is a “must have” or “very important.”

“Why do we want a smart partner? Because intelligence is correlated with many benefits, including: higher income; sense of humor; creativity; social skills; coordination; and problem solving. These are sexy,” said Match’s Chief Scientific Advisor Dr. Helen Fisher in an online statement.

The new site only allows users that match Mensa’s requirement of an IQ in above the 98% of the general population. According to Mensa, there are plenty of brainy fish in the sea: an estimated 6 million Americans are eligible to become a part of the organization which now has 57,000 members.

Super smart singles are encouraged to put their best mind forward; through July 6th, Match is inviting them to take the Mensa Home Test for $1 to see if they qualify for this genius opportunity.

TIME Innovation

A Look Inside the Home That Made “Life Easier” for a Marine Veteran Who Lost All His Limbs

From moving cabinets to remotely activated light switches, the home is designed to support a life of independence

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Retired Marine Sergeant John Peck lost all of his limbs when he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan in 2010.

After he was once pronounced dead, spent three months in coma, and went through years in recovery, he came to live in a home built by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Peck worked with the foundation to design a home tailored to his individual needs. With high-tech features such as moving cabinets, tablet-controlled lighting and an automated shower, his house is an example of how smart homes can enable those who are disabled to be more self-sufficient.

“The house can’t really solve your problems, it can help make your life easier,” Peck said.

In the video above, Peck gives TIME a tour of his home – and shares his passion for cooking.

The former marine, who dreamed of becoming a chef ever since he was 12-years-old, is now re-learning how to cook, thanks to a prosthetic arm, an accessible cooktop and a relentless determination.

“The first time I cooked a meal in this house, it took a while. I made leek and potato soup,” Peck said. “It was definitely interesting to be able to make stuff and not need help.”

TIME Innovation

Ford President Says Aluminum F-150 Is All Engines Go

Ford

Ford says the truck will ship on time this year, despite analyst concerns that manufacturing plant retooling will impact availability.

Investment firm Morgan Stanley is publicly fretting the truck might be delayed, but Ford says its new lightweight aluminum Ford F-150 pickup is on track and we’ll see it later this year.

“Everything is on schedule and everything is going as planned,” Ford Americas President Joe Hinrichs told reporters, speaking at Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan (via Automotive News), adding that he was “very confident in this vehicle.” Morgan Stanley’s analyst Ravi Shanker had said earlier that Ford’s planned factory retooling, which it has to perform in order to produce the new pickup, would result in “slow changeover, with tight supply.”

Ford has noted the planned retooling would temporarily deplete its production by over 90,000 F-Series pickups, reducing company sales and profits. Furthermore, margins are expected to be lower on the new aluminum-bodied F-150. But Ford views all of that as necessary back-stepping to be first to market with a truck that uses a combination of “military-grade aluminum and high-strength steel,” and that’ll weigh roughly 700 pounds less than the version it’s replacing.

Note that Shanker doesn’t say the launch itself is in danger of being delayed, only that supply is going to be very tight in 2014 given manufacturing constraints. If supply is at a trickle, that could mean higher demand-driven dealer pricing, of course, culminating in a scenario where the truck’s debut looks more like a paper launch, and buyers wind up having to wait to lay hands on one until supply catches up.

MONEY consumer psychology

Why We Always Fall for Products Making Outlandish Claims

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Chris Weeks—WireImage

Who would be foolish enough to fall for "shoes" that make it feel like you're running barefoot, or cookies that promise to make women's breasts bigger? Lots and lots of people, apparently.

Even the smartest consumers can be tempted to buy a product based on some marketing claim that, deep down, everyone knows can’t be true. Why?

We live in a time when modern-day snake oil, in the form of not-so-miraculous “miracle” products that are misleading if not worse, is around every corner. For example, based on sales totals, it looks like more than 70 million Americans believed Vibram’s claim that running in “shoes” that brought you a step closer to jogging barefoot would improve their “foot health.” Vibram, creator of the thin-soled FiveFinger running shoes that fit each toe like a glove, was unable to substantiate that claim, and the company settled a $3.75 million lawsuit this spring, entitling buyers to refunds.

Last summer, Skechers began paying out a $40 million class action lawsuit to more than a half million people who believed it when the company (and spokesmodel Kim Kardashian) said the shoes could not only tone muscles but also help them lose weight and improve their cardiovascular health. Reebok and FitFlops have also lost lawsuits on behalf of millions of other consumers who believed similar overstatements about the power of shoes to basically do our workouts for us.

Though consumers apparently have a soft spot for supposedly miracle-performing footwear, we’re not just suckers for hyped-up claims about shoes. Millions have purchased weight-loss potions that promise users they’ll lose fat without changing the exercise and eating habits that piled on the pounds in the first place; or lotions that can sprout new hair on bald heads. (It certainly doesn’t help that medical experts like TV’s Dr. Oz sometimes seem to endorse dubious weight-loss products.) This spring, the FTC announced that Lice Shield, a “lice-prevention” shampoo, deceived customers and exaggerated claims, and ordered the company to pay $500,000 and stop pretending that the product was “scientifically shown to repel head lice.” Another recent FTC settlement will stop the company that makes a supplement called BrainStrong Adult from claiming it has clinical proof the product “improves adult memory.”

Sometimes, the claims are downright laughable, like the F-Cup Cookies sold in Japan that are supposed to make your breasts bigger.

How could anyone fall for such claims? How can people not know better? What’s behind our will to believe when common sense tells us otherwise? There are four particularly strong forces at work: one is human nature, and three are unique to our times.

1. We are hopeful. If we’re lucky, we have a healthy dose of a charming, positive and essential human quality: hope. Add a dash of that particularly American characteristic, optimism, and we have the potential to be led astray. Hope gives us the will to try, while optimism gives us fortitude. Untempered by common sense and logic, though, hope and optimism can devolve to gullibility. The solution is not to decrease hope—it’s to blend in wisdom, and a bit of skepticism.

2. We see miracles in action every day. One marvelous technological advancement after another, from GPS systems to smartphones, has taught us to believe in innovation. “New” has never been better, and we eagerly await the next bit of wizardry. We’re more trusting and less skeptical of innovation, and therefore more likely to believe that the next big thing is really all that—the next big thing. That puts a damper on an age-old adage that’s kept us on the straight and narrow for years: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.” Today’s gadgets and innovations sometimes actually are as good as advertised. Which means consumers have to be craftier in ferreting out potentially false claims and examining the reputation of the source.

3. We have no attention spans. Evaluating products, and product claims, is harder today because of another side effect of technology—saturated with stimulation, we increasingly skim and rely on visual cues such as photos and symbolism to get the gist of what some hot new thing does. Nobody has ever been a fan of “fine print,” but today we’re less tolerant than ever. Nobody has the time or interest to dig deeper. Shorter attention spans have resulted in less patience to temper hope and optimism with thinking things through.

4. We are manipulated by marketers. Lastly, consumers are up against some brilliant marketing minds—professionals who are now armed with reams of data and psychological insights. Marketers increasingly use psychology to understand the deepest motivations of consumers and create the most resonant messaging. Most apply those insights to more fully satisfy consumers and gain an edge in a fiercely competitive marketplace. But some are less honest. Marketers have always been some of the best communicators in the world, and today they’re more aware and arguably better than ever.

Deep down, we want to believe in magic. Human beings always have. Thanks to the spectacular increase in innovation, from smartphones to self-driving cars, there’s proof that products can do seemingly magical, miraculous things. But the existence of amazing gadgets isn’t an excuse to lose grasp with reality. Smart shoppers temper hope, optimism, and awe with critical reasoning. It seems like a downer, but it’s never been more important.
_____________________________________________________

Kit Yarrow, Ph.D., is a consumer psychologist who is obsessed with all things related to how, when and why we shop and buy. She conducts research through her professorship at Golden Gate University and shares her findings in speeches, consulting work, and her books, Decoding the New Consumer Mind and Gen BuY.

TIME Innovation

Smart Home Gadgets for Stopping Disasters Before They Happen

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Whether I’m traveling or anticipating the arrival of guests, I worry something will happen while I’m gone. Did I forget to turn off the iron? Will my guests arrive while I’m out picking up more milk?

With a smartphone or computer I can easily allay these fears by checking on that iron or even unlocking the door. In fact, there are products that provide remote control or monitoring of most of the important systems in a home. Better yet, you can install most of these yourself.

Wireless video monitoring camera

Dropcam

Do you want to make sure the neighbor fed your fish, that packages aren’t sitting on your front porch or that Fido isn’t sitting on the sofa again? With a wireless video-monitoring camera, you can perform a visual check on your home while you’re away. The new Dropcam Pro is a good choice with its 130-degree field of view and ability to digitally pan and zoom (8x) in on a scene. Plus, it has enhanced night vision and two-way audio communication (for chastising Fido or otherwise). Video is encrypted and can be saved, based on your needs.

If you want to take your Dropcam Pro to the next level, take a look at the $29 Dropcam Tab wireless movement sensors. They attach directly to your door or window, sending an alert to your smartphone if someone opens or closes one. They’re also rated for outdoor use, so you can attach them to a gate or garage door if you’d like.

Price: $199.00 on dropcam.com, $199.99 on amazon.com

Belkin

Remote control electrical outlet

Plug any device into the Belkin WeMo Home Automation Switch and you can turn it on or off with your iOS or Android device. So you can make sure the iron is off and the front lights are on wherever you happen to be. You can also set the WeMo outlet to work on a schedule, turning on or off at certain times of day.

Price: $49.99 on belkin.com, $49.95 on amazon.com

To automate hardwired light fixtures, you’ll need aBelkin WeMo Light Switch instead. It looks and functions similar to a standard wall light switch, but also adds the same kind of functionality you get from the Home Automation Switch. The only catch is that you’ll need to do a bit of wiring to install it (or pay an electrician do it for you).

Price: $49.99 on belkin.com, $44.00 on amazon.com

Nest

Remote control thermostat

There’s no need to turn down the thermostat when you leave town for the weekend. The Nest thermostat has sensors built in so it knows when you’re away and will automatically go into energy-saving mode. You can also turn up the heat remotely with your iPhone or Android phone so your home is just the right temperature when you arrive. And best of all, it learns your preferences as you use it, eliminating the need to deal with complex scheduling.

Looking for an even smarter smart thermostat? Check out the Honeywell Lyric. The Lyric automatically turns your heat or air conditioning on based on the GPS location of your phone. If you’ve got a schedule that fluctuates wildly, the Lyric can make sure your home is the perfect temperature the moment you step through the front door, whenever that happens to be.

You’ll need to wait until August to pick up the $279 Lyric. The Nest, meanwhile, is available now wherever home improvement goods are sold.

Price: $249 on nest.com or amazon.com

Wally Home

Water and flood alert system

Will the leaky pipe you just fixed in the upstairs bathroom hold over the long weekend? With the Wally Hub, wireless sensors will monitor for changes in humidity and temperature under the sink, next to the hot water heater or by any other appliance or pipe you’re worried about. An included smartphone app will keep an eye on all your sensors at once, with mobile alerts delivered the moment a change in wetness is detected. With Wally, you can address small problems before they turn into a catastrophic ones, even when you’re away from home.

The Wally Hub comes with 6 sensors included for placement around your house. Additional sensors are available at wallyhome.com for $35 each, or 6 for $199.

Price: $299.00 on wallyhome.com

Chamberlain

Smartphone garage door opener

Did you remember to close the garage door? Eliminate any question with new Chamberlain MyQ Garage System, a simple-to-install add-on to most major garage door systems made after 1993. It connects to your home Wi-Fi, letting you use your smartphone to check whether you left the door up no matter how far you travel from home. And as we mentioned in our Father’s Day Gift Guide, the device can also deliver alerts to your phone whenever the door opens, letting you know exactly how long past curfew your teenager stayed out.

Price: $110.49 on amazon.com

UniKey

Remote control door lock

Expecting guests to visit while you’re away? You could hide a spare house key under the welcome mat, but that’s pretty dangerous — that’s the first place most thieves look. Instead, take a look at the Kwikset Kevo powered by UniKey, a deadbolt that can be unlocked with a key, an included Bluetooth key fob or a Bluetooth capable smartphone. Giving guests access to your home is as simple as using the Kevo app to send a digital key to their phone. You can choose to receive alerts when keys are used, and digital keys can be retrieved when the visit is over.

In Techlicious’s review of the Kwikset Kevo, we discovered the lock can be installed in 15 to 20 minutes. It’s powered by four AA batteries, which will need to be replaced about once a year.

Price: $219.00 on amazon.com

First Alert

Smart smoke/carbon monoxide detector

Having a working smoke and carbon monoxide detector in your home or apartment isn’t just smart safety sense. In many places, it’s the law. Get in compliance with the First Alert ONELink Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detector with Voice. Should the detector sniff out smoke or a dangerous quantity of CO gas, an audible voice alarm will sound. And if you pair the device with an optional INSTEON Smoke Bridge and INSTEON Hub, you can have email or text message alerts sent directly to your phone. The system can even be set up to turn your home’s lights on in case of fire emergency, so you won’t need to worry about fumbling through the smoke.

Price (First Alert ONELink): $69.99 at smarthome.com, $61.75 at amazon.com
Price (INSTEON Smoke Bridge): $34.99 at smarthome.com, $34.99 at amazon.com
Price (INSTEON Hub): $129.99 at smarthome.com, $129.99 at amazon.com

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Innovation

Hoverbikes Are Here, So the Future Must Have Arrived

Sci-fi fans — brace yourselves

A Los Angeles–based company, Aerofex, says it has developed a “tandem-duct” aerial vehicle that hovers above the ground. It’s called Aero-X, and its maker says it is made for flying a few feet above terrain and can travel up to 45 m.p.h. (72 km/h).

Chief technology officer Mark DeRoche told the BBC that while he knows his product is part of a niche market, “There’s really nothing between a ground vehicle and an aircraft.”

The Aero-X is about the size of a small car, can hold up to two people, and looks like a way clunkier version of the speeder bikes used in Star Wars.

While most consumers will want to take the Aero-X for a pure joyride, Aerofex says it has serious purposes and could prove useful to farmers, disaster-relief services, security patrols and anyone who needs to navigate uneven terrain quickly.

But the ride comes in at a whopping $85,000. While buyers can put a $5,000 deposit to reserve a seat, the vehicle will not be delivered until 2017.

No word yet on plans to develop a hoverboard for Back to the Future aficionados. But this is certainly a good start.

[BBC]

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