TIME Innovation

This Innovative Flower Pot Moves To Follow the Sun

This flower pot helps plants grow more efficiently

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This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

It only took us a few thousand years to create the efficient flower pot design. Inspired by how sunflowers follow the sunlight, Barcelona-based industrial design company, Studio BAG Disseny, created a flower pot that can roll to face the direction of the sun, giving plants a more efficient way to grow.

Handmade in La Bisbal d’Emporda, Spain, the terracotta pots can whirl by simply moving the base. According to its designers, by adding movement to traditional static pots, it allows the plants to “follow the path of the sun, to sway in a breeze or grow at will.”

(via Design Taxi)

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 6

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Diversity in recruitment – not residency restrictions – is the best way to build a police force that reflects the community where it works.

By Batya Ungar-Sargon and Andrew Flowers in FiveThirtyEight

2. To save Libya, western powers need to abandon the ‘war on terror’ framework and convince factions there to negotiate.

By Mattia Toaldo in the European Council on Foreign Relations

3. Cricket protein requires 20% fewer resources than beef protein. Are bugs the next big thing?

By Katie Van Syckle in Bloomberg Businessweek

4. China’s fluid definition of terrorism – often changing at the convenience of the country’s leaders – keeps the nation from being an effective partner against ISIS.

By Richard Bernstein, Ely Ratner, Jeffrey Payne, James Palmer, and Fu Hualing in ChinaFile

5. Modern pro sports commissioners are CEOs, not stewards of a public good. Split the commissioner job in two.

By Will Leitch in New York Magazine

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Big Picture

How Communication Will Evolve Through Digital Touch

It’s not hard to look back at innovation cycles to see how technology advancements have impacted how we communicate. From the pencil to the printing press to computers to the Internet, and more recently, our smartphones, each has evolved communication in some way.

Each innovation has brought with it the ability to communicate both verbally and non-verbally in new forms. The telephone itself made verbal communication possible from a distance. Computers brought non-verbal communication into the digital era, evolving physical written letters into a digital form capable of traveling at near real-time speeds. The cell phone made long-distance verbal communication possible from any location. Smartphones further made the full spectrum of verbal and non-verbal communication possible from just about any location.

However, what do we learn when we study these technological advancements and how they have evolved our communication methods? We learn that ultimately, we have enabled new context in which to communicate digitally. In essence, technology has brought more communication options.

For example, prior to cell phones, many of us had pagers. The pager was basically an extension of the fixed landline. Someone could page you with a number and you would go to a fixed-line phone and call the person back. As teenagers, we created numeric codes to send messages: 43770 was “Hello,” for example; 143 was “I love you.” Effectively, every number or number combination had an alphabetical-letter equivalent. Looking back, this was essentially an early form of text messaging which, in and of itself, was a new option for communication. Not all conversation requires a lengthy voice dialogue. More often than not, short messages can suffice. It is the options that technology brings us that allow us to communicate in different ways depending on the context of the conversation.

Many of you will also remember your first experiences with a BlackBerry. There was something profound about being able to see your email from a device other than your personal computer. We learned very quickly that, for some emails, quick responses would suffice and that the BlackBerry was great for this. But for other emails, a more lengthy response was necessary. For these tasks, we would return to the PC. The context of the response dictates which device we use in a multi-device world. This is what I mean by technology giving us options. Prior to the BlackBerry (or Palm Pilot, etc.), the PC was our only option for both long- and short-form email communication. As innovations like the BlackBerry were created, we were presented with more options.

Digital Touch

There are plenty more examples I can dig into but I wanted to frame the points above to turn our attention to smartwatches in general and the Apple Watch in particular. While dozens of questions remain about the Apple Watch, it is perhaps its potential to add a new communication element I find most intriguing at this point. Despite what I mentioned above about humans communicating through verbal and written forms, I left out another vital communication tactic: the physical one.

As part of my continuing study of humans, I became aware of some of the modern research on the science of touch in human communication. This article in particular from Berkeley is a good starter on the subject, and this line is one of the most interesting:

In recent years, a wave of studies has documented some incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch. This research is suggesting that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.

The physical connection has been proven time and time again to be essential to healthy relationships. A series of studies highlighted in the report showed how people, even strangers, can communicate emotion through touch. Touch is an essential part of how we communicate. It is very personal and very intimate, yet is foreign to the digital world.

What Apple is presenting with the Apple Watch appears like it may be the start of bringing digital touch as a communication method to the digital age. And if we think about the type of device that makes this type of digital touch communication possible, it makes sense it is done through a device we wear rather than one we keep in our pockets or bags.

While Apple may lead this effort initially, this is something that could expand even wider as the idea expands. A leading company in haptics named Immersion has been working on similar haptic communication as a language for years and could bring that solution to any wearable device.

In the same way technology has expanded our communication options, it has still not replaced many of our existing communication methods. In a way, communication has been extended through technology, but not all prior forms have been made obsolete. Similarly, digital touch will not replace human contact, but when we are away from our loved ones, digital touch has the potential to extend that unique and intimate communication method in ways not possible before.

Bajarin is a principal at Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market-intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to the Big Picture opinion column that appears here every week.

TIME Innovation

See Steve Jobs’ Legacy in 16 Photos

Three years after the tech luminary's death, here is a look back at the most influential products he played an instrumental role in creating

TIME Innovation

Watch a Snake Robot Turn Its Head and Tail Into Legs… And Walk

Yikes

(via IEEE Spectrum)

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 3

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. With 3D printing, prosthetic technology is poised to change millions of lives.

By Tom McKay in Mic

2. Dysfunctional oversight of the Department of Homeland Security undermines its mission.

By Daniel Kaniewski in The Hill

3. The web isn’t killing newspapers. Print readership has been in decline for 20 years.

By Whet Moser in Chicago Magazine

4. Skyrocketing drug traffic has deeply affected life on Indian reservations at the US-Mexico border.

By Shannon Mizzi in Wilson Quarterly

5. With Chinese elites joining the movement, the protests in Hong Kong could yield a partial win.

By Zack Beauchamp in Vox

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Google Reportedly Working on Giant TV Screens

Visitors stand in front of a screen showing the most popular Google searches in Germany at that moment in the company's offices on Aug. 21, 2014 in Berlin.
Visitors stand in front of a screen showing the most popular Google searches in Germany at that moment in the company's offices on Aug. 21, 2014 in Berlin. Adam Berry—Getty Images

The idea is to be able to seamlessly connect smaller screens

Google is developing technology to allow users to integrate multiple screens to create giant television-like screens of variable shapes and sizes, sources familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal.

Former Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Mary Lou Jepsen is leading the project, which is being developed in secret and has not been disclosed to the public. Jepsen previously led the project to create a cheap laptop that could be distributed widely in the developing world, an effort that failed to meet the high hopes surrounding it.

The ability to combine small screens to create larger ones would disrupt a market where prices increase dramatically with size. A 32-inch screen can retail for less than $1,000. A 110-inch screen, the largest manufactured, requires a custom order and can reportedly cost more than $100,000.

[WSJ]

TIME Innovation

A Piece of Cardboard Is Helping Transform India’s Schools

These desks cost only 20 cents to produce and are making a huge difference for schoolchildren

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This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

A single sheet of cardboard can’t do much, right? Wrong! In India, many children go to school but don’t have the luxury of sitting behind a desk. To address this issue, the nonprofit organization Aarambh created a necessity out of a single sheet of cardboard: a school desk. The Bombay-based nonprofit worked with designers to come up with the desk design from a simple sheet of cardboard.
They transformed that cardboard into a modern-looking backpack for kids to carry all their school supplies, but when folded out, the briefcase then turns into a work desk.

What’s brilliant about this eco-friendly design is that it costs just 20 cents to produce and each desk is cut in a way so all the student needs to do is fold it together—nothing more is required. This makes education and school supplies even more accessible for families everywhere.

Building the cardboard desks
Courtesy of Aarambh
Students using cardboard desks
Courtesy of Aarambh
Completed cardboard desk
Courtesy of Aarambh
TIME Innovation

Can a Mind-Reading Headset Teach You To Deal With Stress?

Learn how to unwind with the latest from wearable technology.

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This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

To different people, meditation can mean different things. When some of us hear the ‘m-word’ we think of cross-legged yogis contededly humming to themselves while levitating off the ground, to others with a slightly clearer understanding it signifies an attempt to still the relentless rushing off the mind and to find a sense of peace, however temporary.

In recent years and in the Western world in particular, meditation and meditation-related practices like yoga have become incredibly popular. It’s likely that this is a direct response to the rushing madness and stress-filled days that make up the typical life of a western city-dweller. Everybody has their own way of coping, and for many meditation is a lifeline in a sea of anxiety and stress.

It shouldn’t be surprising therefore, that in our time of wearable technology entrepreneurial companies are producing devices that work towards the same goals as meditation. Introducing the Muse, a lightweight headset that works in a very similar way to EEG machines in hospitals. The main difference is that Muse costs $299 rather than $10,000.

Muse connects to your smartphone or tablet and trains you to calm your mind through the a very simple ‘game’. The headset monitors your brain activity and your phone plays the sounds of gentle waves, giving the impression of a tropical beach when you are in a calm state. The longer you remain calm the more details are added to the soundscape, such as birds singing. If your mind becomes restless and you begin to stress however, then heavy gusts of wind blow across the beach and the soundscape becomes more turbulent to match your mental state.

The purpose of the Muse and its app are to help people learn how to calm their minds, especially in times of stress. It can be used for as little as 3 minutes a day and still have positive effects. Read a more detailed review of Muse and other similar products here.

Whether or not you think this product is for you, there’s little doubt that a big part of the future of wearable technology lies in the ability to monitor and respond to the wearer’s brain activity. Imagine being able to turn on the lights with a thought, or send a text with your mind!

(via Fastcoexist)

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 2

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. A global competition could prime the pump for development of disease-fighting treatments.

By James Surowiecki in New Yorker

2. Cancer detecting yogurt? New technology could make diagnosing colon cancer as simple as taking a pregnancy test.

By Kevin Bullis at the MIT Technology Review

3. Youth-targeted networks are leading a surge in LGBT-friendly television programming.

By Joanna Robinson in Vanity Fair

4. California’s massive expansion of teledentistry could revolutionize delivery of oral hygiene to underserved areas.

By Daniela Hernandez in Kaiser Health News

5. The climate change movement desperately needs diversity and corporate leadership.

By Caitlin Colegrove in conversation with M. Sanjayan in the Aspen Idea

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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