NextFEST: People Power

When I walked up to the Press table to get my pass I met someone from the VeinViewerTM exhibit who suggested I race over there to check it out. After I slapped my Press Pass on my shirt I walked over to the VeinViewerTM area. People were holding their arms under the digital camera and looking at a patch of green light on their skin. Using “near-infrared” light and other image processing voodoo you can see your actual living veins appear on top of your flesh. It’s like a kind of Superman X-ray Vision. Click the thumbnail picture to the right to see MY arm and MY veins! Cool Beans! I stood there watching the small veins appear and disappear as the blood pulsed through them. Scanning over my arm looking at the various large and small veins was riveting. Better than TV. Of course, I had to stop and ask a few questions or I’d have nothing to write about.
Obviously, the medical use for this is for nurses to easily find veins for inserting needles. Either to draw blood or deliver medicine. As you can see I have large healthy and easy to find veins. But not everyone is so blessed. And those people get stuck multiple times. Not fun. Babies and children have small veins and no one really wants to torture them with needles. According to the fellow at the exhibit the VeinViewerTM should be in some hospitals in about 12 weeks. Good news.

This is a perfect example of technology being used to help people. And there was plenty of examples of that at this year’s NextFest.

LifeStraw (R) is a simple idea. Everyone watching the aftermath of Katrina last year must realize (if they didn’t already know this) that clean water is Vital to life. Unfortunately, about one billion of this world’s population has no clean and healthy water available. There are people suffering from the diseases born from contaminated water. And nearly 6000 children die each day as a result. Vestergaard Frandsen has created the LifeStraw (R) to easily bring clean water to these people. You literally use it as a straw. Place the bottom end in whatever water is available then suck up from the top end. The water goes through a two stage particle filtration system preventing bacteria going up the straw. It’s effect for about a year and even comes with a strap from hanging around one’s neck.

What I like about this idea is that it’s simple to explain the use – you don’t even need to speak the language. Show someone how to use it. They get it! Plus, you don’t have to wait for some idiot government to implement the building of a facility to purify water. Each person can take care of their own needs AS they drink. They take that power in their own hands. No waiting, grab your LifeStraw (R) , go drink!

Imagine if on September 11th, 2001 all the floors had embedded on the walls of the Twin Towers Sensor Modules which wirelessly transmitted the temperature of the ambient air on each floor. Imagine if each Fire Station called to the scene already possesses the full digital floorplans of all those building affected by the emergency. The Command Center for Firefighters would know what was happening in each building because each Firefighter would be equipped with “Tmote sky” wireless Sensor Module so Command Central could track where each man/woman was. And the life signs of each personal could be monitored, as well as the remaining air supply in each man’s tank. Each Firefighter also would have a Small display (“FireEye”) placed just to the lower right inside the mask they wear. It wouldn’t interfer with regular vision. The FireEye shows the floor layout of the building this Firefighter would be investigating. There would also be commands transmitted from Command Central directly in each man’s display warning them of specific local danger. Seeing the floor plans in the display would show them Where they needed to go. Imagine how quickly the plan of attack could be implemented when everyone is able to communicate with each other in this way? Imagine how many lives would be saved?

MOTEiv has been working with the Chicago Fire Department to develop such a system. The project is called Fire Information and Rescue Equipment (FIRE).
Buildings over a certain height (basically highrise buildings) would be required to make digital floorplans available to Fire Departments. SmokeNet is the system for installing a network of “nodes” in a building. One type is the smoke detector used to convey info about smoke and temperature. “Stoplight nodes” are placed in critical areas (like above certain doorways) showing three bright LEDs to help civilians and firefights locate exits and negotiate around the building and have info about the rooms yet to be entered.

eICS is basically the software running on the Chiefs’ laptop at the scene of the fire. All the information is coordinated from this. The digital floor plans will have live data from each firefighter layered on top. The list of all engines and their personnel is available for review.

For an interactive Flash example see here. That should give you an idea of what it’s like to be a Fire Chief. Without the stress.

Humans, like most mammals teach their young with PLAY. and, as everyone knows, children play a great deal of the time. In fact, if children didn’t play, we would think something was wrong.

P L A Y M O T I O N ! has created several interactive “games” that brings you back to that playful time. What I saw at the FEST reminded me of that Amiga program called “LIVE” which was certainly the first interactive computer program I ever saw. Move your ams and legs and sounds and pictures would occur.

I found the P L A Y M O T I O N ! displays quite colorful and fun. Even just to look at others “move” digital objects around is enjoyable. Some are on walls, others are on the floor. I must say, it’s good exercise at least! I saw a couple of kids jumping around kicking a “red spot” between each other. Take a look at some movies of the available titles

DigiWall looks like a normal climbing-wall with handholds. I watched the kids climbing on this wall and noticed the handholds would light up.

DigiWall is actually a computer game. Sensors are in each hand-hold. So the computer knows when someone is touching it. Various games can be constructed and programmed using this simple concept. Kids can make music on this wall. Touching the Hand-Holds lights them up and plays a sound (from the hi-fi system behind the wall). The DigiWall can become a musical instrument.

Several kids can “play” the wall like an orchestra. It’s not the orchestra experience I had as a child, but it sounds fun.

Ok, here’s a weird one. Cat cloning Even though they say they aren’t using the same cloning techniques that were used to clone Dolly the sheep, I have some reservations. Dolly the clone had health issues. There may be fewer or no such health issues (Dolly was basically an “older” clone), but what if the cloned cat is strangely different than the original. I’ve had pets and you get to know your dog or cat Very well. Anything that seems different will be disconcerting. Especially for children.

While this may give some people a “second chance” to raise their pet again, this really sets up the expectation of doing the same with people. At least that’s what my science fiction reading tells me. Anyway, while I’d love to see my dog and my brother’s dog again, it’s a little bit scary.

This idea, on the other hand, I like! Ragbag(R) is made from recycled plastic garbage.

About 50 ragpickers working in the slums of New Delhi collect plastic bags. The plastic is then washed and separated by color. About 60 plastic bags are pressed in a machine creating a thick “sheet”. From here the sheet is cut and lined with cloth to make shoulderbags, backpacks, shopping bags, organizers (diaries), and wallets.

They look attractive and interesting. This process helps clean up the planet, gives jobs to poor people and ends up making useful products. There’s no negative here and it’s all about People Power!

Written by Cecilia