Technology

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The Latest Highlights and Trends in Tech

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Whilst the eyes and ears of the tech world are all set on Las Vegas for CES 2016 this week, there are plenty of other stories left to tell. If you want to check out my CES 2016 highlights, you can do so HERE, but in this supplemental article, I'll instead be looking past the bright lights of Sin City, to some of the other interesting tech stories of the week.

Dentsu invests in molecular-level health tracker

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Dentsu Inc President & CEO Tadashi Ishii announced this week that Dentsu Ventures, the company’s corporate venture capital fund, has made an investment in Cue Inc, a US technology company that created Cue; an at-home device for tracking health information at the molecular level at home via a smartphone app. In addition to funding, Dentsu Ventures will support businesses and entrepreneurs by providing problem-solving solutions and resources that are unique to the Group. Cue Inc. is the fifth company in which Dentsu Ventures has invested.

Dentsu Ventures has made an investment in Cue; an at-home device for tracking health information at the molecular level

Cue Inc has developed a cube-shaped hardware device into which diagnostic cartridges are inserted to provide easy at-home analysis of healthcare data at the molecular level, together with a smartphone application that can manage the results of the analysis. Through a small sample of blood, saliva or mucus that has been collected and added to a colour-coded cartridge which is then inserted into the Cue hardware device, a user can easily track health indicators such as vitamin D, testosterone, inflammation, influenza and fertility. After approval from the relevant authorities has been obtained, the company aims to launch the product in the EU and Hong Kong in the second quarter of 2016. It should be available in the US sometime during 2016 and in Japan in 2017. In the future, it is expected that Cue will be able to handle twenty health indicators.

This solar kitchen table can charge your phone!

A new design from design consultancy Caventou turns a kitchen table into an energy harvester through the use of solar cells, meaning it can charge phones and laptops purely by solar power. The Current Table was developed as a concept last year, and has now gone to market. Solar cells are integrated into the glass surface of the table, which generate energy from natural sunlight. The cells used are dye-sensitised solar cells, which work in a similar way to photosynthesis in leaves, by using colour to transform light into electricity. They don’t need direct sunlight, but can function under diffused light, meaning they can be used indoors. A battery in the table stores the energy that has been collected by the solar cells, so that electricity can be harvested and used to charge appliances when sunlight isn’t available, such as in the evening. The table can charge roughly four to six mobile phones a day, or alternatively a laptop and a mobile phone a day. Level of performance depends on the size of the table.

The Caventou design consultancy has turned a kitchen table into an energy harvester through the use of solar cells

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Marjan van Aubel, founder at Caventou, said: “It has good performance in an indoor situation. The closer to the window the table is, the better. It’s constantly charging – you fill it up slowly, then empty it when you need it like a bucket. The purpose of the table is not for it to be the most efficient item. It’s about using surfaces that are currently un-used – solar panels can look ugly on a roof, and are not integrated into its design. It’s very important to use aesthetics and things you actually want in the house to create energy. We’re working on a big house, where everything can be self-powered. We have other furniture in the pipeline, though I’m not saying what just yet.” Caventou is currently taking orders for the table, having had roughly 20 so far. The tables are priced between £3,000 and £4,000 depending on their size, and are expected to be produced by summer this year.

French streets to become solar-powered

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French designer Mathieu Lehanneur’s solar-powered street furniture, called Clover, will be installed throughout the western Poitou-Charentes region of France by the end of this year. Clover was commissioned by the president of the Poitou-Charentes region, Ségolène Royal, who is also the French minister for ecology, sustainable development and energy. The region has purchased nearly 200 of the designs, and may add more in the future. The outdoor multi-use configuration comprises a solar-powered tree-like street lamp with an accompanying bench; a horizontal branching tree stump that can be made up to 15 metres long if the location allows for it. Although the lamp looks as if it had been hand-carved from wood, it is digitally manufactured using an industrial process that blends different types of wood. Lehanneur decided upon this method with an eye to sustainability. Clover’s common materials and industrial design keep the costs for production low, in hopes of making the design accessible for cities to purchase and use. Lehanneur drew inspiration for Clover from his 2012 project Digital Break, which comprised a series of Wi-Fi stations in Paris where people could sit to use their laptops or access information on a large screen built-in screen

Mathieu Lehanneur’s solar-powered street furniture, called Clover, will be installed throughout the western Poitou-Charentes region of France by the end of this year

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Lehanneur said: “I wanted to find a process and material in order to make a similar type of construction but adapt it to the city or different streets of the city. The height of the streetlamps, the numbers of lights and length of the bench, all of this can be adapted to the environment. We also wanted to keep it within a budget and balance it in comparison to existing products. It would be absolutely stupid to make it expensive. We worked hard to combine aluminium and wood and find out a process that allows us to sculpt the wood to look like it’s made by hand. I wanted for the same thing for Clover that I wanted with Digital Break; that you do not feel that a new object has been installed into the street, but just like a flower that would grow overnight, I want the object to feel absolutely natural in the context. It is a way to remind you that just under the floor and before the city, the natural world existed.” The prototype of Lehanneur’s solar-powered street lamp with its accompanying twig-shaped seating is on display outside of Paris’s until the end of this month. It was installed for the 2015 Paris COP21 Climate Conference in December.

Apple make another interesting tech purchase

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Apple bought another tech start-up this week, this time in the form of Emotient; a company that has developed AI capable of reading emotions through facial expressions. By using deep neural networks made to resemble the networks of neurons in our brains, programs like Emotient's are able to scan a vast amount of data and learn things like which facial expression or tone of voice corresponds to a particular emotion. Up until their purchase by Apple, Emotient offered their services for consumer research, videotaping people and reading every frame for key performance indicators like attention, level of engagement, and just whether or not they looked happy with the product. How Apple intends to use the tech, however, is currently unknown.

Apple has bought a tech start-up that has developed AI capable of reading emotions through facial expressions

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Apple's acquisition comes on the heels of their November purchase of FaceShift, the company that did motion capture for The Force Awakens using a new method that didn't need the facial markers generally needed to make a 3D copy of someone's face. These recent moves have some analysts theorizing that Apple intends to jump into the virtual reality race currently led by companies like Facebook and Google. Emotient was founded in 2012. Last year it raised $6 million in funding and put out a so-called sentiment analysis app for Google Glass. Considering the company's new owner, chances are you'll be-hard pressed to find it on Google Play anymore though.

Free pop-up co-working space coming to Tech City in London

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Workspace provider The Office Group is opening a free co-working pop up in Tech City on January 15. Based in Albert House by Old Street roundabout in London, the pop-up space will be divided into a number of areas that experiment with the different ways of working. There will be a design-led co-working area, a quiet zone and an interactive art workshop by Creative Debuts showcasing emerging artists. A series of events will also take place, including music sessions, a live stream by Hoxton FM, plus classes on coding, yoga, knitting, crochet and art will also be available.

Workspace provider The Office Group is opening a free co-working pop up in Tech City on January 15

Olly Olsen, co-CEO of The Office Group, said: “The way we work is constantly evolving, so we wanted to create a pop up with different environments and activities to get feedback on the perfect workplace. Whether it’s the art on the walls or taking a break from your desk to use a different skill set, we believe that design and creativity should take a bigger role in office life. Those using the pop up workspace will have access to the facilities at Albert House, which include a gym, café, lounge area and deckchair cinema. The pop up will kick off with an opening party on January 14 and will be open until February 26.

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