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The FingerReader: Opening New Worlds for the Visually Impaired

July 21, 2014 in Change, Good News, Inspiration, Technology by Meredith Ansell

FingerReader - Visually Impaired Innovations

A new solution for the visually impaired

Hot out of the labs at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a prototype audio reading device, called the “FingerReader.” The FingerReader fits on the index finger of a visually impaired individual and “reads” to him books or other written material. The FingerReader is equipped with a small camera which scans the text, and then a computerized voice “reads” it. For the visually impaired, the FingerReader will open up an entirely new world of texts: restaurant menus, newspapers and magazines, office materials, and millions of books. It also translates text so the user is free to “read” text written in a foreign language. The FingerReader is the latest invention to come out of 3-D printing, a technology that is dramatically changing the face of the world.

The FingerReader has many advantages: It is portable. No matter where the visually impaired person may find himself, he will be able to read. It is empowering. With the FingerReader a visually impaired person will be able to immediately read and understand important documents, such as a permission form at a doctor’s office, or applications at a government agency. It is a vast improvement over the optical character recognition devices that are already available to the visually impaired, because it works in real time.
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Harnessing the Ocean Winds—Floating Windmills

June 25, 2014 in Earth, Environment, Europe, Good News, Green, Technology by Meredith Ansell

Harnessing the Ocean Winds—Floating Windmills

Floating Windmills (photo by

Windmills have been around for thousands of years. They served a variety of functions, such as creating power to run mills and pump water. In the 1970s, due to the increasing expense of fossil fuels combined with more aggressive advocacy by environmentalists, the windmill took on new life. Wind farms began to pop up across the world. Many farmers began to lease out their land for wind farms, benefiting from another source of income. But, this approach had its limits, so wind energy scientists and developers turned to the ocean, where the winds are constant and extremely vigorous. But, grounded wind turbine platforms in the oceans also have limitations.

Now, there is a new development in the challenge to harness the wind—floating windmills or turbines. Five kilometers from the coast of Portugal is a new prototype—a turbine floating on the water. Known as the Windfloat turbine this is the latest product to come from efforts to create a wind turbine that can withstand the surge of the ocean waters, and grab the awesome winds that are constantly above it.

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Can Something as Simple as Fasting Help Diabetics?

June 16, 2014 in Change, Good News, Technology by Robin Cook

As a general rule, nutritionists and other medical professionals will tell you that fasting—not eating for an extended number of hours—is detrimental to your health. Many people turn to fasting as a tool for weight loss, but typically what happens is the reverse—metabolism is negatively impacted resulting in fat gain.

Fasting for Diabetics

“A new study indicates that fasting may be an important intervention tool for pre-diabetics”

But, a new study from the Intermountain Heart Institute in Utah indicates that fasting may be an important intervention tool for pre-diabetics, saving them from becoming diabetic. The study examined the impact of fasting on a group of pre-diabetic patients and found that there was a significant drop in cholesterol levels, particularly if they fasted for periods of 10-12 hours at a time. Dr. Benjamon Horne, one of the study’s authors and the Director of Cardiovascular and Genetic Epidemiology at the Intermountain Heart Institute said that fasting has the potential to be an important tool for diabetes intervention. During fasting, the body uses LDL cholesterol from fat cells to provide itself with energy. The LDL cholesterol is known to contribute to insulin resistance.
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Are Hot Chili Peppers the Fountain of Youth?

May 25, 2014 in Good News, Inspiration, Nature, Social by Robin Cook

Hot Chilli Peppers

Hot Chilli Peppers

Maybe, but you would need to eat a lot of them. Yet, on the other hand, there are some interesting possibilities. New

findings from a study on mice seem to show that there is potential for spicy foods to impact the aging process.

In the new study, it was found that mice bred without pain receptors were living longer and without developing life-shortening diseases such as diabetes. Scientists have discovered that chili peppers and other spicy foods contain a certain molecule that mimics this same absence of pain receptors, giving potential for a spicy diet to benefit humans.

Each time a person comes into contact with a painful event, such as stubbing a toe, burning the hand while cooking, etc. a pain receptor in the area sends a signal to the brain, and he feels the pain. The receptor protects him from prolonged harm from the source of the pain, but at the same time it also seems to negatively impact the lifespan. It is known, for instance, that people with chronic pain live shorter lives.

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The Bionic Eye – Sounds Like Science Fiction, But it is Not!

May 14, 2014 in Change, Environment, Good News, Technology by Meredith Ansell

Late last year the FDA approved a breakthrough technology that will bring life-changing relief to Americans who suffer from retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that almost always leads to legal blindness by the age of 40. More than 100,000 people suffer from this disease. Retinitis pigmentosa evolves slowly, initially impacting the person’s peripheral vision, then night vision and finally, central vision, leading to blindness. The disease destroys the retina’s light-sensitive cells. In January of this year, the first bionic eye was implanted in a patient at the University of Michigan Health Center. Another three procedures have been performed since then, and a 4th is scheduled for this month.

How Does the “Bionic Eye” Work?
The Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System—the formal name for the “bionic eye,” is a breakthrough technology consisting of a 60-electrode retinal prosthesis that is surgically implanted into the eye. A tiny video camera is attached to eyeglasses that are worn by the patient. The camera’s images are transmitted to the retinal prosthesis. Then the sensors from the electrode retinal prosthesis is transmitted to the brain, via the optic nerve. This bionic eye will not restore the patient’s vision, but they will be able to distinguish light and dark, see movement and the shapes of objects and people. For patients who are seeing nothing, even to be able to see the outline of shapes and movement is going to bring incredible joy into their lives. Read the rest of this entry →

Jollywallet Enters South American Market, Signaling the Awaking of the Latin American Online Shopper

April 27, 2014 in Business, Change, Finance, Good News, Internet, Social, Technology by Robin Cook


jollywallet – signaling the awakening of the South American online shopping market

Online shopping retailers and e-commerce consumer applications, such as the cashback jollywallet browser add-on, are poised to reap big rewards from the fired-up South American Internet technology market.

The past two months have been blockbuster months for the South American technology consumer. This is very good news for consumers in Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Columbia and other Latin American countries where trekking out to shop in a bricks and mortar retail establishment is at best challenging and at worse perilous. Massive traffic delays due to poor urban planning diminish any enthusiasm consumers might have for venturing out to enjoy a day at the mall. Government instability, civil unrest and other socio-political upheavals in many South American countries can make a fun shopping trip a nightmare experience. Fortunately, Internet technology developers and retailers are braving the waters.

The recent announcement by Radyoos Media that jollywallet is now partnering with online retailers in South America is an excellent marker to the awaking of the online shopping market in this region. A growing and strengthening Internet-based consumer market in Latin America is good news for everyone in the e-commerce business, shopping apps among them. Increased access to online shopping opportunities provides a breath of fresh air for consumers in this region of the world who like to shop.

Here is a brief recap of some recent exciting Internet technology news coming out of the South American region.

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Drought Insurance for Kenyan Cattle Farmers?

April 24, 2014 in Africa, Change, Earth, Environment, Finance, Good News, Inspiration, Social by Robin Cook

Hassan Bashir

Hassan Bashir

Insurance is a common way of life for most societies. American farmers are insured for a myriad of potential losses, from drought to flood. Not so with the farmers in Kenya who are predominantly Islam and whose sharia laws do not sanction insurance. Insurance, according to the Islam point of view, is a form of gambling, which is prohibited. Yet, Kenyan farmers have had to suffer through perpetual drought conditions. In 2000, the worse drought in 37 years hit Kenya, plunging more than 4 million people into near starvation. Subsequent years have seen various levels of severity in the country’s drought conditions, with no tangible relief in sight. For cattle farmers, especially, who depend upon the lands for grazing, these conditions have resulted in significant financial losses to an already very weak economic group, as well as herd loss and the subsequent diminishment of the food supply. 

It took the determination and tremendous patience of Hassan Bashir to bring insurance protection to a community of Islamic cattle herders. First Hassan had to win over his father, which was no easy matter. He says it took 17 years—this is perseverance! Mr. Bashir is from a Somalian family of cattle farmers. Read the rest of this entry →

Strikes and Protests Pay Off for Walmart Workers

April 23, 2014 in Business, Change, Good News, Inspiration, Technology by Meredith Ansell

Walmart Protest

“Access to Open Shifts will go a long way toward improving the financial health of Walmart employees” (image by 020808 at Wikipedia)

After two years of protests and walkouts over employment policies that limited workers’ hours and opportunities for professional development, Walmart finally responded with a new program called, “Access to Open Shifts.” After a successful run as a pilot program at its Fort Smith, Arkansas store last year, Access to Open Shifts is now up and running at more than 4,000 US Walmart stores.

The majority of Walmart workers are part-time employees. Walmart’s cap on the number of hours available to its workers meant that if a part-time student worker, for instance, wanted to add hours at the store between semesters or during college breaks, he or she could not. The policy kept large numbers of Walmart employees in the status of “part-time” workers, without the job benefits available to full-time employees.

With Access to Open Shifts, part-time employees will be able to pick up extra hours, even outside the department where they regularly work, and more importantly, extra pay. The ability to work extra shifts in different departments will allow the worker to gain experience throughout the store. Read the rest of this entry →

Nanotechnology—the Next Big Leap Forward

April 10, 2014 in Change, Good News, Technology by Robin Cook

Nanotechnology Tel Aviv

Nanotechnology – the greatest technological revolution of all times?

More than 1,200 people from around the world recently gathered in Tel Aviv, Israel to share in the excitement of what scientists say will be the greatest technological revolution of all—nanotechnology.

Imagine a world where cancer patients will no longer suffer through the debilitating effects of chemotherapy. Instead, they will swallow a pill composed of nanites that enter the body, seek out and destroy only the cancer cells, leaving the healthy cells untouched. Or, the cultivation of special plants that will be spliced with genes from a host person, thereby producing a stem cell bank for regenerating organs and other diseased tissue. Food-borne bacteria outbreak? Nano-sensors will immediately reveal the presence of bacterial infection in food. No more waiting 24-36 hours for the bacteria culture results. The nano-sensors will identify the type of bacteria, its strength and other factors necessary to minimize the fallout from food poisoning due to bacterial infections. Read the rest of this entry →

Using Technology to Help Autistic Children

April 7, 2014 in Change, Good News, Inspiration, Technology by Meredith Ansell

Julie Kientz

Julie Kientz

Julie Kientz is a computer scientist but she is not your usual computer geek. In fact, you will rarely find her in front of a computer. For Julie Kientz, the computer is a simply a tool to help her accomplish her primary mission in life—helping families with autistic children.

Kientz’s devotion to assisting children with autism began in graduate school. While pursuing her doctorate in computer sciences, Kientz spent a year and a half working as a therapist to gain a better understanding of the issues facing families with autistic children and their healthcare providers. By first understanding the issues involved with autism, Kientz was better able to innovate the technological solutions. As a therapist, she observed that the ability to see potential improvement in a child’s development was hampered by the paper-based recording system used by therapists. One child might have several therapists, all recording their assessment sessions on pages of paper kept in a binder. Read the rest of this entry →

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