An Electric Idea that Goes beyond a Simple Charge

Great design benefits from constraints. Although it may seem counterintuitive, the truth is that it’s frighteningly easy to kill off a good idea by throwing too many resources at it. Indeed, some of the most powerful ideas are generated in places where there just isn’t that much to work with. This is the case with a fascinating effort up and running in Tanzania.

Like most everywhere, a majority of Tanzanians use mobile phones. But unlike most of that cell phone marketplace, only 12 percent of the population has access to the electricity needed to charge them.  The electric grid infrastructure that so many of us take for granted just isn’t part of their landscape.  (more…)

Hospitals Rooms that Heal Beyond Being Merely a Place to Deliver Medicine

When the University Medical center of Princeton outgrew its facilities, management decided to test out some new designs for their patient rooms. If the new designs were deemed successful by staff and patients, they’d go ahead and build the new facilities based on that learning. And boy oh boy did they learn some things.

After having been moved to the “test” room, patients reported better care from the staff, better food, and asked for far less pain medication. How much less? The patients in these new rooms asked for a whopping 30 percent less pain medication than they did in the old design. And as for the improved food and care? Nothing was actually changed other than the room that those services were carried out in. Yes, you read that right: same services + better designed environment = far better outcomes. (more…)

Energy You Didn’t Even Know You Had in You

What if all that energy you expended when you worked out could turn you into an energy generator as well? Seems pretty farfetched.

But along comes a biobattery tattoo. Yep, a temporary tattoo that harvests your sweat, or more specifically the lactate in your sweat that is produced when you exercise. While there’s not much of a charge that we can currently tap into, it’s there and these types of tattoos could eventually be used to power electronic devices like heart monitors, digital watches and even smartphones, according to this BBC piece.

This technology actually came about by accident, as Dr. Wenzhao Jia from the University of California in San Diego was initially trying to develop something to help elite athletes monitor their lactate. So she came up with a little sensor that makes it easy for athletes to check their levels. Eventually, Dr. Jia discovered a bigger possibility and an innovative technology further evolved into the energy-generating temporary tattoo that you see in the picture below. (more…)

A Hotel that Gives You A Reason to Sleep Soundly

For those of you who like to camp out in beauty but “camping” means staying at a super cool hotel, I suggest you start contacting your travel agents now, as there’s a place you’ll want to shack up in come 2016. The Krystall hotel is scheduled to open up that year off the cost of Tromso, Norway, and it is going to be epic. Shaped like a snowflake, the Krystall hotel is an 86-room structure with gorgeous design to be found everywhere. But that’s not what makes it noteworthy. This palace floats on the water.

Architecture firm Dutch Docklands is designing it, and they’ve come up with the snowflake idea because they want the hotel to resemble an ice crystal or an iceberg floating among the fjords. Beyond its beauty, the Krystall is purpose-built to have a very low impact on the planet. Architect Koen Olthuis says that because the hotel is floating on water it doesn’t have any impact on that location. “That’s the only way to bring a hotel to such a precious and beautiful marine environment,” this article quotes him saying. According to this note on Dutch Docklands’ website, the Krystall will be completely self-supporting, self-sustainable, and jam-packed with the latest in green technology.

The ice-cold design of the Krystall hotel exudes a wintry atmosphere, perfect for the coast of chilly Norway. And because of its stellar location the hotel is privy to incredible views of the northern lights. Olthius designed glass roofs so hotel guests can stargaze from the comfort of their cozy hotel rooms. (more…)

A Grocery Store that Delivers More by Offering Less

Are you one of those who are drawn to the bulk aisle of the grocery store, where there are bins upon bins of great stuff and you can take just as much as you need and not a nibble more? If so, you’re going to really dig this new food shopping experience I ran into.  And beyond that, you very well may be impressed by how much waste – more than just unused food — is removed from your overall experience.

Sara Wolf and Milena Glimbovski have taken a big step in distilling the grocery shopping experience to its barest essence. These two bright women are opening a grocery store called Original and Unpackaged that is, believe it or not, a grocery store without any packaging. Nope, not a smidgen. (more…)

Seeing Yourself in a Healthier World

When it comes to innovation, many great ideas are borne from a question. For Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab the question was: To what extent can a simulated experience affect behavior?

We’re all familiar with the old adage that says that when storytelling one must show and not tell. This especially rings true when teaching students about things they don’t experience daily or cannot put their hands on. Like history or, in the case of this blog post, the effects of climate change.

Researchers in general and Stanford in particular have been studying how virtual experiences could help groups of people begin to care about issues that they may not have been concerned with before. Showing a story or a cause via interactive video games puts users into lifelike situations that resonate with them more strongly than, say, a monotone science teacher explaining the concept of global warming. (more…)

Access to Fresh Produce that Offers More than just a Healthy Diet

New York State: It’s the physical manifestation of the American dream, the home of the Wall Street juggernaut, and one of the travel epicenters of our country. It also is the most populous city in the United States and with that title, it produces some not-so-small challenges. Like getting good food into the mouths of its most needy denizens.

Food deserts – a label for neighborhoods that don’t have access to fresh food – are well known as places where diseases like obesity and diabetes become commonplace. And even in those rare instances where fresh produce is present, it’s not exactly all that “available,” as you can bet that $10 of it won’t feed a family like a $10 sack of fast food burgers and fries would.

Food activist Kerry McClean – a woman who had the great fortune of growing up with access to fresh fruits and vegetables right in her back yard – is working hard to fix this problem. In her TED Talk (below) she talks about something called green carts, an initiative then-Mayor Bloomberg started a few years ago.


A Learning Experience Designed by the Learner for the Learner

A junior at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Massachusetts, named Sam Levin, noticed something about his school that didn’t sit well with him: While students were learning a lot of new information about various subjects, there was very little mastery or engagement within the school’s walls. As many of you know, a lack of engagement leads to dissatisfied individuals, whether we are talking about school, work, sports – anything.  Sam also noticed that he and fellow students were memorizing dates and names but weren’t exactly learning things like how to gather or create their own data, which is a most applicable skill these days.

We live in a world that is not only changing dramatically, it is changing constantly. And a desire to learn and keep on learning is an important approach for anyone’s success. Sam didn’t like the learning “design” that was offered so he went about building a better method for himself and a number of classmates. (more…)

Rewarding People with a Choice that Awards

Mind if I tell you another alarming statistic about plastic consumption and waste? (Those of you who follow Naked Civics know that I address this issue now and then). OK here goes: 15,000 beverage bottles and cans are littered or landfilled in Australia every single minute.

Yep, every minute.

The city of Sydney, Australia has designed a very interesting concept that will hopefully aid in addressing this serious issue. Located on two corners of the city’s streets are what are called Envirobank reverse vending machines.  These aren’t your everyday recycling containers, however; they dispense prizes in exchange for your recyclables. (more…)