March 30th, 2012
04:35 PM ET

Make your own medical device! Why not?

Editor's Note: Jose Gomez-Marquez is the Program Director for Innovations in International Health at MIT and heads up the Little Devices group, where he uses toy parts to create inexpensive medical devices for developing countries. Watch The Next List’s full profile on Jose Gomez-Marquez, Sunday July 15th at 2 p.m. ET on CNN.

By Jose Gomez-Marquez, Special to CNN

Have you gotten caught up in the endless healthcare debate that can lead to comparing our healthcare system with France, the UK, or even Cuba? Our work in medical device research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has pointed to healthcare lessons in unexpected places: Nicaragua, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and even suburban hacker spaces in America. What they have in common is their development of do-it-yourself (DIY) medical technology.

We are and have always been a nation of makers. Along the way, someone told us that healthcare technology was off the table. But we have the technology, the hardware, and the prototyping resources to change that and bring down healthcare costs. Now, we have to recruit everyday inventors that are not part of the conventional “medical industrial complex” - the types of inventors we find all over the developing world, saving lives every day. FULL POST

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Filed under: Science • Social change • Tech • The Next List • Thinkers • Video
Nanotube fabric could let you charge your phone by walking
Wake Forest graduate student Corey Hewitt works with a sample of thermoelectric fabric in the school's Nanotechnology lab.
March 30th, 2012
08:25 AM ET

Nanotube fabric could let you charge your phone by walking

By Doug Gross, CNN

What if you could power up your smartphone with just a brisk walk?

That’s the promise of Power Felt, a new creation of nanotechnology researchers at Wake Forest University.

It’s a fabric, made up of tiny carbon nanotubes locked in flexible plastic fibers, that uses temperature differences to create a charge. FULL POST

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Filed under: Innovation • Science • Tech
March 29th, 2012
04:11 PM ET

Engaging imagination to rebuild NYC's Lower East Side

By Ernest Martin, CNN

New York City is an ever-evolving urban landscape, propelled forward by the forces of tactical planning, organization, and design.

Most New Yorkers, as micro urban planners, are forced to innovate to adapt to their cramped environments. Some keep storage cells deep in Brooklyn where obscure collections of out-of-date clothing, compact discs, and cultural artifacts like Furbys are stowed and preserved.

Others frequent a specialized mega-store whose shelves are stocked solely with containers, hangers, and boxes, helping to put everything in its right place while making hoarding less noticeable and deadly cupboard avalanches less frequent. FULL POST

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Filed under: Design • The Next List • Video
March 29th, 2012
01:18 PM ET

'The Next List': An archive of fascinating people

Every Sunday at 2 p.m. ET the CNN show 'The Next List' profiles a person with a new idea that could change the world. Here's a list of all of the innovators the show has featured since it started in November 2011. Check back for updates.

Hugh Herr, prosthetics developer and bionic man


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Filed under: Art • Culture • Design • Education • Fashion • Food • Future • Innovation • Music • Robots • Science • Social change • The Next List • Thinkers
March 29th, 2012
11:56 AM ET

Pushing limits with a fearless bionic man

Editor's Note: David Sengeh is a Research Assistant under Hugh Herr at the Biomechatronics Group at MIT’s Media Lab. 

By David Sengeh, Special to CNN

“David, this is so #$%&-ing sexy!” said Professor Hugh Herr as I showed him a prototype for the latest prosthetic socket I had been working on as a graduate student in the Biomechatronics Group at the MIT Media Lab.

The multi-material variable impedance prosthetic socket I had just designed relieved unwanted pressure over critical locations on his residual limb, thereby making him more comfortable.

In the Biomechatronics Group, we investigate how technology can be used to enhance human physical capability. Working with Professor Herr is inspiring; on a gorgeous day, he will change from his powered robotic ankle-foot prostheses and step into his running legs for a jog with members of my group. FULL POST

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Vibrating steering wheel could help drivers navigate
A study participant grips a haptic, or vibrating, steering wheel in this driving simulator at Carnegie Mellon University.
March 28th, 2012
09:13 AM ET

Vibrating steering wheel could help drivers navigate

By Brandon Griggs, CNN

Trying to find an address in an unfamiliar neighborhood can be a challenge even with a GPS device.

Peering at the small screen on your dashboard distracts your eyes from the road ahead. The spoken navigation commands can be confusing - did she mean turn here, or at the next street? And pulling up your location on your phone while behind the wheel is dangerous.

Researchers at AT&T Labs and Carnegie Mellon University may have a solution: a steering wheel that uses haptic technology - the same thing that makes your phone vibrate - to alert drivers when it's time to make a turn. FULL POST

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March 27th, 2012
06:23 PM ET

How toys can save lives

Jose Gomez-Marquez is the Program Director for Innovations in International Health at MIT and heads up the Little Devices Lab, where he uses toy parts to create inexpensive medical devices for developing countries. Watch The Next List’s full profile on Jose Gomez-Marquez, Sunday July 15th at 2 p.m. ET on CNN.

Jose Gomez-Marquez can turn a toy helicopter into an inhaler. Or make a nebulizer with a bicycle pump. He believes everyone in the world deserves proper medical devices, even if they can’t afford them.

And that’s where toys come in.

“When you look at a toy today, you’re actually looking at an engineered part,” says Gomez-Marquez. “They are mechanical bits and pieces. Sometimes there’s even chemistry that you can harvest from a toy.”

Walk into Jose Gomez-Marquez’s Little Devices Lab at MIT and you’ll see toys and medical devices – everywhere.

“When you're using toys, it demystifies the process of medical technology,” says Gomez-Marquez. “You may not have the courage to hack a $1,000 device, but you definitely have the courage to hack something that's $5. And then, if you add a little bit of ingenuity, it becomes something as powerful as a $1,000 medical device.”

Gomez-Marquez wants to empower, as he puts it, the “MacGyver doctor and the hacker nurse” in small villages in developing countries with little resources. So he’s teaching them not only how to find the right toys to “hack,” or repurpose for medical devices, but he’s giving them the basic building blocks with MEDIKits.

“A MEDIKit is essentially a collection of Lego-like construction blocks … erector sets for medical technologies, whether it's in the developing world or in health care in America,” says Gomez-Marquez. “When you open up a kit you may find a bicycle pump with a toy helicopter, Legos, color coded, and paired with re-agents that snap on together, and create new types of diagnostics tests.”

The point is to empower medical communities in developing countries with simple, inexpensive tools to create medical devices that would normally be very expensive. And Gomez-Marquez hopes to bring MEDIKits to assist people domestically too.

“Affordability is often linked to quality when we have discussions about health care in America,” he says. “And if we can distribute that ability to innovate to everyday people and doctors … in that rural clinic in Kansas or Michigan or Appalachia, where they also need telemedicine. They also need remote diagnostics and easy to use tools that will go anywhere. It makes complete sense.”

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Coming to your bicycle: wireless braking?
March 26th, 2012
12:23 PM ET

Coming to your bicycle: wireless braking?

By Steve Almasy, CNN

Holger Hermanns wasn’t out to change the way people bike.

For the computer scientist, whose mission in life is to make things safer through well-prepared wireless systems, cycling is just a hobby.

But when he helped develop a braking system for bicycles that needs no cables and is operated by a sensor in the handlebar, the cycling industry took notice.

“This is a playground for us,” Hermanns told CNN by phone. “I never thought someone would be seriously interested in this.” FULL POST

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March 23rd, 2012
10:06 AM ET

Turning prosthetic limbs into art

Editor's note: Scott Summit is founder and Chief Technology Officer of Bespoke Innovations, a company that designs artful coverings around prosthetic legs to make them unique and express individuality. CNN’s The Next List is celebrating the wonders of prosthetic innovation by profiling Hugh Herr, bionic man, on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.

By Scott Summit, Special to CNN

I’ve always loved the work of the artists who consider the human form as their inspiration. Henry Moore, Giacometti, Brancusi – all interpret the body into their works. But that is fine art, and it seems that, all too often, there exists an impenetrable divide between the arts and the more utilitarian mindset which often drives the products we surround ourselves with. I have always wondered why it is, however, that certain fields cannot infuse both design and utility and artfully marry them to a more suitable outcome.

Specifically, I feel that any product that is medical or corrective becomes a necessary augment to the body, and therefore, should live up to that role. It should respect the user, and offer to them all the quality of living and self esteem that it is able. Its success should be measured in terms beyond merely the pragmatic, but should aim to enhance the user’s quality of living in every way possible.

I set out to create an option for an amputee that invites an individual personality and taste to play the dominant role in the design process. The goal is to transform a product from something that certain people need into something that they love.

The resulting process is one where the ‘sound side’ leg (or ‘surviving leg’) is three-dimensionally scanned, mirrored, and digitally superimposed over the prosthetic limb to serve as reference geometry for the design process to follow. By doing this, we recreate symmetry to the body and guarantee that no two creations can be identical. We then invite user preference in patterns, design, and materials to drive the form-giving. Finally, we three-dimensionally ‘print’ the parts using a variety of new technologies in this area.

The resulting ‘fairings’ (a word we borrow from the motorcycle world, describing the parts which give it contour and form) relate to the body and mind in ways that a more utilitarian prosthetic leg typically cannot. They express the individuality of the wearer in whatever way they prefer. I like to believe that they connect the prosthetic leg to the user in ways that go beyond mere functionality.

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Filed under: Art • Innovation • The Next List • Thinkers • Video
March 22nd, 2012
10:45 AM ET

Hugh Herr’s “Amazon” Children

Patricia Ellis Herr is the mother of two children with Hugh Herr, who is the director of the Biomechatronics group at MIT’s Media Lab. Patricia and her 9-year-old daughter Alex successfully completed a winter ascent of Mount Washington this month; the same mountain where Hugh Herr lost both of his limbs in a tragic mountain climbing accident. Watch Hugh Herr’s entire story on The Next List Sunday March 25 at 2 pm E.T. on CNN.

By Patricia Ellis Herr, Special to CNN

Mt. Washington.

This is the mountain that took Hugh Herr’s legs.

This is the mountain where, thirty years ago, then-17-year-old Hugh and a friend got lost in a snowstorm near the summit on a brutally cold January afternoon. This is the mountain on which they wandered for four days in subzero temperatures without food or shelter.

This is the mountain that took the life of Albert Dow, a volunteer member of the search and rescue team that was sent out in search of the boys.

This is the mountain I’m about to ascend with our nine-year-old daughter.

Hugh knew this day would come. Alex and I have been winter hiking New Hampshire’s 48 highest mountains, The Four Thousand Footers, since she was six years old. She and I have completed almost two full rounds of these peaks during the regular spring-summer-fall hiking seasons, but we have yet to hike every single one during winter. Today, we’re close to completing this goal. All we have left to ascend are Mt. Flume, Mt. Monroe – and Mt. Washington.


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