March 19th, 2013
09:07 AM ET

Leslie Saxon: Better tech for better health

Editor's note: Dr. Leslie Saxon is chief cardiologist at USC's Keck School of Medicine and founder of the Center for Body Computing, an innovation think tank dedicated to wireless health. For more on Saxon, watch "The Next List," Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on CNN. 

What if tracking your heart rate and blood pressure was as simple as getting your e-mail?

That’s the future Dr. Leslie Saxon imagines at the University of Southern California. She is chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine and founded the university’s Center for Body Computing (known as the CBC). Saxon is determined to create digital tools that will allow doctors and patients to monitor and share health data.

“It's almost obscene to think about how information is everywhere now and shared over the most trivial things, yet patients can't get even the data from an implanted device they have in their body. They're locked out,” says Saxon. “After 20 years, I finally understand that just telling the patient what to do in a paternalistic way doesn't result in good outcomes. Patients have to partner with you.”

At the CBC, Saxon spearheaded a unique collaborative system with the university's schools of engineering, business and film, along with USC's athletics department, to research and develop wireless devices and health solutions.

"The essence of digital health is interdisciplinary connectivity," says Carmen Puliafito, dean of USC's Keck School of Medicine. " And Leslie has been a true pioneer at that."

“Within digital there’s a lot of ability to integrate different skill sets,” says Saxon, 53. “My brother’s a film producer. My husband’s a sportswriter. So I was always looking for a way to integrate what I did with the things I’m also passionate about.”

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Filed under: Future • Innovation • Smartphones • Social change • Tech • The Next List
January 8th, 2013
11:18 AM ET

Greg Gage: Let's start a neuro-revolution

Editor's Note: Greg Gage is a globe-trekking neuroscientist, engineer, teacher and entrepreneur. He's the co-founder of Backyard Brains, a Michigan-based company that wants to revolutionize how science is taught by putting neuroscience in the hands of young people. Watch Greg Gage's full 30-minute profile this Sunday at 2 P.M. ET. on CNN’s “The Next List.” 

Why he matters: Gage has come up with an innovative way to inspire future generations in neuroscience. As the co-creator of Backyard Brains, Gage created the “SpikerBox,”a small DIY kit that helps young people understand the electrical impulses that control the nervous system. He brings cool hands-on experiments to schools so students can see and hear brain signals, or “spikes” from the living neurons of insects like cockroaches.

Gage is passionate about coming up with ways to change neuroscience education, because, he says “when it comes to the brain, we’re in the dark ages. One out five of us will be diagnosed with a brain disorder that still has no cures. By getting more people involved ... we can inspire those interested to become neuroscientists, and perhaps cure brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.”

Why he cares: The inspiration for Gage's work as an educator came from a realization that the advanced equipment he used as a PhD student could be made at home for a fraction of the price, in less than a day.

"Our equipment that we were using cost $40,000," he said. "We set off on a self-imposed engineering challenge to see if we could replicate our expensive lab equipment with something affordable by consumers.”

Gage ended up with the $100 "SpikerBox. It can be used with a smartphone, iPad or computer to monitor brain activity in real time. After a few minutes, amateurs can begin to understand the basic principles of how neurons encode information, and how remarkable the brain can be.

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Filed under: Culture • Education • Innovation • Smartphones • The Next List
Student turns table into an iPhone keyboard
November 13th, 2012
02:54 PM ET

Student turns table into an iPhone keyboard

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - Here's a new stab at a solution for that old fat-thumbs, small-phone problem: Turn your desk - or table or whatever - into a keyboard.

That's what Florian Kräutli demonstrates in a video called "Vibrative Virtual Keyboard," posted on Vimeo about a month ago. His unreleased virtual-keyboard software, which is making the rounds on design blogs like Fast Company's Co.DESIGN and designboom, lets him place his iPhone on a flat surface and then use the area in front of it to type.

"Touch screen devices, such as smartphones, lack a suitable method for text input which can compete with mechanical keyboards," Krautli is quoted as saying in a press release from Goldsmiths, University of London, where he is studying cognitive computing. "The Vibrative Virtual Keyboard aims to appease the frustration felt by smartphone users when faced with drafting lengthy e-mails or notes on a small onscreen keyboard." FULL POST

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Filed under: Design • Future • Innovation • Smartphones
The Big Idea: Should the U.S. 'airdrop' millions of phones into Syria?
This photo, of a rally in Syria in April, was shot with a mobile phone.
May 29th, 2012
10:25 AM ET

The Big Idea: Should the U.S. 'airdrop' millions of phones into Syria?

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - Can communication tools stop a war?

That's basically the idea one CNN commenter put forward on Monday. Responding to a story about citizen journalists in Syria, who risk their lives to upload videos and photos of gruesome massacres by the government, a commenter called goingmeta had this to say:

Rather than bombing by air or invading by land or even sending in international observers, we should airdrop about 20 million video cell phones. If there are excesses and abuses, nothing would turn the tide so quickly as giving each man, woman, and child in Syria the opportunity to record them and hold the authorities accountable for their actions. FULL POST

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Filed under: Crowdsourcing • Innovation • Internet • Smartphones • Social change
May 21st, 2012
02:52 PM ET

Should face-detection be used in San Francisco bars?

By John D. Sutter, CNN

Check out this video from CNN affiliate KGO, which profiles an app called SceneTap.

The gist is that the app works with surveillance cameras in bars to report the number of men and women who are at a  watering hole at any given time - and their average ages. The upside: You could go to the bar that has the mix you're interested in. The downside, as an Electronic Frontier Foundation representative tells the station, is that this could cut down on privacy.

The app's creator says he doesn't store face-detection data - only the gender profiles of bar patrons.

Creepy or helpful? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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Filed under: Culture • Innovation • Smartphones • Tech • Video
Intel: Smartphones will plug into your brain
May 3rd, 2012
02:34 PM ET

Intel: Smartphones will plug into your brain

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - This almost doesn't require comment. Check out David Goldman's CNNMoney story about a new white paper commissioned by Intel, in which researchers say it is inevitable - inevitable! - that smarpthones will plug into brains.

Here's Goldman's explanation of what could happen:

... Step one: a lag-free operating system that anyone can use intuitively to perform any computing task.

Step two: Interfacing with the body. These kinds of interfaces are already operating in a relatively rudimentary way, with implants and pacemakers. But in its paper, Intel suggests that the link-up will be much more robust.

How robust? Well, have you seen "The Matrix?" FULL POST

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Filed under: Future • Innovation • Smartphones • Tech
iPhone app aims to program your dreams ('Inception' anyone?)
April 17th, 2012
11:04 AM ET

iPhone app aims to program your dreams ('Inception' anyone?)

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - Harvard PhD student Daniel Nadler is trying to bring a really rudimentary version of the movie "Inception" to life with a new iPhone app that aims to help you "program your dreams."

Called Sigmund, the 99-cent app builds off of pre-existing sleep science to help people "program" the content of their dreams from a list of 1,000 keywords. After you select one to five words from the list, a sorta-soothing, sorta-robotic female voice reads the words you select during the deepest moments of your sleep cycle - the REM cycles - when you're most likely to dream vividly. In a sleep study that was the basis for the app, 34% to 40% of participants' dreams were memorably altered by the suggestive readings, he said.

"Obviously what goes on in the sleeping brain is not entirely remembered so it could actually be a higher incorporation rate," he said. FULL POST

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Filed under: Future • Innovation • Science • Smartphones • Tech
Here's what Apple's Siri might look like
March 2nd, 2012
01:08 PM ET

Here's what Apple's Siri might look like

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - When technology knows your name, it's hard not to personify it.

That's what's so interesting about Shapeways' "What does Siri look like" contest: You get a little window into the minds of people who use Apple's voice-controlled "assistant." Some imagine Siri as a Superwoman. Some see her as more of a gender-neutral "it," like a standard robot.

One entrant, not shown here, created an image of Siri as Sarah Palin reincarnated, according to Carine Carmy, spokeswoman for Shapeways, the design and 3-D-printing company that organized this contest and recently posted the winners online.

"Everyone who is an Apple user is a very big fan (of Siri), so I think people feel they have a very intimate relationship with this technnology," she said. "He/she/it gets to really understand your needs. It's quite an impressive technology."

The image at the top of this post, created by SaGa Design, won the 3-D design contest. Here's the 2-D winner, which shows Siri as the rock-star version of an executive assistant and was created by @eddieadolf:

And here are a few more of our favorites. Take a look:

Which is your favorite? Or how do you picture Siri?

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Filed under: Culture • Design • Smartphones • Tech
DARPA wants to crowdsource the apocalypse
March 2nd, 2012
11:03 AM ET

DARPA wants to crowdsource the apocalypse

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - For being such a secretive and sometimes-frightening agency, DARPA also knows how to have a lot of fun with technology. In 2009, you may recall, DARPA, a branch of the U.S. Defense Department, set loose 10 red weatherballoons all over the contiguous United States and then paid $40,000 to the team that used social media to be the first to locate all of the balloons. What made the challenge so awesome was that no one person could possibly solve that puzzle alone. They had to use the Internet to do so.

A team from MIT (shocking, right?) won that contest in less than 9 hours.

Now the agency has launched a new project involving a global hunt for QR Codes. The "CLIQR Quest Challenge" started on February 23 and continues until Thursday at noon. DARPA says the contest is designed to "advance the understanding of social media and the Internet, and explore the role the Internet and social networking plays in the timely communication, wide area team-building and urgent mobilization required to solve broad scope, time-critical problems." The blog TechCrunch saw right through that government-speak and declared, more or less, that DARPA was preparing to crowdsource the aftermath of the apocolypse: FULL POST

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Filed under: Crowdsourcing • Culture • Innovation • Internet • Smartphones • Social change
Future phones: packed with new features but 'hopelessly dorky'
February 28th, 2012
09:44 AM ET

Future phones: packed with new features but 'hopelessly dorky'

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - If you've been following Mobile World Congress, the tech show happening this week in Barcelona, Spain, you've heard a lot about the technical specifications of the new class of smartphones.

They're faster, bigger - and one has a 41-megapixel camera.

Lost in all of the talk of photo resolution and processing power, however, is a glaring trend: Phones also are getting super nerdy. FULL POST

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Filed under: Innovation • Smartphones • Tech
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