College researchers work on some out-there technology projects. They may not lead to everday products, but they can help us rethink mundane facts of life. Here are three recent projects that caught our eye, in what is the first of an occasional series:
Eye of the Beholder
If you are jealous of the way the Arnold Schwarzenegger robotic character could see information about the world around him superimposed over whatever he was looking at in The Terminator, you might want to pay attention to the work of Babak A. Parviz at the University of Washington.
Mr. Parviz and his team of students have developed a contact lens with a built-in computer display, and it’s powered by wireless radio waves. For now, this prototype cannot do anything nearly as complicated as displaying a man’s leather-jacket size as he plays pool in a smoky bar, but Mr. Parviz is trying to prove that some such technology is at least possible.
The lens’s most practical function at this point is that it can monitor concentration of a molecule such as glucose, which could allow people with diabetes to monitor blood-sugar levels. The invention complies with the old adage that eyes can say a lot about a person.
It’s Like Riding a Bike
Researchers at Dartmouth College have come up with a way for kids to take the training wheels off their bikes without falling on their faces. The Gyrowheel, a product of the company Gyrobike, is a battery-operated front wheel that uses gyroscopic technology to balance even the most topsy-turvy riders, the company says.
An inner disk spins inside the wheel—which can be installed like any other other wheel—and centers the bike under riders who would otherwise struggle to wobble down the road.
The company says that not only does the product keep riders from skinning their knees on pavement, but it also promotes proper riding technique more than did its technologically unimpressive predecessor, training wheels.
Ever wonder what happens to all your junk after you throw it away? Well, if you live in either New York City or Seattle, you can find out, thanks to a new program created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The project—called Trash Track—has enlisted volunteers in the bicoastal cities to allow electronic tags to track pieces of their trash as the garbage makes its sojourn about town. With satellite-image visualizations, you can actually see a plastic container of liquid soap’s path from Madison Avenue to the Belleville Turnpike in Kearny, N.J.
The idea is not to give the viewer wanderlust, but rather to educate about the patterns, costs, and environmental impact of urban waste removal.