Focus on Technology

Mondays at 6:44 a.m.; 8:44 a.m. during Morning Edition and 4:44 p.m. during All Things Considered

Ann Thompson reports on the latest trends in technology and their effects on medicine, safety, the environment or entertainment.

Ann Thompson / WVXU

Slugging it out on a court that is way hotter than the actual air temperature is a set-up for heat related illness according to Dr. Brian Grawe, a UC Health sports medicine surgeon, who was the doctor for tennis players at the Western & Southern Open. Right now there are a couple of common ways for them to cool down including waiting for ball boys and girls to bring wet towels.

Ann Thompson / WVXU

Clinical trials are underway in Cincinnati and nationwide that could prove brain stimulation is beneficial to stroke victims.

The stimulation is actually turning off a part of the brain

As confusing as it sounds, the 1 hz "stimulation" actually shuts down the side of the brain unaffected by the stroke. This is because the non-lesioned side often takes over and hinders recovery.

Ann Thompson / WVXU

University of Cincinnati scientists have literally drilled down through the teeth of mammoths and mastodons to discover their habits in what’s believed to be the first study of its kind in the region.

UC paleoecologist Brooke Crowley borrowed some mammoth and mastodon teeth from the Museum Center with hopes of finding out where they lived and what they ate. The specimens, very small amounts of white powder from the teeth, were eventually sent to the University of Illinois for  testing.

The process

Babak Ziaie / Purdue University

The market for wearable electronics could top $3 billion by 2018, according to a new report. However, Beecham Research says with better collaboration between technology companies and the fashion industry, the market could be worth $9.3 billion by 2018.

Skybox

Peering down to earth from one satellite now and eventually 24, Google is expanding its view, and some say its influence in the universe.

In June Google bought Skybox Satellite for $500 million. Images from the high resolution satellite are updated daily and users with special software can zoom in on things like crops and construction or see how full oil containers are at a Saudi oil field.

Take a look at one such example where the Burj Khalifa skyscraper casts a shadow over Dubai.

Ann Thompson / WVXU

Except for a small sign the  "Innovation Collaboratory House" looks like any other villa at Maple Knoll Village. But walk inside and it's anything but.

Telehealth robots are in the sitting room and a Microsoft X-Box "Kinect" demonstration is in the bedroom. "Flo-bot" can manage congestive heart failure and do stroke intervention. "Little-bot" can ask you questions.

Other innovations:

Ann Thompson / WVXU

The University of Dayton's new Mumma Radar Laboratory opened, not with bangs, but with lots of blips.

The state-of-the-art facility, in Kettering Laboratories, contains perhaps the most precise radars in the world, accurate to 1/10th of a micron or within a fraction of a human hair. They also don't take a lot of power. Lab Director Dr. Michael Wicks says they only need the power equivalent to 1/100th of a Christmas tree bulb.

Actio

Why are girls hitting puberty earlier. Last fall Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center researchers blamed obesity. Are there other causes? At the time, Children's lead investigator Dr. Frank Biro said environmental and physiological factors also play a role.

Ann Thompson / WVXU

Just three weeks into the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County's first 3D printer and patrons have designed, copied and printed plenty.

The fifth-generation MakerBot is in the Tech Center on the second floor of the downtown library. It's available by reservation by the hour. Right now, while in beta testing, it is free.

Wikipedia

Lewis Owen, head of the University of Cincinnati's geology department, deals in very small quantities.

He shows off what important stuff is left of one sample he brought home from the Himalayas. “That’s a little steel disk and on it is just a little smear of sand grains," Owen said.

With the samples he brings home, Owen is trying to map where glaciers used to be , where they've moved and how climate change will affect the world’s future. For a quarter century The University of Cincinnati professor has been making trips to China, Tibet, India and Pakistan.

Purdue University

In a perfect world, your smartphone would automatically tag whatever it sees through the camera's field of view. This could be helpful when using Google Glass, facial recognition systems, robotic cars and more.

Big powerful computers can do it already with something called deep learning. It requires layers of neural networks that mimic how the human brain processes information. A Purdue University researcher is working on it for smartphones and mobile devices

Ann Thompson / WVXU

When diagnosing and repairing the heart's electrical system, doctors often have to use lots of radiation to pinpoint the problem. It's not uncommon for the patient to experience 50 minutes or more of radiation thanks to X-rays, CAT scans and nuclear stress tests.

Ad Astra Rocket

Right now traveling to Mars would be a full-time commitment. Astronauts would be cooped up in a rocket for seven months and if they were able to take enough fuel to get back to earth, they would have to wait another two years before the planets would be close enough again. During this time their bone densities would greatly decrease and crumble once back on earth.

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

A computer progam called VigiLanz is Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center's new secret weapon in treating and preventing "superbugs," and consequently making antibiotics last longer.

What's the problem?

VocaliD

An effort is underway to give individuality to people who have to use a computerized voice box to speak.

Just in the United States alone there are several million people who have lost their voice because of cerebral palsy, stroke, brain injury and more. If they are lucky enough to have a computerized voice chances are their voice sounds very similar to somebody else who also uses a computer.

Ann Thompson / WVXU

If just watching the game isn't enough for you, the Cincinnati Reds want to keep you engaged with new technology at Great American Ball Park. This year the team has invested in:

  • Instant Replay
  • Reds Connect Zone
  • iBeacons

At ballparks throughout the country teams are making instant replay available on the main video board. At Great American they are also on smaller monitors throughout the stadium.

Dr. John Halamka

Outside patient rooms at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center there's a Quick Response (QR) code on the wall. It is key to a new way doctors are doing things there.

Ann Thompson / WVXU

A solar panel is typically made up of lots of silicon cells that together form a circuit. The electrons zip through the panels to create electricity in a very efficient manner. But what if scientists could create the same efficiency in a different material that was cheaper?

Fei Yu, a University of Cincinnati doctoral student in materials engineering, is studying how to make polymer solar cells more efficient. Right now their performance is well below the most efficient silicon solar panels.

Why polymers:

NTV

This fall members of the African Union Commission are scheduled to release their recommendations for an African Space Agency. The feasibility study is chaired by South Africa and includes Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Egypt and Algeria.

For some, a space agency is the likely next step. Since 2010 satellite capacity across the continent has almost tripled, helping to fuel Africa's mobile revolution, according to University of Cincinnati aerospace engineering professor Grant Schaffner.

Marc Smith / Social Media Research Foundation

Many people struggle to make sense of Twitter. The constant stream of information containing up to 140 characters can often overwhelm. But believe it or not all the tweets in the world appear to fit into just six patterns.

The Pew Research Center and the Social Media Research Foundation studied thousands of tweets over a four-year period and came up with these six different conversational archetypes.

There's a stylish alternative in Europe to the sometimes geeky looking bike helmet. Hövding's airbag collar, complete with a gyroscope and accelerometer to detect a crash, is popular in its native Sweden and being sold in Europe and soon in Japan.

Ann Thompson / WVXU

Critical care nurses are dividing their time between a dozen patients at the new UC Health Simulation Center but Lt. Col. Elena Schlenker has her eyes on one in particular.

“This patient is another blast injury,'' Schlenker said. "So he has bilateral amputations to his lower extremities. He’s obtained a chest wall trauma and he’s on a ventilator."

Redi Heating and Air Conditioning

  

Heated Driveways

Tired of walking on snow and ice covered sidewalks and having to repeatedly scrape and plow your driveway? Why not order a "snow melting system" and encourage your employer to do the same?

Ann Thompson / WVXU

 The Cincinnati Fire Department is looking into the possibility of using drones in the future. The city is partnering with the University of Cincinnati to test, what promises to be, a turn-key system.

The whirr and the sight of this small quadroter freezes University of Cincinnati students in their tracks as they stare at it in subzero temperatures.

Graduate Student Bryan Brown says, “Oh yes, every time we do this we have about 10 people stop and they’ll come up and take videos, especially when it’s warmer.”

The manufacturer of an airbag for skiers is putting the final touches on the product that continues to be tested in high-speed downhill events. Dainese, an Italian company that also makes airbags for motorcycle racers, had hoped to have the D-Air® SKI ready for the Sochi Olympics.

Ohio EPA

One of the still hotly contested debates over fracking is whether the practice of extracting trapped gas underground contaminates drinking water. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati are using an expensive machine to determine whether, at least in eastern Ohio, any contamination is naturally occurring or from fracking.

There's no shortage of negative publicity when it comes to fracking. Take the 2010 documentary "Gasland."

Pete Kistler, a former Syracuse University student, had trouble figuring out why he couldn’t land even an internship. He had a high GPA, won a couple of scholarships and started two clubs on campus. And while all his friends were getting phone calls and going out on interviews, he got nothing. Why? When he Googled his name he found out. There was a convicted sex offender with the same name.   

Greater Cincinnati got its first taste of "extreme Christmas decorators" in 2004 when Carson Williams synced his 16,000 lights to music in Mason.

Consumer Electronics Association

Want to wrap your Christmas gift and New Year's resolution into one? Try a device that keeps track of your every waking (and sleeping) moment. The Fitbit Force and its competing brands, count your steps, distance, calories burned, stairs climbed, and active minutes. It also monitors how long and how well you sleep and syncs it with your computer and smartphone.

Emily Wendler / WVXU

You might have heard about the polar bear poop sniffing dog Elvis who tries to determine which polar bears are pregnant, as reported by WVXU in this story. Here he is in suburban Kansas City taking a whiff of each sample and sitting when there is an indication of a pregnancy.

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