Smart glasses, fingertip gaming, and instant diagnosis: the Royal Academy of Engineering’s picked its seven favourite inventions
Seven inventors who’ve created promising new technologies are being given a boost by The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Hub. All the inventors are based at UK universities, and the Hub will support them to turn their research interests into start-ups over the next year, not least by awarding them each £85,000. They’ll also provide training and mentoring.
Some of the projects (a new way to use data to cut petrol usage; making catheters less painful for regular use) are aimed at specialist markets, but others could soon be improving our everyday lives. Still on the medical theme, Dr Toby Basey-Fisher from Imperial College London has come up with two complementary handheld devices for diagnosing anaemia: AnemiPoint, which identifies whether patients have low iron levels, and AnemiStat, which can point to the cause, allowing for personalised treatment.
Meanwhile, researchers from the University of Surrey are working on a new ‘cosmetic enhancement’ technique that’s inspired by the electric propulsion technology that launches space travel. Pretty superficial, you might think, but it’s also having great results in reducing scarring and improving wound healing.
When it comes to consumer tech, Dr Stephen Hicks from the University of Oxford has designed smart glasses for blind and partially sighted people that work by enhancing residual vision. The glasses are lightweight and unlike other, similar, devices, don’t require a tablet or any additional equipment. They should be on sale by the end of the year.
And if you’re a gamer, the most exciting invention comes from Dr Jack A Cohen (pictured), who’s developed a wireless device that can uses sensors and camera data so that people can remotely interact with computers (and virtual reality) using only fingertip movements. As well as gaming, it could be used to operate machinery and might one day replace keyboards and mice. The current prototype is more accurate and affordable than its competitors and Dr Cohen and his Warwick-based team expect to bring it to market within the next few years.
As innovative as these concepts are, it’s a shame that of the seven projects chosen, only one is headed by a woman (Dr Nicola Irwin, who’s revolutionising catheters). I’m not sure if that reflects unconscious bias on the part of the judges or just the gender imbalance in STEM, but it would be nice to see more women being given the opportunity (and cash) to invent in future.