ShinyShiny round up: ‘Alexa, how’s my heart beat’

The first AI system for contactless monitoring of heart rhythm using smart speakers has been developed. Created by researchers at the University of Washington the system works by emitting audio signals into the room at a volume humans can’t hear. As the pulses bounce back to the speaker, an algorithm works to identify beating patterns generated from a human’s chest wall. A second algorithm is then applied to determine the amount of time between two heartbeats. That information, known as inter-beat intervals, could help doctors gauge how well your heart is functioning. Researchers trained the speakers to pick up regular and irregular heart rhythms. The researchers used a developer version of Alexa with a low-quality speaker to run their tests and claims that speakers in mainstream devices could be more powerful, enabling readings from farther away. Yahoo.

A majority of motorists now say they will consider an electric vehicle ‘in the near future’. That’s according to research carried out by the online car supermarket, which is tracking the attitude of motorists to electric vehicle adoption. It’s the first time a majority of car buyers have signalled that their switch to an EV is imminent. Of the 422 motorists asked what type of car they are considering next, 51% said they will consider an EV ‘in the near future’. Fewer than one in three drivers said that they were not interested in buying an electric car imminently while the remaining 18.7% said that they have not yet started thinking about it. Tech Digest

A hyperloop train system that could transport people at 700mph has moved a step closer to reality thanks to the construction of the world’s first safety valves. California-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) has revealed it has built “safety isolation valves” that will allow parts of the tube to be re-pressurised to allow passengers to get out in the case of an emergency. The valves measure 16.5 feet in height, weigh 77,000 pounds and can withstand 288,000 pounds of force, HTT said. They will also allow segments of the track to be safe for maintenance staff to carry out works. Telegraph

A virtual collage has fetched $69m (£49m) after being auctioned on Christie’s, in a record sale of a new type of digital asset known as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The collage, titled “Everydays: The First 5000 Days”, is made up of pieces by artist Mike Winkelmann, better known as Beeple, which he has created daily since May 2007. The artwork is entirely digital and is part of a growing trend for buying and selling NFTs, which are unique pieces that cannot be re-created on a like-for-like basis. The items are then authenticated via blockchain, a digital ledger technology best known as the backbone of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, which shows who owns the “original” version of the work and verifies that the item is real. Telegraph.

Parkinson’s Disease can be diagnosed by analysing compounds found on the skin, a study has found, paving the way for easier testing using quick and painless skin swabs. Experts from the University of Manchester found that both the onset of the degenerative brain condition and the nature of its progression can be determined by studying sebum. This is the oily, waxy substance that coats and protects the skin of mammals like us and is secreted out of the hair follicles. “We believe that our results are an extremely encouraging step towards tests that could be used to help diagnose and monitor Parkinson’s,” said paper author and mass spectrometry expert Perdita Barran of the University of Manchester. Daily Mail. 

Driverless cars may still be a few years away from European roads, but one Finnish city is embracing autonomous technology and trialling it as part of its street sweeping system. Espoo has announced the commercial trial of an autonomous street sweeper, which has been developed by Trombia Technologies. The driverless vehicle was unveiled in September 2020 and piloted in Helsinki, Finland but the Espoo trial is its biggest challenge yet. The big advantage that autonomous vehicles like the Trombia Free have is that the street sweepers apparently use 85 per cent less energy than conventional vehicles. Trombia Free is slated to be available commercially in early 2022 with the company targeting the German and Norwegian markets. Transition Earth


Chris Price