How to avoid tech-induced insomnia

The American Chemical Society (ACS) puts out a series of videos on a range of chemistry topics, including important advice on how to (hopefully) lessen insomnia. Turns out all that tech is only making it worse. ACS shows that the blue light from all those screens is telling your body, “It’s daytime!”

Some of you may find the advice useful for yourselves. Others, we suspect, are going to love this video as the perfect “I told you so!” retort to tech-obsessed kids and grandkids.




FDA approves new treatment for diabetes-related vision loss

According to the American Diabetes Association, “Approximately 25% of Americans over the age of 60 years have diabetes, and aging of the U.S. population is widely acknowledged as one of the drivers of the diabetes epidemic.”

One of the more frightening consequences of diabetes is diabetic macular edema (DME), which can lead to acute vision loss. After three tries, the FDA has approved Iluvien, an implant that releases a low-dose corticosteroid over a three-year period to relieve pressure on the eye, and if all goes well, improve vision.

Alimera expects to begin selling Iluvien in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2015.

Obviously, if you’re considering having something injected into your eye, you want to have a thorough discussion with your doctor about side-effects. In the meantime, watching this demonstration video about Iluvien injection should get anyone who’s been warned about developing Type 2 diabetes to do whatever it takes to avoid the disease.


The KNFB Reader App released for iPhones

With apologies, we get just as frustrated writing about “one day real soon now” prototypes as you do reading about them, so we’re delighted to announce that the long-awaited KNFB Reader app for the iPhone has just been released.

KNFB, developed in a partnership between Ray Kurzweil and the National Federation of the Blind, is an uncannily accurate text-to-speech translator, which uses a cell phone’s built-in camera to perform optical character recognition. For examples, see this side-by-side comparison of an earlier version of KNFB, not yet available for iPhones, to the iPhone friendly Pizmo reader. The KNFB readings are virtually error free, while the competing responses are often sadly gibberish.

Equipped with the KNFB app, an iPhone can be aimed at anything from a menu to a street sign and give an accurate reading. It even lets users know that it’s incorrectly positioned over a piece of text or that an “unidentified printed object” that came in the mail has no text on the side the phone’s being held over.Continue Reading

Learning Braille with Haptic Gloves

Georgia Tech researchers have demonstrated a way for people to learn Braille, while doing other tasks. The result builds on their previous work that showed we can learn through our fingertips—technically, “passive haptic learning”—without paying conscious attention.

It’s an important breakthrough, because blindness is one of the gravest risks of aging and it’s far harder to learn new languages as we get older.

But if you’re thinking, “Bah! Braille is outmoded now,” it turns out, according to a 2008 article in Education Week, that rather being entirely replaced by such things as speech-to-text readers, Braille’s uses have been enhanced by new technologies:

“Portable devices similar to laptop computers allow blind students to type notes and read them back through a Braille display. Similar devices can render text on a computer screen into Braille, using a refreshable display. And software is cutting down on the time it takes to produce Braille reading materials for students, including textbooks. Just listening to books doesn’t teach a blind child how to read, spell, or write, instructors say.”

Georgia Tech’s method involves wireless gloves that transmit pulses to their wearers as sensory cues about what to do next. In earlier experiments (see video below), people learned to play piano with the gloves signaling which finger to use.

In the current experiments, subjects wore the gloves first with audio cues telling them which letters they were typing. Later, they wore them while playing a distracting game with no audio cues at all. Yet under both circumstances, they learned Braille. In fact, those who felt the glove’s vibrations were a third more accurate compared to a group that only heard audio cues.

In addition, says Georgia Tech Ph.D. student Caitlyn Seim, “People could transfer knowledge learned from typing Braille to reading Braille…After the typing test, passive learners were able to read and recognize more than 70 percent of the phrase’s letters.”