Give Them a Hand

27. August 2015 13:57 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments

It's said that the first five years of a child's life are, developmentally, the most important. These are the years when children begin to develop their motor skills, personality, and outlook, and it's crucial that children be given every opportunity to meet their full potential.

Not all children are born with the advantages of their peers. Thankfully, advances in technology are helping disadvantaged children stand on equal footing with their classmates and friends. The following stories look at how that 3D-printing technology is helping children with disabilities during these crucial developmental years.

Field of Dreams

It's not easy for a sports fan to steal attention from seasoned athletes, but that's just what happened on August 17th when five-year-old Hailey Dawson—one the Orioles' biggest fans—threw the ceremonial First Pitch with her new 3D-printed arm.

Hailey has a condition known as Poland Syndrome. Her right arm stopped developing while she was still in the womb.

Hailey's parents did extensive research into prosthetics, but quickly found them to be expensive and unable to adapt to a child's growth. That's when Hailey's mother turned to the University of Nevada Las Vegas, whose engineering students were more than happy to help. Using a free online design, the students printed and assembled an arm for Hailey, adorned with the logo and colors of her favorite team. The entire process cost $20.

"[The 3D-printed hand] is operated by wrist movement," says Hailey's mother, Yong. When Hailey's wrist goes to a down motion, the fingers will grasp and when it goes in the up motion, the fingers release." Although Hailey is too young to play professionally, don't be surprised if one day she and her new arm are part of the Orioles' starting line-up!

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Just like Hailey, Isabella was born with an underdeveloped limb. Her parents also researched prosthetics only to find them financially prohibitive and developmentally insensitive. Isabella's case caught the attention of Stephen Davies, a fellow congenital amputee and member of Team UnLimbited.

Davies personally delivered Isabella's new arm. (He shot the above video, too, which briefly features his own 3D-printed left hand popping into frame.) The donation is part of a larger campaign by E-Nable to deliver prosthetic limbs to more than 1,000 children in need worldwide. If Isabella's reaction is any indication, they'll also be delivering countless smiles.

The Shape of Things to Come

As both of the preceding stories have shown, two of the most frequent obstacles for those

in need of prosthetics are the issues of cost and adaptability. As innovative as the new technologies may be, these two issues will often keep them out of reach of the people who need them most.

Joel Gibbard, a 25-year-old grad student born and raised in Great Britain as a congenital amputee, decided to design and build his own mechanical hand. He founded the company OpenBionics, which specializes in creating affordable, motorized 3D-printed limbs.

"We're using lower-cost motors than they have in high-end devices, so the overall strength is lower," says Gibbard. The average model produced by OpenBionics could cost around $5,000. That's considerably cheaper than industrial models, which cost as much as $95,000 apiece. With newly found support by Disney's TechStars Accelerator program, OpenBionics hopes to begin selling their models to the public some time next year.

Looking Forward

Technology is defined not by its invention, but by its use. Children adapt to new technologies and surroundings more quickly than adults. Somewhere in between, the human gift for innovation combines with natural development to ensure equal opportunities for everybody involved.

The Whole World is Watching

20. August 2015 13:35 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags:   //   Comments

A country's flag is, on one hand, just a piece of cloth stitched together from homemade rags. On another, it's the banner by which a nation will distinguish itself among other nations, a symbol that allies will praise and enemies will curse. With so much riding on "just a piece of cloth," it goes without saying that a country should not take its choice of flag lightly.

The Down Under’s New Icon

The flag of New Zealand has remained unchanged for more than a century. Although it appears to be an innocuous representation of the British lineage New Zealand shares with Australia, the flag is also an uncomfortable reminder of colonization and genocide. As such, the New Zealand government decided it was time to replace the flag with a new, inoffensive design.

New Zealand flag options
Image via Gizmodo.

In May of 2015, the New Zealand government held a contest in which its citizens chose the design of a new national flag from 10,000 potential designs. As of this writing, the contest came down to four contenders (seen in the image above). The public will vote on these four in November before sending the winner to face off against the current flag in March. It remains to be seen how the rest of the world will react to a new New Zealand flag, but the citizens of New Zealand have made it clear how ready they are for change.

Where have we seen THIS before?

Being the country chosen to host the Olympic Games is an honor fraught with controversy. Japan has found itself in the middle of a unique controversy as it prepares for the 2020 games. In particular, its logo for the event has raised quite a few eyebrows.

Japan Olympics logo comparison
Image via BBC.

Critics have noted that logo’s use of a red dot against a white backdrop bears more than a passing resemblance to the Japanese flag. What has stirred up even more conversation, though, is the accusation that the T-shaped logo was plagiarized. As seen above, the logo bears a striking resemblance to a 2013 Belgian design for the Théâtre de Liège, as designed by artist Olivier Debie. Debie filed a lawsuit at the behest of the theatre, and Japan withdrew the design. Although Japan has yet to reveal a revised design, it’s safe to say that it—like the games themselves—will have the eyes of the entire world upon it.

Let it Fly

The New Zealand flag is being changed because it represents an offensive chapter in the country’s past, while the Japanese Olympic logo is allegedly a rip-off. If there’s one thing both of these cases prove, it’s that, in choosing an icon, it’s impossible to please everyone.

 

Home Is What You Make It

13. August 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments

We've mentioned before that 3D printing is revolutionizing home construction. The technology has freed architects from the restraints of a building's size and shape, and given those constructing buildings a wider range of reliable materials. But it's important not to forget everything that goes into a home. Here are a few ways innovators are looking to improve and exploit 3D printer technology in the home.

Table Topped

Lukas Oehmigen grew up behind the Iron Curtain learning that there were no such things as personal possessions. He also thought that architecture needed to be cold and sterile, prioritizing rudimentary functionality over eye-catching design. But once the budding young architect made his way to art school in the West, he was finally able to combine his practicality with a newfound sense of style. He also discovered a new state-of-the-art technology.


BigRep ONE Timeplapse from BigRep Fullscale 3D Printer on Vimeo.

Oehmigen and a crew of architects created the BigRep, a large scale 3D printer designed to print entire pieces of furniture. As shown in the video above, the BigRep creates entire furniture pieces from its large-scale maker, and emphasizes environmentally friendly materials that cut down on waste. The process of using a BigRep is far from perfect, with the average piece taking as long as five days to print completely. Still, Oehmigen is confident that his machine can one day be used in large-scale construction of cars and houses. "These probably won't look like your ordinary car or house, though," he warns.

Lock and Key

The art of picking locks and forging access to restricted areas extends back nearly as far as human civilization itself. The difficult process of trying to break in hasn't stopped potential burglars from trying. Unfortunately, the world's fastest-growing technology has made their jobs easier. Two researchers at the University of Michigan have created an app that allows anyone in the world to make 3D printed copies of "Do Not Duplicate" keys.

Although the researchers claim that the purpose of the publicly available  app, named Keyforge, is to prove the ineffectiveness of traditional locks, it allows any key to be copied with any consumer 3D printer. No statements have yet been made by law enforcement regarding the app, but the research paper can be read in full at the site linked to above. As with the debate over 3D printed firearms, the debate over 3D printed keys proves that technological advances will always be accompanied by serious ethical questions.

A Sense of Social Media Style

6. August 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Business News  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments

As a company changes and grows, so will the design it uses to identify itself. When two of the world's most recognizable companies began to implement changes to their logos, millions of people took notice.

Simple as ABC

It's hard for Google to make changes and have them go unnoticed. The entire tech world sat up and paid attention when founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin announced the creation of a holding company named Alphabet. And with the creation of this new company came immediate reaction to its logo.

Alphabet Google logo
(via Wired)

The logo was regarded by some as a sign of the 16-year-old company’s maturity. "Their [Larry and Sergey's] design sensibility may have just matured with them," says Natasha Jen of Pentagram. "That’s radically simplified and nuanced from the original Google identity design. There’s an elegance in it that comes with maturity. And I see that elegance in the Alphabet logo." But the design was also criticized as looking unfinished. "I keep getting drawn back to this lowercase 'a', which lacks the subtlety of the other forms, like it missed a week of letterform school," says typographer Tobias Frerer-Jones. "On the whole, I think it’s a well-made mark that could have borne some more polishing." What impact that new company and its logo have on users remains to be seen.

Something to Tweet About

When Twitter altered the background image for its users' home pages, the backlash was immediate: its membership stalled, and the company lost ground to contemporaries like Snapchat and Pinterest. Many in the tech world are pointing to  the company’s design scheme as the chief reason why Twitter isn’t as prominent as it was just a few years ago.

Twitter logo
Image via Wired.

Besides tweaking background images, Twitter has made some subtle changes that only longtime users have noticed. One such change—replacing the "Favorite Tweet" star with a red heart—has already gotten a mixed reaction. "The concern is misguided for a few reasons," says Wired design writer Brian Barrett. "Hearts are intrinsically different from stars, sure, but they’re also much clearer in what they represent. A star can be a superlative, yes, but also a bookmark or a brush-off. A heart carries no such ambiguities." The heart is just the first in a series of planned changes suggested by CEO Jack Dorsey. As he said, "Our goal is to show more meaningful tweets and conversations faster, whether that's logged in or out of Twitter." The micro-blog company has occasionally been accused of trying to emulate the look of Facebook.

User-Friendly

Perhaps neither of these companies will owe their success or failure to their designs, so much as to the experiences they create for their users. Still, it's the first impression that is undeniably the most important. What do you think of the new logos? Tell us in the comments!

Month List

Recent Tweets

Twitter June 7, 15:02
While we might love printing, maybe our feline friends aren't such big fans! Or are they? http://t.co/xvPdeclZeU #printing #cats

Twitter June 6, 17:05
"The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul." -Dieter Uchtdorf (RT if you agree!)

Twitter June 4, 17:02
There's a new development every day in #3Dprinting! A company just introduced a printable flexible plastic. http://t.co/btTbJQrSxn #tech

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