The Feature Mill

Tech as it could, should, or will be...


Tricorder Getting Closer

Posted by Phil on 9/5/09

Barron's reported recently on a new non-invasive skin cancer diagnosis tool awaiting FDA approval.

Melanoma is by far the most deadliest form of skin cancer, and a significant problem in my homeland of Australia, where long summers, outdoor lifestyles, and the hole in the ozone layer all lead to an incidence four times that of the US and ten times that of many other countries.

The MelaFind by electro-optical sciences, inc. promises to make preliminary diagnosis easier for the physician and patient and dramatically reduce the need for biopsies (excising a small piece to examine for cancer indicators). Sounds good, hopefully the FDA will be able to confirm the benefits, and we can catch more of these deadly cancers earlier, and reduce morbidity.

Talk about wireless electricity has been sputtering around for a while now,  occasionally reaching market, but not nearly as often as it should. So check out Eric Giler at TED presenting on technology that delivers practical wireless power.

Works at a reasonable distance, check. Delivers sufficient power for common device needs, check. Not likely to cook your brain, ovaries, or testicles, check. Efficient replacement for wires, weeeeell sort of check. At 50% it's not great, but hopefully this can be improved upon.

I'm definitely looking forward to parking my electric car over a transmitter-fitted parking space, and putting in an extra couple of quarters to fill up while I'm running errands.

AT&T Pwns Your Smartphone

Posted by Phil on 8/25/09

Cnet reported Saturday that AT&T plans to force smartphone subscribers using their network to buy a data plan in addition to their wireless plan.

AT&T unsurprisingly spins this as a way to provide "greater customer satisfaction," however it seems much more likely that they see this as an opportunity to expand the consistent revenue stream that data plans provide.

Now many, even most, smartphone users have data plans, but it's not hard to envision scenarios where a data plan is surplus:

  • Low volume use, perhaps only in emergencies
  • Customer bought or given a smartphone but doesn't need or use the data features
  • Customer doesn't have the extra money for a data plan
  • Data coverage is so poor that it's not worth the expense
At one time I owned a Cingular 2125, technically a smartphone, but the data features were so poor that ultimately I gave up using them. Lucky for me, I now use an iPhone 3G.

And that's where this is no doubt coming from. AT&T is looking at Apple's closed platforms (again defended with a quality of service/customer satisfaction argument), and at the locked-in revenue from iPhones and wanting more. Those regular, guaranteed monthly payments mean a lot to a company (just ask Activision|Blizzard).

However those of us using iPhones opted in to this model. Users that will be affected by this decision did not, and are probably locked into a contract making switching carriers difficult, even assuming that coverage allows an alternative choice. Not great for the consumer, but expect to see more of this unless a hue and cry is raised.

7 Next-Gen Bandages That Help Heal Wounds

Posted by Phil on 8/20/09

Ran into this one via Digg, and science/med geeks should definitely check it out.

In particular I love the Gecko Bandage, as my wife and son have allergies to some of the adhesives used on ye olde sticking plasters, and the Ultrasound Device, which you must admit has a kick-ass Star Trek vibe, but also amazing potential for wound treatment without contact (minimizing the potential for infection, allergic reaction) and without consumables. This would be perfect for first-responders, third-world medical care, and perhaps even first-aid kits some day.

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