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7 Amazing Gadgets Invented by Graduates

14th July 2016 Posted by: Francesca Turauskis

GRADUATES are a clever bunch – after much effort, training and education they can be unleashed on the world to make it a more interesting place. Some graduates are immediately inspired by their studies, and channel this as innovation. Determined graduates have always been able to use the end of university to launch their inventions, and new crowd-funding websites such as Kickstarter are also making it easier for new inventors to bring their ideas to life. The best ideas can change the world through entertainment, culture, convenience or social reform. These amazing graduate gadgets have all added something to the world.

1. The sOccket

One thing that many of us take for granted is the easy access to electricity that we have. It allows us to work late into the night when projects are due, listen to music and read online magazines such as our own. But many communities around the world do not have access to even basic electrical lighting. For these communities video-games are not an option, but soccer (a.k.a. football) is a popular form of entertainment and exercise.

Whilst in their junior year at Harvard University, Jessica O. Matthews and Julia Silverman were challenged to address a social issue through science. Having connected over their travels in Africa, the pair decided to combat the lack of electricity in many communities there by inventing the sOccket – a soccer ball that turns into an electric socket through the kinetic energy of playing football. The energy created can power an LED light for 3 hours. The same technology is now being rolled-out for other moving things, such as pram wheels and skateboards.

2. The Air Guitar app for iPhone

You’ve probably done it at some point – heard a great tune, taken the stance and strummed that invisible guitar pretending you are a rock star. Technology has often tried to make such dreams of musical stardom seem as realistic as possible, the most successful to date being the Wii games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band.

Stanford University graduates James Anthony and Edward Marks have transferred this idea to portable technology with their Air Guitar app. By combining the iPhone’s touchscreen technology with an accelerometer sensor in the pick, a realistic style of playing is possible. The user can play cords, strum at different strengths and even bend notes, plus play along to their own music collection rather than pre-loaded tunes.

3. Mi.Mu Gloves

Music and technology have often had a good partnership – music inspires inventors to create new instruments, accessories and listening devices, and the advancement in technology helps music itself change and develop in style. Grammy Award-winning musician Imogen Heap is a musical trendsetter continuing the relationship. She worked with MIT engineer Kelly Snook and a group of musicians and engineers to create a brand-new instrument.

The Mi.Mu Gloves help to take “those sounds which are hidden inside the computer” on many programmes used by musicians, and use physical gestures to ‘play’ them as a digital instrument. The gloves use a number of different technologies, including sensors, motion sense, gyroscopes and buttons. The result is a new way of playing electronic music, which becomes in itself a visual artform.

4. Here Active Listening earbuds

We are surrounded by noise, and sometimes it can be an unwelcome distraction. From the car-horn outside your window, to the screaming baby on the bus, or even the shops playing the wrong music. Modern living is only getting noisier, and up until now, the only answer we have had is to cut it out with earplugs or drown it out with loud music.

Doppler Labs (and a team including Kennard Nielsen, graduate of California State University, and Gints Klimanis who studied Electrical/Computer Engineering at Cornell University) has addressed this with their new Here Active Listening earbuds – “hearable” technology for the ears that can change the way you hear the world. The earbuds use volume control, layered effects and preset filters to help you dial-down the sounds you don’t want to hear, and focus on the ones you do. The various controls on the accompanying iPhone app make it possible to listen to a conversation whilst a train goes past.  Named as one of TIME Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2015, and described by Wired magazine as “Sci-Fi Earbuds [that] put a volume knob on the real world,” the technology is bound to be developed further.

5. Pantelligent

Many students away from home for the first time experience the pressure of having to cook their own meals. Whilst many students (particularly in England!) might be satisfied with beans on toast, other students will branch out and try to develop their skills. When they were roommates at MIT, Humberto Evans was a great cook, whilst Mike Robbins burned everything that touched a frying pan. Using the skills they were learning from class, and Evan’s skills in the kitchen, they created the Pantelligent, a smart frying pan that uses Bluetooth and a special heat sensor to help the culinary-challenged. By connecting with an app full of recipes, even students can boast perfectly cooked food.

6. Little Creations’ Bath Buddy

Parenting is a difficult job, so it is no surprise there are a vast number of inventions out there to help make it a bit easier. When Ulster University graduates Mark Taggart and Aaron Saunders needed to create a business for the final year of their Business undergraduate, they looked to the family market for inspiration.

In response to the worries of family members, they created the Bath Buddy, a simple and accurate way of monitoring the temperature of babies’ bath water. By floating the Bath Buddy in the water, an accurate thermometer causes the colour to change depending on if the bath water is too hot, too cold or just right – and also makes a fun toy for the child as well. They named their business Little Creations, and have since won the Santander 60 Second Pitch Award, as well as getting a First Class on their degrees.  

7. iBrailler

For many blind and visually impaired people, iPads and tablets are inaccessible. Whilst they are able to access other forms of technology, such as email, through a Brailler (a type of laptop that ‘translates’ Braille to text) tablets and apps will often require a certain level of help navigating. Sohan Dharmaraja, a Stanford engineering doctoral candidate on a summer programme, addressed this issue with the iBrailler Notes.

Whilst other apps use vocal and aural accessibility features (such as VoiceOver, which reads out the text on screen) iBrailler allows users to type freely by placing their fingers anywhere on the screen rather than in a set position, as would be needed for QWERTY touch-typing. As well as this, the programme uses set gestures for tasks like cutting, copying and pasting text, allowing the user to both create and edit notes or documents. Considering that specialist technology for the visually impaired can be very expensive – Braille keyboards can cost up to $6000 in the United States – the iBrailler is sure to change many lives.

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