About Angelo Gentile

A marketing communications writer for Proto Labs, Angelo puts together our monthly Eye on Innovation post among other regular blog features. He has previously worked as an automotive editor, business journalist, magazine editor, and corporate communications professional.

EYE ON INNOVATION: From Phones to Drones with Motorola’s ‘Flying Robots’

In 1973, Motorola demonstrated a prototype of the world’s first portable cellular telephone. By 2004, the company commemorated manufacturing its 30-millionth cell phone.

These days, Chicago-based (Schaumburg) Motorola Solutions, the direct successor to Motorola, Inc., is focusing its business on meeting a growing demand from law enforcement, military and other governmental agencies for high-tech intelligence and data-gathering tools. One prime example: Motorola is getting into the drone biz.

USA Today recently reported that Motorola is partnering with Danvers, Mass.-based CyPhy Works, a developer of tethered drones. These are drones that use a “microfilament tether,” allowing them to be powered through a generator or another power source on the ground and to stay in the air indefinitely.

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It’s Gaming System Meets Med Device for Latest Cool Idea! Award

Recovering from respiratory ailments such as pneumonia is not exactly fun and games. A new, innovative respiratory therapy system, however, which helps patients with respiratory therapy, is designed to be exactly that — a fun game.

Memphis-based Compliant Games, which has developed a respiratory therapy system that uses video games as part of the system, and helps pediatric and nursing home patients comply with respiratory therapy requirements, has been presented with the latest Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award.

Compliant Games is “channeling the healing power of children’s video games,” say the developers, with a system that improves adherence to respiratory therapies by patients. The system transforms common respiratory therapy tools into low-cost telemetry (wireless transmission and monitoring) instruments for doctors and their patients.

How does it work? The patient watches and follows along with a video game exercise on an iPad or other computer tablet. When prompted, the patient breathes through an air tube that wirelessly interacts with the game. Active, in-game feedback reinforces correct technique for the patient.

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EYE ON INNOVATION: Jewelbots Bring Bracelets Up To Code

Compared to a sleek Apple Watch or a sporty Fitbit, the Jewelbot charm bracelet looks rather primitive, says Wired Magazine. Basically, the bracelet, which is intended for tween and teen girls, is a semi-clear, plastic flower charm that slides onto a hair tie-like elastic bracelet.

But look beyond form to function on this one, says Wired, which calls the bracelet an example of “some truly fresh thinking about wearable technology.”

As Jewelbots’ creators contend, these technology-enhanced, programmable wristlets are “friendship bracelets for the iPhone era” that teach girls to code in a fun, engaging way. The charms talk to each other over Bluetooth, and using a Jewelbots smart-phone app, youngsters can program their charms to vibrate or light up when their friends are nearby.

The open-source software exposes users to the possibilities of coding in a fresh way. Using basic engineering logic, girls can program their Jewelbots “to do just about anything they — and their besties-turned-collaborators — dream up, opening their minds to STEM during an age when many lose interest,” according to the Jewelbots’ website.

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EYE ON INNOVATION: Turning the Tables on Turntables

The resurgence of vinyl records has been well documented.

The biggest music industry comeback story is the soaring popularity of vinyl records, the Wall Street Journal recently reported. Nearly 8 million records were sold in 2014 in the United States, up 49 percent from the previous year. Indie-rock fans especially are buying records in greater numbers, attracted to the perceived superior sound quality of vinyl, the ritual of putting needle to groove and the physical connection to album art that is sometimes lost in the digital age.

One Chicago-based startup has turned the tables on record players by creating the Floating Record, a vertical turntable that sits on a simple, minimal block of wood that contains speakers and electrical components.

Gramovox, a consumer electronics company that, as its website says, “re-imagines vintage audio design with modern technology,” just closed the books on a $1.6 million Kickstarter campaign for this vertical record player. The Chicago Tribune reports that Gramovox is working with AssemTech as its assembly partner, and expects to deliver the turntables to market by December. Last year, Gramovox brought the Bluetooth Gramophone to market, a Bluetooth-enabled speaker that looks like an antique gramophone.

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Wearable Thermoelectric Bracelet Wins Cool Idea! Award

The latest Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award winner is literally cool … and hot, too, for that matter.

This exploded view shows how Wristify comes together, including parts that were manufactured by Proto Labs.

Wristify is a thermoelectric wearable device that actively cools or heats one’s skin for comfort by sending hot or cold pulses to a patch of skin on the wrist dozens of times per minute.

Wristify’s developers, Cambridge, Mass.-based Embr Labs, call the product a “stylish bracelet” that helps keep you cool or warm, similar to what happens when you dip your toes in a cold lake on a hot, sunny day, or when you wrap your hands around a hot cup of tea on a cold night.

Sam Shames, one of the co-founders of Embr Labs, says developers are using the Cool Idea! Award manufacturing grant for various custom prototype parts from Proto Labs such as CNC-machined aluminum enclosures and Santoprene (rubber-like) bottom components.

This is how the finished product may look.

“The prototypes we have built out from Proto Labs’ manufactured parts have been the best prototypes used to date,” Shames says. “The parts have been greatly beneficial in the prototype phase and we’ve been really pleased with the general aesthetic and design, which have a sleek look and feel to them. Plus, the functionality of these parts has been great.” Read our recent press release here.