EYE ON INNOVATION: Watch the Final Four in VR? A Slam Dunk, Almost.

So your office pool NCAA tournament bracket has long been busted. And March Madness has just made you Mad in March. At this point, you may not even care who wins this weekend.

Photo: Associated Press

Well, here’s a cool way to break out of your funk: Watch the Final Four in virtual reality. The NCAA announced earlier this week that this weekend’s Final Four and National Championship games will be, for the first time ever, live-streamed in virtual reality, including a virtual scoreboard with live stats, game commentary and arena sounds.

Sweet, right? Well, mostly sweet. As TheVerge.com notes, the NCAA is using the term “virtual reality” a bit liberally. First, basketball fans will need to get hold of a Samsung Gear VR to download the NCAA March Madness Live app in the Oculus Store. Second, the streamed video will only occupy 180 degrees — not the full 360-degree sphere. Finally, if you don’t have a Gear VR, the NCAA is making a 2D version of the 180-degree stream available on the web, and 360-degree highlight footage will be posted to the NCAA March Madness page on Facebook.  Continue reading

EYE ON INNOVATION: Vertebrae Implants More Proof of 3D Printing’s Place in Med Tech

3D printing and other rapid manufacturing methods continue to transform the med tech industry, as illustrated recently by an Australian neurosurgeon who, in late 2015, removed cancerous vertebrae in a patient and implanted, in their place, printed vertebrae.

The 3D-printed part that would replace the patient’s cancer-ridden vertebrae. Photo: Dailymail.co.uk and ABC News.

Dr. Ralph Mobbs, a neurosurgeon at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, called the procedure a “world first.” The surgery was performed on a patient with chordoma, a rare form of cancer that occurs in the bone of the skull and spine. As Wired UK reports, the 60-year-old patient was affected in the two vertebrae responsible for turning the head — meaning that, if the 15-hour surgery had failed, he would have been left paralyzed.

Because of the position and function of these vertebrae, however, they’re extremely hard to replace — they must be an exact fit. Mobbs decided to 3D print the replacements instead, and worked with Anatomics, an Australian medical device manufacturer, to design and build the implants, which were made from titanium. The company also printed exact anatomical models of the patient’s head for Mobbs to practice on before the surgery. Continue reading

EYE ON INNOVATION: Watch for Tech Blitz at Super Bowl 50

Look for lots of high-tech touches at this Sunday’s Super Bowl, organizers have promised. More than 72,000 fans are expected to attend the game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California near San Francisco, which is home to the NFL’s 49ers.

At the Game
As CNET reports, most of those in attendance will likely be using some sort of mobile device as they look at game statistics and share photos and other content on social media. To handle all of that data, the stadium, which opened in 2014, has 400 miles of fiber and copper cable and 1,200 Wi-Fi access points. The venue has 10 times more bandwidth than the NFL mandates at other stadiums.

Photo: Wired Magazine

On the app side, those at the game can also use NFL Fan Mobile Pass and the Road to 50 apps to help them get around outside and inside the stadium.

Video is also central to the stadium’s technology infrastructure, says the San Francisco Chronicle. A video master control room runs everything that fans see on two giant scoreboards, a video ribbon board along the second deck and 2,400 TV monitors throughout the stadium. The room is filled with about $6 million worth of video equipment, including 4K-resolution ultra-HD cameras, instant replay machines and digital video monitors. Continue reading

EYE ON INNOVATION: Droning Out the Hype at Annual CES

A sandy oasis amid the CES chaos. Photo: Wired.

The 2016 International CES, the annual consumer electronics show in Las Vegas this week, featured its usual giant exhibit hall (2.4 million square feet), a drone rodeo in the nearby Las Vegas desert, Hollywood stars, celebrity chefs, various booze-related ice sculptures, beach volleyball inside the exhibit hall (complete with sand), pro athletes, security dogs that were not to be petted and, oh yeah, product launches from innovative start-ups to icons of the corporate world.

Though some would say the event itself has become a bit overdone — the New York Times calls it “a noisy parade of puffed-up announcements” — the show usually offers a few items worth noting.

USA Today liked several items:

The compact 360fly camera easily captures spherical video. Photo: 360fly.com.

  • The 360fly camera, a baseball-sized, one-lens camera, which takes spherical videos. It doesn’t require complicated editing, and is available for $399.99 at Best Buy.
  • The Parrot Bebop 2, seen flying at the drone rodeo, is an affordable $550 drone that can be operated by a smartphone.
  • A steering wheel attachment for your car that helps curb distracted driving, developed by 20-year-old Tristan Evarts, who says, “Technology can be part of the problem, and part of the solution.” Continue reading

EYE ON INNOVATION: New Balance Steps Up With 3D-Printed Customized Soles

We’ve blogged about sneaker technology in the past, highlighting Converse’s new Chuck II shoe.

Photo: New Balance

Now New Balance is stepping up with a new concept for a shoe that uses 3D-printed midsoles customized to an individual’s stride.

As Wired recently reported, most running shoes have midsoles that are resilient but are typically just a uniform piece of rubber foam. This foam doesn’t really account for the fact that every person’s foot impacts the ground differently, such as mid-strike runners or those who land on their heels first, etc. Researchers at New Balance are looking to make a midsole that’s “both resilient and smart.”

Photo: New Balance

The shoe company is working with Boston-based design studio Nervous System to create a 3D-printed midsole that can be customized based on an individual’s stride. Wired: “The goal is to extend customization beyond aesthetics, creating a shoe designed with biomechanical data that gives its wearer an optimized running experience.”

This 3D-printed footwear appears to be a trend. Companies such as Nike, Adidas and Jimmy Choo are increasingly exploring the applications of additive manufacturing in their design processes, creating everything from 3D-printed football cleats to 3D-printed haute couture shoes.

New Balance’s 3D-printed midsoles are “squishy,” lightweight and strong, and made of DuraForm Flex TPU, a proprietary elastomer.

Still early in the process, it is unclear if customized soles will actually improve the running experience, and help with elements such as reducing injuries, speeding recovery and enhancing overall endurance.

Eye on Innovation is a weekly look at new technology, products and scientific advancements that we’ve mined from crowdsourcing sites and other corners of the Internet.