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Be My Eyes

Be My Eyes is an app that connects blind people with volunteer helpers from around the world via live video chat.How It Works: A blind person requests assistance in the Be My Eyes app. The challenge that he/she needs help with can be anything from knowing the expiry date on the milk to navigating new surroundings.

The volunteer helper receives a notification for help and a live video connection is established. From the live video the volunteer can help the blind person by answering the question they need answered.

Download the App here

Be My Eyes is a non-profit organisation, and exists solely to help make a difference to the lives of blind people.

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bmore terminology guide

What are we talking about? HTML5, 4K, MOV, MP4, iOS, Search, SEO, SME, EPS, RGB, CMYK, HIGH RES - It’s easy to get confused with all the terminology we use as a full service agency. Click here to download our Terminology guide, to help you understand all of the TLA’s (Three letter Acronyms) we use day to day.

bmore terminology guide

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Tired hands when writing? Let a robot do it for you

We have all been there.

Whether it’s during an exam, writing a letter or simply doodling whilst you should have been paying attention, everybody’s hand cramps up from writing at some point or another.

There’s also the chore of having to find a stamp, locate the nearest post box and remind your fingers of those handwriting skills you learnt all those years ago.

Fortunately, a team in America have now combatted these issues and have developed robots that are able to mimic a person’s handwriting. Using an app, a message can be sent in and for a fee of £131, you can have your own personal handwriting copied.

The robots are, in effect, a high-tech update of the autopen machines used to recreate multiple signatures on documents. Now using updated software, the robots are able to write as quickly as humans, whilst mimicking their hand movements, but without the worry of getting tired or making mistakes.

Sonny Caberwal, founder of a New York City-based handwriting service, said, "We're not trying to fool people into believing that someone wrote the note for them. We're trying to give people a tool to express themselves in the way they want."

The robots aren’t necessarily confined to only personal letters either. Research suggests that they could also prove beneficial in the marketing world as well, following on from studies showing that people were much more likely to open handwritten letters.

To see the robot in action, click here.

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There's no accounting for taste - or it there...

Picture the scene; a couple are out for dinner. One, usually the lady, will order a salad. The other, more often than not the gentleman, will order a steak and chips. During the meal, the salad eater will pinch a few chips (sometimes more than a few), from the steak eater’s plate. This often leads to feelings of hostility on the part of the steak eater, if not a full blown argument along the lines of “I asked you and you said you didn’t want chips! You could have ordered your own portion. Why did you say you didn’t want any and now you stealing mine?”

The problem is; in an effort to be healthy, when presented with a menu, people often order what they feel is a healthy meal. However, when the meals are placed in front of them, cravings for the less healthy option can overpower them. This explains why they can’t stop themselves pinching the odd chip.

Imagine though if you could stop these cravings, and one step further in fact, crave the salad!

Cravings are partially governed by the bacteria that inhabit our gut. Our gut contains over one trillion bacteria of many different strains. The different strains require different foodstuffs for energy. For example, some bacteria require fats while some require carbohydrates. Their presence is thought to cause cravings for that kind of food. Put simply, the presence of large numbers of fat craving bacteria in your gut, cause you to crave fat.

Therefore, in the future, with the right balance of bacteria, we could be programmed to crave certain foods, or alternatively, not crave certain fatty foods! Watch this space.

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Giant beach art created by robots

A robotic beach artist has created a method for developing giant drawings in the sand. Researchers from both Disney Research Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have even developed the robot in such a way that it can recreate photos sent to it from a phone or tablet.

Using a rake at its rear end, the robot calculates a route across the sand before etching its pattern into it. This effectively allows the beach (as long as it is sandy) to act as a giant digitally controlled canvas.

The team are now hoping to add a number of tools to the robot to allow it to create different textures in the sand and erase previous markings.

The developer behind the idea, David Beardsley, said, “We would like to make huge sand art that amazes people, similar to the Nazca Lines in Peru.”

He and his team are certainly heading in the right direction to doing that.

To see the robot in action, click here.

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What are smart phones doing to our brains?

It is no secret that the use of technology in our every day lives has exploded in the last century. While some people choose to immerse themselves fully in technology, others are more wary. How TVs, computers and smart phones are affecting our health and wellbeing has long been debated. I always remember being told – ‘if you watch too much TV your eyes will go square’. Although there is evidence of this, and my eyes are certainly not square, we do now have increasing evidence of the effect technology has on us, good or bad.

Researchers from the UK and Switzerland have shown the repetitive use of smart phones can affect sensory processing from the hand. Greater brain activity was measured in the study group that used smart phones, as opposed to traditional push-button phones, when their thumb, index or middle-finger were touched. This is a similar response to that seen in string musicians who display greater somatosensory cortical activity in response to touch on the little fingertip compared to people who do not play string instruments.

Do we consider this as a good or bad effect on our health? Increased sensitivity (and consequently brain activity) in our fingers, due to increased use does, initially sound like a good effect. However, it does sound more wholesome when it has been achieved through playing musical instruments rather than repetitive use of a smart phone. I think the message to take home is the use of technology does affect our brains, but other activities traditional activities do too!

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Chew on this: Chocolate found to enhance memory function

Don’t get too excited just yet.

Whilst research has shown that chocolate can boost memory and blood flow, the quantity of chocolate needed to deliver an effect is vast. You might have an improved memory but it will come at the cost of a much larger waistline.

The research is on going and mainly focuses on a component within the chocolate itself: a chemical known as a flavanol. These are naturally occurring anti-oxidants commonly found in cocoa beans, blueberries, green tea and red wine. In recent years there has been a large amount of controversy surrounding the true functions of flavanols, with many believing that the media has exaggerated them.

Nonetheless, this study aimed at unearthing the truth.

Using a team of thirty-seven volunteers aged between 50 and 69, nineteen of these were given a high flavanol content drink per day, whilst the the other eighteen received a similar drink containing a much lower quantity of flavanols. The study ran for three months, with assessment carried out at both the start and the finish.

Assessment was taken through a memory test and a functional MRI brain scan. The results from these found that patients of the higher flavanol group had a 20% faster blood flow to a section of the hippocampi known as the dentate gyrus. Intriguingly, this region has been linked to age-related memory decline in people.

The memory test also found that the use of flavanols gave the patients enhanced reaction times, allowing their brains to perform as though they were three decades younger.

However, to replicate the quantities of flavanols using chocolate, you would need to eat at least two whole bars of 100g dark chocolate per day. I’m sure there are many who wouldn’t mind this though but, as it is well known, excessive chocolate consumption can lead to many other medical difficulties.

Future work is now looking into the optimal dose of flavanols to administer its beneficial effects, and other healthier forms of flavanol administration are now also being developed for use.

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How to use a Macintosh mouse

We're big fans of Apple - their relentless innovation, clean product design and intuitive user interfaces have justified their position as figureheads of the tech industry. But how 'intuitive' are they really? This user guide for the original Macintosh reminds us that we all need a little help sometimes. With instructions on how to correctly insert a floppy disk and how to use the mouse, the guide feels alien and even funny to us modern whizz kids.

So while technology evolves in a way that feels intuitive, we still have to learn some new techniques with each development. Things like virtual reality and smartwatches use features that we're already familiar with while giving us new experiences at the same time.

What new tech are you most looking forward to this year?

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Could radio signals treat diabetes?

Genetically altered mice have shown that diabetes can be effectively managed using a radio signal.

During the studies, three separate genes were inserted into the mice. The first of these encoded an iron-containing protein called ferritin, due to the reliance on iron particles during the research. These particles respond in a certain way to the radio signals by absorbing specific radio wave frequencies and altering cell behaviour.

The second of these genes was placed next to this first gene and encoded a protein that acted like a heat-sensitive door for the third gene. This third gene was the one that coded for insulin, which became activated whenever there was a flood of calcium.

In other words, whenever a radio signal sounded, iron particles would have been produced. These particles would have then altered the behaviour of cells around them and initiated a release of calcium. This calcium would then surge through the ‘heat-sensitive door’ of the second gene into the third gene where insulin was subsequently produced.

These functions were replicated during the study, with the mice showing a significant drop in blood glucose after being exposed to the radio signal.

However, gene therapies are a controversial area of research. Many argue that they should be avoided due to their irreversible and high-risk nature. As such, the scientists are remaining cautious.

But researcher Jeffrey Friedman of Rockefeller University disagrees and says that radio control could make gene therapies safer, as the introduced genes could be turned on and off at will. Additionally, a ‘suicide gene’ could be added to effectively kill off the implanted stem cells if dangerous side effects started to develop.

A large amount of further work needs to be carried out to confirm the results and alleviate safety concerns. However, this study provides an exciting and innovative area of research for the effective management of diabetes.

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Chrome Dog Mural

In an effort to raise money for a magnet program for the arts, local and international street artists and muralists have used Jose de Diego Middle School in the Wynwood Arts District as their canvas. One of the most impressive in my view is from street artist Bik Ismo, he created this fantastic metallic dog mural. The dog took four days to  complete and was created entirely with spray paint, successfully reflecting objects from the surrounding area.

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Street Pong

StreetPong is an interactive game of pong installed at a street crossing that allows you to play opponents waiting on the other side. After two years of waiting, the game units have been designed and approved for use by the city of Hildesheim, Germany. Rebranded as the ActiWait, the devices aren’t just a clever way to pass the time while waiting for cars, hopefully they help stop impatient pedestrians from crossing on red. 

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Debut novel boosted by YouTube audience

Amazon's bestseller list was recently assaulted by a 24-year-old debut novelist, with a ready-made audience creating unprecedented demand for her book. If you're a teenage girl or YouTube expert you'll know who we're talking about by now. Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, is a YouTube personality with 6.5m subscribers - the kind of audience other authors would kill for. And this audience has helped Sugg's novel, Girl Online, reach the top of the Amazon book chart.

Image: The Independent

This is good news for book lovers - anyone who loves to rant that the youth of today are more interested in their smartphones than reading a book will be disappointed by Girl Online's bestseller status.

But it's also a warning to anyone hoping to become YouTube famous. Yes, Zoella has a deal with YouTube that helps her make videos in return for advertising revenue, but her career rests on more than talking to a camera about beauty tips.

This isn't the first alarm bell to ring when it comes to YouTube celebrity. In our next post we'll look at Jason Calacanis's decision to terminate his YouTube partnership and what it means for the channel.

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Step in advert

The billboard shows the silhouettes of an adult man and a child that he’s threatening with a bottle in his hand. A nearby light makes a passersby part of the advert, making their silhouette stand in the middle of the man and boy giving them a symbolic nudge to step in and prevent or report real-life incidents of child abuse. With the message  “Child abuse, you can prevent it.” When a passer-by decides to step into the scene, a superhero-like logo appears on his or her shadow with an emergency number and the message: “Report to become a hero for children.

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New bmorians!

bmore is rapidly expanding once again and welcomes x5 new team members.Back row: Left to right Patrick Bawn - Junior copywriter Domini Du'prat - Web and digital UX designer James Thomson - Digital producer Front row: Samantha Percy - Artworker and production manager Alice Raines - Account executive, content team.

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Google backs Parkinson’s spoon

Google is making a name for itself as an innovator of groundbreaking new technology. At first glance this makes their venture into the cutlery market surprising. But the new spoon being developed by Google-owned Lift Labs is not your average utensil. The spoon helps people with tremors eat more easily, by sensing movement in their hands and counteracting it.

Image: The Guardian

While the spoon handle doesn’t reduce tremors in the hand, it keeps the end of the spoon steady making for much easier mealtimes. According to Dr. Jill Ostrem, the spoon has even helped some patients who previously had to be fed by someone else to eat independently.

So it's a powerful spoon, but this is also reflected in the price. At $295 it’s far from cheap, but there’s no doubting the potential improvements in quality of life this device brings with it.

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Circular Keyboard

Lady Gaga’s lead keyboardist Brockett Parsons and his team of helpers created this circular Piano Arc keyboard (aka the “Brockettship”) by joining three keyboards into one. Creating a keyboard that has 294 keys and one 30-note control section, and 3 pitch bends/mods per full keyboard section.

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An app that detects jaundice in newborn babies

The idea of medical or healthcare apps is not a new one. Yet, there are not many that appear to have as much real-life validity and worth than the BiliCam app. The app provides a way for parents to assess the scale of their newborn baby’s jaundice when they have left the hospital. Jaundice is common in newborn babies and usually does not need treatment. However, serious cases must be identified and treated as it can lead to brain damage.

So why is this app so good? There are two things you can be sure of when parents take a newborn baby home for this first time: 1. They will be very anxious about the baby’s health. And, possibly concerned they weren’t ready to leave the hospital quite yet. 2. Not far from the baby will be a smart phone, ready to take pictures, which they can bombard their friends Facebook pages and What’s App conversations with.

The BiliCam App uses point 2 to help alleviate the worry of point 1. Using the smart phones camera, the app takes a picture of the baby to determine the extent of jaundice. A small, coloured card is placed on the baby while the photo is taken to calibrate the app to ensure accurate results. If the baby requires further tests or treatment the parent will be warned to seek medical advice.

The name BiliCam comes from the substance bilirubin. Jaundice is caused by an increased amount of bilirubin inside the body. It should be excreted but newborn babies in particular are not always efficient at doing this. The increased levels of Bilirubin cause the characteristic yellow colour of the skin and pigmentation of the eyes.

Only time will tell how successfully the BiliCam App will prove to be!

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Flip book reinvented

Japanese artist Mou Hitotsu no Kenkyujo has used negative space to reinvent the classic flip book and so creating well-animated art. A few of his flip book are for sale on Amazon

View more of his work on his website here

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The Christmas Truce

In the spirit of fairness, it seems only right to take a look at Sainsbury’s Christmas advert. Like John Lewis, they have thrown everything they have at creating a heart-rending tear-jerker to create an emotional attachment between us and them this Christmas. Sainsbury’s advert, based on the story of the Christmas truce of 1914 is particularly topical. The timing couldn’t be better following on from the week’s World War One 100 year commemorations.

I have come across mixed responses to the advert. However, the most alarming being – ‘is that a true story? And ‘did they make that up? The Christmas truce is an amazing display of humanity during the horrors of war. It is stories like this that give you faith in humanity, and such a very important story for people to know. So if the Sainsbury’s advert has taught just one person about this – it is a good thing in my eyes.

http://youtu.be/NWF2JBb1bvM

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Advert Mashup

Brazilian design and animation studio Lobo has packed five decades of iconic adverts into a short, surreal mashup promoting the 2015 D&AD Professional Awards. It wont be to everyone taste, but it is worth a watch.

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