Barometer: tech

Art school (clockwise from left)

MakerBot Replicator 3D printer £1,692, Bored of identical plastic toys? Print your own with this factory-in-a-box.

Veho VFS-002m USB negative scanner £49.99, New life for embarrassing photos: this ingenious device converts old negatives into digital files.

Nomad Brush Compose Dual Tip Short £29.95, Long £34.95, For touchscreen Titians who prefer to work without the mess.

Twelve South Compass Mobile Stand $39.99 (plus shipping), Transform your tablet into a canvas with this foldable steel easel.

Pantone Universe iPhone 4 case £35, Don’t want to paint an entire wall yellow? Splash it on your phone instead.

Silicon notebook: Battling veterans’ stress

While communities around the country wage campaigns against the perils of texting while driving, Silicon Valley is hoping to redeem its influence on the roads with another technology, focusing first on military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, writes April Dembosky in San Francisco.

Trained to be highly alert to IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan, veterans can be inordinately distracted by rubbish, old tyres, or even a freshly painted kerb on the side of the road, thus losing focus for several seconds. Car insurance records show that veterans are more likely to get in traffic accidents after a deployment than before.

“We are concerned that quite a few veterans are not driving at all in order to avoid the driving-related memories,” says Steven Woodward, staff psychologist at the National Center for PTSD at the Veterans Affairs Health Care System in Palo Alto.

He is developing a treatment to help veterans work through the triggers of the war-time responses they no longer need. He tracks their stress levels while driving, measuring their heart rate, respiration and ECG, and matches these to the movements of the car’s steering wheel, accelerator and brakes, as well as its GPS location.

It is a highly technical process, and the Department of Veterans Affairs does it with a gadget called The Sprout, from the Valley’s Fujitsu Laboratories of America.

This combines the data from the car and the veteran and matches them against the same time stamp, enabling researchers to pinpoint the stress levels triggered by individual construction sites or flyovers. Drivers are then taught relaxation techniques, and have their stress levels remeasured once they start applying them. It will be a couple more years before Woodward publishes any results from the study, but Fujitsu scientists are already envisioning broad future discoveries that could help commuters decide which freeway to take to work, or even influence city planning.

“You can imagine taking data across the population and seeing which paths and routes are more stressful, trying to figure out why, and then modify the system itself, the roads and the lanes,” says Dave Marvit, vice president of the data-driven healthcare group at Fujitsu.

Someday, Google Maps might even have a colour-coded system not just for traffic conditions, but for driver stress levels as well.

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