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Smart scarf

Those who would like to look sharp during the winter months but don’t trust themselves to make those tricky sartorial decisions might be pleased to hear that technology is coming to the rescue - with a scarf that automatically changes colour to match your outfit.

The chameleon shawl, as it is being called by its Japanese developers at Keio University in Japan, shifts colour thanks to pixels woven into the scarf’s material containing red, blue and green light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Adjusting the brightness of each type of diode turns the scarf a different overall shade.

According to a report on NewScientist.com, a small sensor embedded into the garment allows it to identify the colour of the nearest item of clothing and a microcomputer then selects a suitable colour for the scarf to adopt.

In the default setting, the scarf, which was demonstrated this year at the International Symposium on Wearable Computing in Osaka, will change to the most coordinating colour - for example, it will turn light blue if a dark blue jacket is worn.

However, the computer can be configured to make more daring fashion statements. The developers say that theoretically up to 4,000 colours can be generated, although the difference between some of these will not be perceptible to human eyes.

With ubiquitous television programmes telling us what or what not to wear, the scarf could eventually become a hot item. However, the more traditional among us might be disappointed to hear that there is no tartan setting.

Keio University: http://www.keio.ac.jp/

Cyberhugs

Moving swiftly away from objects of affectation to one of affection, the “cyberhug” jacket is another garment that might end up on the Christmas lists of the near future.

Parents absent from their children will be able to transmit “cyberhugs” to their children by squeezing a teddy bear equipped with sensors that record the embraces and transmit them wirelessly to a jacket worn by a child.

The jackets convert them into hugs using mobile-phone style vibrations and heated copper threads. They will also change colour as parents get closer, turning from brown to red the nearer they get.

“For a while technology has been driving people apart, locking them in front of computer screens, now we hope to use it to bring them together,” gushes Associate Professor Andian Cheok of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

I can’t help feeling most kids are going to feel short changed when Mum and Dad walk off with the teddy and junior gets trussed up like a vibrating turkey.

A recent project by Mr Cheok, who developed the cyberhug, has already earned plaudits from poultry lovers after he developed technology that allows people to stroke their chickens over the internet using a doll as an interface.

He is planning an adult version of the jacket for separated sweethearts, although he insists he has no plans to take the technology to a more intimate level.

Nanyang Technological University: http://www.ntu.edu.sg/publicportal/

Diagnosis by phone

Women could soon be able to check for breast cancer using a mobile phone if technology devised by an Israeli psychologist is given the go ahead by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Nitzan Yaniv, the developer, claims that by installing new software and adding a basic infrared camera, a mobile phone can be transformed into a “highly-effective” diagnostic scanner capable of detecting breast cancer - giving far more accurate results than the self-checking that many women carry out regularly.

Once checked, the results of the scan can then be transferred to a medical laboratory where doctors could determine whether further tests were necessary.

The infrared camera uses two techniques, both proven to be effective in diagnosing breast cancer - one which analyses temperature differences in different parts of the breast, while the other analyses oxygen flow to areas of the breast.

Mr Yaniv, who has also invented a bomb detector than works from a mobile phone, has adapted technology sometimes used to help patients control conditions such as high blood pressure, migraines or epilepsy.

Using a therapy called biofeedback - which trains a patient to control certain bodily functions, like blood pressure or heart rate, which are normally performed subconsciously - sufferers are scanned by infrared cameras to show data about their condition.

Now Cellcom, the Israeli mobile phone operator, is working to build handsets with the infrared sensor technology integrated into typical mobile phone cameras - turning them into portable and affordable biofeedback machines.

Developers are now testing the technology’s use in detecting heart problems.

Cellcom: http://cellcom.channel.co.il/english/content/about/03/

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