Why you should care
Because great tech takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary.
Visual projection is witchcraft — the good kind. Say hello to the Aiptek MobileCinema i55, a tiny projector and built-in battery-pack combo of cinematic joy. Which under normal circumstances would not wow us at all, but we’re gadget geeks and anything that lets us skip the theater and still get the theater experience is, well, delightful. Weighing in at about 5.6 ounces and able to plug right into your iPhone 5 or whatever, it blasts a 5-foot-plus image of your screen onto the wall. It’s so cool that words barely exist to explain why minimizing your mass just got good.
We’re making the pun: This app is visionary. Ophthalmologist Andrew Bastawrous is on a mission to prevent and treat blindness — with a smartphone. Approximately 285 million people suffer from blindness or poor eyesight; even more shocking is that some of them need only a pair of glasses or simple cataract surgery. The problem? Ninety percent of them live in developing countries that have only a handful of ophthalmologists, who tend to work in major cities and are impossible to reach from remote villages. For Bastawrous, reaching his goal of providing eye care to those who most need it has meant moving to a remote Kenyan village, with his wife and 1-year-old in tow, even though he barely speaks a word of Swahili.
What’s being developed to help patients in India (or China or Cambodia) hear better might trickle out to the rest of the world. No one’s declaring victory over sub-Saharan hearing loss yet, but a host of hearing-help projects, many of them aimed at the developing world, are taking advantage of mobile tech. Some companies want to create in-ear devices that, when paired with a smartphone, act like a rechargeable hearing aid. Another app would help fit hearing aids, acting as a pseudo-audiologist to assess a patient’s hearing levels and other issues in order to fit the right device. One Australian company is even working to develop a self-contained kit that would allow a person to test his or her own hearing — neither expert nor smartphone needed.
After years of clunky devices and old-school techniques, we’re finally seeing some innovation in one of the most stagnant subcomponents of health care: reproductive health technology. Now, whether it comes to planning or preventing pregnancy, there really might just be an app for that. Or a few of them. On the horizon is a number of deceptively simple apps that can track a woman’s entire menstrual cycle through a combination of self-reported data and some hardware innovations, drawing on standard ovulation testing tech, not unlike taking a pregnancy test. All together, this information can help women map everything from premenstrual stressors to peak fertility.