Gadgets that Truly Better Lives

By November 11, 2009

Most people, I suspect, would say that technology has made their lives better. But what we describe as betterment is really just convenience. It’s always exciting when any tech is launched that truly betters lives, and today I ran across examples of two of them. The first is the Telegraph’s report on an app that’s being developed to diagnose respiratory infections. How does it do that? Users cough into the phone.

The app, being developed by a team of Australian and American scientists, records a user’s cough, comparing it to a database of cough characteristics – the vibration of vocal cords and mucus, for example -- caused by various respiratory illnesses, in order to determine whether it was caused by a bacterial or virus.

Like a lot in mobile, this app is expected to be of most help in developing countries, especially ones with high rates of pneumonia.

The second interesting health gadget I came across today is the new Intel e-reader designed specifically for the blind.

As well as reading downloaded books aloud, the Intel Reader can also read from captured print and web images. The device, designed by Intel’s Digital Health Group, can also be used with an optional accessory that scans entire books.

The one major prohibitory item: the cost. The Intel Reader costs $1,499, which will be out of the price range of many consumers, unless there’s some way to get insurance to cover it. It is significantly cheaper than deices that convert text to Braille, which can cost up to $10,000.

The main advantage of the Intel Reader over other devices that have functionalities for the visually impaired is that it was designed specifically for those with vision problems, and is much simpler to learn how to use than similar devices designed for the blind.

Technologies that make our lives more convenient, or even merely give that illusion, get most of the attention. But there are so many examples of cases in which consumer technology actually betters people’s lives, whether it be diagnosing a potentially deadly virus or improving the sightless’ interactions with an increasingly visual world.

(Image: Venturebeat)

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