10 Bright Ideas to Get You Through February

It’s not easy to think happy thoughts this time of year. But here are some examples of innovative thinking that remind us it will get better

3D contact lenses are already being designed for the U.S. military
3D contact lenses are already being designed for the U.S. military Feedloader (Clickability)

The Super Bowl is over and now we have to face an ugly reality.  It’s February and we’re only one week in.

With the hope of lifting your spirits, here are 10 examples of innovative thinking to remind you that better things are coming.

The movie inside my head: Here’s something you could use some grim February afternoon, although alas, not this month. But by 2014 we could have contact lenses that display computer-generated, panoramic 3D images that make the real world go away. They’re being developed for the U.S. military by the Washington State company Innovega, with the idea that soldiers could have maps or other critical data fed directly to their contacts.  But gamers probably won’t be far behind and it will only be a matter of time before the rest of us are able to have very private screenings inside our heads.

Dunkin’ iPhones: Drop your phone in the sink and you’re pretty much headed for a bad day.  But a California start-up named Liquipel says it has created a coating that will protect your phone in the event of a dreaded dip.  And the word is that both the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S3 will come with the wondrous waterproofing.

Seeing green: For those already dreaming about getting on your bike again, a new invention should make city riding a bit safer.  Called the Intersector, it uses a microwave radar gun to calculate the speed and length of approaching objects.  If it determines a car is coming into an intersection, the light stays green for four seconds; if it’s a bike, the green last for 14 seconds.  The nifty device is now being tested in a handful of California cities.

When cans chill: When spring comes, so will the first self-chilling can. Joseph Company International will start selling in California and Las Vegas an all-natural energy drink called  West Coast Chill that not only provides a jolt, but also absolves you of the weighty responsibility of putting it in the refrigerator.  Just press a button on the can and the temperature of the liquid inside drops 30 degrees F.  How did we do without this?

Chew your package: While we’re on the subject of packaging that makes our lives even easier, we may soon, thanks to Harvard researchers, have containers we can eat. The scientists call them WikiCells. They’re food membranes held together by electrostatic forces and they work like an edible, biodegradeable shell that’s gotta taste better than cardboard.

Does this make me look virtually fat? It will also become easier to buy clothes online. Make that to buy clothes online that fit. Using the same kind of 3D camera technology as Microsoft Kinect, the British firm BodyMetrics has come up with a way to let you try on clothes without actually trying them on. By creating a 3D map of your body, it will show you precisely how clothes will fit you, not Heidi Klum. Don’t be surprised to see this technology available on the Amazon website. And eventually, with 3D cameras in new models of Smart TVs, your living room could also become your fitting room.

Wearin’ of the screen: Not only will your clothes fit better, but they’ll also be able to turn into actual touch screens. Canadian scientists are testing new fibers that will keep clothing soft and flexible while it doubles as a sensor. Soon you may be able to turn up the music by simply brushing your sleeve or take your blood pressure without lifting a finger.

Thanks for sharing: Why should you have to search all over the place to see the video clips on YouTube or Vimeo that your friends have shared through social networks? Now you don’t. A new iPad app called Showyou pulls thumbnail images for all of them into one easy-to-use grid that turns your friends’ recommendations into Web video programming. What are friends for?

Coming soon: The Robot Diet: If we assume that robots will be doing a lot of our work in the future, here’s more good news. We may not have to worry about them running out of batteries. British scientists are making progress in getting robots to run on biological fuel, causing some to speculate that they’ll one day be able to live on dead insects, rotting plants and yes, human waste.

Now this would make a great halftime show: In case the above info makes you think less of our robot friends, take a look of this video of flying “nano quadrators” or little bots developed at the University of Pennsylvania. And prepare to be awed by how they fly in formation. If not for all of the Super Bowl ads put online before the game, this would have been the most popular clip on YouTube last week with more than 3 million views.

Video bonus: No matter how grim things may get this month, one surefire way to keep everything in perspective is to spend a little time gazing at photos of Earth from space. Check out this “Science Friday” clip on how NASA creates the images of our home planet.

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.