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More interesting tech that you didn’t know existed — part two

Posted by Samantha Browning on 2nd February 2021

Following my last blog about some truly game-changing technology that you might have missed, the world has continued to shock and surprise us… and not always in a good way.

With the news still strongly focused on Covid-19, it’s a great time for another roundup of the most interesting and unusual tech you probably didn’t know existed:

Light at the end of the tunnel

Modern cars boast a whole host of features, but did you know that in the 1960s, illuminated tyres were considered the ‘next big thing’ in automotive innovation?

Dubbed one of the “most dramatic tyre developments in the history of the industry” Goodyear created the tyres out of a synthetic, translucent rubber known as Neothane. The material was dyed various colours, including bright green, yellow and red before 18 small light bulbs were added to give them a glowing effect.

While the material was durable and simple to make, it had several downsides. For example, the tyres were too expensive for mass production, performed poorly in wet conditions and melted when drivers braked suddenly. In addition, the tyres were so dazzling and fascinating that passers-by and other drivers were distracted by them, causing traffic violations and even accidents.

The glow-in-the-dark tyres never quite took off and the project was scrapped after these serious issues could not be fixed by Goodyear’s engineers. However, technology has moved on dramatically since the ‘60s, so who knows what tomorrow’s cars might look like. Perhaps the future is bright for tyres?

X marks the spot 

Beauty brand, Neutrogena, is well known for its face care products, but less so for branching out into tech. However, a few years ago, the company launched its Light Therapy Acne Mask, which “harnesses the power of clinically-proven technology to clear acne and allow skin to heal itself.”

The ‘dermatologist in-office’ tech (probably a home office right now) takes away the hard work and mess that comes with applying a regular face mask (not that kind of face mask!) while targeting skin complaints.

While it may make you look a like you’re off for a day of heavy-duty welding in a sexy steel works, the mask has some serious science behind it — blue LED lights fight off acne-causing bacteria, whereas red lights help reduce inflammation.

The mask has been dermatologically proven to provide results when worn for 10 minutes every day for one month. My only concern with this one would be that I can’t see anyone wanting to spend their spare time wearing yet another kind of mask…

Who’s masking?

Speaking of which… how about a face mask (yes, that kind) that combines protection, convenience, style and technology?

With government and healthcare officials continuing to recommend the use of face masks in public to help reduce the spread of the virus, it’s become a common habit for most. However, did you know that they now have a cooler, techier cousin?

Perfect for when you need to make a call during your next essential journey or just want some upbeat music to keep you company, Maskfone features replaceable filters, a built-in microphone and earphones, reducing the need to remove your mask in public to receive a phone call or get a Spotify fix.

While it may seem like a bright idea, it does have its faults. Firstly, being washable, you do have to remove and detangle the headphones at some point. Secondly, you control the music (to pause, play, adjust the volume, etc.) by jabbing at your own face, which really doesn’t really appeal to me. Anyone else?

Clean up your act

Right now, you can’t go anywhere without being reminded about the importance of avoiding germs. It’s a message we’re all well versed in almost a year into the pandemic — and tech brands are reflecting our current safety anxieties by launching a whole host of technologies that tap into that need.

Launched in 2020, the Lexon Oblio is a must-have smartphone accessory in the age of Covid. This incredible gadget wirelessly charges your phone while giving it a full clean, killing 99.99% of germs in just 20 minutes. The sanitising station, which looks a little like a vase, uses UV light to get rid of any nasty germs that could be lurking on your device.

It’s not cheap, coming in at just under £80, but it is the perfect product for any germophobe who’s still singing happy birthday when washing their hands. 

Jumper for joy

Another product born out of the current situation is the Social Distancing Sweater. Yes, you read that right. It’s a jumper that helps make sure no one gets within six feet of you.

Designed to keep you both safe and warm, the knitwear includes four low resolution thermal cameras and motion sensors to monitor your entire perimeter for anyone that might be about to invade your personal space.

Using an algorithm, the jumper calculates the baseline background temperature, and searches for any warm bodies in the vicinity. When the interloper is detected, flashing LEDs and a siren remind them to keep their distance.

Created by American home security company SimpliSafe as a PR stunt, only a limited number were produced (integrated tech not included). However, the company has published detailed instructions for anyone wanting to make their own. All you need is a microcontroller, a small speaker, a microSD card, LEDs, cables and an inline USB power switch. Not to mention experience with 3D printing, soldering and programming…

While the festive Christmas jumper is clearly not a serious method of preventing Covid-19, it would make a great talking point at parties… providing those are a thing again by next Christmas…

So, while nothing about the last few months has been normal or predictable, one thing is certain… technology will continue to excite, baffle and surprise us for many years to come. Perhaps enough for a third instalment of this blog series…

Samantha Browning

With two and a half years of experience in technology PR gained at a London-based agency, Sammy joined Wildfire in November 2016 and brings with her invaluable knowledge of the consumer and B2B tech landscape and the wider media industry. Whilst gaining her degree from The University of Kent in English & American Literature and French, Sammy spent a year abroad living and studying in France. She continues her love of writing, books and the French language in both her professional and personal life. Sammy is a big fan of food, films, travelling and dogs. She loves planning holidays and would be very happy to hear of any recommendations!