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Bizarre Tech: self-cleaning litter box and two human chargers

Image credit: LavvieBot S

In this month’s supercharged column: a device that turns you into a ‘superhero’ by sticking a light in your earhole, a knee brace that makes you a phone charger, and a poop-storing box.

Knee brace charger

Brace yourselves for unlimited power!

This lightweight knee brace, as described in Applied Physics Letters, could extract energy from a person’s movement to charge medical devices, wearables, or even a phone.

What would make this knee brace extra cool was if it was to, you know, brace a knee.

Anyway, the device weighs about 300g, and apparently it doesn’t make it noticeably harder for people to bend or straighten their knees, meaning you can walk along generating 1.6µW with comfort and ease.

Eventually, you could end up wearing an entire suit made of the same stuff and then you’d be able to take full advantage of your movement. Multi-tasking at its finest, I say. Walk to the shops for your milk, charge your phone simultaneously. Imagine if your everyday clothes were wearables to charge your everyday devices? Pretty cool.

Coming back down to earth now. Scientists from the Chinese University of Hong Kong who developed the brace believe it could be used to continuously power people’s medical devices or ensure hikers’ electrical equipment doesn’t run out. Smart.

The knee brace is still in its conceptual stage, so there’s no indication on when it’ll be ready for commercial sale, or how much it’ll cost.


Stick this in your ear and feel alive.

I would say the Finnish are positive people (get it?), so this is probably why they think it works. Apparently, the HumanCharger wireless headset is a wearable that provides “advanced light stimulation therapy” and gives you “superpowers”.

The makers say that if you wear this specialised device a few times a week, it could change your life and improve your health forever. That’s a big statement.

You wear the HumanCharger around the neck like a headset and it “beams calibrated white light through the ear-drum and ear-structure directly to the brain”. Apparently, this scientific process stimulates light receptors within the brain “switching your mind and body on so you perform better”.

Okey doke. I’m all for light therapy – human-centric lighting in workspaces can help your vision, wellbeing and performance – but I can’t imagine beaming some light in your earhole is going to do anything. I could be wrong. But then again, I’m probably not.

People have done their research, though. The company says that between 2008-2010, researchers at the University of Oulu, Finland, discovered that in addition to the eyes, areas of the human brain are also sensitive to light. This sensitivity is due to the photoreceptor-proteins in the brain – like those found in the eyes. The Oulu researchers found brain areas can be reached by light through ear canals, ear tissues and bones of the skull. The skull of large mammals, including humans, lets light pass through naturally. So the HumanCharger is supposed to mimic daylight when it’s dull.

As well as the light beam, the HumanCharger has integrated sound and a built-in microphone so you can talk on the phone and listen to music.

Benefits apparently include higher energy levels, improved mood, jet lag reduction, better mental alertness and help in beating the winter blues.

There’s already a Human­Charger Classic, which has sold over 90,000 units worldwide, but it doesn’t come with Bluetooth/wireless capability.

The Classic retails at £122,and the wireless version is ready to pre-order at £199. Spend your money wisely.

Self-cleaning litter box

Make your cat really, really not need you.

Launched on Indiegogo, the LavvieBot S is said to be the smartest litter box for cats in existence. Well, the company says that anyway.

The self-cleaning gadget automatically cleans your kitty’s waste and refills the cat litter from its built-in storage unit. You can track the LavvieBot S’s status (hope it doesn’t have a built-in camera so you can’t have the option of seeing your pet doing its business) using an app – called ‘PurrSong’ – on your phone, and also keep an eye on your cat’s overall health – the app tracks activities like bowel movements and the animal’s weight in real time. This could be useful if your cat is the elusive kind, so you can see how everything’s going without actually having to see your furry friend.

The quiet LavvieBot S can apparently keep itself spotless for up to 21 days per cat and is easy to empty when the time comes for you to clean almost 30 days of cat excrement. Yummers.

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