Thursday, September 5, 2013

Girls’ shoes enable endless customization

Customizations and personalization have been big themes in the fashion world in recent years, with platforms such as Keds Studio enabling consumers to design their own shoes and sell them. Now Bobbi-Toads is enabling young girls to alter the look of their footwear on a regular basis, with nail polish and remover that is applied straight onto the shoe. The sneakers come in a variety of designs and colors, but all feature a white rubber toe cap with embossed ‘toes’. Along with the shoes, customers can separately buy Bobbi-Polish, which is non-toxic, hypoallergenic and cruelty-free, available in ten different colors. Girls can then use the polish to paint the nails of the rubber toes – just like they would their real toenails – or customize the shoes in any other way. Using the Bobbi-Polish Remover, they can clean off any designs they’ve made and replace them with others. Bobbi-Toads make fashion more engaging for young girls, while also preparing them for when they’re old enough to paint their real nails. Are there other ways to encourage creativity through personalized goods?

Listings site aims to be Craigslist for disabled people

Disabled residents of London have already been kept aware of some of the stylish events happening at locations with access for wheelchair users through the Blue Badge Style platform. In a similar vein, New York-based Ability List is now hoping to become the Craigslist for less able people. The latter site has already become a popular way for local communities to advertise their accommodation, jobs and services, but those with special requirements often have to trawl through posts to find the ones able to cater to their needs. As Andrew Horn, founder and CEO of Ability List, told Fast Company: “Unfortunately a lot of those people live isolated lives unnecessarily simply because they don’t know about the programs, resources, organizations and individuals that are available to help them.” The site therefore aims to better connect communities of disabled people, making it easier to find others with similar needs, as well as the services that provide for them. On top of its search function, Ability List also provides users with tailored update emails covering the topics they’re interested in. The site is already live in New York and Horn wants to licence the platform to local governments to help them improve the quality of life for disabled people in their region. Are there other ways to easily connect those sharing similar experiences?

‘Urban bellhops’ meet and greet Airbnb guests

Airbnb has opened up a new market for consumer-provided tourist accommodation, and we’ve seen other businesses such as EatWith inspired by the service. Now San Francisco-based Urban Bellhop is tapping into the Airbnb customer base by offering a check-in service for those hosting tourists. For those who open up their property as accommodation for travelers while they’re away, or are simply too busy to meet up with their guests, Urban Bellhop has a team of professional rental hosts who can act as a middleman between the two parties. Hosts can register their property with Urban Bellhop and allow them to securely keep a spare key on their file. At times when they are unable to greet their guests, homeowners can then get the company to liaise with visitors, check them into the house and help them feel welcome. Urban Bellhop is an example of a business that has come into being thanks to new industries and technologies opened up by innovators. Are there products or services that could cater for the Airbnb crowd?

Platform offers visual lesson plan ideas for teachers

With all of the resources the web has to offer, teachers can now go beyond the textbook when organizing their lessons plans, and tools such as Learnist have already made it easier for them to collect their online research. Now Linked2Teach aims to provide a way for educators to gain inspiration by seeing what’s going on in classrooms around the world through themed pinboards. Users logging in can immediately search for terms related to their field, student age range or the time of year. Learn2Teach then loads a panel of images uploaded by other teachers showing some of the projects they’ve worked on that match the search terms. When they find something that could provide inspiration for their own lessons, teachers can then add to their folders for reference or simply click the heart button to like it. Images with higher numbers of likes or saves are automatically moved to the top of search results. Educators can also add images of their own lesson ideas. Although still in the primitive stages, Learn2Teach could be the basis of a quick and easy tool for education professionals to glean what’s going on around the world and gain inspiration. Are there other ways to connect teachers in far flung corners of the globe?

Social network for hospital patients connects users via similar interests

When it come to hospital stays – especially lengthy ones – it can make a big difference to help patients feel as comfortable as possible. We recently saw Scotland’s Hospital Passport scheme aim to put children at ease, and now France-based startup Hôpital Affinité wants to connect those in hospital with fellow patients that share similar interests. Hoping to be implemented in institutions across the country, the startup offers a platform that enables patients to fill out their interests, alongside their time of stay. The service then offers recommendations of current patients who enjoy the same things. Users can chat over the system – on their laptop or smartphone – before viewing a map of the building to find out where their friend’s bed is. Since patients often rely on visits from relatives and friends for company, Hôpital Affinité aims to make patient stays more enjoyable by connecting them with like-minded guests. At the same time, hospitals can also communicate important announcements to their patients through the service. The startup was recently named the winner of the Doctors 2.0 & You prize and is looking for hospitals to pick up the platform. How else can patients be made more comfortable?

Segway-style vehicle is ultra portable

We’ve already seen portable transport upgraded from fold-up bicycles to the suitcase-sized Moveo motorbike. Now the Hovertrax is a Segway-like electric gyroscopic vehicle that is hands-free and can fit in the user’s backpack. Similar to the self-balancing scooter, the Hovertrax features a platform that connects two electric motor-powered wheels, which use gyroscopes and accelerometers to keep users upright. After stepping onto the vehicle, users lean forward to start moving. The platform is split into two, enabling users to turn by putting greater pressure on one side than the other. The batteries that power the device allow riders to travel at up to six miles per hour for around four miles. Without handles users can step off the machine at any point and at nine pounds in weight, the vehicle can easily be carried by hand or in a backpack when not in use.

In Nigeria, recycling rewards via SMS

Online platforms such as France’s CitéGreen have enabled consumers to receive rewards for eco behavior, but what about regions where the internet isn’t so readily available? Wecyclers is a project based in Nigeria that aims to incentivize recycling through text message points that can be exchanged for everyday items. Recycling programs are under developed in countries such as Nigeria, where municipal governments process only 13 percent of potentially recyclable waste. Wecyclers is now encouraging citizens to take the matter into their own hands, separating their plastic bottles and aluminium cans for collection by the startup’s bicycle-powered trailers. Families signing up for the scheme receive points depending on how many kilograms of recyclable material they hand over, sent to them via SMS. Every three months, Wecyclers holds an event where customers can trade their text message points for goods such as cell phone minutes, basic foodstuff and household items. The biggest recyclers can also win more luxurious prizes such as clothes and books. Wecyclers has teamed up with big brands such as Coca-Cola in order to offer the prizes, and has already gained the attention of the Lagos Waste Management Authority. Could other countries with poor waste recycling management implement similar schemes?