Tag Archives: Health & Fitness

Archos Beats CES Rush and Unveils Step-Counting Fitness Tracker


Wearable fitness trackers are sure to be a big trend at the 2014 International CES next week, and Archos is beating the rush by unveiling its candidate a few days early. The Archos Activity Tracker is a wristband that can measure your steps, view your history and let you compete with friends.

Similar to the Fitbit Force, the Archos band has a small display that can relay basic data, like the number of steps taken in a day or the amount of calories burned. A full charge of the battery is said to last an entire week, and it charges via USB, just like the Nike+ Fuelband.

Of course, the Activity Tracker pairs with a dedicated app, which gathers the data from the band wirelessly. In addition to rendering the data graphically, the app will let you compete with up to eight people, similar to “teams” and small-scale social networking favored by other fitness-tracking ecosystems, such as Jawbone’s.

In addition to the wristband, Archos is planning a whole line of connected devices for unveiling at CES, including a connected scale, a blood-pressure monitor, a home weather station and a 7-inch tablet designed specifically for “smart home” applications.

No prices or release dates have yet been announced.

Scorpion Protein Illuminates Brain Tumors for Surgeons


Jim Olson, a pediatric neuro-oncologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, was reviewing with his colleagues the case of a 17-year-old girl several years ago who had just undergone brain surgery to remove a tumor. An MRI scan revealed a thumb-size piece of tumor left behind. In the operating room, the tumor tissue had looked just like healthy brain tissue. During the review meeting, the hospitals’ chief of neurosurgery turned to Olson and said: “Jim, you have to come up with a way to light these cells up.”

So Olson and a neurosurgical resident started searching for a way to highlight cancer cells in the operating room. Eventually, they came across a report of a scorpion toxin that binds to brain tumors but not healthy cells. By linking a synthetic version of this protein to a molecule that glows in near-infrared light, the researchers think they may have found what they call “tumor paint.”

In their very first test, the pair injected the compound into the tail vein of a mouse whose body harbored a transplanted human tumor. “Within 15 to 20 minutes, the tumor started to glow, bright and distinct from the rest of the mouse,” says Olson.

A Seattle company called Blaze Bioscience has licensed the technology from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. Olson says human trials will begin late in 2013.

The scorpion toxin is special not only because it binds to tumor cells, but because it can cross the blood-brain barrier—a cellular and molecular fortification that lines blood vessels in the brain and prevents most compounds from entering.

“Usually, peptides don’t get into the brain unless they bind to something specific that carries it in there,” says Harald Sontheimer, a neurobiologist at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, who first identified the neurological potential of the scorpion protein.

Although derived from venom, the toxin seems to be safe. A biotech company started by Sontheimer showed in early clinical trials that a version of the scorpion toxin tagged with radioactive iodine was safe in patients. However, the company closed before late-stage testing of the iodine-tagged compound, which is now owned by Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai.

The tumor paint developed by Olson may also light up cancer outside of the brain. Animal studies suggest it could also demarcate prostate, colon, breast, and other tumors. The potential the compound has to save healthy brain tissue and improve patients’ lives is told in a short film called Bringing Light, which is in the running for the Sundance Film Festival.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, Furryscaly

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/12/17/scorpion-protein-brain-tumor/

Genomics Solves Medical Mystery


Between June and December of last year, 17 patients at the Clinical Center of the U.S. National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. came down with a bloodstream infection. Six of them died.

Doctors knew that a patient had arrived with Klebsiella pneumoniae in June, but it wasn’t clear how the bacterium, a common culprit in hospital-acquired infections, was passed around, or whether several different patients had simply brought it in with them.

By taking bacterial samples from the patients and certain hospital equipment and analyzing the genomes of the different strains, researchers traced the organism’s meandering path as it cut a deadly swath through the facility. The study, published today in Science Translational Medicine, represents the first such use of whole-genome scanning in a hospital during an outbreak.

The sequencing was possible because it is now cheap and fast enough to do in near-real time, says Julie Segre, an author of the paper and a senior investigator at the National Human Genome Research Institute. Each of the genome sequences cost about $2,000 last year. The price has since dropped to about $500.

The scans revealed that the germs originated from one patient, that their path through the hospital was different than expected and that current methods for combating such hospital-acquired infections are inadequate. Instead of jumping from the first patient who showed signs of the blood infection to the second, as the epidemiologists had expected, the bacterium had taken a much more complex route.

Patient 1, a 43-year-old New Yorker, passed it independently to patients 3, 4 and 8, whose cases appeared more than a month later. Patient 8 didn’t pass it further, but the strain from patient 3 was found in patients 5 and 2, and the rest of the patients got it from patient 4, the analysis showed.

Researchers believe the germ was transmitted on hospital workers’ hands. Moreover, scans of bacteria from one patient’s ventilator showed that the typical cleaning process was inadequate to rid the machine of the bacteria. Although the germs were not transmitted via the ventilator in this case, they may very well be transmitted that way elsewhere, says Tara Palmore, an infectious disease physician and deputy hospital epidemiologist at the Clinical Center, who was an author of the study.

George Weinstock, associate director of the Genome Institute at Washington University in St. Louis and professor of genetics and microbiology, says that the extra level of detail provided by whole-genome sequencing allowed epidemiologists to truly understand the path of disease for the first time.

The lessons learned from such detailed tracking, he says, “are going to lead to more sophisticated epidemiological studies in public health, so that we’re more often going to get the true answer to what’s going on, rather than the simplest.” The next step, he says, will be to do this kind of analysis in real time, so that far fewer people will die before an outbreak is stemmed.

The outbreak highlights the strong need for improved infection control protocols. “We have very few antibiotics left,” Segre says. “The only way to stop this is with better infection control. The best way to keep the American people healthy is to keep them from getting sick.”

Image courtesy of iStock, zilli.

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/22/genomics-medical-mystery/

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The 10 Most Harmful Parasites That Could Be in Your Food


Trichinella spiralis, seventh on the study’s list, nestled in human muscle tissue.

Most people are fascinated, and probably equally repulsed, by parasites. And it may be something you think you only need to worry about if you go on holiday somewhere exotic. However, increasing globalization and transportation of food products across the globe means we are all increasingly at risk of catching something unwanted from our favorite foods

Many infections can be thwarted with proper hygiene — washing fruit and vegetables, including “ready-washed” lettuce, cooking meat properly and avoiding contamination from domestic or wild animals. A joint UN/WHO report said better farming and global food trade standards could also prevent parasites entering the food chain. Experts have ranked the 24 most damaging foodborne parasites according to number of cases, global distribution and health impact. Here are the top ten:

1. Taenia solium

Taenia solium parasite

Hey! You got a friend in Taenia solium.

T.solium, also known as pork tapeworms, can measure up to 10m when mature and are among the biggest of these ribbon-like worms to infect humans. They do this through larval cysts in undercooked pork that hatch in the stomach and quickly grow into adult worms which inhabit the intestine, feeding on the nutrients you eat.

Disease is generally restricted to malnutrition as the worm competes with you for food — unless you ingest eggs rather than a cyst. These migrate around the body before forming larval cysts — a condition called cysticercosis — just like they do in the pigs. This can cause severe problems, particularly in the central nervous system (neurocysticercosis) where they can cause epileptic seizures. This is believed to be a main cause of epilepsy in many poorer parts of the world.

2. Echinococcus granulosus

Echinococcus granulosus scolex

Growing up with not a care in the world.

Another tapeworm, but only 3 to 7mm long, which causes a nasty disease called cystic echinococcosis (CE). The worm has a life cycle that normally cycles between carnivores (usually dogs), and sheep or other livestock. Humans become infected through accidental ingestion of eggs from dog feces, either through contaminated food products or from direct contact, or contaminated soil. The worm’s eggs are tough — they can remain infective for months, even in freezing temperatures.

More than a million cases of CE occur every year worldwide, mainly in areas where livestock, including camels, come in to close contact with dogs. After ingesting eggs, the parasite migrates, primarily to the liver. Slow-growing cysts form and symptoms may not be obvious until several years later. Cysts can contain several liters of fluid and are full of infectious larval stages called protoscoleces. Spontaneous rupture of the cysts can be very dangerous and lead to fatal shock.

3. Echinococcus multilocularis

Rats with cysts.

No, I encyst.

Geographical distribution of this tapeworm is patchy but it’s found in both North America and Europe where prevalence is slowly increasing. Its life cycle normally involves foxes and small rodents but can happen in domestic dogs and even cats. In humans it causes a disease called alveolar echinococcosis, which forms cysts in internal organs. The cysts can reproduce and spread like tumors and be fatal if untreated. This infection is considered a risk factor for hunters who handle infected fox carcasses and people foraging for berries and mushrooms contaminated by fox feces.

4. Toxoplasma gondii

Toxoplasma gondii

Secreted away.

T.gondii is a single-cell parasitic animal (protozoa) that can infect practically all warm-blooded mammals, but its life cycle normally takes place between cats and rodents. T.gondii is present in most countries and is one of the most widespread protozoan parasites affecting humans. Infection rate in humans varies between 10-80% of the population in different parts of the world and the parasite usually stays dormant in the tissues for the lifetime of the host — most infected people have no symptoms and never know they’re infected.

The most serious problems arise in pregnant women because the parasite can cross the placenta and cause fetal abnormalities or even miscarriage, which is why its advisable for them to avoid cleaning cat litter. Immunosuppressed individuals, such as HIV/AIDS and organ transplant patients, are also at risk because the parasite can start multiplying uncontrollably.

5. Cryptosporidium spp.

Cryptosporidium spp.

Not the eggs you want in the morning.

These protozoan parasites are mainly transmitted via contaminated water or food washed in contaminated water. Unpasteurized cider and milk, and contaminated shellfish have been implicated in several outbreaks. The parasite is present worldwide, including the UK, and infection is often caused by fecal contamination of water supplies by infected livestock. In healthy individuals the disease causes severe watery diarrhoea, which often rights itself. Thorough washing of fresh produce — including “ready washed” lettuces — is recommended.

6. Entamoeba histolytica

Entamoeba histolytica

Cyst-ematic infection.

Another protozoan parasite that infects the digestive tract causes amoebic dysentery. The disease is characterized by bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain that can become life threatening. More severe problems can occur if the parasite starts spreading from the intestine out into the body, causing abscesses in the liver and other organs.

7. Trichinella spiralis

Trichinella spiralis

Spiraling problem.

Image: CDC

Trichinella spiralis, is an intracellular “pork roundworm” responsible for trichinellosis, a muscle infection caught from eating raw or undercooked pork, or pork products such as smoked sausages. Other sources include game such as wild boar, and even walrus. Infected meat is contaminated with cysts, invisible to the eye, that contain a small larvae. When the meat is digested, these grow into adult worms that mate and produce thousands of new larvae, which travel out into the muscle tissues where they encyst, awaiting the current host to be eaten.

8. Opisthorchiidae


Clonorchis: from the Chinese branch of the family.

Image: Circa24

This is a family of flatworms, or flukes, mainly present in south-east Asia (though some species are also present in Europe and Russia). The infection is contracted through eating raw or undercooked freshwater fish that have themselves been snails infected with larvae. These develop into another type of larvae in fish, and when they are eaten by a mammal (such as a human) they turn into adult worms that make themselves at home in the bile duct and gall bladder. It then produces eggs that are excreted in faeces, which hatch to infect new snails when they reach a fresh water source.

Infected dogs and cats roaming freely in villages are often significant reservoirs of infection. Chronic long-term Opisthorchis infections are significantly associated with cancer of the liver and bile ducts. Freezing or cooking fish prevents infection — pickling, drying, salting or smoking fish won’t.

9. Ascaris spp.

Ascaris spp.

Do not swallow.

Image: Alan R Walker

These are the largest of the human intestinal roundworms (up to 35cm) and with 25% of the world infected, is the most common parasite in humans. After ingestion, the eggs hatch into larvae in the intestine before undergoing a remarkable migration: they travel out of the intestine via the blood to the lungs, then migrate up the airways to the throat, where they get swallowed down into the stomach and back to the intestine again, where they finally develop into adult worms.

Each female worm produces hundreds of thousands of eggs per day which are excreted in the feces, contaminating the environment and further spreading the disease. A second species, Ascaris suum, was until recently believed to only infect pigs but is also able to infect humans. The level and symptoms of disease depends on the number of worms the individual is infected with, and intestinal blockage can happen because of the size of the worms.

10. Trypanosoma cruzi

Trypanosoma cruzi

Do not swallow.

T.cruzi is a protozoan parasite which causes a disease called Chagas disease. The disease is characterized by slow progression where the parasite infects various cells and organs in the body, including the heart, over many years, often with no or only mild symptoms present. Eventually the disease manifests itself through serious, and sometime fatal, cardiac or intestinal problems.

The infection is normally transmitted though contact with the feces of triatomine beetles (“kissing bugs”), which seek nightly human contact to feed on human blood. When it feeds, the beetle defecates on the host’s skin. Bug feces are often then scratched into the bite wound. T.cruzi is on the top ten list because it was recently discovered that humans can be infected by simply ingesting foods contaminated with bug feces — several outbreaks in recent years were caused by contaminated fruit and sugar cane juices — causing concern that it could become a global pathogen.

Helena receives funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for her research on immunity to intestinal nematode infections

The Conversation

This article originally published at The Conversation

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/07/17/10-most-harmful-parasites/

Startup Wants to Make a Better Artificial Brain


Your eyes work with your brain to teach you about the world. You learn to recognize objects, people, and places, and you learn to imagine new things. A startup called Vicarious thinks computers could learn to do likewise, and it’s building software that tries to process visual information the way the brain does.

Vicarious hopes to combine neuroscience and computer science to create a visual perception system inspired by the neocortex, the wrinkly outer portion of the brain that deals with speaking, hearing, seeing, moving and other functions.

The idea of a neural network—software that can mimic the way the brain works by building connections between artificial neurons—has been around for decades. But Vicarious says it has refined and improved upon previous techniques.

Cofounder Dileep George, who was formerly chief technology officer at an AI company called Numenta, says others have tended to base their neural-network software on the “neocognitron” model first proposed in 1980 (which itself is based on a visual-cortex model devised decades earlier). These systems are typically trained to recognize visual input using random, static images, he adds.

Vicarious, George says, is using a more sophisticated architecture and training its system with a video stream that varies over time. “We’re going back to the drawing board and asking, ‘What is wrong with that architecture people have been building?'” he says.

Vicarious hopes to have a vision system developed and possibly commercialized in the next several years. Cofounder D. Scott Phoenix believes it could have many applications: a computer could analyze diagnostic imagery to determine if a patient has cancer or glance at a dinner plate to let you know how many calories you’re about to consume. “Having a visual perception system that works well would be enormously transformative to anything a person wants to do,” he says.

Phoenix says that Vicarious’s software, like the human brain, essentially learns by seeing a series of images and forming connections in response. This means it’s smart enough to identify an object even if there’s missing information—it will, for example, still recognize an arm even if it’s obscured by paint or a wristwatch.

Vicarious has not published details of its technology. But the company, which was created in 2010, has piqued the interest of some investors. Last month, it raised a $15 million series A round of venture funding from a group of investors that includes Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz.

Andrew Ng, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and an associate professor at Stanford University, says that harnessing enough computing power to build accurate simulations of neural processes can be big challenge to efforts like Vicarious’s. Ng was involved in a recent project at Google in which software watched images randomly chosen from YouTube videos. After a week, the software learned to detect cats, even though it hadn’t been told what a cat is. But 16,000 computer processors were involved in the massive neural network.

Alan Peters, an associate professor of electrical engineering at Vanderbilt University and chief technology officer of Universal Robotics, another company that makes AI software for image classification, is skeptical that the human visual cortex can be mimicked without building a whole system incorporating a body that can move around in its environment. But he still thinks the company’s work could be useful. “Trying to solve these problems in different ways is usually a good thing to do,” he says.

While Ng doesn’t think the technology to build an artificial visual cortex is quite there yet, he notes that he has seen rapid advances in the last few years. “Obviously, if it succeeds, there could be huge economic value,” he says.

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/25/vicarious-artificial-brain/

Mashable Weekend Recap: 61 Stories You Might Have Missed


The Mars Curiosity rover landing kept everyone riveted this past weekend. It even reminded some space enthusiasts of the monumental moon landing of 1969.

While the social web was abuzz with stories about the Mars landing, your Mashable team here on Earth dug up other headlines in social media, tech and, of course, the Olympics, which dominated weekend news.

Don’t worry if you missed a few stories while you were off from work — we’ve taken the time to compile all those stories in one simple digest for your reading pleasure. Take a look at the links below for our Weekend Recap, where you can get up to speed on the latest happenings.

Editor’s Picks

3D Printer Creates ‘Magic Arms’ For Two-Year-Old Girl

Will Facebook Ever Let You Edit Posts? Here’s Why it Should

Ice Cream Shop Releases Pair of Creepy Ads You Must See

Lady Gaga Announces New Album Title Via Twitter

Homemade Shock Collar Peripheral Adds a New Dimension to Gaming

What Do Social Media Users Know About the Olympics? [INFOGRAPHIC]

15 Travel Twitter Accounts to Follow

Headphones for Cats? They cost $1,000

How the Social Web is Talking About the Summer Olympics

Statue of Liberty ‘Melts’ in NYC Heatwave [VIDEO]

Mars Curiosity Rover

Mars Rover Set for Nerve-Wracking Landing on Red Planet Today

Super-Realistic Simulator Lands NASA’s Curiosity Rover on Mars [VIDEO]

4 Ways to Watch the Mars Rover Landing

Watch the Mars Curiosity Landing Live

Landing Might Be Just One of Mars Rover Curiosity’s Hurdles [COMIC]

News & Opinion

RIM Considered Making Android Handsets

Samsung Aug. 15 Event Promises ‘New Way’

Male Advertising Stereotypes are Backfiring

Court Rules Embedding Video Is Not Copyright Infringement

Video Says iPhone5 Will be Larger and Thinner Than iPhone 4S

How Does Your Internet Service Stack up to Google Fiber?

Is This App the Next Siri – or the New Big Brother?

Olympics and Social Media: The View From London

Why This Haptic Steering Wheel Could Save Your Life

eBay Testing Same-Day Delivery Service in San Francisco

Gunman Opens Fire at Sikh Temple in Wisconsin

Judge Questions $10 Million Facebook Sponsored Stories Settlement

Personal Genetics Company Seeks Regulatory Approval

AT&T Will Shut Down 2G Wireless Network in Five Years

Somali Olympic Team Gains the World’s Support on Facebook

Purported iPad Mini Shots Show no Shooter

Smooth-Talking Hacker Remote-Wipes Reporter’s iPad, MacBook

Weekend Leisure

Don’t Let Your Password Fall Into the Wrong Hands [COMIC]

Martha Stewart Tells Us: All Those Tweets Are Mine [VIDEO]

Bon Iver Wants You to Remix His Songs for Spotify Album

Ubuntu for Android Looks Awesome [VIDEO]

Stompy is a Giant, 6-Legged Robot You Can Ride

Top 10 GIFs of the Week

Top 10 Tech This Week [PICS]

The 57 Belly-Busting Foods on a Stick at the Iowa State Fair

YouTube Live Streams Lollapalooza Music Fest [VIDEO]

‘Simon’s Cat’ Partakes in the Animal Olympics [VIDEO]

Martha Stewart’s Top 10 Pins on Pinterest

Top 6 Olympic Events for Geeks Only [SUNDAY COMICS]

Viral Video Recap: Funniest Memes of the Week

Website of the Day: Lost Photos

11 Inspiring Works of Olympic Fan Art

Two Cats, Mice and an iPad Result in Digital Magic [VIDEO]

Synchronized Swimmers in Unlikely Waters

Helpful Resources

9 Apps You Don’t Want to Miss

5 Low-Cost Social Media Marketing Strategies for Authors

How to Reach Out to Potential Employers on Social Media

45 Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed

Here’s the Only App You’ll Need for the Great American Road Trip

11 Deep Student Discounts on Back-to-School Tech

Small Business Owners: Here’s How to Manage Your Time [INFOGRAPHIC]

New Tool Eliminates Ugly Craigslist Ads

5 Things Your Digital Agency Isn’t Telling You

With Circl.es, Meet the One Your Friends Forgot to Introduce to You

Salesforce’s Do.com Helps You Get Things Done

National Zoo Live Streams Cute Critters to Your Phone

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/06/weekend-recap-65/

Cellphone Data Could Slow the Spread of Malaria


Researchers have mapped precisely how human travel affects the spread of malaria in Kenya by using cellphone location data. The effort is the largest-ever to use cellphone data as an epidemiological tool.

The study captured the anonymized travel habits of nearly 15 million Kenyans between June 2008 and June 2009. Their movements were gleaned from 11,920 cell towers. The data was then mapped against the incidence of malaria as recorded by health officials.

The results made clear that malaria outbreaks during that period began in Kenya’s Lake Victoria region and spread east toward the capital of Nairobi. This suggests that health officials could avert transmissions by focusing their efforts in the lake region, says Caroline Buckee, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health and one of authors of the study, which is being published today in the journal Science.

“If you are going to try and eliminate malaria, you’ve really got to target interventions where most infections originate,” she says. “Otherwise, you are mopping up problems in areas where the infections didn’t originate.”

Mosquitoes spread the malaria parasite. But infected people — particularly those who are immune and likely to travel without feeling symptoms — can spread the disease widely if they’re later bitten by mosquitoes that go on to bite other people. Malaria kills about a million people each year, most of them children under age five in sub-Saharan Africa.

Researchers at several participating institutions — including Carnegie Mellon University and the Kenya Medical Research Institute — built maps of parasite movements between sources of infections and areas where people got sick. They could infer the probability that residents in particular communities would become infected, and the daily probability that visitors to malarial-prone areas would become infected.

The study provides a new angle on how to use cellphones to improve public health in Kenya. Startups and NGOs are also building a variety of apps and services to provide medical information and reminders through cellphones.

Buckee says the researchers are still working with Kenya’s Health Ministry to devise action plans, but several general strategies are possible. As well as using the data to decide where to focus malaria control programs, the research could result in programs to send warnings via text message to people traveling to high-risk areas.

While cellphones are understood to have power to map human movements and also to glean whether people are sick, the Science study was the largest ever attempted to use cellphones as an epidemiological tool. “To my knowledge, this is the first time that this resolution of data, and this amount of data, has even been used with infectious disease prevalence to map out these mobility and risk factors,” Buckee says.

Justin Cohen, senior technical advisor for malaria to the Clinton Health Access Initiative, a foundation started by former President Bill Clinton, says human travel is a key factor in the spread of malaria, but travel patterns are not well understood in many parts of the world. “Describing the actual movement patterns is thus an important step,” he says.

When the island of Zanzibar has reduced malaria over recent decades, for example, a big surprise was that Oman also saw a big drop in cases. It turned out that the widely separated regions had strong migration networks, Cohen says. Similarly, while it’s long been known that Lake Victoria is a very malarial part of Kenya, “the idea that it’s a source of malaria for other regions is not self-evident. People are quite poor there, and ethnic divisions in Kenya mean that it’s not clear how often people would travel to visit other parts of the country.”

Nathan Eagle, a coauthor of the study who is adjunct assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health (and Buckee’s spouse), says the project is an example of what can be done with cellphone “big data” in the developing world.

Eagle is working on a project to develop a credit history using a person’s record of purchases, including of airtime, on mobile phones — activity that implies they have income at regular intervals. “There are lots of things that can be done — anything from figuring out where to invest infrastructure in slums, to bootstrapping a credit history when there is no other record about someone’s behavior than movements and transactions they have made on phones,” he says. “My research agenda is about trying to repurpose all this data being generated in the wake of human behavior in a way that improves the lives of people who are generating that data.”

Image courtesy of Alex Kamweru

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/12/cellphone-data-malaria/

This Tech Will Help You Grow Old Gracefully


Elderly Couple

By the year 2020, 70% of the population will find themselves on the other side of 50. And despite the fact that many optimists call 70 “the new 40,” researchers agree that once you hit 40 — “new” or “old” — it’s a downhill slope.

Instead of throwing up our flabby arms and surrendering, we’re seeing a generation facing the slow decline of the senses with clever tech ideas to make aging more manageable and less humiliating. Whether it’s vision, hearing, memory or just driving skills that are beginning to dim — and, trust me, they will dim — technology is coming to the rescue.

Can’t See

A personal fave is LED reading glasses. Donning a pair might stop you from ordering a regrettable dish in a darkened restaurant. Or, you can just blast the table with your smartphone light by downloading one of dozens of free flashlight apps. I like the one that turns on my camera flash.

Can’t Hear

What’s that you said? Thirty six million Americans face age-related hearing loss, often as a result of their wayward high-decibel pasts. Companies like SoundFest are banking on the fact that baby boomers are going to be yelling “What’d he say?” in theaters and on cellphones everywhere. The company’s app offers hearing assistance through your cellphone.

Can’t Recall

For graying matter, there’s software like Nintendo’s Brain Age that’s filled with puzzles that keep speed and thinking skills polished. You’ll feel like Charlie Gordon in Flowers for Algernon as you sort shapes and subtract numbers, but brain researchers swear by this. You can also boost your brain fitness with a virtual BrainCoach using Marbles MindSpring software. The crème de la crème of aging brains, Dakim’s BrainFitness software, has been clinically tested (although it costs $249).

Can’t Drive

Perhaps the scariest aging person of all is the one behind the wheel. Again, technology is stepping up to keep us driving better, longer. Ford kicked off the assistive race with its self-parking car. GM’s new Cadillac seems like it has more sensors and GPS systems on it than NASA –- giving it nearly 360 degree camera systems. Volvo and Mercedes drivers can order driver alert and detection systems to warn them when a pedestrian makes a “b line” off the sidewalk or when you’re low on caffeine. Your car can actually help you keep your blood glucose levels up through unusual alliances like this one by Ford, Microsoft, Healthrageous and BlueMetal Architects.

Ultimately we’re looking at a future where cars drive themselves. LIDAR, Google’s self-driving vehicle project, uses a spinning array of laser receivers and emitters to create a 360 degree map of the road. Most components of driver-less cars: cameras, GPS, accelerometers, radar and ultrasound already exist. Car manufacturers are experimenting on how to package them together.

Can’t Deny it

Of course, there’s a flip side to all of this. Maybe getting older — not seeing or hearing so well — is a gift. What if aging is just nature’s way of telling you to slow down and stop fretting over the little things –- like the newly sprouted chin hair you can’t see in the mirror. Diminishing senses may be our evolutionary protection, a protection that, thanks to technology, we might never get the chance to appreciate.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Marcel Oosterwijk

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/13/tech-to-help-with-aging/