Penny For Your Thoughts

minimum wage machine

Minimum wage in the United States is recognized as a sign of financial instability, but it is rarely understood exactly how incredibly draining minimum wage labor actually is.

Blake Fall-Conroy, an artist who strives to create “socially-conscious” pieces, has conceptualized an ingenious way to demonstrate the frustrating, monotonous, and often demeaning plight of minimum-wage worker.

Fall-Conroy invented the “minimum wage machine,” a device with a hand-crank that the user turns continuously, and dispenses a penny every 4.5 seconds. An hour will earn you $8 in pennies, which until eight months ago was the minimum wage in the state of New York.

The artist hopes that the machine will help people understand the amount of work that goes into making just $8/hour, and perhaps inspire sympathy for those who work minimum-wage jobs or provoke change in legislation that will raise the minimum wage (the minimum wage in New York is now $8.75).

What Sparks Our Fire: Art that serves a purpose and sparks social awareness.

One Step At A Time


Sometimes the best inventions are those that don’t actually invent anything new, but instead improve upon existing problems. A wheelchair may not be as sexy or portable as a smartphone, but its reinvention could have a major impact for people with disabilities that find normal wheelchairs cumbersome or inhibiting.

Meet Scalevo, the wheelchair designed by a team of nine university students at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology that can walk up and down stairs. The electric wheelchair operates normally when navigating flat ground with “Segway-like” technology, balancing on two wheels. However, with the push of a button, the chair will align itself with a set of stairs and use two rubber tracks on the bottom to propel itself, while adjusting the angle of the chair in order to stay balanced.

The fully-working prototype was developed over the course of a year, with plans to make a commercial version available. The team also states on its website that its design will compete in the Cybathlon Championship, a racing competition for individuals with disabilities, assisted by robotic technologies.

Watch the video demonstrating its amazing capabilities here.

What Sparks Our Fire: Students solving old problems using cutting-edge technology and brilliant design

Smart Luggage For A Smart Travel Experience


Recent products incorporating smart technology (including bluetooth controlled light bulbs and Amazon direct-order push buttons) have inched us closer to living in “smart houses” and truly embracing the Internet of Things. These products have revolutionized how we interact with the things we use every day in our homes. And now, Bluesmart is set to create the same revolution in the travel space.

Bluesmart is the “world’s first smart, connected carry-on,” and even though the product won’t be shipped until October, it is already changing the travel luggage landscape. The luggage itself includes features like GPS location tracking, bluetooth-enabled locking, USB charging for devices, and even a built-in scale. Bluesmart’s Indiegogo page raised over $2 million in pre-sales in just 2 months. With write-ups in the New York Times, CNET, and TechCrunch, Bluesmart’s carry-on is poised to change and improve the travel experience.

Learn more about Bluesmart’s carry-on here.

What Sparks Our Fire: Innovative design that brings smart technology to the products we interact with every day

How Smart Are Your Headphones?

The dash2Like the majority of our fellow New Yorkers, we’re constantly on-the-go, multi-tasking, and always on our devices. In our constant quest to find technologies and hacks that can help us streamline our lives we’ve found The Dash, the world’s first completely in-ear wireless smartphone.

The Dash is this year’s winner of the CES 2015 Innovation Award, and for good reason! The bluetooth component eliminates the need to carry your phone with you. The microphone picks up mechanical vibration generated by your voice from the ear bone. 

Did we mention these earbuds also serve as activity trackers? It tracks pace, steps, heart rate, oxygen saturation, energy spent, etc. all the while real time acoustic feedback is provided.  On the train, in your car, at the gym or running to your next meeting, these wireless buds keep  you tangle-free, connected and on target to meet your fitness goals.

What Sparks our Fire: a device that synchs music, phone calls, and fitness tracking… wirelessly.

Would you use these earbuds?


Turn Your Bed Into A Smart Bed


We spend around one-third of our life sleeping. Sleep plays a crucial role in good health and well-being. Getting enough quality sleep helps protect our mental health, physical health, and quality of life. The damage from sleep deficiency can harm you over time. For example, ongoing bad sleep can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, learn, and get along with others.  But, as our lives become faster and our stress levels increase, it is becoming increasingly difficult to sleep peacefully at night. There’s a new product which could change all that. It’s called the Beddit, and you sleep on it.

Beddit is an innovative ultra-thin film sensor that measures how you sleep. The device uses ‘ballistocardiography’, with a sensor that is sensitive enough to measure the mechanical forces that come from your heart beat, your pattern of breathing, and the way you move in bed. Simply place Beddit  under the sheet and it will connect wirelessly to your smartphone. In the morning, the accompanying app will draw a full report on your personal sleep habits and will and suggest how to improve the quality of your sleep.

Learn more about Beddit here.

What Sparks Our Fire: An innovative monitor that can help us reach good health and general well-being.

Would you try Beddit?