This week on WDD's Hotspot:

  • Swedish design company, Kosta Boda, recently held an art auction where participants didn’t use money to bid on the art, but used their emotions. Participants were shown three objects that were held secret until the day of the auction. They were equipped with GSR-sensors and heart rate monitors that measured their emotional responses to what they saw. The three people who felt the strongest won one unique piece of art glass each.
  • British Airways has conducted a high-tech sleep experiment with a new blanket that changes color using brainwaves, to ensure it offers customers the best flight’s sleep in the sky. The happiness blanket is woven with fiber optics and uses neuro-sensors to measure a person’s brainwaves. It changes color, from red to blue, to show when they’re at their most relaxed and meditative. The airline hopes monitoring a person’s sleep and relaxation patterns during a flight will inform decisions made to improve aspects of the in-flight service; from changing the timing of meals, what food is served and even the types of films shown – to make flying and sleeping on British Airways flights even more relaxing.
  • Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of Eastern Finland have developed new “sensing skin” technology designed to serve as an early warning system for concrete structures, allowing authorities to respond quickly to damage in everything from nuclear facilities to bridges. According to the university, the skin is an electrically conductive coat of paint that can be applied to new or existing structures. Electrodes are applied around the perimeter of a structure. The sensing skin is then painted onto the structure, over the electrodes. A computer program runs a small current between two of the electrodes at a time, cycling through a number of possible electrode combinations. Every time the current runs between two electrodes, a computer monitors and records the electrical potential at all of the electrodes on the structure. This data is then used to calculate the sensing skin’s spatially distributed electrical conductivity. If the skin’s conductivity decreases, that means the structure has cracked or been otherwise damaged.
  • How old do you think the sun is, or any star in the universe for that matter? Determining the age of stars has long been a challenge for astronomers, and researchers at KU Leuven's Institute for Astronomy show that 'baby' stars can be distinguished from 'adolescent' stars by measuring the acoustic waves they emit. Determining the age of a young star is far from simple, and knowing which molecular cloud a star comes from gives only a vague idea of its age. But researchers have come up with a way to determine the age of stars by measuring their acoustic vibrations using ultrasound technology similar to that used in the field of medicine.

Do you have story ideas? Comment below or email we'll cover them in an upcoming episode.