Kevin Lepton

I am the writer, editor and publisher behind this future technology blog and I predict you will keep reading to see what is coming right around that metaphorical corner.

Oct 172014

Heroin addiction is a problem that affects many people around the world. Turning a person addicted to heroin away from that condition is very difficult due to the combination of physical and mental effects that are present.

However, researchers at the University of Houston are turning towards a method that is only now possible thanks to advancing technology, virtual reality. This form of technology has been around for over a decade, but only in a relatively primitive form. Today, virtual reality has progressed considerably and is now being used to create realistic worlds for the addicts to help them fight their addiction.

How Virtual Reality Works

Basically, the patient puts on the virtual reality headset which presents them with strong images of a world that is familiar to them. There is even the right odors added to the experience to make it as realistic as possible. The idea is to actually trigger the cravings that they are feeling when in this virtual world so that they can be properly measured and handled.

Many of the familiar settings not only work for heroin addicts, but those addicted to marijuana and alcohol as well. The headset presents images of partying and other settings that are designed to set off the cravings.

Once in that situation, the patient learns to recognize what it is and how it triggers the cravings. Therefore, the result is that patients can understand how to remove themselves from that setting. The key is the combination of visuals and smells that garner the response. However, the setting itself is an artificial one that allows a person to react and remove themselves from it. Such training is geared to allow addicts to do the same when facing a similar real-life situation.

Does it Work?

The program itself is quite realistic and based on the experiences of actual heroin users down to the mimicking of injecting the needle into their vein. What helps make this virtual reality really seem real is the scents that are placed such as the smell of marijuana for example. However, there are different scents for different virtual rooms to help make the experience even more real.

Overall, the effect has been noticeable although not all encompassing. With addicts, the ability to recognize situations of temptation in the virtual reality world has helped them to overcome real life situations. However, flaws in the program such as not having the right scent or image means that the addict will not be able to effectively role play the situation.

The early studies have not been completed, so there is no hard data yet to see if this program really works. However, a previous study with those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in 2012 showed that 15 out of 20 patients no longer met the criteria for suffering from PTSD and managed to maintain that status a full three months later which is quite remarkable.

Whether those who are addicted to heroin, marijuana or alcohol will enjoy a 75% recovery rate remains to be seen. However, given the promise of the previous study there is room to hope.


Sep 292014

The latest trend in technology features a wearable device that wirelessly connects to your mobile device to utilize features like incoming calls, texts, social media updates and more. The best part about it? It also tells the time. The smart watch is the newest gadget for tech-connected consumers on the go.

There are a variety of companies offering smart watches, and as the technology advances, developers are creating new apps that make the device even more functional. In addition to connecting to your mobile phone, smart watches can run health and fitness apps, music or camera functions, and navigational apps.

With startup companies like Pebble and MegaWatch making headway in the smart watch market, the big companies have decided to jump on board as well. Samsung, LG, Qualcomm and Sony all manufacture smartwatches. Apple has been the most recent company to announce plans for the development of a smart watch, which will become available in early 2015.

Consumer Reports ranked the Samsung Gear 2 as one of the most versatile smart watches on the market. With a price tag of around $300, this watch is compatible with most Samsung devices that operate on Android 4.3 or higher. Despite being compatible with these devices, all of Samsung’s line of smart watches run Tizen OS, not Android.

The Gear 2 has a bright color touch screen, and a built in microphone and speaker, perfect for making phone calls, James Bond style. The watch even has a 2 megapixel camera, which unlike other watches is built into the face of the watch as opposed to the band. This watch can control a TV, play music, or keep track of your heart rate. If the price is a bit hefty, Samsung offers two other second generation smart watches: The Gear 2 Neo, a scaled down version of the Gear 2, and the Gear Fit, which focuses on activity tracking.

If you’re more of a traditionalist, the Martian Passport smart watch incorporates the look of an analog watch with the functionality of a smart watch. The Passport is available for around $300 and boasts a battery life of one week on standby (2 hours of talk time). With three different styles to choose from, you can find the watch that fits your fashion choices. While the passport is versatile in working with both Android and Apple devices, the analog display is not touch screen, requiring buttons for navigation. However, because of the analog display, you can see the time whether you are indoors or out, or in bright sunlight.

The Pebble Watch has been on the market for a little while, and the company has recently updated the style with the new Pebble Steel. This watch is comprised of stainless steel and features a steel or black finish on a leather or metal band. While the device is a very basic smart watch, with a monochrome display that using button navigation, Consumer Reports found the display to be the most readable in bright sunlight.

The future of smartwatches? This is only the beginning folks, so as a “Smart Watchdog” group will be brining you more info for years to come.


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Aug 252014

For many years, mental health care has been secondary to other forms of medical care in terms of focus and spending. In fact, many mental health institutions and research facilities have undergone cuts in recent years as resources have become more limited due to a number of factors. This means for those who suffer from mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have fewer options for treatment today than they did a few years ago.

While mental health treatment appears to be on the stagnating in developed countries like the USA and Great Britain, it’s even worse in poorer countries where the emphasis is almost always on those with physical conditions. And those with mental issues have almost nowhere to turn. In some countries, as few as one in ten who suffer from mental illness gets any form of treatment.

However, it is true that mental health awareness has actually been on the rise thanks to the World Health Organization and other programs designed to build awareness and removing the stigma of mental issues, encouraging more money and research be devoted to this problem. Because of a number of outside factors, the focus on mental health may start paying dividends if the money devoted can match the renewed attention that it is currently receiving.

The Advancement of Technology

If there is a bright spot for those suffering from mental health issues, it is the advancement of technology which helps to bolster lower cost and more focused solutions, especially in countries that do not have the resources to use more traditional methods.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then we could be seeing technology-based solutions to assisting those with mental health problems by the use of mobile devices, especially smartphones.

Research at Oxford University for example has shown that voice-calls and SMS messaging services can be used to help assess the mental health status of a patient, to help deliver therapy and to make appropriate changes to their behavior as well. One such system is “Mobilyze!” from Chicago that uses 38 values in smartphone sensors along with other inputs to make predictions about the psychological status of a patient and to deliver customized therapy for those suffering from uni-polar depression.

The use of these mobile devices has helped revolutionize the manner in which such illnesses are evaluated, monitored and treated. This has been especially helpful in poorer countries that have no such facilities for traditional treatment programs.

The Future of Technology in Mental Health

In the near future, smartphones may be able to detect changes in the emotional state of a person based on their tone of voice and how they interact with others which will help determine the right amount of treatment that is needed. These types of advancements are not far away and it may be possible to assess the health of a person through a number of different states thanks to improved technology to monitor and report the changing conditions of the patient.

What is starting off as a small-scale effort could change the way we view how to treat mental illness with advancing technology that monitors a person’s behavior and transmitting that information to trained medical personnel who can then make the right diagnosis and treatment options.


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