Desperately Seeking Backers: 3 Unloved Future Tech Ideas

It’s astonishing to consider how long it can take for technology that already exists, and isn’t all that expensive to execute, to come to market. Case in point are the following three existing technologies, which range from virtually guaranteed life-savers to huge conveniences — where are the VCs and the go-to-market moves?

The Pocket Doctor. Great strides are being made when it comes to turning smartphones into devices that function as medical diagnostic and imaging tools. Because our phones are constantly with us, they could be used on a daily basis very easily to detect early-stage tumors and much more using diagnostic parts that in many cases cost less than $10 for manufacturers.

The impact on mortality and quality of life could be enormous, and open up an entirely new role for smartphones in parts of the world where people don’t have access to medical care. Researchers at UCLA and UC Berkeley already have the revolutionary technology needed, but where are the products and the venture capital to back them? You can learn more about UCLA’s research on medical diagnostics in cell phones in the video below.

How to Speak Every Language. The Phraselator, shown at left, has been widely used by soldiers in Iraq to do instant, on-the-fly translations of spoken words by soldiers. Voxtec makes the text-to-speech technology in the Phraselator, but the device costs thousands of dollars. Why don’t I have at least a reasonably advanced version of the same technology in my smartphone?

I’ll take an automated Google Translate version of things I say, and be willing to forgive a few mistakes, if they’re provided at no cost to me. All the necessary lookups can happen online, so there’s no need for lots of local storage. Why aren’t the Phraselator’s essential translation capabilities on every phone?

Around the Back. LucidTouch is an effort from Microsoft Research veteran Patrick Baudisch to solve the problem of limited screen real estate on portable electronic devices. With LucidTouch technology, a user can control applications on a device through gestures and a touch interface on the back of the device. In addition to making a UI far more flexible, this helps avoid occluding graphical elements with which a user is working, when they would be occluded on a standard touch screen.

Mitsubushi’s labs have taken an interest in LucidTouch, but the technology hasn’t spread out in the market. Why doesn’t, say, Mozilla hook up with a hardware maker and apply this next-generation method of input to its innovative Fennec mobile browser? That might give us a truly great, flexible mobile web experience. You can watch a video of LucidTouch in action below.

Pocket Doctor image courtesy of Professor Aydogan Ozcan, UCLA; Phraselator image courtesy of Voxtec and LucidTech image courtesy of Patrick Baudisch.

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