The future of health tech was on show at Dubai Design Week
The fifth edition of Dubai Design Week -- dubbed "the region's largest creative festival" - concluded on November 16 after a program that combined high culture with futuristic visions.
One of the major attractions each year is the Global Grad Show, a celebration of the combined ingenuity of students around the planet, which curator Eleanor Watson describes as "the world's leading exhibition of graduate design work."
This edition featured innovations from more than 100 universities representing dozens of countries spanning every continent, touching on areas such as climate change, architecture, and workplace efficiency.
But some of the most striking ideas were in the field of healthcare.
4D-printed bacteria-eating nanobots
Antibiotic-resistant infections could become one of the biggest global killers if new solutions are not found, with the potential to kill 10 million people a year according to one study commissioned by the UK government.
Students from Imperial College London presented a design concept for a novel remedy: implanting nano-scale robots thinner than a human hair into a patient's bloodstream to combat resistant bacteria. The "Ro-Biotics" would be 4D-printed, meaning that they transform over time (the fourth dimension) to take on the bugs.
The bot would "change its shape from an initial dormant position...and then in the presence of the bacteria close up around it and basically engulf it or pierce the cell wall," explains developer Tom Woodburn.
Smart hospital gown checks your vital signs
Mariam Ibrahim of the American University in Cairo became intimately familiar with hospital gowns when she was hospitalized with a brain haemorrhage that doctors did not expect her to recover from.
After recovering, Ibrahim designed bamboo-material gown "Hale" to be more comfortable, to better protect patients' modesty, and to provide regular check-ups all in one. The garment is fitted with sensors to monitor temperature, blood pressure, and oxygen, which can all be transmitted via smartphone app.
The readings "update onto an app every 10 seconds, giving a complete overview of the patient throughout the day," says Ibrahim. The next step is tests with patients in hospitals.
Mobile malaria detection
Masters students at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands studied a problem with how malaria is diagnosed. This is often done either through crude rapid diagnostic tests that provide limited information, or trained physicians in a reliable but time-consuming process.
Following three years of research, the team has developed a handheld device "Excelscope 2.0" capable of efficiently assessing blood samples. The device captures multiple images of the samples, and the images are filtered through algorithms to establish specific details of the malaria parasites, before being sent to a specialist for final diagnosis.
This "streamlines the diagnostic process (and) reduces the workload of health care professionals," according to designer Jan Sebastian van Ackeren. The device is intended for use in remote and rural areas, he says, and has a battery that can run continuously for three straight days.
Incubator for underweight babies
Higher rates of under-weight babies are born in the developing world, often due to mothers suffering from malnutrition.
Fergus Vaux of Nottingham Trent University, UK, produced an alternative to stationary, energy-intensive incubators - a papoose-style, portable carrier lined with reflective material that regulates temperature so the baby does not become too hot or cold without using an energy source.
"Insulata" is "the first product that can thermally regulate a baby with low birth weight without having to use power," says Vaux. The next stage is testing the design with a baby inside.
Visualizing air pollution
As one of the most polluted population centers in the world, Mexico City is an apt test bed for a new innovation that reveals danger in the air.
"Mexico Paralelo", from students at the Monterrey Institute of Technology uses data and algorithms to visualize the levels of Carbon Dioxide, traffic, and ambient temperature and tracks changes on a continuous basis.
"There is a relation between the three because if you have a lot of car parking (or) long traffic lines, you can get really high CO2,"says co-developer Victor Flores.