Evolutionary Innovation: ideas, adaptions and applications that could change the world.

  Last updated June 18, 2018 at 10:29 am


Plucking a virtual apple from a tree, PhD student Tim Simon (supervised by Dr Ross Smith) simulates the haptic capabilities of their smart-wearable mitten in a virtual environment.

The continual discovery, adaptation and evolution of innovations enables industry and society to develop, grow and flourish. These four evolving innovations – new ideas, adaptations and applications developed by UniSA researchers – are set to change the way we approach a range of challenges in health, leisure, farming and business.


Using an emergent technology called layer jamming, researchers in UniSA’s Wearable Computer Laboratory are exploring computer-controlled wearable items that will exponentially change the way we consider and control movement in both real and virtual environments.

Smart wearables intend to vastly improve tactical experiences across multiple applications – from computer gaming to injury rehabilitation.

The current prototype is a wearable mitten, which generates real-time sense-of-touch (haptic) feedback—much like the vibration of a mobile phone notification—by enabling vacuumed bladders in layers of the mitten to create stiffness that restrict or enable movement.

The mitten delivers tactile feedback that lets users feel virtual objects. For example, a gamer popping the cork from a virtual champagne bottle will sense the grip, resistance and sudden release of the cork.

Smart wearables also provide significant benefits for health, including injury rehabilitation, and remote health monitoring. Limbs can be easily immobilised and rehabilitated, with medical staff being able to remotely and accurately adjust and monitor the exact degree of immobilisation as the injury heals.

For people who suffer from tremors, smart wearables can offer stiff exoskeleton support for limbs and joints to improve functionality of everyday activities such as brushing your teeth or holding cutlery. And unlike restrictive braces, the supports relax once the task is completed, giving the user flexibility.


Hold a coronary stent in the palm of your hand and you could easily mistake it for the spring from a retractable pen. The simplicity of its design belies the years of research that have gone into its development, making it the number one treatment for blocked blood vessels and heart disease. Yet despite more than 25,000 stents being surgically inserted into Australians each year, many patients require further intervention and medication to overcome the fact that metal stents are foreign objects in the body.

Vascular biologist Associate Professor Claudine Bonder, winner of a 2016 Winnovation Award, and one of a team of researchers working to improve the performance of implanted medical devices.

Enter the next generation of vascular stents. Developed by lead researchers Associate Professor Claudine Bonder and Dr Eli Moore at the Centre for Cancer Biology in conjunction with the Cell Therapy Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre, the innovation combines vascular biology and nanotechnology, to coat the stent with a patent pending surface, changing its chemistry so that the body does not recognise it as foreign.

Currently in the discovery phase, this innovative technology could completely redefine vascular stents, providing the rapid revascularisation of implanted devices long sought by surgeons to treat blocked arteries and veins with minimal intervention and medication.

Supported by a multinational company, this innovation aims to overcome current clinical hurdles to treat heart disease, lowering rejection responses, extending the lifespan and performance of implanted medical devices, and ultimately saving lives.


Every time we make choices, we’re using our eyes for visual input. We’re constantly scanning, comparing, reviewing and processing visual data, attempting to gain enough information for valid decision-making. And in the case of complex data such as financial reports or statistics, it’s not uncommon for readers to flit between figures, unsure where to focus.

Dr Reza Bradrania, leader of the eye tracking technology in the finance discipline, with UniSA’s School of Commerce.

Researchers with UniSA’s School of Commerce will be working to resolve how users of financial and economic data interpret and analyse data presented to them in reports. Using eye-tracking technology to measure eye movements, pupil dilation and point of gaze, the team is aiming to improve decision-making among analysts, investors, consumers and patients. Currently used in psychology, psycholinguistics, ecommerce and marketing, the application of this technology in behavioural finance, accounting and economics is relatively new.

Interest in eye-tracking technology is growing fast as the finance sector experiments with different formats and presentations of financial data to make them clearer and more accessible for users, and also because the technology is ever-improving.

For example, analysing people’s computational process in financial decision-making experiments will test the assumption that they

are well-informed and make decisions in a systematic way. Given the complexity of financial data, and the legal and reporting requirements for business, the research will provide much-needed insights into the type of information people consider, or even omit, before making a financial decision.


Handed down over generations, traditional farming techniques rely on the ability to read the seasons, weather and soil conditions. Knowing when to water, fertilise and harvest is essential. Any technology that can help is hugely valuable.

Associate Professor Drew Evans places one of the Sentek sensors at a Caurnamont potato field near Mannum.

Researchers from UniSA’s Future Industries Institute are transforming the farming sector through newly developed conductive polymer sensors, that when placed around the roots of plants, will measure nutrients in the soil and inform farmers in real time when their crops need feeding. The innovation will promote the efficient use of fertiliser, save farmers money, and reduce the impact of nutrient runoff in Australia’s waterways.

The idea is being brought to reality through a partnership with South Australian company Sentek Pty Ltd, which makes sensors for farming that monitor water, salt and temperature in the ground. Until now, these sensors have been unable to decipher which salts are in the ground. The next generation sensors will achieve just that.

The new application is a world first, extending the team’s current research into conductive polymers for colour-changing smart windows and camouflage tanks, flexible smart phones, and drug delivery through contact lenses.

This innovation is poised to become the next big thing for farming – saving farmers money, the environment from toxins, and supporting the growth of SMEs in South Australia.

About the Author

Annabel Mansfield

Published By

The University of South Australia is Australia’s University of Enterprise. Our culture of innovation is anchored around global and national links to academic, research and industry partners. Our graduates are the new urban professionals, global citizens at ease with the world and ready to create and respond to change. Our research is inventive and adventurous and we create new knowledge that is central to global economic and social prosperity.

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