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Tech + Life

Get your vocabulary in shape

A handy guide to the new terms and technologies you'll find reading the Experience Body Issue.

Technological innovation is happening all around us, but it’s also happening in us, and to our physical selves — from mind-controlled bionic limbs to new forms of exercise and cosmetics; even changing philosophies for looking at and thinking about our bodies. And we need new language to describe all of those breakthroughs. Read on for terms and technologies you’ll find in this month’s stories.

Accelerometer
A device that measures speed — including the speed of a brush running through your hair.

Athleisure
Clothing — including yoga pants, athletic shoes, and leggings— intended for physical activity but also worn as everyday casual wear.

Augmented reality
An innovation that superimposes a computer-generated image onto a real-world video, photo, or reflection. In the beauty sphere, mirrors outfitted with augmented reality capabilities are becoming a common way for customers to try out makeup, hairstyles, and more.

Bioartificial
A word used to describe devices that support the function of internal organs, like the liver and heart. Bioartificial devices, like the “ghost heart” in development at the Texas Heart Institute, are made of both natural and synthetic components.

Body positivity
A social movement rooted in the belief that all body types are beautiful; a backlash against traditional beauty standards celebrating thinness and youth.

“Cancel culture”
A slang term used to describe the phenomenon of people being driven out of online social circles for perceived offenses (real or otherwise). It can include online harassment, doxxing, or being denied social and professional opportunities.

Consumer Electronics Show (CES)
A major trade show for new consumer tech, held annually in Las Vegas.

Exoskeleton
An outer skeletal layer that provides structural support — a key feature of insects and crustaceans. Humans can be outfitted with mechanical exoskeletons that enhance or aid performance, like robotic arms.

Extracellular matrix (ECM)
A scaffolding made up of tissue, such as collagen, that provides support for surrounding cells — in everything from plants to human organs. In bioartificial organs, it’s the structure that is left after an organ, previously functioning in a human or animal, is washed clean of its cells.

“Ghost heart”
An innovative artificial heart in development, in which the ECM from a human or animal is injected with stem cells.

Gyroscope
A circular device that uses the earth’s gravity to measure force; in “smart hairbrushes,” they are used to measure how forcefully you are brushing your hair. 

Hydrogel
A collection of polymers that hold water. They’re found in a wide range of consumer products, including the absorbent part of disposable diapers; gel bandages; breast implants; and glue.

InstaScent Technology
A dry-air delivery system for fragrances, so customers can smell perfumes and colognes without actually spraying them on.

Lithograph
A print made using a process involving a stone or metal mold, oil, and water.

Multi-electrode array
A small device that looks like a computer chip and can be implanted on the surface of the human brain. Multi-electrode arrays are a key part of an experimental procedure that enables amputees to control prosthetic limbs with their brains.

Neural
Involving a nerve or the nervous system.

Peloton
An interactive exercise equipment company, whose main product is a stationary bike. Since its launch in 2012, Peloton has sold nearly half a million bikes and become a fraught cultural flashpoint.

pH level
A measure of how acidic or basic something is, measured on a scale of 1 (most acidic) to 14 (least acidic). A normal skin pH level is slightly acidic, at about 5.5.

Trolls
Internet users who harass others and cause general chaos online.

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Tech + Life

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