TWIT July 22It is hard to believe that we’re almost halfway through the summer here in the United States and that’s probably good news for the tech world as a whole. Recent headlines have been dominated with underperforming stock evaluations and sagging profit margins from giants like Google, Nokia, Microsoft and Dell, so we figured that we’d shake up our report this week by focusing solely on new and exciting tech. So sit back in your seats boys and girls – be sure to strap yourselves in nice and tight – because this Week in Technology for July 22nd, 2013 is officially under way.

Robotics Empowers our Crops

robotics cropsOur first news story of the day may come as to a surprise to our loyal readers because it deals with a topic that’s about as low-tech as you can get; agriculture and farming. While almost every industry around the world has embraced technology in every facet of daily life, farming is virtually the same today as it was fifty or even one hundred years ago. That’s what a Mountain View, CA startup named Blue River Technology hopes to change with numerous robotic inventions that could eventually replace field hands completely.

Take their lettuce bot (pictured above), for example; it can more efficiently plant and tend to a full crop of lettuce than two dozen workers. While that may not sound like a major innovation, US crop growers would strongly disagree since there are never enough willing hands when it comes to tending fields. This and other innovations will change the way Americans look at farming, and a head of lettuce, forever.

Is that a VIP in the Crowd?

vip facial recognitionOur next tech story of the day takes us from rural farmland and into major metropolitan cities around the world with a new innovation that’s designed to pick celebrities out of a crowd. According toCNET, these facial-recognition devices are being produced by tech giant NEC as we speak and their goal in this endeavor is to allow businesses to quickly identify important clientele for faster, more personalized service.

“Being able to identify VIP guests immediately could enable the front desk staff to have room information pulled up before the guest steps up to the registration desk and be able to greet the guest by name,” said Raffie Beroukhim, vice president of biometrics solutions for NEC Corporation of America. “Overall, this capability helps enhance a VIP guest’s experience through personalization of services and increases customer satisfaction with the property.”

This technology is being built on NEC’s NeoFace Watch and it will be unveiled in dozens of upscale resorts and exclusive shopping destinations in the near future. Those with privacy concerns will also be glad to know that while this software can identify celebrities even in the best of disguises, it is configured to only recognize people who wish to be identified and have opted in.

Surgical iKnife Detects Cancer

iknife detects cancerOur final technology tidbit of the day could easily end up being hailed as the invention of the year once it’s released to market in the United States. Meet the iKnife, an advanced cancer detection tool that surgeons can use to determine if skin cells are malignant or benign in as little as three seconds. While this innovative device is still in testing phases, the initial results have been overwhelmingly positive with the iKnife correctly identifying nearly 400 tissue samples from brains, livers, lungs and more.

“In cancer surgery, you want to take out as little healthy tissue as possible, but you have to ensure that you remove all of the cancer,” added professor Ara Darzi in a recent interview. “There is a real need for technology that can help the surgeon determine which tissue to cut out and which to leave in. This study shows that the iKnife has the potential to do this, and the impact on cancer surgery could be enormous.”

Up until now, doctors have been forced to send tissue samples off to a laboratory for thirty minutes (or more) testing; all the while their patient awaited on the operating table in the middle of a surgery. This new technology will eventually give surgeons real-time feedback and researchers are hopeful that it can be calibrated to detect other types of bacteria as well.

Well, that’s all we have for you in this edition of This Week in Technology. Be sure to check back with us in the coming days for the web’s top breaking tech stories.