I write a Tech Universe column for the NZ Herald. This is a fun assignment: Tech Universe brings 5 headlines each day about what’s up in the world of technology. Here are the links from last week.
Tech universe: Monday 30 August 2010
- WINDOWBOT: Stanford University’s new robot climbs smooth walls. Like geckos, it uses directional dry adhesion to interact with individual molecules of the climbing surface. Stickybot climbs wood paneling, painted metal and glass. Let’s combine that with window cleaning abilities.
- NANOPIXELS: While image capture leaps to hundreds of megapixels, high res image display is heading into nano territory. University of Michigan cut nano-sized slits in metal to separate white light into red, green and blue. New screens could cram in 10 pixels for every one on a current LCD. Now who’s going to read the 8 pixel size fine print?
- BAD USB: In 2008 the US military suffered its biggest data breach ever. A spy introduced malware from a thumb drive into a military laptop. The US military now bans thumb drives. Spies take note: no USB drives allowed!
- STREET VIEW: Backscatter scanners send out a narrow stream of x-rays. The pattern of what bounces back distinguishes dense material from less dense objects such as explosives or human bodies. In the US law enforcement agencies have these scanners in vans on the streets to detect vehicle-based bombs. Pedestrians: wear your lead vests today.
- BONE SCAN: Each of us has a unique skeletal structure. The Wright State Research Institute is working on a skeletal scanner, linked to a database, to identify terrorists and sex offenders. The scanners will use X-rays or gamma rays. Now what do you think of the roving vans?
Tech universe: Tuesday 31 August 2010
- PEEK A BOO: Some California preschoolers are being dressed in special jerseys to track their movements. The jerseys contain RFID tags so staff can remotely monitor location and attendance. I really doubt any kids will take the jerseys off.
- BRIGHT EYES: The cornea is clear tissue over our eyes. If it’s damaged we may go blind, and donated corneas are hard to come by. Scientists used artificial corneas made from synthetic collagen in 10 patients. Six of them could see well again after 2 years. Grow your own cornea today.
- IS THAT YOU?: Facial recognition is fine, until your face changes, perhaps with age or weight gain. NEC’s recognition system focuses mainly on eyes, nose and mouth, and shows up to 95% accuracy. It took less than half a second to recognise one face from more than 1.6 million. Hah. On CSI it takes minutes not seconds.
- POWDERED WATER: If you encase droplets of water in silicon nanoparticles the water cannot form a liquid. Dry Water acts like a sponge for carbon dioxide and other gases making them safer and easier to store and transport. So I guess those are solid gases. Video:
- HOLOTOUCH: Japan’s Shinoda lab Airborne Ultrasound Tactile Display uses ultrasound to create tactile sensations. Users viewing their interactive 3D display actually feel objects on their hand while looking at holographic images. Game play moves up a level.
Tech universe: Wednesday 01 September 2010
- EMBRACE A BABY: In many parts of the world low birth weight babies face hypothermia and incubators are not available. The Embrace Infant Warmer is a kind of high-tech sleeping bag whose sealed wax pouch is heated with hot water. The Embrace is inexpensive and easy to use. Rock a bye baby, in the heat pouch.
- NUT PHONE: NEC’s new bioplastic made from cashew nut shells and other non-edible plant materials bonds cellulose with cardanol. The plastic is strong, heat resistant and water resistant. That means it’s great for electronics. I hope it doesn’t trigger any allergies.
- HOMEGROWN CAR: The Canadians are developing an electric car, the Kestrel. Not much new there, except the body will be made from an impact-resistant composite material produced from hemp. Hemp grows well in Canada, with a high yield per hectare. That’s a nice agribusiness.
- DUAL MODEM: Telstra Australia’s Ultimate HSPA+ USB modem uses dual-carrier technology. Customers can send and receive wireless data using two channels simultaneously, at up to 42Mbit/s. Actual speeds are more likely 10 to 20 Mbps. Two way sending bodes well for VOIP calls.
- SCANNED 101: Northern Arizona University want to boost attendance rates for first-year students, in hopes that more will eventually graduate. That’s why they’re installing attendance scanners outside 20 large lecture halls to keep a tally via student ID cards. You can lead students to lectures, but can you make them learn?
Tech universe: Thursday 02 September 2010
- I HEART MY PHONE: The iStethoscope application uses a smartphone pressed against bare skin to record and analyse your heartbeat. Sound patterns can be emailed to and assessed by professionals. If the phone’s been in a pocket, at least it should be warm.
- BIG PHONE: ViewSonic’s ViewPad 7 is both a phone and a 17 cm Android tablet. It includes twin cameras, Bluetooth, VOIP, and GPS. Now hold that to your ear.
- BIG EYE: Canon’s latest CMOS camera sensor is 20 centimetres square and extremely sensitive to light. Shoot video at 60 frames per second with only 0.3 lux of illumination. The latest spy gadget of choice.
- GRAPHENE ONIONS: And to power the monster camera, perhaps a little onion juice. A new super capacitor uses nanodiamonds between ‘onion’ layers of graphene. An organic electrolyte makes them discharge up to 200 volts every second. The energy could charge a cellphone and be stored in a battery.
- SWIM BUDDY: The Finis Swimsense is a swimming computer. Wear it on your wrist where it captures stroke type and count, laps, calories burned and distance. Upload data after a swim via USB. And remember: don’t be looking at your wrist, just keep swimming.
Tech universe: Friday 03 September 2010
- SOCIAL NOVELS: The PULP platform for creating digital novels provides text, but authors can add other media such as audio or movies, or work as a team. Readers can create profiles, earn badges and connect with other readers. Like.
- CHEAP CHIPS: Rice University’s new computer memory chip uses exclusively silicon. It can be packed much more densely than flash memory and uses hardly any power. The chips are simple to make, scalable and cheap. Supersize it?
- FOLD-UP CAR: Nagoya Institute of Technology prototyped a unique fold-up electric car. The X-Frame changes shape according to the number of passengers and the terrain, then folds up for storage. Short wide parking slots?
- BIOSENSE BABIES: Exmobaby pyjamas monitor baby’s heart rate, emotional state and behaviour and wirelessly transmit data to a nearby computer or cellphone. The software learns and improves over time, in the way voice recognition software does. If you have twins don’t mix up the pyjamas.
- RGB MARS: Google Mars brings us detailed scientific maps of Mars in Visible and Infrared light and by elevation. Locate spacecraft and features such as dunes or canyons. Red, green and blue — they’re all there.