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.
While I find all the items interesting, some are just cooler than others. I’ve marked out those items.
Tech universe: Monday 18 October 2010
- EYES ON THE ROAD: The Eyetracker can be installed in any car. Two tiny cameras mounted on the dashboard track a driver’s eye movements. They evaluate up to 200 images per second and sound an alarm if a driver seems drowsy. The system includes its own hardware and software, so no separate computer is required. Smile, you’re on camera.
- IPAD A CAB: The experimental driverless MadeInGermany cab can be called up by phone or iPad. GPS tells the Volkswagen Passat where you are. It works out the best route to reach you then finds its own way there. It uses LIDAR, RADAR, cameras, GPS and a computer in the boot. At last a cab whose driver doesn’t chat constantly.
- MAGIC FIT: At Macy’s Herald Square store in New York customers can try on garments without changing their clothes. A 1.8 metre multi-touch mirror interacts with a multi-touch tablet to superimpose clothes on the customer’s reflection. The images can be sent to Facebook too for Likes. Social clothes shopping.
- DIMINISHED REALITY: Oh, no! Your video accidentally included that annoying object on the table; you’ll have to re-shoot. Or not, if you use the Diminished Reality software to remove unsightly objects from movies. German software reduces the resolution of the unwanted object, removes it, then builds up the image again in each frame. Results are available in real time. Do we still trust documentaries?
- SCREEN PULL: TeslaTouch screens use electrical impulses to simulate friction and texture. 2 layers of glass, electrode and insulator respond to small electrical fields. When a user touches the glass they sense a pull towards the screen interpreted as friction. Dragging an icon may give the file apparent ‘weight’. That was a really heavy movie, man. Video:
Tech universe: Tuesday 19 October 2010
- LIVE IN YOUR BATHROOM: The Cybertecture mirror connects to the Internet via WiFi, includes speakers and sundry applications. You can look at yourself, or watch TV, check the weather, or see a report on your weight, and keep up with your social network. It even has a remote. An Internet-connected mirror in my bathroom? No thanks.
- ROBOPOP: The HRP-4C is a pop singing female humanoid robot. Software synthesises a singing voice, including realistic breathing sounds, and provides facial expressions. Oh, so singing pop robots are new? Previous model
- ONE UP: What has one wheel, travels at 16Kph and doesn’t fall over? The 13Kg LiFePO4 battery powered Self Balancing Unicycle. It has a wheel, a seat and footpegs. It’s stabilised with a gyro to control forward and backward balance, and a 1000 Watt BLDC hub motor is built into the wheel. Regenerative braking recovers and stores energy usually lost in slowing down or going down hill. That’ll get people looking.
- UNDER THE MOUNTAIN: Switzerland’s Gotthard tunnel through the Swiss Alps is 57 Km long and 2 Km deep. Drilling connected the 2 ends of the tunnel a couple of days ago. Trains will travel through the tunnel at up to 250 Kph. High-speed trains are very trendy these days.
- FAMILY CONFERENCE: The Cisco Umi adds videoconferencing to an HD TV. Intended for families it gives users a Hi-Def camera and microphone, a set-top box, and a remote. Upload videos to Facebook or YouTube, or send them by email. Or chat with others who have the same setup. Or just use Skype.
Tech universe: Wednesday, 20 October 2010
- WIND STALKERS: The Windstalk wind farm concept doesn’t use conventional turbines. Instead 55 metre high ‘stalks’ sway in the wind, producing energy from alternating layers of electrodes and ceramic discs made from piezoelectric material. The wind compresses the discs and generates power. I’d have a windstalk in my back yard.
- TOUCHING DISPLAY: Displax Overlay Multitouch is a transparent polymer film that adds interactive features to any screen. Made from flexible and transparent electronics polymer it detects the touch of a finger. My Little Touchscreen.
- LIGHT UP YOUR LIFE: US materials scientists created networks of LEDs only 2.5 microns thick. The arrays can be stretched and twisted, are flexible and soft. Such arrays of light sensors and LEDs could be used for targeted drug delivery and other health care applications. And interesting body art.
- FLY BY WIRE: Gondolas are a handy way to travel up mountains. The world’s longest gondola line has just opened in Armenia, where the 5.6 Km trip to an ancient monastery takes 11 minutes each way at 37 Kph. Each cabin can carry up to 25 passengers. A fun way to see the country.
- DRUG ROBOTS: The Forth Valley Royal Hospital is using robots to stack and dispense drugs. The new system is more accurate and cheaper. Prescriptions are written on tablet computers and sent straight to the pharmacy where a robot fills and dispenses what’s needed. Nurses can check what’s happening from ward computers. Tablet computers is right.
Tech universe: Thursday 21 October 2010
- HYDROGEN POWER: The Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Converter has no moving parts and produces no waste while it converts up to 60% of sunlight into electricity. Heat from sunlight expands hydrogen atoms in a sealed chamber, freeing electrons that charge a battery. Freed protons pass through a membrane to re-combine with the electrons, creating hydrogen that’s used to continue the process. Sounds just like Parliament really.
- CARBON ZERO CONFERENCES: Convention Centre Dublin claims to be a carbon neutral conference centre. It’s constructed from low-carbon concrete, and uses an automated system to minimise energy consumption. One system reclaims energy from outgoing air and water vapour, while off-peak energy creates ice for cooling. There’s plenty of hot air at most conferences.
- DONT SHARE PHONES: A recent study found that cellphones are great for spreading germs and viruses such as the flu. Researchers found a high risk of spreading pathogens via the glass surfaces on modern phones and tablets. Wash your hands and clean your phone too.
- INDIAN IRON: India is to build a neutrino observatory 1,000 metres below Bodi West Hills reserved forest. The observatory will house the world’s most massive magnet in a 51 kiloton detector made of iron and should be complete by 2015. That’s a lot of iron. (Beware the multiple pop-ups.)
- PURPLE WIND: The trouble with wind turbines, if you’re a bird, is that they’re white. White and grey colours attract insects, and that attracts birds and bats. Then the blades may become instruments of death. Research suggests that purple is the least attractive paint colour. Well, yes, I think we’d all agree on that.
Tech universe: Friday 22 October 2010
- BANG GO THE DOTS: A new handheld scanner can detect the explosives used in shoe bombs. A small digital camera records the pattern from 16 dots of pigment on an inert plastic film. Each pigment changes colour in response to the explosive Triacetone triperoxide. Won’t those false positives be fun!
- SCROLL UP: The Israeli Antiquities Authority and Google are scanning the Dead Sea Scrolls using multi-spectral imaging and putting the scans online in a searchable database complemented by translation and other scholarly tools. This will allow anyone to view the texts without exposing the scrolls to further degradation. Well, at least there shouldn’t be any copyright problems.
- TWEETIE CAR: Safety in cars is so last-year. Now it’s all about connecting: to wireless, to the phone network, to iPods. Car manufacturers are including touchscreens and connections right in the dashboard. Call up a Google Map or send an SMS or tweet to your buddies all while you keep your hands on the wheel. So who needs to pay attention while driving anyway?
- PHONES: 9; INTERNET: 3: A UN report says 33% of the world’s population will be online by the end of 2010, while more than 90% of the world’s population already has access to a mobile phone network. Little things make huge changes possible.
- HEAT AND LIGHT: A new technique allows microscale electronic devices to harvest their own wasted energy. One side of a piezoelectric cantilever is coated with a carbon nanotube film that absorbs light or heat. Absorption bends the cantilever which then generates power. This power could drive low-power units, since they could absorb the heat they produce as they operate. That’s almost scarily efficient.