Tech Universe: Monday 06 August 2012
- CURIOUS LANDING: The Olympics aren’t the only game on at the moment. Watch live this afternoon as the 900 Kg Mars Curiosity Rover arrives at 21,000 Kph at the top of the atmosphere and just 7 minutes later lands on the surface. This Mars Rover won’t just bounce onto the surface though, but arrives by parachute, thrusters and crane for a soft landing in the right place. Or at least, that’s what the engineers are hoping for. The nail biting commences just after 5 pm NZ time. NASA.
- A BIT OF A PILL: An ingestible sensor from Proteus Digital Health allows caregivers and health workers to easily monitor patients. The sensor is integrated into an inert pill that the patient swallows. It’s powered by contact with stomach fluid and sends signals about ingestion through the user’s body tissue to a patch worn on the skin and from there to a mobile phone. The skin patch also collects data on heart rate, body position and activity. Carers can then monitor all the data on the phone. Do the sewage systems have the capability to handle the electronic waste though? Proteus Digital Health. Video:
- BLUE IN THE MORNING: Astronauts on the International Space Station have to work some pretty gruelling schedules. They often miss out on some or all of their allotted sleep time, and are dealing with a 90 minute long day as well, as the ISS orbits the Earth. One neuroscientist from Thomas Jefferson University has research that suggests careful colour toning of the new LED lights to be installed soon could help astronauts sleep and wake better. Accurate colour perception is important aboard the ISS as astronauts may need to repair electrical systems where colour is significant, so the lights have to be very carefully calibrated. All will be white, but the wake-up lights will be brighter with cool blue tones and the going to sleep lights will be warmer with heavier red tones. Don’t cut the red wire. Wired.
- JUST LIKE THE REAL THING: You can’t make use of it at home yet, but the 2012 Olympics are being recorded in super hi vision, with pictures 16 times as sharp as HDTV and multi-channel surround-sound. Special showings at a handful of locations have used a special 7.62 metre cinema-size screen. Viewers claim claim it is a truly immersive experience that feels just like being at the real event. Now imagine ads recorded with super hi vision. Scary. BBC.
- KEEP THEM GUESSING: Nike’s SPARQ Sensory Performance system evaluates 10 sport-relevant visual and sensory performance skills for athletes. That gives a picture of strengths, weaknesses and abilities. The SPARQ Vapor Strobe Eyewear is a special pair of glasses to help athletes train by blocking the wearer’s vision for short periods of time. The idea is to improve an athlete’s reaction time, visual acuity and sense of timing because the glasses strengthen the ability to anticipate what’s coming. One study found the glasses improved visual short-term memory retention. It’s not just athletes who could find that useful. Mashable.
Tech Universe: Tuesday 07 August 2012
- MOON ROVING: The Chinese space agency plans to launch its third spacecraft to land on the moon next year. The Chang’e-3 includes both a lander and a rover. After a soft landing it will explore the lunar surface. It’s great to see more exploration being planned. Xinhua.
- MARS PROBING: India plans to launch an orbital probe to Mars in 2013 to study its climate and geology. An Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket will launch the probe from Andhra Pradesh. The Indian Chandrayaan-1 satellite discovered water on the moon in 2009. Let’s hope India can find water on Mars too. AFP.
- COOL RUNNING: The Omni-Freeze ZERO T-shirt from Columbia Sportswear is embedded with thousands of 3.8 mm hydrophilic polymer rings that soak up sweat. Then the rings expand and absorb body heat which cools the wearer. Tests showed the shirts cool wearers by several degrees. Save this one for summer. Popular Science.
- FAST RUNNING: The C evolution is an electric scooter from BMW. It runs on 11 kW of continuous output, and 35 kW at peak output. Top speed is around 120 Kph. The lithium-ion batteries are air cooled and give the scooter a range of around 100 Km, though regenerative coasting and braking could add a little. The scooter takes 3 hours to recharge from a household supply. This is another one where if you go full tilt the charge runs out in less than an hour. Wired.
- LONG WINDED: The new B75 rotor blade for wind turbines produced by Siemens is huge — 75 metres long. The tips of the blades move at up to 290 kilometers per hour. The entire blade is poured as a single piece made of glass fibre reinforced epoxy resin and balsa wood, so it has no seams or joints. The blades are also specially shaped to deliver maximum rotor performance at a range of different wind speeds. The blades will be used in a prototype 6 megawatt offshore wind power system in Denmark. They must also be challenging to transport and install, especially out at sea. PhysOrg.
Tech Universe: Wednesday 08 August 2012
- THE RIGHT TAIL: Animals that have tails use them for balance. Now the 8.1 Kg X-RHex Lite robot has a tail all of its own. The tail gives XRL the ability to right itself in midair after being dropped or if running off a horizontal surface. The robot has 6 springy legs so it can easily be up and running after landing. Also like an animal. IEEE Spectrum.
- CHEAP SHOT: Lenses for infrared cameras are usually made out of expensive crystalline materials like germanium, zinc selenide or zinc sulfide that then have to be ground or polished to the correct shape. Scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany can now make the lenses from amorphous chalcogenide glass. It can be pressed into shape at low temperatures and low cost. That could make infrared cameras much more accessible for monitoring production processes, checking for heat loss in buildings or perhaps keeping an eye on people vulnerable to falls. Or maybe a silent burglar alarm. Fraunhofer Institute.
- SHIELDS UP: If you need to block X-rays and gamma rays you might want to see if a new tungsten-based paper from Japan can do the job. The tungsten-based, lead-free paper is easy to manufacture and can be cut, folded, or even affixed to other materials such as films. The paper could be used in radiology rooms and radiation therapy rooms, or in regions affected by nuclear disaster. Or maybe in hats. Japan Technology Information.
- DIVE FREE: The British Autosub6000 is a free diving Autonomous Underwater Vehicle that’s pressure-rated to 6000 metres. That means it could explore 90% of the word’s oceans. Without needing to be tethered to a mothership, it can travel for 60 hours or 350 Km on a programmed path, thanks to 12 rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery packs. The sub’s instruments include GPS, collision avoidance sonar, an Inertial Navigation System, and an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler that allows it to maintain a constant distance from the sea floor. 60 hours travel on battery is pretty spectacular. Gizmodo.
- CHIRPY CHIRPY COUGH COUGH: Researchers from the University of Rochester in New York studied 4.4 million tweets from people in New York for a month in 2010. Then they analysed the tweets for mentions of physical illness. The researchers were able to predict with about 90% accuracy when healthy people were about to fall ill. That’s surprisingly accurate. New Scientist.
Tech Universe: Thursday 09 August 2012
- TEXT WOLF: Wolves are back in Switzerland after a 100 year absence and now Swiss sheep are vulnerable to wolf attack, so how best can a shepherd protect them? The answer may lie in a text messaging system. Tests with muzzled dogs threatening sheep wearing heart monitors showed that the flock’s heart rate rose significantly when they were under attack. The developers plan to test a prototype collar that can send the shepherd an SMS when the flock’s heartrate shows alarm. Don’t let that phone battery go flat. The Himalayan Times.
- PRINT NEGATIVES: Researchers from Zhejiang University in China have a new way to get fingerprints at a crime scene, using electrochemiluminescence. A fingerprint is transferred to a glass plate coated with indium tin oxide then reactants are added to produce light. The fingerprint produces a negative as it stops light from being emitted. An image of the fingerprint then reveals it with clear detail. So they still have to actually acquire the fingerprint somehow first. PhysOrg.
- SPINNER WINNER: Washing clothes takes a lot of water, time and effort if you’re doing it by hand, or it takes an expensive machine that needs plumbing and electricity. In many countries the poorest people spend hours a day washing clothes. The GiraDora is a person-powered washer and spinner that can handle a load of clothes with little water and no electricity. The built-in seat on the top lets the user sit while they push a foot pedal to agitate the clothes. The machine saves back, hand and wrist strain and reduces the amount of time clothes must dry. That reduces mould, which reduces respiratory problems. It looks great, but perhaps a two-pedal option would make it easier and more comfortable to work with. Dell Social Innovation Challenge.
- DYE DYE DYE: Dyeing clothes takes lots of water, lots of chemicals and lots of energy. The DryDye process from Adidas uses no water and cuts energy and chemical use in half. The process involves sealing fabrics and chemical dyes in a chamber. Then CO2 is pumped in and pressurised. The chamber’s heated and the dyes permeate the fabrics. That good old standby: heat and pressure. Gizmodo.
- DRIVE AND FLY: The PD2 roadable aircraft from PlaneDriven lets the pilot fold the wings and drive the craft on the road. The vehicle has a drive unit and wheel at the rear and steerable main wheels. It can climb hills and drive at up to around 117 Kph. Stow the drive unit in the rear of the craft and you can fly away. I bet it’s not as easy as it sounds to ‘stow the drive unit’. Flying Magazine.
Tech Universe: Friday 10 August 2012
- GOOD BOOKS: Been enjoying any good ebooks lately? According to Amazon UK, they now sell more ebooks than hardbacks and paperbacks combined. The trend is clear. BBC.
- PRINTING FUTURE: Two year old Emma has a medical condition that means she can’t lift her own arms, but she’s also too small for a metal exoskeleton. Hooray for plastic and 3D printing! Now she wears a lightweight plastic exoskeleton and new parts can be easily produced as she grows or replaced if they break. There’s a really good use for 3D printing with plastic! Digital Trends.
- PRINTING PACK: Students at MIT thought 3D printers should be more portable, so they built the the PopFab to fit inside a small suitcase. With small changes the machine could also be used for milling, vinyl cutting and drawing. After opening the briefcase, attach the printing head, feed in some printing material, and connect a power cord and computer to send a design. The students tested the device by travelling with it as a carry-on suitcase. So very like and yet so very different from an old-fashioned fold-out sewing machine. Gizmag. Video:
- POINTED ADDRESS: A power point that runs IPv6? The smart socket developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute is a wireless power outlet that supports the IPv6 Internet protocol. That means you could control household appliances with your smartphone. Add in the HexaBus USB stick that plugs into any compatible router and the appliance can report back on its power use. The idea is that each power outlet has its own IP address and encrypted wireless signals give the householder control over their devices from a web browser or smartphone app. You need never be free from household chores. Fraunhofer Institute.
- THINK SMALL: The electric car, van and truck from EcoCentre in California are promoted as neighborhood electric vehicles because of their short range and low speeds. They also have a low price though, and are eligible in the US for all kinds of tax credits. EcoCentre also plan to establish as a network of franchises throughout the US. Being able to get around town quickly and easily and at low cost will be a big incentive. Inhabitat.
Notes: 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. Above are the links from last week as supplied. The items that were published in The Herald may differ slightly.
While I find all the items interesting, some are just cooler than others. I’ve marked out those items.