I write a 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, 21 June 2010
- MORE LIGHT THAN HEAT: The average solar cell loses most of its electrons as heat, so it’s only around 30% efficient. Adding in tiny crystals of lead and selenium could keep light in line and boost efficiency to 66%. It may not be a win, but it could be a draw.
- MOOD-ALTERING CLOTHES: Sensors in your clothing can assess your mood then send you messages, music or video to perk you up or calm you down. That’s fine till the clothes start telling you their mood: “I’m feeling a bit worn today.”
- PILLS ON WHEELS: The new Forth Valley Royal Hospital will have a fleet of robots delivering pills, taking away dirty laundry and other tasks. Rosie Jetson’s here, but still no flying cars.
- DARK LASERS: Lasers come in red, green, and blue. Now there are dark lasers too. Pulses of dark should improve the transmission of light through fiber optic cables. Let there be dark!
- DON’T EAT YOUR VEG: The latest in green power sources is cooked vegetables. Energy from treated boiled potatoes is up to 50 times cheaper than from ordinary batteries. Who ate the batteries out of the remote?
Tech universe: Tuesday, 22 June 2010
- VORTEX HUFF: Want to knock down a house of bricks? Try a vortex cannon. Take acetylene and air then blow the mix out like smoke rings. The shockwave will tumble that Little Pig’s house. Mmmm, bacon!
- PURPLE FLASH: Cheap digital cameras using red and green dyes and a purple LED flash can take photos to read oxygen levels. Psychedelic.
- TWICE AS TOUCHING: The Toshiba Libretto handheld computer is tiny. Use it sideways as a laptop or turn it round to be a bookreader. Unlike other computers though it has two multi-touch screens. One for each hand?
- UNUSUAL MOVES: Smart cameras in East Orange, USA watch citizens for unusual activity. They detect probable crimes so street patrols can be on the scene right away.
What you thinkin about, punk?
- SMOOTH MOVES: Hitachi’s EMIEW2 humanoid service robot is a real cutie. Less than a metre tall, it skates on 2 legs, finding its own way around obstacles. It talks and listens, bows and waves too. Replace the citizens of East Orange with these robots and there’d be no crime at all! Watch the movie.
Tech universe: Wednesday, 23 June 2010
- BULKY FIBRE: Last-century’s copper cables are on their way out in Australia. They’re installing a national fibre network for Internet. So where the bloody hell are you, Kiwis?
- SUCKY FIBRE: Fibertect cotton has an activated carbon core. The fabric both blots up crude oil and captures its nasty vapours.
How much for 24,000 square kilometres of material, please?
- ROLL UP LCDs: It’s tough to make graphene — a sheet of carbon that’s only 1 atom thick. They’ve cracked it now though and can create flexible touchscreens for phones and flat-panel displays. Unrolling new technology takes on a whole new meaning.
- FAR-SIGHTED FLIERS: The US Army has commissioned 3 huge blimps, or in army-speak, Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicles. The airships will fly 3-week missions at 6,000 metres above Afghanistan, sending data back to soldiers on the ground. Peekaboo! We see you!
- NEAR-SIGHTED SWITCH: Toss out your bifocals and progressive lenses. PixelOptics emPower specs use motion sensors to change their focus when you move your head. Now you won’t need a boat to feel seasick!
Tech universe: Thursday, 24 June 2010
- TV SOAPS: The polyvinyl-alcohol from old LCD screens can be used as pills, dressings or cleaning products to fight E.coli infections. TV keeps it clean.
- NANO BATTERIES: Sick of charging up your phone every night? A carbon nanotube battery carries 10 times the power of lithium-ion batteries. Carbon makes us green.
- WIFI CAMERAS: Toshiba’s wireless SDHC card uses Wi-Fi to beam photos to another user’s camera or to a server. Photos use the beam.
- HEART WAVE: Japan’s National Maritime Research Institute created a device that shapes water in a pool into hearts, stars, musical notes and a big ‘splash’. Patterns in the stream.
- ROBOT MOVES: 20 humanoid robots from Aldebaran Robotics danced in sync at the Shanghai World Expo. This week they play at Robocup, an annual robot soccer match. Robots in a team.
Tech universe: Friday, 25 June 2010
- EYE-MOMETER: A cellphone, custom software and a special plastic eyepiece may be all you need for an instant eye test. The PerfectSight user gets a prescription by pressing arrow keys to make parallel lines on screen overlap. Seeing double?
- 3D FOR YOU AND ME: Hammacher Schlemmer offer a consumer camcorder that shoots video in 3D. Twin lenses record slightly differing images, interlaced to create a video anaglyph-a 3D video. Double vision.
- BOOK FLIP: Scanning too slow and tedious for you? A prototype scanner at the University of Tokyo captures a 200 page book in 1 minute while you flip the pages. Speed reading.
- HOT AND DARK: Smart RavenWindows darken on hot days, letting less sun in and reducing air conditioning costs. Thermo-reflective filters in the windows use nanotech for their magic. More heat, less light.
- AIR BIKE: Scientists in India designed a motorcycle engine that runs on compressed air. One small problem: it needs recharging every 40 minutes. You think this thing runs on air? Oh, wait.