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 12 July 2010
- BULLET-PROOF LIQUID: Kevlar alone slows bullets, but add a special liquid and bullets don’t have a chance. The molecules in the liquid ‘custard’ lock together to stop the bullet when it strikes. Movie soundtracks may need to add a new ‘splash’ sound effect.
- SEAWATER AIRCON: The Bora Bora Intercontinental draws up cold seawater from a pipe that goes 1Km deep. It then uses the cold to power its air conditioning systems, saving around 90% of its energy costs. Simple, and very cool.
- BENDY BIKE: A British inventor has designed a bendable bike. Ride it as usual, then wrap it around a lamp post and lock it to itself. The bendable part is made of a series of glass-filled nylon sections. Clearly the product of a warped sense of humour.
- SPECCY 2 EYES: The Loreo Stereo Lens-in-a-cap attaches to a regular DSLR camera. It creates one photo with 2 side by side images for your 3D viewing pleasure. Special glasses not included.
- BROADBAND ON DEMAND: Villagers in rural Iwade in the UK wanted broadband, so they made it happen. They had potential suppliers tender and selected a suitable option. Now 40Mbit/s Internet is on its way. Where there’s a will there’s broadband.
Tech universe: Tuesday 13 July 2010
- MAGNETIC VISION: Wish you could see magnetic fields? Say Hello to the humble Robin. Cryptochrome molecules in the bird’s retina make magnetic fields visible as light and shade. A handy skill for a crimefighter’s resume.
- ZERO GRAV RADIATION SUIT: For some operations doctors must wear tiring and heavy lead aprons. The Zero Gravity Suit hangs from the ceiling of an operating theatre, and the doctor steps inside when it’s needed. No more heavy lifting required. Surgeons in spaaace.
- THAT FRESH CONCRETE SMELL: No need to worry about car exhaust fumes. Make roads from air-purifying concrete and they’ll suck up dangerous nitrogen oxides, releasing nitrates instead. The concrete includes titanium dioxide, and is self-cleaning too. Now, about the extra nitrates in the drains…
- REAL VIRTUAL CHESS: If you play chess on the Internet you’re stuck with a virtual chessboard. Unless you build an Internet-enabled chess board, that is. A webcam and projector let you move real pieces to play against an online opponent. Check.
- TECH TAP: Renshui’s Sunrise faucet has a built-in “smart chip” to control water flow and temperature, and a light to warn if the water’s too hot. Not yet Mensa-level smart, I think.
Tech universe: Wednesday 14 July 2010
- TRUSTING NEXI: Nexi the Robot just looks so, well, trustworthy. In conversation she uses gestures and nonverbal cues calculated to inspire trust. “Trust me, I’m a robot. I know what I’m doing!”
- T-RAY VISION: Laser beams and Terahertz (THz) waves combined “see through” clothing and packaging materials to identify hidden materials such as explosives and illegal drugs. T-Rays: the new X-Rays.
- EYE LIE DETECTOR: Pupils dilated? Taking slightly longer to read a text? These tiny indicators suggest you’re lying. A new eye tracking lie detector could catch you out. Watch out. Your next reading test may be looking for lies.
- FLYING TANK: Part helicopter, part tank, the 4-seater AVX Armed Aerial Scout concept takes off and lands vertically, cruises at 3,000 metres and reaches 130kph on the road. It travels 400Km on a tank of fuel. But will it actually fly?
- STRIKE TWO: Taranis, a long-range uncrewed strike plane begins flight trials soon. Computer programs allow Taranis to ‘make decisions’ and penetrate enemy territory stealthily. It’s behind you!
Tech universe: Thursday 15 July 2010
- RUNNING BIKE: Can’t decide whether to go for a run or a bike ride? You don’t need to choose. The ElliptiGO has 2 wheels, handlebars and huge pedals, but no seat. Ride it by ‘running’ on the pedals, to reach up to 40Kph. Weird, but in a cool and very clever way.
- SEE ME, HEAR ME: Or at least, my clothes. Massachusetts Institute of Technology add graphite electrodes to synthetic fabrics so they can detect light and sound, and can even talk. Your whole shirt could be a microphone or a speaker. “Is that your shirt talking?”
- SEE MY SKY: See Mars in 3D or the whole night sky in 2D. The Virtual WorldWide Telescope uses terabytes of real images from ground and space-based telescopes all over the world. Space is big: vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big.
- 3D HEADACHE: About 1 in 10 of us can’t see straight: we can’t correctly process separate images that come from our right and left eyes. This causes problems if we try to watch 3D movies. So if Avatar gave you a headache, it may have been your eyes, not the plot that was the problem. The British Eyecare Trust has the details.
- SQUEEZE BATTERY: A small box with Xenon difluoride under a million atmospheres of pressure stores more condensed energy than any other battery ever built. Wonder how it would go in my iPod?
Tech universe: Friday 16 July 2010
- HEAVY WALKER: Kiwi invention the Rex Bionics exoskeleton lets wheelchair users stand and walk, even up and down stairs. At 38Kg it adds a bit of weight, but what’s a few kilos to be able to walk? It’s one giant step.
- TINY CRAWLY: It’s strong but slow. A tiny robot centipede, with 512 legs carries 7 times its own weight, but takes an hour to move 1 metre. Being so tiny it fits through small gaps and could explore collapsed buildings. Or be used for surveillance, of course.
- HOT SHOTS: 5 micrometer infrared cameras detect body heat, so could be useful for firefighters or search and rescue. But they only work at a chilly -193 degrees C. Now German scientists can make them work at room temperature. They’re lighter, faster and easier on the batteries. Small enough to be carried by a robot centipede?
- WATERMARK KEY: Indian scientists have created a watermark that can prove a photo has not been altered, and then be removed. It calculates the parameters of every pixel in the image to create a key that can verify authenticity. Does it work for infrared images too?
- USB FOR YOU AND ME: Somehow a USB plug is always upside down when you try to insert it into your computer. The Flipper USB finally has a solution: it works either way up. Why did it take so long for someone to think of that?