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 19 July 2010
- PACK OF CARS: Hate driving round and round in parking buildings? In Budapest the Woehr Parksafe car parking system uses software controlling automated lifts and slides to pack 200 cars into a tiny space only 12 by 25 metres. 3D parking.
- ONWARD AND UPWARD: Computer chips are flat so there’s only so much you can fit on them. A new method of ‘growing’ wires to extend above the surface offers scope for a 3D chip with more power. 3D with everything.
- HONEY I’M HOME: The new Allure Mobile energy-saver thermostat tracks your iPhone When it detects you’re on your way home it adjusts the temperature to your favourite setting. Can it get the dinner on too?
- UNTRAINED PILOT: Spotter planes for Search and Rescue could use specialised algorithms, rather than a crew, to direct their search. An operator on the ground, who doesn’t even need to know how to fly, controls the plane and can analyse photos to find missing people. Why do they need full-size planes?
- BREATHE EASY: Mechanical ventilators are usually huge and can cost $30,000. Students from MIT have devised a $100 mobile ventilator from readily available parts that could save lives in emergencies and poorer communities. A nice application of the 80-20 rule.
Tech universe: Tuesday 20 July 2010
- VIBRATION CHARGE: Brother’s vibration-powered generators can replace AA and AAA batteries in low power consumption devices such as remotes. Shake the remote to generate power. A new excuse for channel surfing: fitness.
- VISA KEYS: The European Visa CodeSure card includes a 12-button keypad and screen. To buy goods online type your PIN into the card so a unique passcode appears. Use that passcode to authorise the purchase. What we really need is fingerprint recognition.
- 100GB BLU-RAY: Sharp are producing the first 100GB triple-layer Blu-ray discs, using the BDXL format. Each disc could hold around 12 hours of of terrestrial digital TV broadcasts. It’s a long way from the 1.4Mb floppy.
- SPACE JUNK MAP: Worried that one of your satellites in space may collide with something? The Australians have an app for that. Electro Optic Systems laser technology, used at Mount Stromlo observatory, can track space junk and tell you where it all is. For a fee, of course.
- PEDAL MONSTER: The Hanebrink All-Terrain Electro Bike is a monster, with a 14-speed gearbox, 50cm x 20cm tubeless tires, 5 Lithium Ion batteries, and pedals. It could carry up to 135Kg of cargo up steep terrain or deep into inaccessible areas. Zero-carbon emissions, but what about the sweat?
Tech universe: Thursday 22 July 2010
- NEXUS GONE: Google’s Nexus One smartphone has reached the end of a very short life. Few units were sold. After only 6 months, and in spite of good reviews, it is no longer available. Next.
- E-MOTION: As we move around our bodies could generate enough power to operate our various gadgets and devices. DARPA’s Energy Starved Electronics program is figuring out how to make it work. Are you a high-energy person?
- ROBOCHOP: It’s not uncommon to see helicopters around cities, but we expect a human to be at the controls. A recent full-size helicopter flight left decisions up to the machine. Scanning LIDAR fed information to a computer that chose flight paths and landing areas, avoiding obstacles too. A blue screen of death could be all too literal.
- ALUMINIUM CURTAIN: Imagine 250,000 aluminium panels hanging as a curtain. You’ll be able to see it soon: this kinetic art project will ripple in the wind, providing ventilation and shade to a Brisbane airport carpark. It’s strangely hypnotic.
- ALGAE-FUEL: Take a whole lot of algae, ferment it the right way and you too could be selling jet fuel to the US Airforce, just like Solazyme. Their algae-based jet fuel is clean and renewable. Clean and very green.
Tech universe: Friday 23 July 2010
- HARD EBOOKS: The next hardback you cuddle up with may be a Kindle. For the first time recently Amazon sold more Kindle ebooks than hardbacks, and the trend is accelerating. Who actually buys hardbacks anyway? When will ebooks replace paperbacks?
- TEAM TALK: In a disaster cell phone towers may be out of action — just when you need them most. Australian researchers have a system to let nearby cellphones form a temporary peer-to-peer network, without needing a tower. Better hope it’s not hilly though.
- NO QUEUE CARD: A smart proximity chip in the new Qantas Frequent Flyer Q Card identifies passengers and their flight bookings. RFID Q Bag Tags also replace printed luggage tags, making it easy to drop off and track bags. No queues with a Q card.
- 4D MINI-MOVIES: Atoms move a million billion times per second — impossible to see. Or they were, until the California Institute of Technology figured out how to take and build thousands of individual images into frames of a movie. They call the technique 4-D electron microscopy. Seen any good atoms lately?
- FASTER WEATHER: NIWA’s new $12.7 million supercomputer, called FitzRoy, has 100 times more power than their current computer and performs 34 trillion calculations a second. The new computer will help NIWA forecast the impacts of severe weather events and may even help to model the human body. There’s rain coming, I can feel it in my bones.
Tech universe: Wednesday 28 July 2010
- DIY SPACE: Fancy adding your own satellite to the gazillions of pieces of space junk orbiting the Earth? An $11,000 DIY personal satellite kit from Interorbital Systems includes batteries, antenna, solar panels and a microcomputer, and the company will launch it into space for you on its own rocket. Ready, set, go.
- HIGH ON GRASS: British Airways aims to turn potato peel and lawn clippings into jet kerosene. A new processing plant will take 500,000 tonnes of domestic and other waste each year and convert it into jet fuel. Every little bit helps.
- SMART AND COOL: University of Maryland’s new energy-efficient metal alloy absorbs or creates heat. Current refrigeration fluids contribute to global warming, but this “thermally elastic” solid coolant is almost twice as efficient. That means a lot of power savings and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Be interesting to see how else it could be used: chilly bin, anyone?
- CLEAN PAPER: Graphene oxide paper could be used for anti-bacterial bandages, food packaging that keeps food fresher for longer or even shoes that ward off foot odour. Researchers found that E. coli bacteria could not grow on the low-cost paper. Does this mean we’ll use less plastic? I’m all for it.
- NOTHING TO SNIFF AT: A $300 Israeli “sniff” device can be used to drive a wheelchair: two breaths in move you forward; two breaths out, move you backward. A small tube in the nose is connected to a computer that detects changes in air pressure, how long a sniff lasts, and how strong it is. Don’t sneeze, whatever you do!