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 26 July 2010
- MINI MOUSE: The Swiftpoint Mouse is a Kiwi invention aimed at laptop users. The tiny wireless mouse charges from the USB port. Use it on a chair arm, table or even on the laptop palm rest or touchpad area. It’s so small it’s going to need a “Find me” beeper.
- WAVE COMPUTING: At Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology some users move their hands and fingers in the air to control a computer. They don’t need to wear special gloves or markers, and several people can work at once. The system uses a 3D camera to track and time pixel-sized movements, filtering out irrelevant data. Let your fingers do the talking.
- THOUGHT PLEASE: Australian company Emotiv have created a low cost headset that learns your thought patterns. Control software just by thinking about what you want to do: close curtains, turn on lighting, direct a wheelchair. What am I thinking now?
- SPEAK AFTER THE TONE: English speaking soldiers need to communicate with locals in Afghanistan. DARPA are testing portable devices where speech recognition software creates a text file and sends it to translation software. A text-to-speech feature reads the translation aloud in the local language. What could possibly go wrong?
- TOUCHABLE: India has come up with a $35 touch-screen tablet computer to let students and teachers browse the Internet, read PDFs, video conference, and do word processing and other tasks. It uses Linux, has no hard disk, and can run on solar power. You can’t beat the price.
Tech universe: Tuesday 27 July 2010
- FIRE BIKES: Not all fires need a big fire engine. Sometimes all it takes is one person and a tank of water. Liverpool now sports two $64,000 BMW Fire motorbikes, each equipped with pumps, 50 litres of water and chemical foam. The riders’ clothing is designed for both bike wear and fire fighting. Smart idea; traffic jams shouldn’t stop them either.
- SUN CARS: Trees do it, even weeds do it, so why can’t we do it? Turn sunlight into fuel, that is. The US Sunlight Energy Innovation Hub is looking for ways to convert solar energy into chemical fuels. They’ll use light absorbers, catalysts, molecular linkers and separation membranes to mimic photosynthesis and transform sunlight into a fuel that can directly power cars. Hold a sunbeam in your hand.
- READ MARS: 21,000 individual images from the Thermal Emission Imaging System have been smoothed, blended, fitted together, and cartographically controlled to make a giant mosaic of Mars. Images resolve to 100 metres. Start your bandwidth now. Maps:
- I WANT MY NET YOU SEE: Aussies love their broadband: 20% of them rank Internet access above eating, heating and TV. Broadband is becoming an essential element in Australian homes. Heating and TV I understand, but above eating too!
- FOILED: The SmartHat sucks electrical power out of ambient radio waves to power a microprocessor and beeper. The hat monitors the strength and direction of radio signals from nearby backhoes and bulldozers and sounds the beeper if they come too close. But how do you know if it stops working?
Tech universe: Thursday 29 July 2010
- FANTASTIC LIGHT: Photonics moves data using light, rather than copper wire. Intel has combined silicon chips and lasers to move data at 50 gigabits per second. Used inside a computer, silicon photonics could mean movie downloads that take literally a second. Broadband speeds willing, of course.
- 2.9 MEGABITS PER SECOND: Akamai’s latest report shows the average global speed of the Internet is 1.7Mbps, while in New Zealand it’s 2.9Mbps. South Korea’s average is 12 Mbps. Hurry up, that new cable! Read the report:
- 5.12 TERABITS PER SECOND: Faster broadband for New Zealand is a step closer, with Asia’s Pacnet joining the Pacific Fibre cable project. The new cable will carry up to 5.12 terabits per second. It has at least two fiber pairs, each with 64 wavelengths, and should be ready in 2013. Keep that cable rolling.
- 1 TERABYTE PER MINUTE: Can you sort 1 terabyte of information in 1 minute? That’s the 2010 world record held by the University of California, San Diego, using 52 computer nodes. Companies like Google and Amazon need to handle terabytes and petabytes of data all the time. Too much information!
- THE PARK IS RIGHT: Over the next couple of years in San Francisco the same parking space could cost a few cents or several dollars per hour. The city’s testing a Supply and Demand price system, using electronic sensors to measure real-time demand for parking spaces. That should open up a new market for sensor hacking.
- RIP IVY: Ivy Bean, aged 104, was famous as the world’s oldest Twitter user, and had 57,000 followers. She passed away yesterday. Farewell, Ivy.
Tech universe: Friday 30 July 2010
- IN THE PINK: If you don’t want your car to be stolen paint it pink, or yellow. A Dutch study shows thieves prefer black, blue or silver cars. On the other hand, car dealers say the resale value for pink cars is lower than for black. I’d go for blue, with insurance.
- MY DATA IS YOUR DATA: Organised crime was responsible for 85% of all stolen data last year, according to the 2010 Verizon Data Breach Investigations report. 38% of breaches used stolen logins. Mostly responsible were Eastern Europe, North America, and East Asia. Keep changing those passwords folks.
- SMS FOR YOUR LIFE: Volunteer health care workers in Rwandan villages are saving lives with their cellphones, in spite of long walks to charging stations. They report on the pregnant women in their care, then the health clinic sends text messages with advice. And to think I find it annoying when the charger’s in the next room.
- PRESS 1 FOR A RASH: It’s hard to stay healthy if you don’t read or write well or even speak the same language as your doctor. In Chicago talking touchscreens housed in computer kiosks at clinics and hospitals help patients answer health questions and learn about how to stay well. I hope they provide headphones.
- SHIELDS UP: A magnet the size of your thumb could be all we need to shield spaceships from radiation in solar wind. The magnet separates positive and negative charges in the solar wind, which in turn generates intense electric fields, protecting the spacecraft. There should be a way to turn those electric fields into propulsion too.