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.
While I find all the items interesting, some are just cooler than others. I’ve marked out those items.
Tech universe: Monday 13 September 2010
- PEOPLE POWER: Millions of people each day pass through turnstiles. Every turn of the stile could generate power, as the Guangdong University of Technology realised. Their concept for the Self-Powered Turnstile Green Pass captures kinetic energy and puts it to good use. Every little bit helps.
- 3D SURGICAL PRECISION: Surgeons at the University Hospitals of Geneva scan patients to create 3D images of their insides. Then they project the 3D image directly onto the patient’s body, and also display it on an iPad. This lets surgeons see exactly where and how to cut. Just wait till the high resolution Retina Display comes to iPad!
- BRAIN TALK: University of Utah placed microelectrodes on a volunteer’s brain and had the volunteer speak a limited vocabulary aloud. A computer correctly matched from 28% to 48% of the brain signals with words. Writers everywhere want this technology perfected.
- ROBOT HIDE & SEEK: At the Georgia Institute of Technology researchers are teaching their robots to practise deception, saying a deceptive robot may have an advantage. One robot lays a false trail while hiding from another. The 3 Laws of Robotics never said anything about telling the truth.
- GPS ONE: Japan’s first GPS satellite was launched in mid-September 2010. It will orbit above Japan for 8 hours per day, increasing GPS accuracy. Two more satellites will eventually provide 24 hour coverage. Isn’t that more of a Japanese Positioning System?
Tech universe: Tuesday 14 September 2010
- CRUSH AIR: You wouldn’t think plane travel could be less comfortable, but you haven’t seen the SkyRider seat yet. Italian aircraft seat design company, Aviointeriors, designed a ‘perch’ for flights of up to 3 hours. At least it’s a whole 58cm from the perch in front.
- LIVE FROM YOU: The miniCASTER is a 280 gram pocket sized mobile video encoder that streams your camcorder live to the Internet. Formats include Flash, Quicktime, Windows Media, H.264. It sends via LAN, Wi-Fi and 3G from TV1.eu. Oh goody: everyone TV.
- STOP THAT TRAIN: Pennsylvania aim to capture energy released when trains slow down, store it in a battery, and recycle it. Thomas the Tanker.
- PRISON FRIENDS: The US courts have sentenced a ‘Nigerian scam’ perpetrator to more than 12 years in prison and ordered him to pay more than $1 million restitution. The FBI say ‘advanced fee’ are the third most common scams. For every one scammer in prison 100 more will tell you about their uncle’s fortune and how you can collect part of it.
- SECRET SOCIETY: Norton report that 65% of people have been a victim of cybercrime, but 80% of people don’t expect the criminals to be brought to justice. Meanwhile 86% of New Zealanders don’t share their online passwords. Well done us!
Tech universe: Wednesday 15 September 2010
- MAKING TRACKS: Skateboard? Tank? Scooter? The DTV Shredder is a bit of everything. Designed for the military, it has 2 caterpillar tracks, a Honda 200cc 4-stroke engine, travels up to 50 Kph, and can be remotely operated. Oh, and it looks like quite a ride.
- ROBOT SKINS: Touch sensitive human skin is very tricky to mimic, but 2 different techniques can do it. One uses an elastic polymer whose shape determines its ability to hold an electric charge. The other uses a grid of semiconductor nanowires in pressure-sensitive rubber. Bend me, shape me.
- WORDPOWER: Speakers transform electric signals into sound, so how about transforming speech into electricity? Korean researchers used sound, zinc oxide, nanowires and electrodes to produce a 50 millivolt electric current. It’ll be a good day when talking on your cellphone charges it rather than draining the battery.
- POCKET PROJECTOR: The Lemoptix mini projector is smaller than a credit card, yet projects images onto a surface equivalent to a 15 inch screen. Red, blue and green laser beams reflect off tiny mirrors less than 1mm thick. The beam can scan a surface up to 20,000 times a second. Amaze and annoy your friends with your home movies.
- WATER SLICER: The US Army’s latest tool is a knife made of water. Explosive material is detonated to create a shock wave that shapes a chamber of water into a thin blade. The blade slices through the steel of improvised explosive devices, then a water slug disrupts what’s left. Nothing is as soft as water. Yet, who can withstand the water blade?
Tech universe: Thursday 16 September 2010
- TREADMILL TRANSPORT: The Tread-Walk is a mobile treadmill with a steering handle, out of Japan’s Waseda University. It moves along the street about twice as fast as you’re walking on it. It’s intended as a mobility vehicle for rehab and exercise. Will it get tank tracks for all-terrain walking?
- QUICK, SHOOT: A University of Rochester study showed that playing action video games improves probabilistic inference. In other words, you get better at making speedy decisions. They also found playing action games makes you more able to analyse sensory information. Management training camps should include video games.
- ACTIVE AVATAR: Do you find your online avatar just a bit too static? Stanford University are creating avatars that make gestures, based on your voice’s rhythm, intonation and stress. No, not those gestures.
- FLAT OUT: Panasonic’s 360° Freestyle iron has points at both ends, so you can easily iron in any direction. But even better, it’s cordless, lighter and faster too. Extreme ironing fans charge your batteries now.
- RIGHT SIDE DRIVE: Imagine a solar powered heads-up display that constantly reminds you which side of the road to drive on. That could be very handy for all the tourists driving round New Zealand. The Lanesafe does just that: a red X displays on the wrong side, and a green arrow points to the correct side. It’s right to keep left.
Tech universe: Friday 17 September 2010
- FRIEND A TREE: A 100 year old tree in the heart of Brussels has its own Twitter and Facebook accounts. It sends messages about air quality, weather, and wind, as well as photos of the sky. Trees tweeting. It’ll be birds next!
- FREE-ISH WI-FI: Two cable companies have agreed to spend $10 million to provide WiFi service in 32 New York parks. People can use up to three 10 minute sessions per month, then they pay. If the trees in New York decide to tweet, at least they’ll have free wi-fi for it.
- BAFFLING BRIGHTS: The World Trade Center shone powerful twin light beams into the sky as a memorial. Unfortunately 10,000 migrating birds wasted precious time and energy diverting from their path into the intense light. Authorities turned off the beams 5 times in the night to release the birds. Don’t go to the light.
- DOG LIGHTS: In one Massachusetts park a “methane digester” converts freshly scooped dog poop into methane that powers an old-fashioned gas-burning lamppost. From pollutant to power in one scoop.
- VOLVO KNOWS BEST: The Volvo S60’s computer monitors the road ahead by means of an on-board camera. If it detects a pedestrian or obstacle in its path alarms sound. Then if the driver’s too slow to respond the car itself will brake. I wonder how it responds to the road safety holograms of a kid on the road in Vancouver?