What’s new? Crime Online; King Of Fire; Moon Practice; Icy Oblivion; There’s No Die In Team. Wind Beneath One Wing; You Have To Look Just So; Cleaning Up Sport; Graphene Chips; Vendor Lender. Robokid; Power Beads; Sitway; Now You Don’t See It; Skin Shoot. No Fear Flying; Slim Picos; Hear With Your Teeth; PC In A Plug; Sniffer Mice. Space Scoop; Smashing PC Records; We Fitter; Invisible Digital Ink; Plant Plastics.
Tech Universe: Monday 07 February 2011
- CRIME ONLINE: In the UK a new online mapping service shows all reported crimes going on in England and Wales. Call up an address and see what crimes have been reported nearby, grouped by type or location. Now we need the mashup to show convictions by crime location. That would be revealing.
- KING OF FIRE: 3 tons of water per minute at up to 120 metres — that’s what a Chinese turbo-jet water gun produces to fight those hard-to-reach fires in Luoyang City. The water gun was made from a jet fighter engine mounted on a fire truck. That’s about 50 litres of water per second. I wonder how the drains cope?
- MOON PRACTICE: Sustainability Base — it really needs an Alpha after that — is a NASA space station to be built this year on Earth. It’s designed to power itself and consume no net energy, using an intelligent system based on spacecraft control systems. An Internet connection, weather forecasts, worker calendars will all help the building plan energy use. Geothermal wells will replace air conditioning too. An interesting turn around to apply what we’ve learned living in space to life here on the ground.
- ICY OBLIVION: SnowWorld is a simple but totally engrossing computer game developed for a specific purpose: to relieve pain. Burn patients wear a VR helmet and noise cancelling headphones while undergoing painful treatments. The gear isolates them from the real world and they become totally absorbed in the game, oblivious to the pain of the treatment. The cold and snow of the game are deliberately opposite to the heat of burns. It’s all in the mind, after all.
- THERE’S NO DIE IN TEAM: Meanwhile video games are proving their worth in education. The problem solving, teamwork and dynamic decision-making skills required for many games promote engagement, unlike passive activities such as watching TV. They also develop leadership skills, teamwork and better application of learning. This, according to the head of a games consultancy. I like to believe that playing computer games is good for me too.
Tech Universe: Tuesday 08 February 2011
- WIND BENEATH ONE WING: The Samara copter is a miniature prototype helicopter with a special feature: it has only one wing, just like maple seeds. It can fall safely to the ground if the motor fails or stay aloft indefinitely if the air currents are just right. Developers hope to eventually deploy full size versions into the jet stream for mapping or military purposes. I can’t see tourists wanting to fly in one.
- YOU HAVE TO LOOK JUST SO: Fujifilm’s ForgeGuard system hides high resolution full colour text and images in labels and products. The images are revealed only to a proprietary viewer, using nanometer wavelengths of light. The aim of the hidden messages is to help prevent successful counterfeiting. Wait till the bad guys hear about this one!
- CLEANING UP SPORT: SilverSport make gym towels and yoga mats that eliminate bacteria. The secret’s in the embedded silver nanoparticles. Sweat activates the particles that then bind to bacteria, also eliminating the smell. Hmmm, going for silver.
- GRAPHENE CHIPS: Graphene is carbon that’s only one atom thick. Researchers at the University of Southampton created transistors from graphene by creating sharp bends and corners in bilayer graphene nanowires. These transistors can switch very fast and open up the possibility of using graphene in computer chips. But will the name ‘silicon chip’ hang on anyway?
- VENDOR LENDER: Polk County in Florida, USA, have a new way to get books to people: vending machines in locations far from the library. Residents swipe their library card to have the machine dispense best-selling books or DVDs, and can return items there too. A computer at the Library monitors the vending machines so workers know when to restock them. They’d make money if they put snacks and drinks in machines beside the books and DVDs, for sure.
Tech Universe: Wednesday 09 February 2011
- ROBOKID: One Texas schoolboy has a rare disease that prevents him from attending school. By using a Vgo robot he attends class virtually, chatting and working with classmates in real time. The Vgo robot gives you a physical avatar at a distant location. This robot moves itself around, carrying a screen and sound system for live video conferencing. This is one of those possibilities that makes high-speed broadband so important.
- POWER BEADS: Using hydrogen as a fuel creates storage and handling problems. Cella Energy is developing nanobeads of ammonia-borane hydride. Their porous polymer coating protects them from reacting with the air, but they release their energy very quickly, so are suitable for fuelling cars. The beads behave as a fluid so they can be pumped like petrol, while waste beads can be rehydrogenated and used again. This solid’s a liquid; what’s wine again?
- SITWAY: Honda’s U3-X Personal Mobility Prototype just may mean we never need walk again. It’s a slim, mobile self-balancing seat with footpegs. As with the Segway, lean towards the way you want to move. An Omni Traction Drive System puts small wheels crosswise round one larger wheel, allowing movement in any direction. The lithium-ion battery provides 60 minutes of power, and the whole unit weighs 10 Kg. Max speed is around 6 Kph. I’d like to see a racing version.
- NOW YOU DON’T SEE IT: Need to hide an ant or a grain of sand? Try the latest in invisibility cloaks. Two separate research teams have used calcite prisms to create cloaks that hide tiny objects. The prism cloak is shaped in such a way as to bend light away from the object to be hidden while appearing to bounce it back in its original direction. It’s the old trick: smoke and mirrors, only without the smoke.
- SKIN SHOOT: It usually takes weeks to grow skin for burn victims. A new technology takes stem cells from their own healthy skin, and in the space of an hour or two is able to spray the treated cells on the burned areas, using a ‘skin gun’. New skin grows in just a few days. That’s one of the better reasons to be ‘shot’. Video:
Tech Universe: Thursday 10 February 2011
- NO FEAR FLYING: The StreetFlyer has 3 wheels and a frame that arches above them. Strap yourself in to hang from the frame about a metre above ground and launch yourself downhill. Steer with the handlebars, which also provide for brakes. Hang gliding on the ground — that’s a brilliant idea.
- SLIM PICOS: A projector only 6mm thick? The Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Engineering has prototyped the world’s smallest picoprojector made of 45 red, green and blue microlenses. It produces 11 lumens and is small enough to fit into a cellphone. Show home movies at any party. Yay.
- HEAR WITH YOUR TEETH: The SoundBite is like a cochlear implant hearing aid, except it’s not implanted. One part sits behind the ear and transmits audio wirelessly to a receiver attached to a tooth. The receiver sends the signal through bone to the inner ear where it’s converted to sound. The removable mouth piece is custom made to fit around the upper back teeth. Now couple that with an MP3 player.
- PC IN A PLUG: The DreamPlug PC is just that: a large power plug with a PC in it. At US$150 it draws only 5 watts of power and offers a 1.2GHz Marvell Sheeva ARM processor, RAM, storage, several ports and a headphone jack. It’s designed for home automation, security or network monitoring. One good whack with the vacuum cleaner could bring all your home systems down.
- SNIFFER MICE: Move over, dogs; mice are on the scent now. Israeli scientists have created a bomb detector that uses mice, because of their excellent sense of smell. Trained mice work 4 hour shifts in groups inside a ‘cartridge’. If they smell explosives in their air supply they run to a separate chamber that triggers an alarm. The product website refers to the mice as a ‘system’ of ‘Biosensors’ in ‘cassettes’, and mentions a scheme for looking after the mice that doesn’t involve actual humans. The mice will be wishing for the dog’s life. [It’s not in the published column, but I find the idea of this treatment of mice repugnant. They’re living creatures, not inanimate ‘sensors’.]
Tech Universe: Friday 11 February 2011
- SPACE SCOOP: There’s an awful lot of junk whizzing round Planet Earth — dead satellites, rocket parts, sundry odds and ends. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is wondering if they could clean it up — with a thin metal wire fishing net several kilometres long. An electric charge would attract the filled net to Earth’s magnetic field so it would burn up in the atmosphere. It’d be a nice change to see people approving of Japan’s fishing catch.
- SMASHING PC RECORDS: Last December security firm Avira surveyed around 14,000 people. They found that while 39% had cursed or yelled at their computer out loud 3% had actually thrown the computer against another object and 9% had hit it. 38% claimed they would never yell at their computer. Ho ho ho.
- WE FITTER: Exercise and a healthy diet will keep us fit into old age. The bad news is you don’t have to only do the exercise, but do it right, and we don’t all have personal trainers. The Bavarian Research Foundation’s electronic Fitness Assistant puts you in a sensor suit that transmits data to a television, computer or smartphone. Meanwhile, an avatar performs the exercises on screen. The smartphone gives you immediate, customised feedback and tips to improve your performance. Just think of it as a fitness video game.
- INVISIBLE DIGITAL INK: High quality images tend to have high file sizes too. But big files take time to load and send, so they’re often compressed. Sometimes as an image is transmitted over the Internet it may be compressed and recompressed many times, reducing quality, often quite badly. Researchers have developed a special hidden watermark that responds differently to compression from the rest of the image, making a warning message visible. Don’t squeeze too hard.
- PLANT PLASTICS: Most synthetic resins are made from fossil sources, aren’t biodegradable and are toxic when burnt. Scientists at the University of Amsterdam have found a new way to make resins and avoid these problems using readily available renewable raw materials. The new products could replace polyurethane and polystyrene. Goodbye polystyrene, you won’t be missed.
Notes: 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. Above 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.