What’s new? Tell-Tale Shirt; Mini MRI; Watch Ma, No Wires; Look Ma, No Parachute; Metal, But Not As We Know It. More Ship Less Carbon; Change Of Heart; Rose Coloured Camera Lenses; Video All The Way; Selective Vision. I’ll Just Print That Kidney Off; Water, Sun Or Both?; Game Scents; Silk Screens; Dry Space. Mind Your Knitting; Ping, “You Have New Food”; Wonder Gel; Red, Green, Blue And Dark; Bedtime Stories. Like A Real Boy; Like Sands Through The Hourglass; They Grew A Bike; Playing With Food; Ear On The Ground.
Tech Universe: Monday 07 March 2011
- TELL-TALE SHIRT: According to data gathered by Under Armour’s E39 Biometric Shirt some American Football League hopefuls reach 3.9Gs of acceleration when they play. Sensors in the shirts measure heart and breathing rates and skin-surface temperature, while a triaxial accelerometer measures force and direction. The shirt, with 2Gb of storage and a CPU, uses Bluetooth to communicate. Does Bluetooth reach the length of a football field?
- MINI MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging machines always seem to be huge things that a person slides into. But a $200 microNMR device is about the size of a landline phone and diagnoses cancer. Medical staff add a speck of tissue from a patient to the machine. In less than an hour the device sends a diagnosis to a smartphone. Tests so far show the diagnosis is around 96% accurate. Cheap, portable, powerful.
- WATCH MA, NO WIRES: Fujitsu’s new 22-inch working prototype computer monitor doesn’t need any wires at all. Stand the display on a desk fitted with a magnetic induction transmitter and it can power on. Wireless USB from a computer up to 10 metres away handles the display side of things. They plan to have the monitor in production within the next year. So if they can do it for a computer monitor, can they do it for TVs too?
- LOOK MA, NO PARACHUTE: Skydiving’s a dangerous activity, especially when you’re just learning. The RAF have spent half a million pounds on a virtual training set where 8 people train together without actually leaving the ground. VR goggles show them a realistic virtual jump, while all their actions are recorded, watched and assessed using a control computer. He’s not dead, Jim.
- METAL, BUT NOT AS WE KNOW IT: Plastic is easy to mould into shape, but steel is strong, and never the twain shall meet. Till now. Yale scientists have created a new class of bulk metallic glasses — alloys of metals that are stronger than steel but can be moulded like plastic. The team has moulded complex shapes such as seamless metallic bottles, watch cases and biomedical implants in less than a minute. Uh oh, have they just paved the way for blister packs that will be not just hard but impossible to open?
Tech Universe: Tuesday 08 March 2011
- MORE SHIP LESS CARBON: A new container ship with capacity of 18,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) containers will be the largest in the world. South Korea is building 10 of them over the next 3 years for Danish shipper Moller-Maersk. Each vessel is 400 metres long, 59 metres wide and 73 metres tall. Compare that to the Queen Mary 2 transatlantic ocean liner at 345 metres by 41 by 72. Carbon emissions for the new cargo ship will be half the industry average for Asia-Europe trade. It’s really just all about more stuff though.
- CHANGE OF HEART: Fibre optic cables contain strands of silica glass at the core that can transmit more than a terabyte of data per second. A semiconductive zinc selenide core, created by Penn State University, will allow more colours of light and longer-wavelength infrared light. And that could lead to fibres that can serve as infrared lasers for military or surgical purposes. What might the military do with infrared lasers?
- ROSE COLOURED CAMERA LENSES: Panasonic’s Lumix FX77 point and shoot camera includes Art Retouch and Beauty Retouch modes. A Smart Touch Screen lets you touch an area to tell the camera what to focus on. The Retouch modes let you make up faces with lipstick or eye shadow, whiten teeth and other cosmetic changes. Intelligent Auto Mode, which includes Face Recognition, applies sophisticated settings according to what the camera sees. Never trust a photo, even fresh from the camera. Video (in Japanese):
- VIDEO ALL THE WAY: Cisco’s latest Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast claims that the world used 2.6 times as much mobile data in 2010 as in 2009, but that within the next 5 years it’ll be 26 times as much. Their chart shows usage in 2010 at 0.24 exabytes and in 2015 at 6.3 exabytes. They also point out that 48 million people have a mobile phone but no electricity at home. They expect two thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic to be video by 2015. That’s a lot of YouTube.
- SELECTIVE VISION: The astronauts on Discovery are trying out new Superfocus glasses. As we age the lenses in our eyes become less flexible, making it harder to focus close up. Superfocus glasses use an outer lens to hold a distance prescription and an inner lens filled with water. A slider on the bridge of the glasses adjusts the fluid to allow the wearer to focus closer or further away. They should make a remote for the specs.
Tech Universe: Wednesday 09 March 2011
- I’LL JUST PRINT THAT KIDNEY OFF: Anthony Atala, a surgeon, showed TED conference attendees how he may soon print new kidneys for patients. Scanners first make a 3-D image of a kidney that needs replacing. A tiny tissue sample seeds the process, then over 7 hours the organ printer layers replicates tissue to build up a new kidney. Finally it is transplanted into the patient. New kidney while you wait?
- WATER, SUN OR BOTH?: Solar farms are generally set up on hectares of dry land. In France though, they’re testing laying solar panels on industrial water basins — areas of quiet water used for agricultural irrigation or nuclear power plant cooling. Floating panels use the water below for cooling, but still allow oxygen through, supporting fish and animals. Multitasking at its finest.
- GAME SCENTS: Are your video games lacking something? Could it be that when you blast an alien you don’t smell their burning flesh? ScentScape may be able to sort that out for you. Plug it in to a compatible PC or gaming console then enabled games may make it puff out a whiff of pine forest, flowers or smoke. Will we need a ratings system for scents too? G for pine forest and ocean, R18 for booze breath?
- SILK SCREENS: In a word association game you’d probably say ‘shirt’ if I said ‘silk’. Researchers at National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, may be about to change that association. They’ve found a way change liquid silk membranes into insulators for flexible thin-film transistors. Silk may soon turn up in e-readers, LEDs and other electronic devices. Smooth.
- DRY SPACE: Astronauts don’t get to sit around sipping carbonated beverages. Up in space their tongues swell and their taste buds change so food and drink don’t taste as good. Australians to the rescue though: they’ve created a space-safe beer called “Vostok”, full of flavour, based on a smoky Irish style stout and with reduced carbonation. The ISS: a hub with no beer.
Tech Universe: Thursday 10 March 2011
- MIND YOUR KNITTING: A new flameproof suit from Lamination Technologies can protect its wearer from flames indefinitely and from temperatures over 1000 C for around 12 seconds. That could be long enough to get out of a burning racecar with only minor second degree burns, or for a firefighter to move out of danger. The fabric is made from artificial fibres that are spun into yarn then knitted into sheets that trap pockets of air. The suit will be live tested in 2012 by the driver of the Bloodhound SSC rocket powered car that aims to go faster than 1600 kph. So how does the suit let body heat out? It must be very warm to wear.
- PING, “YOU HAVE NEW FOOD”: IntraPace’s Abiliti system to treat obesity is undergoing clinical trials. The device is implanted and activated inside the patient, where it monitors food and drink that arrives in the stomach, and watches activity and sleeping patterns. After the person eats or drinks the system sends a series of customised low-energy electrical impulses to the stomach to create an early feeling of fullness. The doctor can download reports from the system with detailed data about food consumption and exercise trends. No more fooling the doctor about your food and exercise folks.
- WONDER GEL: The University of Central Florida have created “frozen smoke” — an aerogel made of multiwalled carbon nanotubes. Applications could include sensitive robot hands, batteries and explosives detectors. It can detect minute changes in pressure, store huge amounts of energy and even detect traces of toxins or explosives. All that and yet it can’t make me a cup of tea?
- RED, GREEN, BLUE AND DARK: Night vision cameras can only record images in green. Until now. The Nanosystem Research Division of AIST has created a camera that can record red, green and blue even at night. To create its colour images the camera analyses the wavelengths reflected when objects are illuminated with infrared. They’re still working on being able to use different lenses, and on creating a less expensive commercial version. If they’re shining infrared anyway, why not just use white lights and solve the problem?
- BEDTIME STORIES: According to researchers exposure to artificial light just before bed, such as from TV, computer or cellphone screens, can disturb or reduce sleep. The US National Sleep Foundation found that 95% of people it surveyed used some type of electronics in the hour before going to bed, while two thirds reported not getting enough sleep. The NSF say lack of sleep is negatively impacting work and health, and many people use caffeinated drinks or naps to cope. And that’s… where’s my coffee?
Tech Universe: Friday 11 March 2011
- LIKE A REAL BOY: He’s pale skinned, bearded and Danish: Associate Professor Henrik Scharfe of Aalborg University in Denmark. And so is his android double, Geminoid DK. In fact, it’s not too easy to tell them apart. A motion-capture system tracks the facial expressions and head movements of a remote operator. The operator controls the Geminoid’s realistic movements and expressions with their own movements. The Geminoid will be used to research how human and robots interact and differences in how people from different cultures perceive robots. His still slightly ‘wooden’ face conjures up horror movies. Bad actors move aside!
- LIKE SANDS THROUGH THE HOURGLASS: Nanoparticles are pretty small and very hard to count. A new instrument from UC Santa Barbara that works like a turnstile can detect individual particles as small as a few tens of nanometers across. Suspended in fluid, the particles flow past a detector at around half a million particles per second. In tests the device was able to detect bacterial virus particles in mouse blood plasma. Better health for mice is just around the corner.
- THEY GREW A BIKE: Nylon: stockings, brushes, bicycles. The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company used a form of nylon as strong as steel to ‘grow’ a bicycle. The Airbike was created using Additive Layer Manufacturing, similar to 3D printing, where a laser-sintering process builds up thin layers of material. The nylon in this bike is strong enough to replace steel or aluminium. The bike’s auxetic structure provides saddle cushioning, while integrated bearings are encased within the hubs. A Kevlar belt drive system is another unusual feature. Ah, a chain that will never break?
- PLAYING WITH FOOD: As a kid did you sculpt the food on your plate into interesting shapes? The fab@home project at Cornell University in the USA is taking that play to a whole new level with their 3D food printer. The printer squirts out a paste made of pureed foods to create 3D objects. In tests so far they’ve printed chocolate, cheese, scallops, turkey, and celery. That’s way beyond pea, pie and pud.
- EAR ON THE GROUND: The Murchison Wide-field Array radio telescope in remote Western Australia has no moving parts. 8000 dual-polarization dipole antennas will be arranged as 512 “tiles”, each a 4×4 array of dipoles. The dipole signals will be manipulated to ‘point’ the telescope. The telescope needs radio quiet for its work so special enclosures will protect electronics from the rugged conditions and prevent radio interference. Shhh, telescope at work.
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.