Tech Universe: Monday 09 September 2013
- LENS ALONE: Sony’s new QX100 camera does away with the body and keeps only the lens. The lens itself includes a shutter release, memory card slot and rechargeable battery so it can be used as a standalone camera. The Cyber-shot DSC-QX100 camera features a 20.2 MP Exmor RCMOS sensor and a Carl Zeiss lens with 3.6x optical zoom. But with no viewfinder, pointing the thing correctly may be tricky. That’s where a smartphone comes in: connect via WiFi and you can see what the lens sees, release the shutter, start and stop movie recordings, and adjust common photographic settings all on the phone. Photos are recorded to both phone and camera. The lens can be up to around 10 metres from the phone, depending on the environment, while a removable clip makes it easy to attach to a smartphone. That’s an interesting challenge to the smartphone takeover of photography. Sony Blog.
- TALK TO THE WRIST: If you already have a Samsung Android device then their new Galaxy Gear smartwatch may interest you. Keep your phone in your pocket while the smartwatch notifies you of incoming messages, such as calls, texts, emails and alerts and allows you a sneak preview. Or make voice calls or dictate messages or create alarms through the watch too. Meanwhile a 1.9 megapixel camera can grab those quick shots you’d miss otherwise. The comeback of the wristwatch? Samsung.
- LOOK UP: You’re driving along the road when a pedestrian studying their phone steps out in front of you. With Honda’s Vehicle-to-Pedestrian system the car may send an alert directly to their phone, while flashing a light on your dashboard. The system uses a smartphone’s GPS and dedicated short range communications to do its job via the 5.9 GHz band set aside for automotive applications. To date they’ve merely carried out a research study on the possibilities but maybe it’ll show up in cars in the future. The horn may work well too. Wired. Video:
- BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ: How long will it be before the air is clogged with drones in the same way roads may be clogged with cars? Chinese delivery company SF Express is testing out delivering packages by drone. The drones have 8 propellers, fly at up to 100 metres above ground, and can carry a small parcel. A staff member gives the drone an address and flight path then built-in navigation systems take over. Staff can monitor the drone’s journey though and make corrections as required. So will the air be filled with the buzz of tiny drones? South China Morning Post.
- ELECTRIC BONES: People with osteoporosis may develop tiny cracks in their bones which leak charged particles that create an electric field around the crack. A team of chemists and bioengineers has developed nanoparticles that are attracted to that electric field then deliver bone-healing drugs directly to the cracks. More testing and development are needed before this technique can be used in the real world though. That’s a nice finding that the nanoparticles are automatically drawn to where they’re needed. Pennsylvania State University.
Tech Universe: Tuesday 10 September 2013
- BRAIN IN SIGHT: Yttria-stabilized zirconia is a ceramic used for dental crowns and hip joints. Now researchers at the University of California have made it transparent as well, which has opened up the possibility of a window in the skull. Why put a window in your skull? Well, if you have a life-threatening neurological disorder, such as brain cancer or traumatic brain injury the doctors may need to do repeated craniectomies. This window would allow the doctors to check what’s going on without needing to drill holes in the head. It might pay to wear a hat on a sunny day. KurzweilAI.
- HOLE IN ONE: Inserting an IV isn’t as easy as it looks, and is especially hard with children. Doing it properly requires training, patience and sometimes several attempts. A semi-automatic handheld device from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem aims to make it much simpler. The SAGIV device uses infrared sights and other sensors to locate the vein then quickly inserts and withdraws the needle in one easy motion. Further development should allow the device to be made small enough for emergency services to carry in their kit. Meanwhile it’s a rather scary looking beast. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
- NEEDLE IN THE RED: For the sake of good health syringes should only be used once. There are many reasons though why they may be used repeatedly without being sterilised between times: poverty and accidents are two of them. The ABC Syringe developed at the University of Huddersfield is coated with an ink that reacts to carbon dioxide. Clean syringes are packed in nitrogen-filled packets. After the packet is opened and exposed to the air the syringe turns bright red within 60 seconds. The syringe costs only a fraction of a penny more than standard disposable syringes. The desperate will probably ignore the colour unfortunately. The Guardian.
- GESTURES IN THE MIST: An image hovers in mid-air where a viewer can interact with it using two-handed gestures. A Displair unit projects digital images onto an aerodynamic layer of dry fog composed of ultra-fine water droplets. IR sensors and a camera make the interactivity possible. Where does all that extra moisture in the air end up? Displair.
- WEIGHTS AT A STRETCH: Robots are often powered by hydraulics, and may be able to lift around half their own weight. But of course we want them to lift more than that. Researchers in Singapore are developing an efficient artificial muscle that could carry a weight 80 times its own and be able to extend to 5 times its original length when carrying the load. The prototype polymer-based artificial muscles are pliable, extendable and react in a fraction of a second, unlike the much slower hydraulics. Inspect that gadget. National University of Singapore.
Tech Universe: Wednesday 11 September 2013
- THE SHIP WITH NO WAVES: Ships roll in the waves, making those on board seasick and throwing objects around. The Norwegians designed a ship that doesn’t roll because it creates its own opposing waves in specially designed tanks fitted in the hull. The design is intended for housing those who work on off-shore platforms such as oil rigs. The hotel ships can also be equipped with thrusters that oppose the external forces from waves, currents and wind. The first such hotel ship is currently being built. Wave-cancelling ships: brilliant. Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institut.
- LOW PRESSURE COMMS: Cubesats are very small, so they’re cheap and easy to launch into orbit. But because they’re small their communication range is limited thanks to smaller, less powerful antennae. Researchers at MIT think the solution may be an inflatable antenna that can fold into a compact space and inflate when in orbit. With an inflatable antenna a satellite could communicate from even as far away as the Moon. The idea is to use sublimating powder — a chemical compound that transforms from a solid powder to a gas when exposed to low pressure. Tests on Earth of both conical and cylindrical antenna designs suggest either could be much more powerful than current antennae on Cubesats, transmitting data both further and faster. Though engineers will need to keep pressure in the launch vehicle constant to prevent early inflation. MIT News.
- JUNIOR KIDNEYS: Researchers at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China took a mixture of cultured cells and a nutrient rich hydrogel then printed a miniature but functional human kidney. The printed cells can live up to 4 months. This preliminary work could eventually lead to more people having access to lifesaving kidney transplants. Size and lifespan of the printed kidneys obviously both need work. Gizmodo.
- A NEW PERSPECTIVE: Ricoh’s Theta camera is tiny — at around 42x129x22.8 mm it fits easily in your hand. Its special feature though is that it captures fully spherical images in a single shot and from any angle without aiming or pointing. It syncs via WiFi with a smartphone which can operate the camera remotely. The device uses a proprietary ultra-small twin-lens folded optical system that captures the scene around, above and below the device in one shot. It’s all in how you look at things. Ricoh.
- GREEN LIGHT DISTRICT: You may be happy to just run the vacuum cleaner over the floor, but apparently there may still be dirt lurking underfoot. Never worry. Samsung’s Motion Sync Vacuum Cleaner SC20F70 gives you a green light if the area is completely clean and a red light if it detects a particularly dusty spot. Go for green. Far East Gizmos.
Tech Universe: Thursday 12 September 2013
- BIKE WITH A PUSH: The Greyp G12 is a Croatian invention. It’s part bike, part motorbike and starts with a fingerprint. In fact, user profiles can be attached to separate fingerprints. Start the bike with your thumb to activate Street Mode or with your middle finger to activate Speed Mode to travel at up to 65 Kph. Regenerative braking helps charge the Lithium-Nanophosphate battery-cells. Pedal if you like or let the battery do the pushing. A full charge will take you up to 120 Km. The bike weighs 49 Kg, so it may be quite a push by pedal alone. Greyp.
- GO FOR GOLF: Does your golf cart speed across water hazards and fly over sand traps? Probably not. The BW1 Golf Cart Hovercraft does though. The 65-hp twin-cylinder Hirth engine lifts it 23 cm off the ground and speeds it along at up to 72 Kph. It carries 4 passengers and 2 golf bags Why stick to the golf course with this cart? Hammacher.
- VACUUM PACKED FRIDGE: The Freshness Center refrigerator from Siemens has 3 different storage zones. There are the usual fridge and freezer at top and bottom, but between them is a vitaFresh section with a crisper drawer and a vacuum drawer. Both drawers keep food cool, but the vacuum drawer, intended for food that spoils easily such as raw meat and fish, is hermetically sealed with a special handle. Press a button to activate a pump that reduces air pressure in the drawer by 300 millibars. Siemens claim this keeps food fresh up to 5 times longer. That does make sense, though perhaps keeping such fresh food well-wrapped would do the same job. Gizmag.
- MOVING BILLBOARDS: California are planning a pilot programme for electronic license plates. Such plates don’t just carry imprinted numbers and letters, but can instead display messages such as the words Stolen or Expired, or even an ad. A central server would interact with the plates via a mobile data network. Of course, one issue is that the server would then always know where each vehicle is. How wonderful it will be once hackers have figured out how to subvert the plates with their own messages. Ars Technica.
- A SPRING IN THE STEP: The KineSpring Knee Implant System is intended as an aid for those with knee osteoarthritis to help relieve pain. The spring is attached to the bones around the knee and helps reduce the knee joint load by up to 13 Kg. No bone, ligament, or cartilage is removed so the procedure is reversible. That would beat taking endless painkillers. Moximed.
Tech Universe: Friday 13 September 2013
- SPOTTED RHINOS: Help keep an eye on endangered rhinos in Kenya, thanks to the Instant Wild project. Rangers are installing cameras in regions they don’t usually patrol. Raspberry Pi computers in the self-contained units monitor input from motion sensors, snap images as animals or people pass by and upload the pictures via the Iridium satellite network. Once uploaded the images are displayed on the website and sent out to a smartphone app. Followers then help identify the species recorded in the images so scientists can more easily monitor trends. And maybe poachers will be identified too. BBC.
- HEAR THIS: Those incomprehensible announcements at airports and railway stations? Researchers are out to change that with an algorithm that analyses spoken words and enhances the sounds that help listeners hear more clearly what is being said. Tests at the University of Edinburgh pinpointed the components of speech most easily heard by people in a noisy place. The software the researchers then developed makes the same kind of difference as lowering the general noise level by 5 decibels. Software like this could also be used to make the voices on smartphones clearer. Older folks should particularly appreciate that software. The University of Edinburgh.
- THE SPEAKING FINGER: Disney Research have come up with an interesting trick: hold their Ishin-Den-Shin microphone and speak into it. Then put your finger on another person’s ear and that person can hear what you said. The microphone records sounds and transforms them into an inaudible signal that is transmitted only by physical contact, from body to body. The technique depends on an electrostatic that vibrates the ear lobe, turning the finger and ear together into a speaker. There could be a fun kids toy in that. Disney Research.
- SPEED CHECK: The Nissan Nismo Smartwatch reports both your heart rate and the speed of the car, along with the time, tweets, temperature, weather, fuel efficiency and other data. The battery gives the wearer around a week of use, while two buttons on screen control the watch. Now we may need laws about not using smart watches while driving. BBC.
- NOW YOU SEE IT: Yet another tall tower is in planning. This time it’s Tower Infinity to be built in South Korea. The whole of the 450 metre tall tower will be devoted to entertainment, but its real feature is that it will be invisible — sort of. The facade will use a cutting edge LED system and optical cameras to create illusions that make the tower seem to disappear against the background. Planes beware. World Architecture News.