Tech Universe: Monday 16 September 2013
- NAIL THE TRAIL: Turn by turn navigation can be quite handy, but what’s the best way to use it on a bike? The Hammerhead is a T-shaped device that clips to the handlebars and includes a built-in headlight and sidelights. It checks the GPS on your smartphone and then lights up LEDs on the left or right side to indicate a turn coming up. A free app provides crowdsourced routes. Lights are a simple and elegant solution. Hammerhead Navigation.
- SECONDARY SUN: Maybe you hang your washing outside on the line to dry. Or maybe you could dry it in the T 881 EcoComfort dryer from Miele. Their machine derives its heat from a solar-thermal array on the roof. The home’s central heating system is also in the closed-circuit mix: the two devices together circulate hot and cool water, hot and cool air to both dry laundry and keep the temperature of the house regulated. That sounds a hang of a lot more complicated than hanging wet clothes on the line. Eco-Business.
- TELLING TOUCH: Do you test your blood sugar frequently? The Dario glucose monitoring system may interest you. The handheld device has a removable portion that plugs in to the audio socket on a smartphone and holds a testing strip. The device itself has a small lance for finger pricking. Dab a spot of blood on the testing strip then a smartphone app displays the information you need. The app also gives you data about carbs, calories and your activity, and recommended dosages for insulin. It seems a bit fiddly to juggle phone, and two parts of a gadget — perhaps docking the phone into the device might be less unwieldy. Dario.
- TEN TAP TRIGGER: Forget fingerprint recognition to access your phone. SilentSense is the outcome of research at the Illinois Institute of Technology. It uses built-in sensors on a smartphone to record the unique patterns of pressure, duration and fingertip size and position of each user. Then it turns those patterns into a kind of signature that can lock out others. In tests the app could identify the phone’s owner with 99% accuracy after no more than 10 taps. New Scientist.
- QUIET RIDE: Hankook’s i-Flex is both wheel and tire for cars. You don’t have to inflate it either, thanks to an array of geometric cells that line the inside of the wheel, allowing the whole unit to act as an integrated suspension component. When the car goes over a bump the energy is distributed equally across the whole structure. The wheel weighs less than a traditional pneumatic wheel and runs quieter as well, which is useful for electric vehicles. Doing away with punctures is a great idea. Wired.
Tech Universe: Tuesday 17 September 2013
- LETTUCE FOR LIFE: Space isn’t known for being very friendly to life — astronauts have to carry with them everything they need, including food. That means fresh food is in very short supply. In December though NASA plans to send planters for growing Romaine lettuce to the International Space Station. Bright pink LED lights will help the lettuce grow enough to be ready to eat in 28 days. The Vegetable Production System programme is not only a first step to feeding astronauts, but also aims to help keep them emotionally healthy as they care for the plants. Everyone needs their greens. Modern Farmer.
- LISTEN UP: Extremely sensitive radar technology can pick up faint signals — such as a heartbeat in a pile of rubble from a collapsed building. A new device from the US can pick up a heartbeat buried beneath 10 metres of crushed materials, hidden behind 7 metres of solid concrete, or from a distance of around 30 metres in open spaces. The technology uses advanced data processing systems to distinguish the heartbeat from the mess of radar signals. Once rescuers know someone is alive they can use more traditional methods to go in and get them. It’s amazing to think they can pick up a heartbeat from that distance. Phys.org.
- TRIPPY SOCKS: Perhaps you wear socks specially designed for running or walking. The Japanese company Terumo has designed socks to help keep older folks from stumbling over uneven surfaces such as the edges of rugs. Their Upwalk anti-stumble socks are sewn in such a way that the toes are lifted a little, helping the wearer to avoid tripping over things. Tightly woven panels on the upper surface create tension across the top of the wearer’s feet, pulling the toes upward and shifting the balance point back towards the heels. Any why not? Inventor Spot.
- APPS AWAY: The Caravisio caravan from Germany has taken its inspiration from luxury yachts, with panoramic windows, teak wood flooring, a deck and a folding roof. Meanwhile computer-controlled air suspension automatically levels the caravan with an app. An app also controls the transparency of the rear door, allowing it to be used as a screen for a projector. Go high-tech as you get back to nature. Wired.
- YOU AND YOUR CARGO: It’s just you, 45 Kg of parcels and your trusty bike. Sigh. At least the 2×4 electric assist cargo bike from NTS Works will make your ride a bit easier. The bike has a lightweight aluminium frame, and cargo rides above the front wheel. The front wheel is powered by a high-torque electric hub motor powered by a Lithium-Ion battery, while pedalling drives the rear wheel. USB ports allow you to charge devices on the go. That’s a sturdy, functional bike. NTS Works. Video:
Tech Universe: Wednesday 18 September 2013
- ON THE BALL: In the US the National Basketball Association are installing SportVU cameras and software to track every aspect of play. Six cameras and proprietary software will calibrate and measure the movements of all players and the ball on the court. This will allow a continuous stream of statistics based around speed, distance, player separation, and ball possession. That’s more stats than anyone could ever need. NBA.
- ALARMING FALLS: Falls can be very serious for older people. While some have buttons they can push to call for help, they don’t necessarily wear the button all the time. Electrical engineers at the University of Utah have come up with the idea of an array of radio-frequency sensors to detect falls. The sensors are placed at two heights around a room. A fall alters the path of signals sent between pairs of sensors and can trigger an alarm. There may be a lot of development work in store for that one. University of Utah.
- BALANCE BOARD: The S-Walker skateboard has two wheels — half way along and on either side of the long axis. You control the board with your body, but it balances itself with gyros as it travels at up to 6 Kph. The board includes 2 x 250W motors and a lead acid battery. A charge lasts about 20 Km. That should get you to work and back. S-Walker.
- TRAVEL BUZZ: Tourists tend to stand out as they consult paper maps or maps on their phones. But keeping your eyes down means you’re missing out on the sights. Triposo’s Travel Belt vibrates so you know which way to go. Use a smartphone app to choose your destination then connect a cable from the audio jack to your belt. Four motors in the belt vibrate to indicate direction: left, right, back or forward. That’s one way to keep the buzz in a trip. Triposo.
- HIGH BEAM: NATO is developing a device that uses a high-intensity electromagnetic beam to disable vehicles such as cars, boats and airborne drones. Their aim is to stop potential suicide bombers before they can reach their targets. The beam interferes with electronic controls and stops an engine, without harming anyone nearby. The device can also jam radio signals, preventing remote detonation of a bomb. And in the wrong hands that could be devastating. What could it do to a plane in mid-air? PopSci.
Tech Universe: Thursday 19 September 2013
- H PLATES: The days of hauling mightily on a steering wheel to turn a heavy vehicle are long gone, but Volvo wanted to demonstrate just how light a touch is needed on their new 15 ton truck. They locked a circular hamster cage on to the steering wheel, added a hamster and drove the vehicle to the top of a steep quarry. There was a human driver too: he held a carrot to tempt the hamster to run the right way round the wheel. If learners need L plates do hamsters need H plates? Jalopnik.
- A SPOONFUL OF DIESEL: Researchers at ETH Zürich are working on a natural gas-diesel hybrid vehicle engine that emits less than half the CO2 of a standard engine while maintaining performance. Rather than using a spark plug, the engine injects a small amount of diesel directly into the cylinder. A sensor in the cylinder allows a control system to calculate the amount and timing for the diesel injection. The next step is to find a vehicle manufacturer to create a prototype. Hmm, fill up twice at the petrol station. ETH Zürich.
- KIWI GREEN: The Tindo solar electric bus runs in Adelaide, Australia, saving more than 14,000 litres of diesel and more than 70,000 Kg of CO2-e in its first year. It doesn’t have solar panels on its roof though. Instead the solar panels are on the bus station, and regenerative braking adds to the energy savings. The air-conditioned bus has room for 40 passengers and can travel about 200 kilometres between recharges under typical urban conditions. Oh, and the bus was made by a New Zealand company. We should be seeing these all over our cities too. Adelaide City Council.
- TUNED FORK: People with arthritis may have problems holding a fork, which makes eating a problem too. The large EasyFork handle is carefully tailored to fit the hand, resting on the connection between thumb and forefinger. That means it doesn’t need a firm or even loose grip to hold it. Meanwhile the tines are angled to allow users to keep their hand more or less upright — the easiest position to hold the hand in. Knife and spoon should be the next challenges. EasyFork. Video:
- FRESH AIR FRY UP: Like the idea of cooking your food directly with the sun? The GoSun Stove cooks a meal in as little as 20 minutes. Temperatures reach up to 288 C, and the stove can keep food warm for hours by working like a thermos. An evacuated glass tube rests at the focal point of a parabolic reflector made from anodised aluminium. The food is placed on a tray that fits inside the tube and can be fried, baked or boiled. The stove is easily portable, folding up so the legs form a handle. That’s very nifty for a picnic or bach. GoSun.
Tech Universe: Friday 20 September 2013
- SAFE CHARGES: It’s all very well to plug your phone or other USB device into a nearby computer or public charging point to grab a charge, but could malware be finding its way onto the device as well as power? Or maybe the charge point is secretly grabbing your data? Fortunately power and data don’t use the same pins on a USB plug. And that’s where the USB Condom device has its uses: it blocks the data pins while allowing the power pins to do their work. Simple but effective. Int3.cc.
- BANDED CLIMBERS: Some wristbands monitor sleep or steps. The ClimbAx is specifically for climbers. The pair of wristbands includes an accelerometer to detect arm motions and movements. A NAND memory chip stores timestamped data, and a 16-bit RISC microprocessor handles data. LEDs on the band signal various statuses to the wearer. Once processed the data gives a climber detailed information about moves and performance. These days it’s all about the wrists. ClimbAx.
- THE STICKY SENSE: Researchers are developing a thin sensor that can be glued on to skin. Then it can sense the skin temperature over wide areas of the body with millikelvin precision. It still needs an external power source, but in time, perhaps that can be incorporated too. Now others need to work out how best such a sensor could be used. Before long these things will be as common and as easy to use as a sticking plaster. MedGadget.
- CATCH MORE Ds: The Structure Sensor from Occipital sounds big, but it’s actually tiny. It fits handily onto a mobile device such as an iPad. Then it can capture a 3D model of a room or maybe scan objects in 3D. Once you’ve captured the 3D image you could import it into a CAD app and send it off to a 3D printer. The device could allow make new interactive games possible. Its range is from 40 cm to 3.5 metres. A battery gives it up to 4 hours of active use, and 1000+ hours of standby. Infrared LEDs give the mobile device night vision. Every extra D enhances the image. Occipital.
- INDESTRUCTIBALL: Even a 270 Kg Aldabra Tortoise needs exercise, so what better than a game of ball? Fortunately the One World Futbol is pretty much indestructible so Ralph the tortoise at Oakland Zoo in California doesn’t crush his toy when he lies down on it. The ball snaps back into shape when he gets up. Ralph’s Futbol comes as part of a programme that’s sending indestructible Futbols to zoos around the world. Even a lion’s teeth or a bird’s beak can’t puncture the ball, As proven by Triton the lion in Johannesburg Zoo. Oakland Zoo.