Tech Universe: Monday 26 August 2013
- GYMNASTIC CAR: Are tiny electric cars your thing? Not toys, but full-size vehicles you can drive on the roads and park anywhere? The fold-up 4 wheel drive 2-seater Armadillo-T from the Korean Institute of Science and Technology is the one you’ll want to see. The prototype micro electric car tucks its rear body away, folding its 2.8 metre length down to 1.65 metres. The motors are in the wheels, while the battery is in the front. The driver can use a smartphone remote app to have the car turn itself 360 degrees so it can park itself in even tiny spaces. The car can fast charge in 10 minutes to give 100 Km range at up to 60 Kph. That’s a nifty transformation. KAIST.
- FILM ON THE RUN: The Garmin Virb HD action camera has 3 hours of battery life and a rugged, waterproof design. The 9 element glass lens shoots in wide, medium and narrow modes and includes digital stabilisation and lens distortion correction. VIRB Elite includes an accelerometer, altimeter and high-sensitivity GPS. The camera can also connect with smartphones and other Garmin devices. Garmin.
- PARTYCAM: TheQ camera has 3G built in so all shots are saved online automatically. From there photos can also automatically go to social networks, and have filters applied. The waterproof 5 megapixel camera includes an LED flash ring around the lens, and features two shutter buttons — one for flash and one for no-flash photos. The f2.4 wide-angle lens uses a shock- and scratch-resistant 2P2G mix of glass and plastic. This camera comes in 9 different colours and is meant for fun at the beach or in the pool or wherever the party is. Will you carry both a smartphone and a camera though? TheQ.
- BAGS ON TRIKES: Whip that front fork off your bike and replace it with a Noomad. Now you’ll have a trike with two wheels in the front and space between for carrying cargo. A panel between the front wheels allows you to mount a large bag or perhaps a child seat. If your balance isn’t really up to cycling this machine adds much needed stability too. It probably makes more sense to carry a child on the front of the bike than on a seat behind you. Noomad Bike. Video.
- HEAVYWEIGHT MAPS: Your mass stays the same wherever you go, but if you were instantly transported to the top of Mount Everest you’d weigh less. That’s because Earth’s gravity isn’t uniform, on account of varying densities and the effects of centrifugal forces. Researchers at Curtin University spent 3 weeks with a supercomputer to compile a high-resolution map from satellite and topographic data. The map has more than 3 billion points showing gravitational fields over most of the Earth’s surface, with a resolution of about 250 metres. This high-res map will be useful for those building tunnels, dams and tall buildings. Of course, actually climbing Mount Everest would have a more drastic effect on your weight. New Scientist.
Tech Universe: Tuesday 27 August 2013
- TEETH IN 3D: Heading to the dentist soon? To get an impression of your teeth you may have to bite down on a mouldable silicone material for a few moments, and that stuff never tastes good. Those impressions can also be messy, uncomfortable and inaccurate, so how about a new approach? Researchers from MIT created a handheld scanner about the shape and size of an electric toothbrush to capture 3D images inside a mouth. The Lava Chairside Oral Scanner uses a single camera lens and a timed rotating aperture. Add image-processing algorithms and modeling software and you have fast 3D images in real-time. It’s a bit worrying where that lava may come in to the picture. MIT news.
- STARS AFLOAT: The trouble with looking at the night sky from Earth is that the atmosphere above us shimmers. That means that seriously large telescopes have problems making sharp images in the wavelengths we normally see. A new system called Magellan Adaptive Optics does something very clever: it uses an Adaptive Secondary Mirror that can change its shape at 585 points on its surface 1,000 times each second. That counteracts the blurring effects of the atmosphere. But that’s not all. The ASM is floating on a magnetic field around 10 metres above the telescope’s primary mirror. The upshot is images that are twice as sharp in the visible light spectrum as those from other ground-based telescopes. The system has already been successful, showing a clear separation in the theta 1 Ori C binary star. That’s an impressive feat. University of Arizona.
- SILVER WATER: All around the world access to safe drinking water is a challenge. Even those of us lucky enough to live where a tap in the kitchen provides it are at risk from natural disasters. Now researchers have created a gel that contains silver nanoparticles. The lightweight spongy material readily absorbs water then returns to its original form after being squeezed. Add dirty water to the gel, leave it a few minutes, then squeeze. The water that comes out is not only clean and safe to drink, but the tiny amount of leftover silver in the purified water is OK to drink. Four grams of the material can soak up and purify half a litre of water with one squeeze and can be reused more than 20 times. The idea is to drop packages of gel to those in a disaster so they can at least have clean water to drink. Now they just need to reclaim the silver from the human waste. Chemical & Engineering News.
- REFORMED WOOD: Correctly combine cellulose, such as waste paper or cloth, and water to create Zeoform, a strong wood-like substance capable of being formed into an unlimited range of products. The strength comes from hydroxyl bonding which makes the cellulose fibres stick together in water. The non-toxic product can be denser than ebony. By adding organic minerals it can be made to look like stone, marble, wood or other materials. So it’s a sort of high tech papier mache? Though on the other hand wood is cellulose plus water. Zeo.
- UP UP UP UP AND AWAY: The Iris is an advanced quadcopter with full autonomous capabilities and guided by GPS and perhaps including an onboard camera. Control the quadcopter with a smartphone or radio control transmitter. Flight plans can be created from GPS waypoints, or drawn on a map on the smartphone, while geofencing keeps the drone within a user-selectable space. This drone is ready to fly. 3D Robotics.
Tech Universe: Wednesday 28 August 2013
- A VERY FINE MIRROR: The Giant Magellan Telescope is being built at the moment, as the third of its seven primary mirrors is cast at the University of Arizona. The mirror has to be polished to be accurate to within one twentieth the wavelength of light, or one part in 10 billion. In the process 20 tons of molten borosilicate glass will be spun cast at 1171 degrees Celsius. After cooling it’s polished with a series of fine abrasives. The finished telescope is expected to be ready for use in 2020. It’s astonishing that humans can achieve that level of accuracy in manufacturing. NPR.
- WOTCHA: The Omate TrueSmart watch can make voice calls, send text messages and hook in with social media without depending on a smartphone, though it can pair with a smartphone if the wearer wants it to. The watch runs on Android and includes a 5 megapixel camera and GPS. A microSD card can boost its 4 GB internal storage. The Multi-touch Capacitive Touch Screen is a 240×240 colour display. What next? A shoephone? GizmoBeast.
- IN BRICKS WE TRUST: At the University of Newcastle in Australia researchers have found a way to take carbon emissions from power stations and turn them into paving stones and bricks. A pilot plant is starting tests soon. The idea behind the project is to permanently transform carbon dioxide, rather than just store it. But won’t the bricks just release all that CO2 anyway as they weather? ABC News.
- LASERS AT WORK: Different types of bacteria and yeast are known to cause disease in people. But when a person has a disease it can take days to grow the pathogen and then work out which bacterium is at fault, yet choosing the best treatment depends on that information. A new device can shave several days off that discovery time. First a culture must be grown. Then a laser breaks down bacteria and yeast samples, which allows the device to identify the microbes by number and size of particles. The VITEK MS device itself can do its work within an hour, where researchers would need between 1 and 3 days. We’re still a long way from the instantaneous identification doctors would like. LiveScience.
- LETTERS FROM THE BRAIN: Researchers have used functional MRI scanners before now to figure out which part of a person’s brain is active while they do a task such as reading. Now one research group has been able to work out just from brain scans which letter of the alphabet their test subjects were viewing. Next they plan to make a higher res scanner and work on images of faces. Neuron by neuron the brain is revealing its secrets. Radboud University Nijmegen.
Tech Universe: Thursday 29 August 2013
- RED LIGHT SHOWER: Take a shower under an Uji shower head and you’ll easily know when you’ve been in there too long: the shower head itself turns red. LED lights in the shower head gradually change colour from blue to green through orange and finally, after about 7 minutes, to red. The change in colour alerts bathers to how long they’ve been in the shower, which leads to savings in both water and power. That’s clever. NPR.
- KNEE NEEDS: In the US a titanium prosthetic knee joint alone can cost $10,000. But there are many amputees around the world who need an effective joint that costs less than $100. The JaipurKnee is one solution. The joint is made from an oil-filled nylon polymer that self lubricates with use and weighs less than a kilo. It’s composed of 5 plastic pieces and 4 standard fasteners, with a 165 degree range that makes it possible to kneel and squat. And the ultimate outcome: the possibility to live an independent and productive life. D-Rev.
- GLASS AND MIRRORS: Have your smartphone see around corners with the Smartphone Spy Lens. Attach the provided metal ring around your smartphone’s built-in lens then snap on the Spy Lens which attaches magnetically. The glass lens uses mirrors to take photos at right angles to the phone and can swivel around to easily cover any direction. That’s handy for those who like to take photos of their meals. Photojojo.
- KEEP THE PHONE CLOSE: It’s not what it sounds like: the Micro Phone Lens converts your cellphone camera into a microscope. The tiny soft platinum catalysed silicone lens sticks itself to your cellphone over the camera lens. Peel it off again and store it in its carry case for future uses. It has a 15x base magnification but can accommodate a built-in zoom in the phone. The biggest problem is likely to be its tiny size: it’s only around 6 mm in diameter. Get that old contact lens case out. Micro Phone Lens.
- WATCH YOUR BACK: Fos is a fabric patch that contains a very bright LED grid and can be controlled by a mobile phone. For example, it can display the next turn on the route you’re taking. Wear the patch on your back so drivers can see you and your next turn on your bike. The patch includes a software development kit so you can design your own uses. Images can be displayed at up to 60 frames per second. The 30 gram patch is lined with Velcro, includes a 32-bit microprocessor, flash memory and efficient power supply, and offers 64K shades of light for every pixel. Just keep the messages clean. Fos.
Tech Universe: Friday 30 August 2013
- FULL THROTTLE SURF: You don’t really expect to surf on a calm lake. Unless, that is, your surfboard includes a two-stroke engine, as the 15 Kg JetSurf board does. Its 100 cc engine can boost you to around 55 Kph. Epic. JetSurf.
- CLING SKIN: Imagine cling film with embedded electronics. Then imagine it ten times thinner. That’s what one researcher at the University of Tokyo has come up with. To make the material thin-film transistors are printed on plastic film at room temperature. The e-skin can be stretched, folded or even crumpled like paper but most important it clings to human skin and flexes with it. The material could be used for health monitoring or perhaps as a skin for prosthetics or robots. The new morning check: wallet, keys, skin. IEEE Spectrum.
- A FRACTION MORE FRICTION: The Bike Dynamo Charger takes energy from your bike’s rear wheel to power up gadgets while you ride. The device clamps to the seat stem and outputs standard 5V USB power through an included cable. You’ll need to keep the speed up though to at least 12 Kph. It may just keep the GPS app from draining the phone’s battery while you ride. RedFerret.
- JUST AVOID WATER: The wing mirrors on your car are invaluable for seeing what’s behind you on the road. Except when it’s raining of course, and the mirrors are covered in raindrops. The Flexible PVC Car Side Mirror Rain Shade does what it suggests: it clips on to the wing mirror and helps keep the rain off. It’s a simple solution really. Fancy.
- JUST ADD WATER: With cholera comes dehydration: easily handled with an IV bag. But while the bags themselves are cheap, the liquid in them makes shipping difficult and expensive. The Maji IV bag is designed to ship empty and use Forward Osmosis to fill with sterile water. An FO membrane draws water molecules from any water source, then uses ultrafiltration to achieve clean, sterile water. Combined with salt, the sterile water becomes a saline solution suitable for use as an IV bag. Medical workers could deliver many such empty bags on a motorcycle or even on foot, where filled bags would be impossible to carry in quantity. That’s good thinking. Maji