Tech Universe: Monday
18 November 2013
- A NEW
FACE OF PRINTING: It was a bad motorbike accident that
cost one rider one side of his face. Now Welsh surgeons are using
3D printing to help rebuild it. The facial reconstruction will use
titanium guides and implants modeled from a CT scan of the
unaffected side of his face. The scan allowed maxillofacial
surgeons to design guides and implants which are then created by
specialist 3D printing facilities in Belgium using medical grade
titanium. NHS Wales.
AND CAPTURE: Toss the softball sized Panono in the air
and as it reaches the peak of its flight the 36 cameras it carries
trigger to capture a panoramic fully spherical 72 megapixel image.
Rather than being thrown in the air the Panono can be supported on
a stick or be handheld and triggered with a shutter release. The
images are sent to a tablet or smartphone via Bluetooth. To view
the image on a tablet move the tablet around to see the full view,
or view the image online. The Panono is rugged enough to stand
being dropped a few times if you fail to catch it. That sounds fun
for barbecues and other outdoor events. The Verge.
A GOOD IDEA: 20 Km off the coast of Fukushima in Japan a
new wind power project has started generating electricity. A 2
megawatt floating turbine and a floating substation form the start
of a project that may eventually expand to generate 1,000
megawatts. The first turbine and substation will be studied and
analysed before any decisions are made to go ahead with a
commercial project. Good luck, and may the seas be calm. Bloomberg.
CHARGER: Engineers at Duke University can pull microwave
signals out of the air and turn them into direct current voltage to
recharge a cellphone or other small electronic device. Like solar
panels that turn light into energy their device harvests
microwaves. Fibreglass and copper energy conductors wired together
on a circuit board provide more energy than a typical USB charger.
The device is around 37% energy efficient and could be useful in
remote locations where there’s a cellphone signal or satellites
passing overhead to power a network of sensors for data collection.
Those microwaves are everywhere. Duke University.
ROAD IN FOCUS: The Attention Powered Car is a special
test car in Western Australia that only runs full-speed-ahead when
you’re paying total attention. Lose focus and the car slows and
even stops until you pay attention to your driving again. While
underway on a test track the driver wears a headset with 14 EGS
sensors that measure the overall activity in the brain. In tests
the researchers could even tell when a driver was about to lose
focus. While never intended as a system to be used in real-life
driving, the research could lead to devices in cars to help alert
drivers who are distracted. Even the test system could be a
valuable part of driving training, or perhaps refresher training.
Tech Universe: Tuesday
19 November 2013
- SEE THE
SEAS: A wandering International Oceanic Station that
drifts on the oceans providing a base for research and exploration
— that’s the idea behind the 58 metre high SeaOrbiter.
Part submarine, part ship, it will carry a crew of 22 who can stay
aboard for long periods. The SeaOrbiter will be able to deploy
exploration devices and divers and make it easy for researchers to
work on long duration projects. Tests in simulations found the
SeaOrbiter couldn’t be knocked over even in severe storms. The idea
is to put a SeaOrbiter in all oceans and the major seas to create a
permanent research network similar to the International Space
Station. Vertical wind turbines and solar panels will help power
the vessel. Space gets a lot of attention; it might be a great idea
to study the seas too. SeaOrbiter.
METAL: Personal 3D printers tend to use plastic, but the
Mini Metal Maker aims to add metal to the mix. The machine extrudes
hot metal clay, composed of metal flakes mixed with a binder and
water. As the clay cools it dries and builds up layers of material.
Finally the object is fired in a kiln which removes both binder and
water to leave a metal object. The printer’s not really precise
enough for fine machine work, but would be of interest to
designers, jewellery makers and hobbyists. Objects can be bent,
filed, polished, drilled, soldered and even used to conduct
electricity. The printer handles various metals including copper,
brass, gold, silver and steel. That’s another one for maker groups
to explore. GigaOm. Video:
OIL: Imagine you’re on a ship at the site of an oil
spill. Now imagine you could throw a net overboard to break down
that oil, leaving biodegradable compounds in its place. Scientists
at Stony Brook University have created that net in the form of a
photocatalytic nanogrid made from copper tungsten oxide. Once the
net has done its work it can be used again for another spill. The
catalyst uses the whole solar spectrum to break down hydrocarbons
in water. What’s more the nets actually assemble themselves during
the manufacturing process. The creators speculate that a similar
product and process could be used in future for washing clothes
without needing water. How long though does the oil breakdown take?
National Science Foundation.
FEW HOURS KIP: The Nine Hours capsule hotel in Kyoto is
an inexpensive but minimalist place to stay. It offers separate
lifts and separate floors for men and women, and is a place to
sleep rather than to stay for a holiday. The suggested length of
visit is 9 hours: enough time to get ready for bed, sleep and get
ready to leave again. A Panasonic-built sleeping system modulates
the light to lull you to sleep and wake you up at a set time.
Sounds perfect if all you need is a safe place to grab a few hours
rest. The Verge.
- LIGHT UP THE
NIGHT: If you just need to see the way from the tent to
the toilet block at night then a torch from the supermarket should
do the job. But if you have sophisticated needs for lighting things
up at night and cash to spare then you may want to look at the
GoBe. The torch comes as a handle with interchangeable heads that
provide red light for night vision, white light, a spot or a wide
beam and a blue light for exciting phosphorescence on the sea at
night. A USB rechargeable li-ion battery can provide light for up
to 54 hours at up to 700 lumens and even 120 metres below the sea.
Air cooling helps the torch run longer too. 700 lumens should make
things pretty clear. GoBe.
20 November 2013
- ROBOTS WITH
RINGS: The Pars rescue robot from Iran is designed to
help people at risk of drowning in the ocean. The small robot flies
to where it’s needed and drops up to 3 life preservers. The robot
can fly at 10 metres per second and has a flight radius range of
4.5 kilometres. Recent tests of a prototype were considered
successful. The developers hope to create a commercial product
after some further work. A robot like that could be particularly
useful if carried on any ship. Robots.net.
GET UP: Honda’s UNI-CUB β personal mobility
device is a smaller, lighter, more advanced version of its UNI-CUB.
The device has been made from softer materials so the seat is more
comfortable and impacts with people or other objects are less
severe. A stand also makes it easier to mount and dismount and
allows the vehicle to be used as a seat when not in motion. The 25
Kg device runs on a Lithium-ion battery and can travel up to 6 Km
at up to 6 Kph. It’s designed for use indoors though, rather than
out on the city streets. Just the thing for some of the bigger
AND PULL: Sometimes babies get stuck in the birth canal.
In places like New Zealand that means doctors spring into action,
but in some countries with few medical services the mother may die.
One Argentine car mechanic has created a simple device to help
extract the baby. An attendant slips a plastic bag inside a
lubricated plastic sleeve around the baby’s head, inflates the bag
to grip the head and pulls the bag until the baby emerges. The bag
system could replace forceps and suction cups which can themselves
cause a lot of damage. The device has been tested on a small number
of women who weren’t having problems giving birth but will next be
tested on those with problems. When finished the device should be
low cost and so more available to poor countries. Cow and sheep
farmers could be interested too. New York Times.
USEFUL VIRUS: Lithium-air batteries could produce a lot
more power than other batteries, but scientists are having some
problems with the electrodes and the number of charge and discharge
cycles. The cathode could be made from nanowires though.
Researchers found that a genetically modified virus called M13 can
capture molecules of metals from water and bind them into
structural shapes. That means that, rather like an abalone growing
its shell by capturing calcium from seawater, nanowires created
with the virus can have a much increased surface area. It also
means nanowires can be grown at room temperature using a process
based on water. Add a little palladium at the end and electrical
conductivity is improved too. Unfortunately these discoveries are
just a step along the way in research, but it’s still pushing
things in the right direction. MIT News.
Tech Universe: Thursday
21 November 2013
IS BEST: It seems obvious to face solar panels directly
towards the sun: south or north, depending which part of the world
you’re in. Still, one study in Texas, found that facing them west
could bring more benefits. The study found that panels turned to
the west generated nearly 50% more electricity during peak demand
hours than did their southern-facing counterparts. Homes with
west-facing systems also produced slightly more electricity. Future
research will study what difference the pitch of the roof makes.
The obvious thing isn’t always the best thing. Green Tech Media.
QUICK CHILL: When all you really want is a cold drink
it’s annoying to find you forgot to put the drinks in the fridge.
The V-Tex machine can cool a drink in less than 45 seconds. Unlike
other methods that may leave fizzy drinks flat or freeze the
outside while leaving the inside warm the V-Tex method rotates the
can or bottle at just the right speed to preserve carbonation and
cool the liquid all the way through. A retail machine can handle 6
drinks, while a domestic version quickly cools bottles of
champagne, wine or beer. The retail version reduces energy
consumption by up to 80% compared with current refrigerators. It’s
a nice idea, and takes less time than making a cup of tea, but for
homes the machine needs to be small enough to hide away on the
THE BAT: The Bat is a small but fully autonomous military
drone that has been used for a while for surveillance. It’s
launched from a hydraulic rail launcher at sea or on land and
retrieved by having it fly into a large net. It can travel at up to
112 Kph. In recent tests it succeeded in jamming radar signals.
That means it could be used to protect aircraft against radar and
surface-to-air missile guidance systems. Wouldn’t it also jam the
radar of the planes it’s protecting? Wired.
ON: The SPOT Trace is a GPS tracked device that you might
attach to a car or boat in case they’re stolen. The small device
sleeps until it detects that it’s been moved. It then connects with
the tracking service which sends you an email or text to alert you
so you can track the item live on a map. The device uses satellite
tracking so even remote locations are not a problem. The device
itself comes in at just under 90 grams and is around 7 cm by 5 cm
in size. Attach it with double sided tape, with a mounting bracket,
or via an adhesive grip pad or adhesive hook and loop tape.
Stalkers and paparazzi could find it handy too. SPOT.
VISION: The Argus II is a retinal implant for adults with
retinitis pigmentosa which causes a slow loss of vision ending with
blindness. The Argus II system uses a tiny camera in a pair of
glasses to capture an image, process it and send instructions to 60
electrodes that stimulate cells in the retina. Those cells in turn
send visual information along the optic nerve to the brain,
creating the perception of patterns of light. A recent study
discovered that if the outlines of an object were enhanced users of
the implant were more successful in recognising the object. That
just seems sensible. American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Tech Universe: Friday
22 November 2013
IS BRAIN SURGERY: Researchers at the University of
Florida took MRI and CT scans from former patients, added in some
3D printing, software and artificial skin and created simulators
for trainee brain surgeons. The simulators help surgeons coordinate
their eyes and hands with images they’re watching on screen. The
University is creating a library of actual brain surgery cases for
the simulators, while the 3D models of patient brains add
much-needed realism. There are some good brains behind that
operation. Live Science.
SMOOTH STRIDE: After a stroke many people experience
problems with walking which limit their mobility. Honda’s Walking
Assist Device is a 2.7 Kg battery powered assistant that a person
wears around their hips and thighs. A control computer activates
motors based on information obtained from hip angle sensors then
helps the wearer lift their legs more evenly and with a longer
stride. The device can operate for 60 minutes on a full charge.
Clinical research studies are about to take place in the US. Walk
this way. Honda.
- A HEALTHY
DISTANCE: In the Basque region of Spain, where about 18%
of the population is over 65, the older folks are on a fitness
track. A patient monitoring system provides a heart rate monitor, a
spirometer to check respiratory levels, and a motion sensor all to
help assess mobility. All the data goes to the patient’s doctor,
who administers care and writes out prescriptions remotely. A pilot
scheme in the first year eliminated 52,000 hospital visits and cut
costs by 7% per patient. What about health outcomes though: were
they increased? CNBC.
DROP OF WATER: It’s a 17 story drop, in water. The
Verrückt Meg-A-Blaster waterslide opens in 2014 in
Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas. Rafts carrying 4 people will
take visitors down the drop which will be more than 40 metres high.
Hold on to your stomach. Kansas City Star. Video:
FOLDED WINGS: The Boeing 777X twin-engine jet will have a
wingspan of about 68 metres. That means it might not fit easily at
some airport gates, so the tips of the wings will fold up by about
3 metres on each side. The 777X is intended for long distance
flights and should be available from around 2020. The Verge.