Tech Universe: Monday 18 February

By Miraz Jordan

Snow boots with retractable spikes are great for indoor and outdoor use. Photo / Thinkstock
Snow boots with retractable spikes are great for indoor and outdoor use. Photo / Thinkstock

SHOPPING SPIKE: In places where the streets are routinely icy it can be handy to have spikes in the soles of your boots. The spikes are great for traction on ice, but not so good for indoor use, so if you're walking to the shops you have a problem. Enter Meindl's boots with retractable spikes. The wearer flips out a dial on the heel to extend the 6 spikes or flips it back in to retract them. Simple.

ARMED WITH 3D: Makers of prosthetics tend to be commercial groups, and their products can be very costly. One teen in the US, with no training in prosthetics set about building a robotic hand just for fun. After some success in that he set himself the goal of creating a really functional prosthetic arm. With 3D printing and a clever use of Arduino, Bluetooth and an EEG headset to control movement he's come up with a functional robotic arm that costs only $250.

Any number 8 wire in there?

DRINK OF CLAY: The University of Virginia has found a simple way to help people in the Limpopo province in South Africa to clean up their drinking water. Their MadiDrops are ceramic discs that each last around 6 months while they filter impurities from water. The trick is in the silver or copper nanoparticles that are embedded in the discs.

Local workers can create the low-cost discs and filters that use similar technology, so building local businesses and communities. The filters are made of local clay, sawdust and water and kill 99.9% of the pathogens in water poured through them. It's great to see the locals can take control of the process and benefit from the manufacture and supply as well as the use of the filters.

ON TRACK: As you move around taking and uploading photos, checking in with Foursquare, tweeting and the like you know you're leaving tracks that could be followed. But actually tracking someone would require a fair bit of dedication. Raytheon's Rapid Information Overlay Technology software pulls all the data together and makes it a whole lot easier. Then it not only tracks, but can use the data it's gathered to predict where you might be, when, and what you might do.
Don't feel paranoid; they really might be tracking you.

HEALING HOT FLASHES: The NAND cells in conventional flash memory such as the commercial SSDs in your computer or smartphone can be programmed and erased a few thousand times. Now Macronix have created a cell that heals itself when heated to 800 C and can be programmed and erased more than 100 million times. Heating plates built into the cells consume a little extra energy, but also allow for faster erasing, though Macronix don't yet know why. It'll be a while before these cells are available commercially. A little warmth can go a long way.

Miraz Jordan,

- NZ Herald

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