Tech Universe: Monday 11 June

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

SPEED ON TAP: Because touchscreens don't provide physical feedback you have to look at the screen while typing so you tap the right spot. US researchers used software to recognise where individual test users tapped the keys. They found people may have quirks such as hitting the bottom of a key rather than the centre. Then they tried adapting the position of the keys to match the user. They found users were able to type faster, though their accuracy didn't improve. Oh well, making
mistakes more quickly is still progress, right?

SCREEN BUMPS: Touchscreens don't really have keyboards, just pixels showing where to tap. Tactus Technology aim to change that with buttons that rise up from a flat screen as needed. Channels beneath a touchscreen can be arranged in any configuration a manufacturer specifies.

A tiny amount of fluid is pumped through the channels to raise a deformable membrane that covers the surface of the touchscreen. That creates buttons that disappear when they're no longer needed. That could bring some interesting possibilities for a more 3D display too.

TRICK OF THE EYE: Super duper high-res screens need all kinds of fancy tech to pack in all the resolution. Or do they? Maybe vibrating a lower-res screen is enough. Graphics researchers Floraine Berthouzoz and Raanan Fattal found they could trick viewers into seeing higher resolution than the screen was actually capable of. They rendered high-res images in lower resolution and then flashed them on a low-res screen too quickly for the eye to detect the changes. By vibrating the display between refreshes the viewer perceived the image as high-resolution. Well, if you can turn a series of static images into a movie then why not fool viewers into seeing higher-res too?

MY FIRST GEIGER COUNTER: The Softbank Pantone 5 107SH Android smartphone includes a built-in geiger counter, able to measure radiation levels within 20% accuracy. A button on the front gives you access to a radiation sensor. The button launches an app that reads the number of microsieverts in the surrounding air. It should be accurate enough for casual daily use. Let's hope the app includes some info screens to help people interpret the readings.

CARBON WIRE: Researchers at Rice University have created a coaxial cable that's about 100 billionths of a metre in diameter but with much higher capacitance than other microcapacitors. There's copper at the heart of the cable, and copper oxide in a couple of layers of insulation, but the outer insulation is a thin layer of carbon. This cable could be useful for capacitors and energy storage devices or in
lab-on-a-chip devices. Small changes can make big differences.

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