Tech Universe: Thursday 14 June

By Miraz Jordan

Luc Vincent, Google Engineering Director for Street View, demonstrates a backpack camera called Trekker. Photo / AFP
Luc Vincent, Google Engineering Director for Street View, demonstrates a backpack camera called Trekker. Photo / AFP

FOREST UNCOVER: People chopping down forests can't hide the destruction any more. The global forest disturbance alert system, GloF-DAS, takes satellite remote sensing index images at exactly the same time period each year. Then you can view a map, choose a time period and country and see exactly where forests show a significant loss of greenness cover. For example, the December 2011 image shows disturbance in around 34 places in New Zealand. Now we can see both the forest and the trees.

CONCRETE TREES: In Singapore 18 solar-powered steel and concrete supertrees up to 50 metres high will act as vertical gardens in a 101 hectare Gardens by the Bay project. The trees will generate solar power, act as air venting ducts for nearby conservatories and collect rainwater. Each supertree features tropical flowers and various ferns climbing across its steel framework.

Two massive conservatories will use some of the solar generated power. Gardens made of concrete and steel seem rather a contradiction.

BIKE GLIDER: The Novara Gotham is a bike with an indeterminate number of gears. The continuously variable planetary drivetrain system draws on work by Leonardo da Vinci. A twist grip is all you need to gear up or down, and the hard work is done inside the hub. The transmission uses a Gates carbon belt rather than a chain. The drive in the rear hub relies on traction created when a thin film of hydraulic fluid becomes temporarily an elastic solid, and uses ball bearings trapped between 2 solid discs, an input and an output disc. The twist grip varies the angle of the ball bearings, altering the relationship between input and output discs, effectively changing gear. So no more putting the chain back on?

GET THE SKINNY: Google's Street View cars are well-known, but in some places the streets are just far too narrow for a car to get through.
But that's OK, because Google have 360-degree backpack cameras too, for when walking is the only way to get the pictures. The Trekker prototype includes 15 5-megapixel cameras and weighs around 16 Kg.
It's tall and skinny, and places the camera globe above the wearer's head. So, not very inconspicuous then.

PROXIMITY CHARGE: Intel want you to be able to charge your phone without plugging it in. For a prototype they added a charging strip to an Acer Aspire laptop and to a phone. When the phone was laid on the desk touching the charging strip on the laptop it was charged up by drawing power from the laptop. Sounds specially handy if your laptop's plugged in at the wall.

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