Tech Universe: Thursday 21 February

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

WATCH THE STATS: The SmartBall from Catapult Sports will capture masses of data for sports players, their coaches and fans. Players wear a GPS tracker so the system knows where they are on the field. Meanwhile the ball contains a sensor. Beacons inside the ball transmit 5 times per second, sending as far as around 5 metres. Signals are received by one or more nearby players. Data is sent from the players to the sidelines and collated to create a 2D model of how the players and the ball move on the field. Coaches can track in detail both how the players perform and how they're interacting with the ball. The data could also be used to provide fans with more info about the game. This conjures up an image of a future where robots love sports for the stats goodness, while humans watch for the plays.

SHOWING THE WAY: Oxford University reckon a car could learn routes you regularly drive, such as the way to work or the kids' school, and then do the driving for you. Their version of a self-driving car uses lasers on the front and a camera on the roof of the car to create a 3D image.

The sensors also notice unfamiliar objects such as pedestrians. Once the car knows a particular route it could drive that portion. The aim of this approach is to keep costs lower than those for a fully self-driving car. So many people drive the same routes each day. Handing over some of the driving could be a relief.

MOVIE MIX: Many Worlds is a 15 minute movie whose plot changes according to the mood of the audience, or more particularly, certain members of the audience. As the audience enter the cinema 4 are selected to represent the rest and to wear small sensors that capture heart rate, muscle tension, brainwave activity, or skin conductance. As they watch the movie an algorithm assesses the captured data and chooses which prerecorded version of a scene to show next. A responsive soundtrack is also used to control mood, perhaps making it more discordant to create more fear if the audience seems bored. Have fun discussing that movie with friends who saw it at a different session.

ROBOTS AT LARGE: The VGo telepresence robot makes it possible for 7 year old Devon Carrow to attend school in New York. His robot goes everywhere the rest of the class go: to the library, the auditorium and the lunchroom, though a teacher has to lift the robot up any stairs. That's not too hard though as it weighs only a little over 8 Kg. The other kids take it all in stride and treat Devon as though he were physically present. The teacher uses a microphone that allows Devon to hear her, while it helps other students hear her too. It'd be interesting to see how it works out if multiple students, or even all of them, had robots at school while they stayed home.

CYCLISTS AFLOAT: In Eidnhoven in The Netherlands the Hovenring is a special roundabout bridge for pedestrians and cyclists. The bridge is circular, 72 metres in diameter, and suspended from cables that hang from a 70 metre pylon in the middle. A counterweight and M-shaped supports help keep the bridge from swaying or twisting. One problem was the steep climb up to the bridge, so they lowered the road to make a more gentle slope. That's how to keep cyclists and walkers safer.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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