Tech Universe: Monday 28 February

By Miraz Jordan

The SonarLocID keyboard detects when the user moves away and instantly locks the screen. Photo / Supplied
The SonarLocID keyboard detects when the user moves away and instantly locks the screen. Photo / Supplied

THE KEYBOARD THAT DOESN'T WORK WITHOUT YOU: The SonarLocID keyboard detects when the user moves away and instantly locks the screen, hiding what the now absent user was working on. To unlock the screen again the user must provide a fingerprint or ID card. You'd better hope no-one steals the keyboard or you may be in trouble. More at KsiKeyboards and video on YouTube.

INTO THE SKIN: A new probe from the University of Rochester, USA, takes photos through human skin to show clear 3D images of all the tissue up to 1 millimeter deep. The probe uses a drop of water as a lens. An electric field changes the shape of the lens and therefore its focus. Images are precise to a micron. One application may be to check skin lesions without removing them. I foresee a whole new Flickr group starting up. More at the University of Rochester.

PLASTIC ZAP: Plastics tend to insulate from electricity rather than conduct it. But Australian researchers used an ion beam to mix metal into a polymer and so create cheap, strong, flexible and conductive plastic films. If cooled enough the new mix can even act as a superconductor. Conductivity and resistance can be finely tuned too. Soft, plastic electronics. This is one to watch. More at ScienceAlert.

BATTERY AID: Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are great but they still wear out and degrade over time. One problem is that the negative terminal, the anode, may develop cracks that impede the flow of current. Research funded by the US Department of Energy is experimenting with embedded plastic microspheres. When problems occur the microspheres break apart and release a 'healing' substance such as indium gallium arsenide, or insulating material as required. More at Wired.

GAMERS EYE VIEW: Sony recently showed off a demo of 3D dual-view split screen viewing - one screen was showing 2 different images at the same time. Viewers with special glasses each see a different image, depending on their viewing position. Duelling gamers, for example, could share one screen while they slug it out. The technique still needs some refinement and isn't yet on sale. Still with the special glasses. More at PocketLint.

- Miraz Jordan knowit.co.nz

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