Tech Universe: Thursday 01 March

In the UK, the Highways Agency has planned to cut down the waste of electricity by turning off lights for around 4000km of roads when they're not needed. Photo / Thinkstock
In the UK, the Highways Agency has planned to cut down the waste of electricity by turning off lights for around 4000km of roads when they're not needed. Photo / Thinkstock

DIM IDEAS: See those motorway lights glaring out in the middle of the night, with no traffic using them? What a waste, of electricity and of the precious darkness. The Highways Agency in the UK are busy turning off the lights for around 4,000 Km of roads to minimise obtrusive light. Technology these days can control lights individually and remotely. Turn the lights on or up during the morning and evening rush hour and dim them the rest of the time. Maintain safety with half the energy — that makes a lot of sense. The Telegraph maps it out.

BEADED THREADS: Researchers at the University of Akron in the USA took their cue from spiders when creating a new biocompatible thread for medical sutures. One type of spider thread has beads of a glue-like substance for catching prey. The researchers started with materials like nylon.

Then they added a coating of glue that forms beads to create a strong adhesive. The beads could also be used to contain and deliver medication. Spider silk seems to have many remarkable properties. Visit The University of Akron for more. Video here.

THE THOMASES: The Smithsonian museum has so many works in its collection it can exhibit only 2% of the 137 million pieces to the public at any given time. Now they want to share their collection more widely with other museums around the world. But not the real thing: instead they plan to make 3D printed replicas and send those off on show. The museum will scan each piece in 3D and then print in 3D to reproduce the item. They've started with a statue of Thomas Jefferson. You'd think they'd start with dinosaurs and the like. The Creators Project has more.

6 FINGER TYPING: Researchers at Georgia Tech have created a prototype app called BrailleTouch for smartphones that lets you input text without looking at the screen. It draws on Braille typing and lets users input text at up to 32 words per minute with 92% accuracy. BrailleTouch uses a 6-key chording technique that does away with a traditional keyboard layout. Users hold the device with the screen pointing away from them and type with 3 fingers on each hand. The text entry's one thing, but what about choosing menu items and tapping on buttons? Georgia Institute of Technology details. Check out the video.

AVATAR ROBOT: The Telesar V robot from Japan is intended to duplicate its pilot's actions, but at a distance. The robot has cameras and sensors so its pilot can see and feel what the robot is doing. The pilot wears a control suit that sends commands to and receives feedback from the robot. The robot could be used for tasks such as bomb disposal, in hostile environments such as the Fukushima reactors, or perhaps even in medicine. They should fill offices with these so workers could stay home, saving transport costs and pollution. The Daily Mail outlines. Video online.

- Miraz Jordan knowit.co.nz

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