Tech Universe: Wednesday 18 April

By Miraz Jordan

Robot guards - the way of the future. Photo / Thinkstock
Robot guards - the way of the future. Photo / Thinkstock

DANGER, PRISONER: South Korean authorities are experimenting with robot prison guards. The robots patrol the corridors at up to 2km/h, looking in the cells. When they identify suspicious or problem behaviour by prisoners they alert the guards. The guards in the control room can control the robot with an iPad and speak to the prisoners. When a robot's battery runs out it returns to a charging station on the wall. These look pretty functional, but just wait till they come out with Dalek or Cylon models for the harshest prisons. More from IEEE Spectrum, and there's video here.

SOFT TOUCH: Scientists for the Universities of Austria and Tokyo have created solar cells that are thinner than a thread of spider silk. The device is made up of electrodes on a plastic foil, about about 1.9 micrometers thick in total. The cell is soft and flexible and so less prone to damage than conventional cells. It could perhaps be attached to clothing for powering medical devices or sensors.

Or perhaps use it
on cases for smartphones and tablets. Details at PhysOrg.

CASH ON A CHIP: The Royal Canadian Mint has created its own form of digital currency. The MintChip is a digital file that can be mathematically verified by software without requiring personal details. First you use a secure physical chip to add an amount to your smartphone, the Cloud or other digital wallet. Then you can exchange MintChips for goods or services that cost as little at a cent. The Mint is currently challenging developers to create apps for MintChip. Anything that helps us spend, spend, spend. The MintChip Challenge here and video here.

TWINKLE, TWINKLE MANY STARS: After 10 years of work astronomers have released a detailed image containing more than a billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy. Data from two near-infrared telescopes were combined to create the image which contains 150 billion pixels and can be panned and zoomed. The dataset and image provide valuable information to astronomers, and are interesting for the general public. So many stars, and that's just our galaxy. More info at the The University of Edinburgh, and view the image here.

EASY TOUCH: Barcodes and QR codes get data into devices such as smartphones via the camera. Touchcode comes from a German company called Printechnologic and it's different because it uses the touchscreen. It's an invisible electronic code you can add with a regular printer to product packaging, tickets or almost anything else. Press the printed material to the touchscreen of your phone to enter the data into the device. The phone may respond with video content, a website or other material. It wasn't explicit, but there must be an app for that. Details at Printechnologic, and there's video

- Miraz Jordan

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