Tech Universe: Wednesday 16 May

By Miraz Jordan

Ever wondered how you can boost your brainpower? US researchers have developed the Brainput system which allows a computer system to help you multitask. Photo / Thinkstock
Ever wondered how you can boost your brainpower? US researchers have developed the Brainput system which allows a computer system to help you multitask. Photo / Thinkstock

BRAIN SUPPORT: Is your work just too hard for your brain? The Brainput system, developed by US researchers, determines when a brain is trying to multitask, and offloads some of the workload to a computer. It uses functional near-infrared spectroscopy to measure the activity of the brain. In the lab an operator tried to navigate two robots through a maze at the same time. When the operator was multitasking the robots used their own sensors to navigate so as to help out. With Brainput turned on, operator performance improved. Now that would be a useful virtual assistant. ExtremeTech has more.

OLD GEAR: The world's oldest computer is arguably the Antikythera Mechanism. Unfortunately we don't know how it works because it was underwater for a couple of thousand years, and it's incomplete. Scientists used X-Rays though to see inside and found astonishingly precise gears that change our view of the state of engineering in Ancient Greece.

We consistently underestimate our predecessors. BBC makes sense of this.

SWEAT ALERT: People who have seizures may need an electroencephalogram to determine the severity. And that means a trip to hospital. But a new wristband may be able to do the job more easily. The wristband measures how easily an electrical current can travel across the skin, and that's related to how much you sweat. Your skin conductance goes up when you feel a flight or fight response. The researchers were originally testing something different but noticed skin conductance was related to seizures and their severity. They may even be able to predict seizures. Such wristbands could also be rigged to send out an alert for particular readings. Is that what some dogs can pick up on when they can predict seizures? New Scientist explains.

GAMMA BENDER: European physicists have found a way to bend and focus gamma rays using a crystal spectrometer and a silicon prism. In tests they bent the gamma rays by about a millionth of a degree, but the researchers think that using different materials in the lenses could result in greater refraction. They hope that eventually they could detect radioactive bomb-making material or use the technique in medical imaging. X-rays have been really useful, so why not gamma rays? ScienceNOW elaborates.

3D PHONE: Skype is just so 2D. Dump it and go with the 3D TeleHuman from Queen's University in Canada. The system uses an array of Microsoft Kinect sensors, a 3D projector, a 1.8 metre tall translucent acrylic cylinder and a convex mirror at each end of the call. The image of the other person appears inside the cylinder, and you can walk all around to see them from any angle. So how about a resurgence of phone boxes with this tech? Queen's University gives more info. Here's the video.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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