Tech Universe: Friday 6 July

By Miraz Jordan

Researchers from Universiteit Maastricht are hoping the new 'real-time, brain-scanning speller' will help people who are completely paralysed, be able to communicate again. Photo / Thinkstock
Researchers from Universiteit Maastricht are hoping the new 'real-time, brain-scanning speller' will help people who are completely paralysed, be able to communicate again. Photo / Thinkstock

THINK FOR A SPELL: Researchers at Universiteit Maastricht trained people to activate certain areas of their brains. Then, using an fMRI scanner they detected which area of the brain was active and use that data to type letters on a computer. Participants performed a different mental task for each letter of the alphabet and the spacebar and so were able to spell out words. The ultimate goal is to allow people who are completely paralysed to communicate. No doubt some folks will then criticise their choice of font. ScienceDaily has more.

GREASED LIGHTNING: Scientists with the US Army are working on a guided lightning bolt weapon called the Laser-Induced Plasma Channel. It's designed to take out targets that conduct electricity better than the air or ground that surrounds them. A laser pulse that lasts for two-trillionths of a second causes air to focus the light into a filament. That creates an electro-magnetic field strong enough to rip electrons off air molecules, creating plasma.

Then they direct the plasma with a mirror along the path of the laser beam to a target. Electricity follows the path of the plasma, exploding ordnance or just frying the objects it travels through. Kapow! US Army explains.

HOT SHIRTS: The US designed and made Apollo business shirt uses phase change materials to absorb heat from your body when you're in a hot place and store it in the fabric. Then if you go back into the cool the shirt releases that heat to help warm you. That's one way to keep your cool. Details from Ministry of Supply.

SPELL AND SPEAK: The Proloquo2Go app speaks on behalf of those who are unable to. The app allows a user to tap buttons on a tablet and then speaks sentences in a real and appropriate voice. Some tech is liberating. BBC elaborates.

A QUICK READ: If you want to read the latest book from one Argentinean publisher you'd better be quick about it. The Book That Can't Wait is an anthology of first time authors and is sold in an airtight bag. As soon as you open the bag air and light start to fade the ink on the pages. Within 2 months all the text has disappeared. The publishers hope to prompt book buyers to get on with reading the book, rather than leaving it in a pile until they get round to it, sometime or never. And if the buyer doesn't get around to opening the bag? PSFK has further info. Video here.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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