SHEAR TOUCH: Human skin is very sensitive, and can even distinguish between 3 types of mechanical strain: pressure, which comes straight down; shear, a frictional slide along the surface; and torsion, a twisting motion. One challenge of robotics is to give a robot similarly sensitive skin. A flexible sensor that might do the job has been created by an engineer at Seoul National University. Polymer fibres 100 nanometres wide and 1 micrometre long are coated with metal to make them electrically conductive. Sheets of fibres are sandwiched together, making them interlock, and are wired with current. As the material is pressed, twisted or brushed it changes the sensor's electrical resistance. Work like this really brings home just how complex and sophisticated the human body is. Nature details.
OOPS: Iris scanners are pretty much leading edge biometric security devices, but it seems they have a flaw. A team at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid recreated the image of an iris from digital codes of real irises stored in security databases. Then they printed out synthetic images of irises. In testing against a commercial iris scanner the fake was successful 80% of the time. This means that systems that store iris patterns to allow secure access are now a bit more vulnerable than they used to be.
But spy movies just won't be as impressive if the villains simply print out an iris scan instead of taking hostages. BBC explains.
DIRECT HIT: General Motors wants a car's warning system to help alert drivers to cyclists in the driver's blind spot or pedestrians stepping out from behind a parked car, as well as other potential hazards. The cyclists or pedestrians need to carry a smartphone using Wi-Fi Direct and with a customised app. Wi-Fi Direct has a reach of around 200 metres and connects devices directly together. That means the car can detect cyclists and pedestrians more quickly than if the signal had to go through a cell tower. Now the car's alert system needs to be able to reliably alert the driver only to actual hazards, and not just every pedestrian or cyclist on a busy street. General Motors has more.
CHARGE PAD: Electric vehicles have a couple of major drawbacks: having to plug them in and how long charging takes. Qualcomm's Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging system is soon to be tested in London. It uses inductive charging that transfers power from a pad in the floor or road to a receiver on a car. Having charging pads available in many locations could mean cars could be charged when parked at a destination such as home or work. That carpark at work could soon cost far more than you can afford. Qualcomm has the info.
GIVE BACTERIA THE SLIP: Bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus grow on anything. Even Teflon doesn't stop biofilms from clinging to the surface. But scientists at Harvard created Slippery-Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces that prevent more than 99% of harmful bacterial slime from forming on a surface. An immobilised layer of liquid creates a hybrid surface that is both smooth and slippery. The surface repels both water and oil-based liquids and even prevents ice or frost from forming. Biofilms just fall off, because the surface is so slippery. Just think of the things you wouldn't need to clean if they were coated with this. Check out Science, Space and Robots.
Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nzBy Miraz Jordan