Tech Universe: Friday 3 August

By Miraz Jordan

DIZZY SOLDIERS: US soldiers in Afghanistan are about to add another kilo to the equipment they carry. The Soldier Body Unit is a 1 Kg pack with four blast sensors, to collect data on concussions and traumatic brain injuries. The data from the sensors will go to medical staff trying to find better ways to protect soldiers from the effects of bomb blasts. Those endurance suits would help carry the extra gear. Gizmodo details.

VIRTUAL FOUR EYES: A new mixed reality technology from Canon is about to go on sale. It adds computer-generated virtual objects to the real world in real time, at full scale, and in three dimensions. The MR tech is intended for engineers who are designing and building new products. A video see-through head-mounted display includes two video cameras and two displays. Images are sent via cable to a computer for processing. Then graphics or design data is overlaid on the images and sent back to the displays on the helmet to show the combined image to the wearer. Images appear full-size. Simulating an object takes about 250 megabytes of video data per second but using two cameras and two displays produces too much data to transfer by wireless. It sounds promising for entertainment too, once the whole wireless problem is sorted out. IEEE Spectrum has more.

UPSTARTS: Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are looking at Vertical Axis Wind Turbines to see if they can produce energy more cheaply than the horizontal turbines that look more like propellers. VAWTs can be turned by wind from any direction, and they're less complicated and easier to maintain than horizontal axis turbines. But the motion of these vertical turbines isn't smooth as they change orientation with and against the wind, leading to increased wear and tear. Also the curved blades have to be around 100 metres long, which can be a challenge to build. But I'm sure engineers can rise to that challenge. Discovery News details.

SOFT SOLDIERS: Harvard University is developing an endurance suit for the US military. The proposed suit will be made from soft wearable assistive devices to help delay the onset of fatigue and improve the body's resistance to injuries when carrying heavy loads. Stretchable sensors will monitor the body without impeding movement. It seems soldiers are becoming technology delivery systems. Harvard University explains.

NEURAL CLOUD: When it comes to detecting breast cancer a Fine Needle Aspirate biopsy is a painful but necessary way to gather a tissue sample. But assessments of samples aren't always very accurate, and then more samples must be taken. In the 2012 Google Science Fair a 17 year old girl took top prize with a cloud-based neural network that can assess such biopsies with 99.1 per cent sensitivity to malignancy. Her network also learns and increases sensitivity as it gains more data. The artificial brain detects patterns that are too complex for humans and could soon be deployed to hospitals. Teenagers seem to be making some solid contributions to science and technology these days. Check out MSNBC.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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