Tech Universe: Monday 10 September

By Miraz Jordan

Drinking sea water is now a possibility with the open-source Eliodomestico water still. Photo / Thinkstock
Drinking sea water is now a possibility with the open-source Eliodomestico water still. Photo / Thinkstock

DRINK THE SEA: In many countries salt water is readily available, but drinking water is in short supply. The open-source Eliodomestico water still is designed to be easy to manufacture locally and to supply 5 litres of drinking water after a day in the sun. In the morning you add a bucket of sea water. The sun boils the water in the black top portion and the steam is condensed in a lower section. Then in the evening the bowl of water is removed and carried to where it's needed. A simple and elegant solution to a real-world problem. Humans Invent looks into it. Check out the video.

INTERVAL TRACKING: The sun appears to move through the sky all day, meaning if solar panels are to gain the maximum energy they need to track the sun's apparent motion. One way to do that it to add tracking motors to each panel. A cheaper way may be to use a special battery-powered robot from QBotix in the US.

The robot trackers move from one panel to the next, calibrating and positioning each panel for optimum efficiency. The robots enable the panels to generate up to 15 per cent more electricity. The robots are all equipped with GPS, sensors and a wireless connection to send back data on each panel. GigaOM has the details.

BLIND STRIKE: BAE Systems' Striker HMSS helmet gives the pilot of a Eurofighter Typhoon jet and augmented reality view of the surroundings, even through the solid hull of the aircraft. Cameras all around the aircraft are linked wirelessly to the BAE helmet. Whichever direction the pilot looks, the system provides the view from the appropriate cameras. A helmet-mounted display also helps the pilot communicate with the aircraft. When the pilot looks in the right direction at a target and presses the Fire button the system calculates the object's co-ordinates and sorts out accurate targeting. It's scary that a person can 'look' through a solid object and fire a weapon towards that point. BBC explains.

DECODER RING: Imagine wearing a battery-powered ring with flash memory that holds a code. When you touch your finger to a touchscreen the ring sends tiny voltage spikes through your hand to the screen. Then software on the device reads the spikes and accepts the code. This decoder ring is a prototype at Rutgers University. It could be used for passwords, gaming or even just sharing a device so it know who the active user is. So long as each device doesn't require a different ring. Technology Review has more.

THINKOCOPTER: At Zhejiang University in China there's a quadcopter that can be controlled by thought alone. The person controlling it wears an Emotiv electroencephalography headset. As the wearer thinks, a limited set of commands is sent by Bluetooth to a laptop, then by wireless to the hovering aircraft. Clenched teeth and blinking also contribute commands. An on-board camera means the user can see what the quadcopter sees or take photos. The researchers see this as a useful tool for people with disabilities. And photographers. It also opens up scary possibilities for sci-fi novels with thought controlled flying devices that carry weapons. New Scientist elaborates. Video here.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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