ROACH CONTROL: Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a remote control interface for cockroaches. They attached a 0.7 gram backpack to Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches then wired a microcontroller to the antennae and abdomen. By sending charges through the microcontroller they were able to direct the cockroaches in patterns of movement. The overall aim is to use cockroaches to collect and transmit information, for example, finding survivors in a building that's been destroyed by an earthquake. They may 'only' be cockroaches, but it still seems wrong. North Carolina State University has the details. Video here.
CARPET TALES: A team at the University of Manchester in the UK has created a smart carpet that can tell if you fall over, or if a stranger's walking on it. The carpet's underlay contains optical fibres that create a 2D pressure map. Sensors around the edge send data to a computer that analyses footfalls. An alarm can sound when a change is detected, so it could alert to a fall, for example. The system could learn patterns of regular footsteps and then detect changes that indicate the onset of mobility problems in the elderly, or the presence of a stranger. That could make for a nice household alarm system too.
New Scientist explains.
WOODEN VESTS: Kevlar and carbon fibre are known for their strength and stiffness. They are also somewhat costly. But cellulose nanocrystals can be stronger and are certainly cheaper. The US Forest Service has opened a pilot plant in Wisconsin to produce cellulose nanocrystals from wood by-products such as wood chips and sawdust. The nanocrystals could be used in products that more commonly use kevlar or carbon fibre. I wonder what other countries with commercial forests might consider producing a material like this? Gizmag has further info. Check out the video.
BRAINS IN THE LEG: US researchers have built and tested a prosthetic lower limb that can be controlled in real time by brain signals. The EEG signals are fed into a computer that in turn controls the prosthesis. Tests with an able-bodied subject have been successfully completed and now they need to test someone with a spinal cord injury. It'd be interesting to see where this line of work ends up in a couple of hundred years. Technology Review elaborates.
SLIM LINE SUITS: Once people leave the protection of Earth's atmosphere they need space suits. But the designs need to differ according to where the astronaut is: space, the Moon, or perhaps the next goal: Mars. And current designs are also very bulky and difficult to work in. MIT are developing a new line of skin tight elastic suits, which can also be patched on the go. The suits would allow an astronaut maximum freedom to move. The fabric itself supplies the pressure we need to survive in a vacuum and it contains sensors for helping to regulate heat and other processes. Less bulk for more progress sounds like a great trade. Space Industry News details. Here's the video.
Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nzBy Miraz Jordan