Tech Universe: Wednesday 10 October

By Miraz Jordan

Healthcare workers need not fear mixing pills up now there's software to help them distinguish differences - with 91 per cent accuracy - based on a photo from a phone. Photo / Thinkstock
Healthcare workers need not fear mixing pills up now there's software to help them distinguish differences - with 91 per cent accuracy - based on a photo from a phone. Photo / Thinkstock

PICK A PILL: Anyone handling large amounts of prescription pills, such as healthcare workers, could easily mix them up. Pills come in only a few shapes and colours, so it's easy to become confused. The US National Institutes of Health have developed software to help distinguish pills based on a photo from a phone. In less than a second the software extracts the shape, colour and imprint of a pill from a photo and identifies the drug with 91 per cent accuracy. The technique could easily be applied to a smartphone app for anyone to use. That could be specially handy for someone with low vision. New Scientist has further info.

SLOW ON THE TRIGGER: Household cleaning products can be very dangerous in the hands of young children, so US researchers have developed a prototype for child-resistant spray bottles. The bottles use 2 triggers that must be depressed in sequence, and are easy for adults to use.

Children under 6 just can't work the triggers because their hands are too small and they haven't developed sufficiently to handle the sequence. The mechanism locks itself after use too, so adults don't have to deliberately set the nozzle to the off position. It's interesting how sometimes a baffling design can be a really good thing. Nationwide Children's Hospital details. Video here.

LONG IN THE EYE: In some people their eyes are too long and light from distant objects doesn't focus properly on the retina. That means they're near-sighted. But these days contact lenses or glasses can be used to correct that problem. Except that then the body may compensate for the slight farsightedness that develops in peripheral vision by making the eye even longer. Then the problem grows worse. Researchers from the State University of New York specially designed contact lenses that alter how light is focused in the peripheral retina. Used in children the lenses can change eye growth and focus in a predictable way and help stop myopia from becoming worse. Which, apart from anything else, could save thousands of dollars in changing prescriptions. Optical Society explains.

FIERY ROBOT: The Thermite firefighting robot is very versatile. It can pump more than 2,000 litres of water or other fluids per minute and can reach places human firefighters can't go because of heat, fumes or other dangers. The remote controlled robot's made of steel and aluminium, mounted on tank treads and is designed to go through average door widths. It's a little under 2 metres long and around 1.4 metres tall. It seems like the robot would be a good tool to start the firefighting process, and send the humans in behind. Howe and Howe elaborates. Check out the video.

SOLAR SPIN: Photovoltaic panels are well proven, but may get too hot, or point in the wrong direction, and so lose efficiency. V3 Solar have improved efficiency by instead shaping a flat panel into a cone and then spinning it. They say their Spin Cell produces more than 20 times the electricity from a standard flat static panel. The cone shape captures more light throughout the day without needing to track the sun. Special lenses concentrate the light of the sun, which brings a risk of overheating. But the spin takes care of that, allowing the panels to cool while also hyperexciting the electrons to produce more energy. It's always about the spin. V3Solar has further details. Click here for the video.

Miraz Jordan, http://knowit.co.nz

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