Tech Universe: Friday 9 November

By Miraz Jordan

The touchscreen version of a QWERTY keyboard is harder to use. Now an ASETNIOP system has been created to rectify the condition known as: butter fingers. Photo / Thinkstock
The touchscreen version of a QWERTY keyboard is harder to use. Now an ASETNIOP system has been created to rectify the condition known as: butter fingers. Photo / Thinkstock

SCREEN CHORDS: The QWERTY keyboard works just fine when you know where the keys are, as you do on a physical keyboard. But how about on a touchscreen? The ASETNIOP system allocates eight spots on the screen to the letters ASETNIOP. All other characters and function keys are achieved by touching two or more fingers at once, or chording. That means the system detects which fingers are pressed down, rather than where a finger touches. The creators claim experienced users can achieve 80 words per minute. It's curious they chose P as one of the single-tap letters, rather than the more frequently used R. ASETNIOP. <> Video here.

PHONE RELIEF: There's a disaster and your phone runs out of juice so that only makes things worse. The BoostTurbine is a rechargeable USB battery pack with hand turbine power generator. In other words, turn the crank for a minute to power a 30-second call or a few critical texts.

The device weighs just under 200 grams and is only slightly bigger than a cellphone. It uses a rechargeable 2000mAH lithium ion battery. It could be handy for hikers and anyone off-grid for a few days. Eton. <>

WASH CYCLE: It's bad enough when you spill coffee on the keyboard without it dissolving the electronics inside. Researchers at The National Physical Laboratory in the UK have developed a printed circuit board whose components can be easily separated by immersion in hot water. Their aim is to help with recycling electronics. If the boards are easy to separate into their component parts it should help make them easier to recycle. Less than 2 per cent of traditional printed circuit board material can be re-used, while around 90 per cent of the new boards can. That's one way to clean up electronics. The National Physical Laboratory. <> Video here.

SIX MOVIES PER MINUTE: At 20 gigabits per second it would take 10 seconds to download a full HD movie. That's the rate researchers at Bangor University have managed to achieve over a fibre optic cable using Optical Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing. In short, the process codes and decodes optical signals on the fly rather than in separate stages. Of course, that was a lab test and they're a long way from making a commercial product, but they hope to have a working module in a couple of years. It's still the buffering that'll cause problems. BBC. <>

BUY LOW; USE HIGH: In some places commercial building owners may pay differing rates for electricity depending on their usage, the time of day and other factors. Stem in the US has developed a lithium-ion battery system for commercial buildings that stores power when it's cheap and releases it when the price goes up. The system uses algorithms to predict a building's power use hour-by-hour. If it will save money because of usage fees or higher rates the battery starts serving power. When the price drops the battery stores energy instead. Stem claim their customers could save between five per cent and 15 per cent on their energy bills without needing to change their behaviour. Sounds like it would appeal to any sensible consumer: stock up when the price is low. Technology Review. <>

Miraz Jordan,

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