Tech Universe: Monday 10 December

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

COMPANION ASTROBOT: Next year Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata will spend 6 months aboard the ISS. To keep him company the Japanese are building a 34 cm tall humanoid robot. The robot will recognise the astronaut's face, take photos and send data back to base. It'll also talk to Wakata in Japanese. A twin robot on Earth will do public relations. Ten four little buddy.

RED LIGHT AT NIGHT, ASTRONAUT'S DELIGHT: The International Space Station has a couple of problems that may be solved by installing new light bulbs. For one thing, the old bulbs are wearing out. But more important is that astronauts have trouble sleeping, possibly in part because of the lighting. The new bulbs contain more than 100 LED bulbs cloaked by a diffuser, so they appear to be a single panel of white light. But the bulbs can change mode, from white general purpose light, to blue to promote wakefulness and a red-shifted hue for bedtime.

The lights are being tested here on Earth before doing duty in space. It sounds as though a hue switch would be more useful for most of us than a dimmer.

BIKE LIGHT: A British woman has designed a bike light that projects an image of a bicycle on to the road to alert drivers to the presence of a bike. The Blaze uses a laser to project a bright green image 5 metres in front of the bike. The image can be steady or flashing. Anything that helps drivers see cyclists is useful.

A LIGHT BULB MOMENT: What say you could remove a light bulb from its socket and plug in a small computer instead that projects a simple touch screen onto your desk? The prototype LuminAR Bulb developed at MIT combines a pico-projector, camera, and wireless computer using a processor commonly found in smartphones. It projects an image onto a surface then detects finger movements within the image. A wifi connection lets the small computer interact with a cloud server for object recognition and other intensive tasks. Rig them up above dance floors for some real fun.

IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: The Belgian Centre for Microsystems Technology developed a prototype curved LCD display that can be embedded into a contact lens. The lens could display an image intended for others to view. The image would be too close to the wearer's eye for them to focus on it. It could be used for adaptive sunglasses or to change the colour of the iris. One unsolved problem is how to power the device autonomously. That could be handy for security systems that normally scan the iris.

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