Tech Universe: Friday 15 March

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

WRIST LOCK: Ever tried tying your shoe laces with just one hand? Bebionic's V3 prosthetic hand has changed the life of one man in the UK who's wearing it. The hand's controlled by muscle movements in his arm, and allows him to tie his laces, make coffee and deal cards, among other things. One thing is that the wrist doesn't actually flex. Instead he can unlock it, rotate and then lock it again to get the hand in the position it's needed for. We shouldn't ever take what we have for granted.

WIND POLE: The Aeronautics and Astronautics University in Beijing have created an unusual vehicle to explore the Antarctic — it's a wind powered Polar Rover. The prototype robot uses a 1.2 metre tall wind turbine rated at 200 watts as its source of power and operates out of China's Antarctic research station.

The rover's automated driving system assesses ice and snow terrain, uses satellite navigation and an autopilot and is equipped with atmospheric sensors, a snow sampler, and geography and geology analysers. The vehicle has already covered more than 2,500 Km in the Antartic during its research. Nice use of available resources there.

TECH IN REACH: The Kinect and the LEAP Motion both offer ways to control a device with gestures alone. Now pmdtechnologies from Germany have designed the CamBoard pico, a 3D depth sensor. They say their system uses extremely accurate depth measurement for gesture control. Their system is intended for manufacturers to include in their products, rather than for users to control existing devices. Everyone wants to just wave their hands to get things done.

NEIGHBOURS AHOY: In Lagos, Nigeria, there's a slum settlement over a lagoon where shanties are held out of the water by stilts. But one architect buidling a school for 100 kids has taken the stilts away in favour of making the building float. The school's built on a base of 256 used plastic drums. Locally sourced wood is then used for the 3 story construction which provides a playground and both enclosed and open classrooms. The roof holds solar panels and harvests rainwater. There's no problem in a flood, either as sensors detect environmental changes and activate a compressor that pumps air into a buffer zone at the base of the school. The designers hope next to create floating houses that can be docked together to create communities. Sit down, you're rocking the school.

FLOAT THE BOAT: In a disaster or during military operations there may not be infrastructure where it's needed. For example, workers may need to cross a river or unload supplies from ships where there are no wharves. The Tactically Expandable Maritime Platform is one possible solution. It's a system of linking robotic shipping containers to form a floating platform, bridge, runway or island. The containers have motors so they can move, even turning in place. A computer program instructs them to assemble themselves into whatever shape is needed, such as an island. Perhaps as a bonus the containers could be towed to where they're needed rather than being carried on the ship transporting them.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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