Tech Universe: Tuesday 19 March

By Miraz Jordan

The drone is able to replicate the motion of an eagle's claw. Photo / Thinkstock
The drone is able to replicate the motion of an eagle's claw. Photo / Thinkstock

MID-AIR THIEF: An eagle may grab its prey on the fly. That inspired a team at the University of Pennsylvania to add such snatching capabilities to a drone. The team attached a 3D-printed, 3-fingered claw to a 10 cm motorised leg on a drone. As with an eagle, the leg and claw can trail behind after snatching an object, meaning the flier doesn't need to slow down. Being able to add arms and legs to drones in this way could make them useful for carrying out repairs, fetching parcels or perhaps pruning trees, rather than just flying about spying on things. Imagine a whole new approach to bag-snatching — hang on to your phone if you hear an engine.

ROBOTS, ROBOTS ALL AROUND: Want to learn to swim? The Swimoid robot is designed to help coaches improve a swimmer's performance. It moves along the bottom of a pool filming the swimmer above. AN LCD on the top of the robot lets swimmers see how they're doing.

Meanwhile a coach at the side of the pool can watch the swimmer's strokes and provide feedback. That could probably also be readily modified to give feedback on speed and timings, and the like.

PICK ONE: If you need a wheelchair to get around in a city, maybe the Robot for Personal Intelligent Transport System from Hitachi could replace the chair? Pick a destination on a smartphone or a tablet then let the pathfinding system sort out the route. The robot travels at up to 6 Kph, using a stereo camera and laser rangefinders to avoid collisions and map its position. It's still a concept vehicle at the moment, but it sounds interesting.

NEW OR OLD?: Alzheimer's is the source of a lot of grief. People with the disease can suffer from debilitating symptoms. But they've generally had the disease for quite a while before any symptoms appear, and as always, early diagnosis gives them more options. US company Neurotrack have developed a computer-based cognitive test that can diagnose the disease 6 years before symptoms show up. An eye-tracking device monitors eye movements as a patient compares new and old images that appear briefly on a screen. An analysis of the eye movements detects perturbations on the hippocampus, the first part of the brain to be affected by Alzheimer's, then assigns a score. The score is a good indicator of who will later develop Alzheimer's. The researchers hope to eventually create a smartphone app consumers can use. Now we need some good treatments too.

LEANER TV: So you've decided to splurge on a new TV, but do you have the wall space to hang it on? And what about all the hassle of actually attaching it to the wall? DesignLine TVs from Philips have taken at least some of the hassle away: they don't hang on the wall, but lean against it. The smart LED TV is a frameless sheet of glass which offers full HD. It also lets you share content with devices such as iPads. And actually, you can still hang it on the wall if you like.
Watch that vacuum cleaner!

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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