Tech Universe: Thursday 18 April

3D printing could turn a sonogram into a life size model. Photo / Thinkstock
3D printing could turn a sonogram into a life size model. Photo / Thinkstock

BABY PRINTS: Prenatal sonograms give those expecting a baby an exciting glimpse of the new life within. But what if those parents are blind? One Brazilian industrial designer solves that problem with 3D printing. Sophisticated programs take the sonogram data and turn it into a simulation or a life size printed model. The simulations are useful to doctors who may be able to discover things like a cleft lip or Downs Syndrome. The 3D models make it possible for visually impaired family members and friends to appreciate the fetus. A full model of a fetus at 12 weeks costs around $200. Let's hope those costs can be reduced.

LIE BACK AND PEDAL: Electric bicycles are one thing, but Outrider USA makes recumbent electric trikes that can travel at up to 65 Kph.

Choose between pedal only, electric only, or pedalling with electric assist.

Range is up to 265 Km if you do some of the work or 175 Km if you don't. The Lithium Polymer battery charges from 0% to 100% in 180 minutes. It looks like a nice ride.

REMEMBER THE CHARGE: While older batteries had an annoying memory effect caused by incomplete charging or discharging, lithium-ion batteries don't. Or so we thought. Scientists have now found that in fact LiFePO4 batteries, such as those used in electric vehicles, can suffer the effect too. The good news is that the effect is tiny and can probably be counteracted in the software used for managing the battery. The last thing we need is for expensive electric vehicle batteries to run out after a brief trip to the shops.

SWIPE THAT: Fujitsu Laboratories are working on a new user interface that detects finger positions and gestures so you can interact with real world objects such as pieces of paper and books. A camera and projector together detect fingertip position, while a processor compensates for potential errors like those caused by curved pages in open books. That means, for example, that you could select part of a document with your finger and automatically capture the data into your computer. Tap or swipe to turn the page?

A LONG VIEW: The Thirty Meter Telescope will be the world's largest optical telescope when it's completed on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawai'i. Construction is to start early in 2014, with observations starting in 2021. As one of the largest optical telescopes in the world, it should be able to observe light from 13 billion years ago and track extrasolar planets. That's a particularly huge telescope to have on the ground.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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