GLOVE ALERT: If you work with toxic substances it's a fairly safe bet that you wear protective clothing such as gloves. Even so, how can you tell when a toxic substance may be present? Researchers at the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Modular Solid State Technologies EMFT engineered a glove that recognizes if toxic substances are present in the surrounding air. Custom-made sensor materials are embedded in the glove along with sensor-activated dyes. If a toxic substance is detected the glove changes colour, for example, from white to blue. That's handy.
DEADLY DNA: After a crime police may take DNA from a suspect to match with DNA found at the scene. If the samples manage to get accidentally mixed the DNA may falsely show a suspect was at a crime scene. But there are some DNA sequences, called nullomers, which don't exist naturally because they're incompatible with life.
Tagging a suspect's sample with nullomers can help show when samples have been mixed, and may clear some wrongly accused people. In tests which diluted the DNA samples 100,000 times, the nullomers were still identifiable, and didn't interfere with analysis of the original DNA profile. In some countries such deadly nullomers could mean the difference between life and death for an accused person.
BUG EYED: Insects such as bees and flies have compound eyes that give them a panoramic view and great depth perception. Now US researchers have created a camera that uses a hemispherical array of 180 microlenses that give it a 160 degree field of view and the ability to focus simultaneously on objects at different depths. Those features could make the camera extremely useful for security cameras, surgical endoscopes and micro aerial vehicles. Ah, but it'll be the software that's really crucial.
THE BANDED HUMAN: The Myo armband measures the electrical impulses produced by physical activity. But it's no ordinary life logger counting steps or tracking heart rate. Instead it's a gesture control device. A flick of the wrist may call up the next slide in a presentation, or perhaps clench your hand to stop video playback.
Squeeze an imaginary trigger to fire a weapon in a game. The device pairs with gadgets via Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy, uses rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries and an ARM processor. It features a 6-axis inertial measurement unit for motion sensing. Presumably it works equally well on either arm and could perhaps even be worn on the leg.
FULL COLOUR PLASTIC: The ProDesk3D printer doesn't limit you to printing with just a single coloured filament. Instead it offers true full colour printing through its 5 colour PLA cartridge system that mixes primary colours. It is capable of printing objects down to 25 microns and uses a dual-extruder head to provide PVA-based support material alongside the main design. 3D printing seems to be maturing quickly.
Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz