Tech Universe: Thursday 16 May

By Miraz Jordan

Care to own your own plane? Photo / Thinkstock
Care to own your own plane? Photo / Thinkstock

A PLANE BOX: Care to own your own plane? Maybe the single engine, piston-driven Synergy would be for you. The aircraft has a unique shape with a double box tail that reduces drag. Its creators claim twice the speed for a given horsepower, or triple the economy for a given speed, and that it can land at low speeds on local airfields. The shape will turn heads too.

JELLY SPY: Cyro is a robotic jellyfish from Virginia Tech's College of Engineering. The robot has 8 aluminium arms and a flexible silicone covering, and is designed propel itself through the water the way a real jellyfish would. It's almost 2 metres wide, weighs nearly 80 Kg and can swim for around 4 hours thanks to its nickel metal hydride battery. Cyro could be used to monitor fish, clean up after oil spills or maybe to carry out surveillance for the military.

The next problem is to find a longer-lasting power source.

THE WEATHER CROWD: The Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone is crammed full of sensors: thermometer, barometer, hygrometer and a magnetometer to measure ambient temperature, air pressure, humidity and the Earth's local magnetic field strength. This is being exploited by an online service called WeatherSignal, which says it can use this data to crowdsource real-time weather information and publish it on a website.

This all relies on users installing and running a free app, but then why not?

STEELING THE ATMOSPHERE: Steel production accounts for as much as 5% of the world's total greenhouse-gas emissions because it's mostly produced by heating iron oxide with carbon. A new technique uses an alloy of chromium and iron, both of which are plentiful and cheap. What's more the process creates no emissions other than pure oxygen and yields metal of exceptional purity. The process could be suitable for smaller-scale steel factories, but a commercially viable prototype is still several years away. It'd be good to see the atmosphere filling with oxygen for a change.

IT'S A SNAP: Memoto's 5 megapixel camera measures only 36 by 36 by 9 millimeters and holds 8 Gb worth of photos. It's designed to clip on to your lapel and capture images every 30 seconds. Then it applies algorithms to the images to find the most interesting ones. You can then simply transfer the photos to your computer, or upload them into a service that filters the day's photos down to around 30 key moments. The life logger is designed to stop taking photos though if it's put in a pocket or on a table. Smile, you're on Memoto Camera.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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