Tech Universe: Friday 17 May

By Miraz Jordan

New glasses will make it easer for vision and hearing impared people to enjoy movies at the cinema. Photo / Thinkstock
New glasses will make it easer for vision and hearing impared people to enjoy movies at the cinema. Photo / Thinkstock

MOVIES IN SIGHT: Some people, such as the vision or hearing impaired, find movies challenging or perhaps even pointless as they may not see or hear what's going on. Captioned screenings are rare, and current personal captioning devices that fit inside a cup holder with a screen attached are bulky, display text out of the line of vision to the screen, and distract other patrons. Now some cinemas are introducing Sony Entertainment Access Glasses that display captions only to those wearing them. The captions appear to float a couple of metres in front of the wearer. Audio tracks also describe the action on the screen for blind people. Of course, this depends on the movie maker supplying captioned tracks and on the theatre having the necessary digital equipment. Next thing to work on: translation subtitles.

THE INSIDE STORY: Traditional umbrellas are tricky to work with: they quickly turn inside out in a decent gust of Wellington wind, may poke someone's eye out if you're not careful and are likely to block your vision as you keep the rain off your face. The Rainshader has a new approach, based on the shape of a motorcycle helmet. It's particularly aimed at people watching sports who need to be able to see the action while keeping the rain at bay. The makers claim it's virtually impossible to blow inside out, and its fibre glass ribs and rubber handle mean you're less likely to be zapped by lightning in a thunderstorm. So it's a bit like an expanded hood really.

A $2 CLEAN: Clean water is essential to our survival, but it can be expensive to remove bacteria and other harmful particles. At the Indian Institute of Technology researchers found that silver nanoparticles combined with an aluminium composite can do the job at low cost. As water flows through the filter the nanoparticles oxidise, releasing ions that kill viruses and bacteria, and neutralise toxic chemicals such as lead and arsenic. In tests a 50 gram composite filtered 1500 litres of water without needing reactivation. The researchers estimate a family of 5 could have clean drinking water for a year from a single $2 filter. That could prove affordable for people even on extremely limited incomes, though even better would be for governments to supply filters for free.

ONE UP: The semiconductors in our electronics, carry along the electrical charge of electrons, and that's good. But electrons in the presence of a magnet have a property that's not being used: they have spin, up or down. One spin state aligns with the magnetic field, while the other opposes it, which could be used to mark the 1 or 0 of a computer bit. A team at the University of Delaware have confirmed the previously only theoretical presence of a magnetic field generated by electrons, which could in turn allow them to exploit the spin property. Or maybe electronics just make your head spin.

DRONE RESCUE: The Canadian Mounties are onto it — recently they saved the life of someone whose car had flipped at night in remote Saskatchewan by sending out a drone to search. The Draganflyer X4-ES helicopter drone was flown towards the driver's last known location where it used an infrared camera to search for life signs. Nearby searchers on the ground were able to rescue the driver once the drone had pinpointed his location. This seems a perfect use for drones.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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