Tech Universe: Tuesday 04 June

By Miraz Jordan

Researchers are creating a material that could make it possible for contact lenses that can take photos Photo / Thinkstock
Researchers are creating a material that could make it possible for contact lenses that can take photos Photo / Thinkstock

BLINK TO CLICK: The transparent electrodes used in touchscreens and LEDs are commonly made from indium tin oxide. Unfortunately they are brittle, crack easily, degrade over time and are expensive. A hybrid material of silver nanowires combined with graphene created by South Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology though is flexible and stretchable, as well as thin and transparent. Electrodes made from such a material could perhaps make possible a contact lens that can scan and take photos. And folks are worried about Google Glass?

CAMERAS IN EVERYTHING: Quite often we want to take photos when the light isn't very good, and that's a challenge for any camera. Researchers at Nanyang Technological University created a sensor from pure graphene. The sensor is highly sensitive to broad spectrum light, from the visible to mid-infrared.

It's 1,000 times more sensitive than current low-cost imaging sensors, operates at lower voltages and uses only 10% of the energy. When mass produced the sensors should also be only one fifth the price. All of that could mean much cheaper cameras with long battery life. The sensors could be useful in infrared cameras, traffic speed cameras and satellite imaging. And perhaps for astronomy too?

TRACK IN PLACE: The Marauder's Map system developed by researchers Carnegie Mellon University can track people by analysing security camera footage. Its algorithm combines facial recognition, colour matching of clothing, and a person's expected position based on their last known location. They tested the system on 13 people who moved through a nursing home over several minutes. The system accurately tracked them to within 1 metre of their actual position. Every day crime shows become just a little more reality-based.

BACKDROP EARTH: The ARKYD space telescope is one you can control, and it will even take a picture of you (or at least your photo) hovering above Planet Earth. Planetary Resources is launching the 15 Kg telescope to be publicly-accessible by students, scientists and others. The 200 mm main optic is designed to take high-resolution photos of objects in space, while an external screen and camera arm make it possible to take pictures of the ARKYD as it orbits Earth. It can detect objects to visual magnitude 19, has a 5 megapixel image sensor and uses active image stabilisation to produce high quality photos. The more generous folks can also donate their time to students and scientists. Gifts in space.

ON THE FLY: One particular insect, the Ormia ochracea, has very sensitive ears and hears in the same way we do by sensing sound pressure on its eardrums. It's particularly good at directional hearing. Researchers at Binghamton University have based a new microphone design on the insect's ears. The sensitive new microphone uses electronic damping on a tiny diaphragm that rotates about a central pivot in response to sound pressure gradients. The new design could make a difference to hearing aids, cellphones and acoustic noise control systems, and could even be as tiny at the fly's ear. Maybe walls do have ears, or at least, the flies on the walls.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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