Tech Universe: Wednesday 05 June

By Miraz Jordan

Battery powered buses could recharge while at bus stops. Photo / Thinkstock
Battery powered buses could recharge while at bus stops. Photo / Thinkstock

BUS ZAPS: Battery powered vehicles are quiet and don't in themselves discharge polluting gases into the air, but recharging them is always a problem. For public transport, such as buses, another approach is to string up trolley bus wires overhead, creating visual pollution. In Geneva, Switzerland, a pilot project will instead put fast-charge stations at certain bus stops. When the 135-seater bus stops to let off or pick up passengers it receives a 15-second energy boost via an automatic flash-charging mechanism. The system uses a laser-controlled moving arm, which connects to an overhead receptacle for charging at bus shelters, instead of the usual trolley poles to overhead lines. At the end of the bus line a 3 to 4 minute boost allows for a full recharge of the batteries. And they could always incorporate the charger into a bus stop as part of the shelter too. ABB. Video:

A DARK CHARGE: So you know to be careful what apps you put on your phone, and to watch out for shady websites, but who would expect that malware could arrive simply by charging the device? Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology successfully injected arbitrary software into current-generation Apple devices running the latest operating system software. The software can be installed within a minute of the phone being plugged in to the charger. The researchers created a proof-of-concept charger using some special hardware to achieve this malicious feat. Luckily, these are good guys and we don't have to worry about such threats right away, but it definitely makes you think.

BAND MAGIC: Heading off to DisneyWorld? The rubberised plastic bracelets they issue when you buy your tickets will let you check in at certain points by tapping the band against a reader. The MagicBands use Bluetooth and other radio frequencies to keep track of your park passes and can even be used as hotel room keys. The band also associates your photo with your ticket and can be used to pay for items within the park. Disney can use the bands to track and monitor traffic flows, and to personalise the visitor experience, perhaps with a character actor calling a child by name. Magic for the kids, to be sure.

HANDS ALIVE: With an interactive system from the University of Tokyo you may be able to see, and feel, a keyboard on your hand. A projection beams the outline of computer keyboards or cellphone keys onto any object, such as your hand. Meanwhile ultrasonic wave emitters cause precise spots on your hand to tingle, making it seem as though you can feel those keyboard keys being pressed. The remarkable achievement in all of this though is that the system can precisely track a moving object such as a hand so that the projected image can be locked on. These projections could be useful for medical applications or in gaming. Imagine this kind of projection being part of two-factor authentication, no separate gadget required.

SKIN TEST: As folks in the northern hemisphere head on into summer some are worried about exposure to the sun. The Japanese have a gadget for that. Beauty Sign PLUS is a small handheld device that can measure the condition of your skin and the intensity of solar ultraviolet rays. Point the device towards the sun to check the UV levels, or press the tip to your skin to find out if your skin is drying out. It should be powered by sunshine too, surely.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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