Tech Universe: Wednesday 19 June

By Miraz Jordan

People using electric wheelchairs will be able to control their smart phones with the chair's joystick. Photo / Thinkstock
People using electric wheelchairs will be able to control their smart phones with the chair's joystick. Photo / Thinkstock

IN CHARGE IN THE CHAIR: iPortal from Kiwi company Dynamic Controls lets those who use a powered wheelchair connect up their iPhone or iPad to the chair then use the chair's joystick, switch or head array to control the phone. Users can browse the web, make phonecalls and use other apps, along with seeing key information about their chair, such as seating and battery capacity. It's all go in the world of wheelchair controls it seems.

SAVE THE OIL: GROW A MUSHROOM: Plastic transformed our world in both the best and the worst ways. It gives us lightweight durable products and packaging, but at the same time it accumulates in the environment and causes all kinds of harm. Ecovative's products aim to replace plastics with materials made from agricultural byproducts and mycelium, a fungal network of threadlike cells. In other words, they take agricultural plant waste, add mushrooms, darkness and time, then harvest a replacement for plastic and foam.

The process also makes sure to stop growth so the end product won't be harmful to health. The products can be used for packaging, insulation, in car bumpers and seats, and in other applications. When they're of no further use they can be composted or mulched. Thus creating an endless cycle. Good one!

KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BAG: When you end up in one town after a flight and your luggage somewhere else no one's very happy. With the Airbus Bag2Go app and smartbag though you can track your bag for yourself. The bag also has built-in scales so you can avoid overloading it, while an RFID chip inside the bag works with many airport baggage handling systems for tracking and routing too. Bags are also equipped with GPS and a 2G-based cellular phone system. While only a prototype at this stage, the bags could also be rented and customers could perhaps use an optional door-to-door courier service to take bags to and from the airport. Or even better: learn to travel light.

FIRE AHEAD: Firefighters go into danger every time they enter a burning building. Knowing beforehand what they're facing could make their job a little easier. A firefighting robot developed by the University of California is essentially a small Segway with stereo RGB and infrared cameras. The robot can climb stairs thanks to a central leg that lifts the wheels off the floor. The wheels act as counterbalancing flywheels so the robot can balance on the single leg. A computer processes the images returned by the robot to give firefighters a virtual reality picture that includes a 3D map and temperature data. Meanwhile other onboard sensors can collect data about gases, structural integrity and other crucial information.

HIGH LIGHTS: The summer sun is high and hot. It streams into buildings mercilessly, heating the room and fading the carpets. On the other hand the winter sun is low and weak, and we want it to warm and light our rooms. Curtains or blinds help keep the sun out, but Sumitomo Chemical have another idea. They've created a double transparent sheet that attaches to the window and still lets you look at the outside world. The sheet reflects any light that arrives from an angle greater than a certain degree, such as that from the sun high in the sky. Meanwhile it allows light from a low angle through. Changing the angle between the sheets affects which light is reflected. What happens to light going out through the window, I wonder?

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 26 Jul 2014 02:55:26 Processing Time: 399ms