Tech Universe: Thursday 15 August

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

STEAMLESS HOT: Grabbing a quick cup of tea before you go out? Tiger's steam-free kettle boils a cup of water in 45 seconds. A redesigned heating element means it takes less power to bring water to the boil. The kettle also traps the steam and turns it back into water droplets. Other features prevent the kettle from spilling if it's tipped over and from boiling dry. The quick cuppa just became quicker.

PAPER PRINTER: Getting a new printer? Don't throw out the box, as it
may in fact be the printer, or at least, the case that holds the printing parts. Samsung's prototype Origami printer case is made from corrugated cardboard. Fold it up, slide in the printing hardware and it's good to go. The concept's aim is to simplify the manufacturing process and reduce costs for customers. Well, reducing plastic is always a good aim, and I imagine the cardboard could be produced from recycled paper.

NOW HEAR THIS: Researchers at Princeton University used 3D printing to build a bionic ear capable of detecting frequencies a million times higher than the normal range of hearing. The printed ear combines bovine cartilage-forming cells with silicone and silver nanoparticles. Once printed the ear is bathed in nutrients to allow the cells to grow and create cartilage. The silver nanoparticles mean the ear can detect and transmit radio signals, but not receive sound waves, though future models may incorporate that feature. Augmented body parts on demand are definitely in our future.

TAKE BACK THE NET: The hardware and software of the Internet is owned, operated and spied on by various organisations around the world. Meshnet projects are being set up by citizens around the world to take back control of networked communications. Meshnets are user-owned wireless and other networks that will permit secure communication without surveillance or any centralised organisation. Each node in the mesh relays messages from other parts of the network via radio transceivers, computers or other technology as required. Meshnets are already operating in Spain and in parts of the US. The fundamental element is that traffic is encrypted by default along every part of its journey. Information wants to be private.

GOING SWIMMINGLY: Wheelchairs and sand don't mix well, making it hard for wheelchair users to swim in the sea. In Greece though, where there's plenty of warm sea and sunshine, some locales have installed special wheelchair launching ramps. The person moves from their own chair at the top of the ramp into a special chair that then takes them down to and into the water on a fixed track. From there they can go for a swim. The system uses solar power and the chair user has a remote to operate the equipment. The Seatrac device can be taken down at the end of each season. Ramps for buildings are pretty much a given; it makes sense to have ramps for beaches as well.

Miraz Jordan,

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