Tech Universe: Friday 23 August

By Miraz Jordan

A mini tripod for your smart phone could come in handy. Photo / Thinkstock
A mini tripod for your smart phone could come in handy. Photo / Thinkstock

HOLD THE PHONE: Wish you could prop your phone up to take a photo or watch a movie? Joby's MPod Mini is here for support. The tiny tripod holds most phones snugly in its rubberised jaws, while its flexible legs bend and rotate to sit on almost any surface. An elastic band means the jaws fit most phones snugly and easily. The gadget weighs 30 grams and is small enough to fit in a pocket or bag. That should help keep movies in the correct orientation.

PUSH PULL OR BREAK: When satellites run out of propellant they can no longer change course. Researchers at the University of Maryland believe their Resonant Inductive Near-field Generation System could replace propellant and keep satellites operating for longer. RINGS is a renewable onboard power source that uses locally generated electromagnetic forces to move the craft. Two units contain coils of wire that support an oscillating current.

Changing the phase of the oscillations produces attracting, repelling and even shearing forces. The system is currently being tested aboard the International Space Station. Presumably solar panels or the like would produce the initial power for the electromagnetic device.

ALL IN ONE: Suppose you have a good reason to scan the entire
Internet, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation did back in 2010. Their scan took them several months. Now computer scientists at the University of Michigan have developed a tool that does the same job in less than an hour. With a gigabit network connection their ZMap tool can run the scan in 44 minutes. In tests, the scan enabled researchers to discover how quickly web sites are switching to a secure connection, how many computers were driven offline by Hurricane Sandy, and even how many hosts are using encryption tools that have a specific vulnerability. We can assume the governments are already giving this one a whirl.

BEND THAT CAMERA: Would you like to grab a panoramic shot of the scene in front of you? The prototype FlexCam from Queen's University in Canada combines 3 cameras, flex sensors and a flexible OLED viewfinder. Software detects the amount of flexing in the device then combines images from the cameras to create a dynamic panorama. As the users flexes the device the panorama in the viewfinder changes to match the view. The device isn't intended to be developed for the market, but it's an interesting look at what can be done.

WHITE SILENCE: Noise carries across snow and ice. But one of the best vehicles for travelling in those conditions is a noisy petrol-driven snowmobile. The Canadian military are testing a stealthy hybrid-electric snowmobile prototype for clandestine operations in the Arctic. The cold must be a real killer of the batteries though.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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