READING TOGETHER: The words we read in books are made from letter shapes, commonly printed with ink on paper. In Braille books those letters are formed from raised dots. If you read one, the chances are you can't read the other. Until now. The Thailand Association of the Blind created The Storybook For All Eyes. The font in the book combines the Braille alphabet with the English alphabet. Character illustrations also have embossed images. Brilliant.
MILK FOR THE ROBOT: Get the cows in the milking shed, into a stall and then attach the milking machine suction cups. Next. The Lely Astronaut A4 doesn't go into space. Instead it's a laser guided milking machine developed by the Dutch. The cow moves into the stall and puts its head in the feeding trough which reads a microchip on the collar then dispenses the correct amount of food.
Next a laser-guided suction arm swings under the udder, gives it a bit of a massage, then attaches the cups. After milking, the front gate opens releasing the cow and making way for the next. Any cow that doesn't have at least 10 litres of milk is released without milking. The machine can do around 200 milkings in a 24 hour period and also monitors the milk and separates out any that is contaminated. The system contacts the farmer by phone if there are any problems and responds to codes that can potentially fix them. So where are the robots to get the cows to the milking shed in the first place?
A GOOD ANGLE: A third of the world's population is still affected by tuberculosis. Tests for the disease are tricky though as they involve inserting a needle at a precise angle and depth in the arm. It's easy to get wrong and is a bit painful. Now engineers have created a patch with tiny biodegradable needles made of chitin, each 750 micrometers long, and coated with the material used for testing for TB. The microneedles penetrate the skin precisely. The patch has worked well on guinea pigs and must next be tested on humans. It's surprising no-one has made a needle guide before now.
KNEE IN THE EYE: Recently a surgeon doing a routine knee operation gave colleagues and students a unique view of his work. He wore a Google Glass headset and transmitted audio and video to them. This use opens up possibilities for consultation during a surgery and for training. Maybe family members could watch too?
PLASTIC BAG ANYONE?: The Danes love to cycle but have the same problem as the rest of us: what to do with the helmet when it's not on your head. The HelmMate is a small case that attaches behind the saddle. Park the bike and pull out the raincover from inside its case, using it to cover both helmet and seat. Zip up and use the supplied padlock to secure it. As a bonus, the cover keeps both helmet and saddle dry in a shower. Hmmm, anyone with a pocket knife could walk off with the helmet. It seems a plastic bag would do that job equally well.
Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz