Tech Universe: Wednesday 11 September

By Miraz Jordan

Don't rock the boat. Photo / Thinkstock
Don't rock the boat. Photo / Thinkstock

THE SHIP WITH NO WAVES: Ships roll in the waves, making those on board seasick and throwing objects around. The Norwegians designed a ship that doesn't roll because it creates its own opposing waves in specially designed tanks fitted in the hull. The design is intended for housing those who work on off-shore platforms such as oil rigs. The hotel ships can also be equipped with thrusters that oppose the external forces from waves, currents and wind. The first such hotel ship is currently being built. Wave-cancelling ships: brilliant.

LOW PRESSURE COMMS: Cubesats are very small, so they're cheap and easy to launch into orbit. But because they're small their communication range is limited thanks to smaller, less powerful antennae. Researchers at MIT think the solution may be an inflatable antenna that can fold into a compact space and inflate when in orbit.

With an inflatable antenna a satellite could communicate from even as far away as the Moon. The idea is to use sublimating powder — a chemical compound that transforms from a solid powder to a gas when exposed to low pressure. Tests on Earth of both conical and cylindrical antenna designs suggest either could be much more powerful than current antennae on Cubesats, transmitting data both further and faster. Though engineers will need to keep pressure in the launch vehicle constant to prevent early inflation.

JUNIOR KIDNEYS: Researchers at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China took a mixture of cultured cells and a nutrient rich hydrogel then printed a miniature but functional human kidney.
The printed cells can live up to 4 months. This preliminary work could eventually lead to more people having access to lifesaving kidney transplants. Size and lifespan of the printed kidneys obviously both need work.

A NEW PERSPECTIVE: Ricoh's Theta camera is tiny — at around
42x129x22.8 mm it fits easily in your hand. Its special feature though is that it captures fully spherical images in a single shot and from any angle without aiming or pointing. It syncs via WiFi with a smartphone which can operate the camera remotely. The device uses a proprietary ultra-small twin-lens folded optical system that captures the scene around, above and below the device in one shot. It's all in how you look at things.

GREEN LIGHT DISTRICT: You may be happy to just run the vacuum cleaner over the floor, but apparently there may still be dirt lurking underfoot. Never worry. Samsung's Motion Sync Vacuum Cleaner SC20F70 gives you a green light if the area is completely clean and a red light if it detects a particularly dusty spot. Go for green.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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