Tech Universe: Friday 13 September

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

SPOTTED RHINOS: Help keep an eye on endangered rhinos in Kenya, thanks to the Instant Wild project. Rangers are installing cameras in regions they don't usually patrol. Raspberry Pi computers in the self-contained units monitor input from motion sensors, snap images as animals or people pass by and upload the pictures via the Iridium satellite network. Once uploaded the images are displayed on the website and sent out to a smartphone app. Followers then help identify the species recorded in the images so scientists can more easily monitor trends. And maybe poachers will be identified too.

HEAR THIS: Those incomprehensible announcements at airports and railway stations? Researchers are out to change that with an algorithm that analyses spoken words and enhances the sounds that help listeners hear more clearly what is being said. Tests at the University of Edinburgh pinpointed the components of speech most easily heard by people in a noisy place. The software the researchers then developed makes the same kind of difference as lowering the general noise level by 5 decibels.

Software like this could also be used to make the voices on smartphones clearer. Older folks should particularly appreciate that software.

THE SPEAKING FINGER: Disney Research have come up with an interesting trick: hold their Ishin-Den-Shin microphone and speak into it. Then put your finger on another person's ear and that person can hear what you said. The microphone records sounds and transforms them into an inaudible signal that is transmitted only by physical contact, from body to body. The technique depends on an electrostatic that vibrates the ear lobe, turning the finger and ear together into a speaker. There could be a fun kids toy in that.

SPEED CHECK: The Nissan Nismo Smartwatch reports both your heart rate and the speed of the car, along with the time, tweets, temperature, weather, fuel efficiency and other data. The battery gives the wearer around a week of use, while two buttons on screen control the watch. Now we may need laws about not using smart watches while driving.

NOW YOU SEE IT: Yet another tall tower is in planning. This time it's Tower Infinity to be built in South Korea. The whole of the 450 metre tall tower will be devoted to entertainment, but its real feature is that it will be invisible — sort of. The facade will use a cutting edge LED system and optical cameras to create illusions that make the tower seem to disappear against the background. Planes beware.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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