Tech Universe: Tuesday 05 November

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

IN SAIL WE TRUST: You're driving along in your all-terrain buggy when you give the engine some extra gas and the parasail lifts you up into the sky. The Parajet SkyRunner is an all-terrain buggy with an open chasis and a propeller on the back. The vehicle can accelerate to 100 Kph in 4.3 seconds and has a top speed of 185 Kph. In flight, the buggy has a maximum altitude of around 4,500 metres and a range of about 320 Km. If the engine or wing fails the SkyRunner floats to the ground on its paraglider, or a ballistic reserve chute can be deployed. Mmm hmm, 4.5 Km high in an open vehicle relying on a paraglider wing — that takes some trust.

FOOD FIT: The Airo is a wristband that keeps track of what you eat, the intensity of your exercise, your sleep and your stress. A built-in spectrometer detects nutrients released into the bloodstream as they are broken down during and after your meals.

That means it automatically tracks how many calories you eat and their nutritional quality. It also tracks stress and can alert you when levels are too high. The wristband uses Bluetooth to communicate with your phone and for charging, and has a vibration motor for alerts. That's good. Now make one for my dog.

BUMP IN THE LIGHT: Blind people generally do still have some sight — they may be able to perceive light and motion. Researchers from Oxford University have taken advantage of that to create a pair of smart glasses to help with navigation. Cameras on the glasses and software detect nearby objects and present them in a simple and intuitive way onto the lenses. This alerts the wearer to obstacles, but better software could perform object recognition and tell the wearer what each object actually is. Moreover signs, menus, bus numbers and the like could perhaps be turned into speech. Nice.

GO IT ALONE: In Canada massive trucks the size of a 3-story building haul oil sands away from open-pit mines for processing into bitumen. Each truck costs $4 million Canadian and even changing one tire can cost $50,000. Now Suncor Energy, who run the operation, hope to save money on fuel and maintenance while increasing productivity by using robot trucks. A computer and GPS have replaced the driver in one truck currently being tested. Within 5 years some or all of the current trucks may be replaced by autonomous vehicles. Don't forget the savings from no longer having to pay drivers.

GRIZZLE SIZZLE: One of the things Parks Canada has to worry about is grizzly bears on railway tracks. To deter the bears Parks Canada is testing out electromats. The grizzly smells a tasty carcass but has to step on an electromat to reach it and receives a small shock. In tests so far the shock the bear receives from the mat has been sufficient to both repel it and deter it from trying again. The mats can be placed in areas where the fence alongside the tracks has an opening and where there is a particular risk to bears. What does the mat do to smaller animals who step on it? Small dead mammals on the mats could be quite the drawcard.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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