Tech Universe: Wednesday 20 November

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

ROBOTS WITH RINGS: The Pars rescue robot from Iran is designed to help people at risk of drowning in the ocean. The small robot flies to where it's needed and drops up to 3 life preservers. The robot can fly at 10 metres per second and has a flight radius range of 4.5 kilometres. Recent tests of a prototype were considered successful. The developers hope to create a commercial product after some further work. A robot like that could be particularly useful if carried on any ship.

DON'T GET UP: Honda's UNI-CUB? personal mobility device is a smaller, lighter, more advanced version of its UNI-CUB. The device has been made from softer materials so the seat is more comfortable and impacts with people or other objects are less severe. A stand also makes it easier to mount and dismount and allows the vehicle to be used as a seat when not in motion. The 25 Kg device runs on a Lithium-ion battery and can travel up to 6 Km at up to 6 Kph. It's designed for use indoors though, rather than out on the city streets.

Just the thing for some of the bigger offices.

PUSH AND PULL: Sometimes babies get stuck in the birth canal. In places like New Zealand that means doctors spring into action, but in some countries with few medical services the mother may die. One Argentine car mechanic has created a simple device to help extract the baby. An attendant slips a plastic bag inside a lubricated plastic sleeve around the baby's head, inflates the bag to grip the head and pulls the bag until the baby emerges. The bag system could replace forceps and suction cups which can themselves cause a lot of damage. The device has been tested on a small number of women who weren't having problems giving birth but will next be tested on those with problems. When finished the device should be low cost and so more available to poor countries. Cow and sheep farmers could be interested too.

TILL THE COWS COME HOME: Want to move a herd of cows? You may do the work yourself, or perhaps call up the dogs. In future though you may signal a cow-herding robot to do the job for you. Researchers at the University of Sydney used LiDAR, GPS and some smart algorithms to help a robot detect where it was, where the cows were and how to move the cows in the right direction. The cows readily accepted the prototype robot which moved them at a slow speed that helped prevent lameness. A cow-herding robot could in future also carry out tasks such as soil testing, checking fences and making sure water troughs aren't empty. It's opening and closing the gates that could be the problem.

A USEFUL VIRUS: Lithium-air batteries could produce a lot more power than other batteries, but scientists are having some problems with the electrodes and the number of charge and discharge cycles. The cathode could be made from nanowires though. Researchers found that a genetically modified virus called M13 can capture molecules of metals from water and bind them into structural shapes. That means that, rather like an abalone growing its shell by capturing calcium from seawater, nanowires created with the virus can have a much increased surface area. It also means nanowires can be grown at room temperature using a process based on water. Add a little palladium at the end and electrical conductivity is improved too. Unfortunately these discoveries are just a step along the way in research, but it's still pushing things in the right direction.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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