Tech Universe: Thursday 21 November

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

WEST IS BEST: It seems obvious to face solar panels directly towards the sun: south or north, depending which part of the world you're in. Still, one study in Texas, found that facing them west could bring more benefits. The study found that panels turned to the west generated nearly 50% more electricity during peak demand hours than did their southern-facing counterparts. Homes with west-facing systems also produced slightly more electricity. Future research will study what difference the pitch of the roof makes. The obvious thing isn't always the best thing.

A QUICK CHILL: When all you really want is a cold drink it's annoying to find you forgot to put the drinks in the fridge. The V-Tex machine can cool a drink in less than 45 seconds. Unlike other methods that may leave fizzy drinks flat or freeze the outside while leaving the inside warm the V-Tex method rotates the can or bottle at just the right speed to preserve carbonation and cool the liquid all the way through.

A retail machine can handle 6 drinks, while a domestic version quickly cools bottles of champagne, wine or beer. The retail version reduces energy consumption by up to 80% compared with current refrigerators. It's a nice idea, and takes less time than making a cup of tea, but for homes the machine needs to be small enough to hide away on the bench.

OFF THE BAT: The Bat is a small but fully autonomous military drone that has been used for a while for surveillance. It's launched from a hydraulic rail launcher at sea or on land and retrieved by having it fly into a large net. It can travel at up to 112 Kph. In recent tests it succeeded in jamming radar signals. That means it could be used to protect aircraft against radar and surface-to-air missile guidance systems. Wouldn't it also jam the radar of the planes it's protecting?

SPOT ON: The SPOT Trace is a GPS tracked device that you might attach to a car or boat in case they're stolen. The small device sleeps until it detects that it's been moved. It then connects with the tracking service which sends you an email or text to alert you so you can track the item live on a map. The device uses satellite tracking so even remote locations are not a problem. The device itself comes in at just under 90 grams and is around 7 cm by 5 cm in size. Attach it with double sided tape, with a mounting bracket, or via an adhesive grip pad or adhesive hook and loop tape. Stalkers and paparazzi could find it handy too.

EDGY VISION: The Argus II is a retinal implant for adults with retinitis pigmentosa which causes a slow loss of vision ending with blindness. The Argus II system uses a tiny camera in a pair of glasses to capture an image, process it and send instructions to 60 electrodes that stimulate cells in the retina. Those cells in turn send visual information along the optic nerve to the brain, creating the perception of patterns of light. A recent study discovered that if the outlines of an object were enhanced users of the implant were more successful in recognising the object. That just seems sensible.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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