Tech Universe: Tuesday 26 November

By Miraz Jordan

The E-Fox velomobile. Photo / nuway2commute.com
The E-Fox velomobile. Photo / nuway2commute.com

BIKE TRIKE CAR: It's a bike with 3 wheels, an electric motor and a roof, though it doesn't have doors. The E-Fox velomobile carries up to 125 Kg of cargo, including the rider and can run for almost 50 Km on a single charge. It'll carry you and your cargo at up to 32 Kph — faster if you pedal too — and it can tow a small trailer. That could be a fun way to handle shopping.

BOUNCY LITTLE DROPS: It may not be enough to make a surface hydrophobic so water simply bounces off. How fast droplets of water bounce off a surface can also make a difference, for example, in stopping a plane's wings from icing up. Researchers at MIT filmed water droplets bouncing off a silicone wafer sprayed with a highly water-repellent coating. A textured rough surface with small ridges made drops break up and spend less time spreading out on the surface before bouncing off.

The upshot was a drier surface. In the case of a plane's wings that could mean less opportunity for frost to form and build up on the surface. Will it work the same in an airflow though?

VEIN HOPE: If you need an intravenous drip a nurse must find a vein to insert it into, and that's not always simple. The Eyes-On Glasses System makes veins easy to see. The smart glasses use near-infrared light to highlight deoxygenated hemoglobin in a patient's veins. Stereoscopic cameras project images of the veins onto the see-through glass screens, can record videos and stills, and send data via Bluetooth, WiFi or 3G. The glasses include dual built-in speakers for video conferencing, and run off a belt-mounted power supply and computer. That sounds like a must-have for any hospital.

OFFICE ON THE GO: La Fonction's No. 1 leather laptop bag doesn't just carry your computer, but unfolds to create a mobile workstation with privacy screens too. The laptop itself sits in an inside pocket. Unfold the case so the wings screen each side, keeping reflections off the screen but also stopping anyone beside you from looking at your work. The wings also handily store stuff you may need, such as pens and notebooks. A detachable pocket on the outside holds bulkier items such as a power cord. Add speakers for an interesting if tiny home theatre.

WHAT'S THAT YOU SAY?: Background noise makes it hard for anyone to hear clearly, but the hearing impaired have a particular problem with it. Researchers at Ohio State University can help people recognise more spoken words in a noisy environment. A computer algorithm handles the task by classifying the noisy speech and retaining only the parts where speech dominates the noise. In tests the algorithm increased recognition from a low of 10% to as high as 90%. It was most successful when it removed a background of a babble of other voices, though it also performed well against a background of a stationary noise such as air conditioning. At the moment the algorithm works with recorded sound, but more powerful processors should be able to work in real time. Imagine how useful that could be for bar tenders and wait staff.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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