Tech Universe: Tuesday 03 December

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

SKIN JOB: It's very hard to make synthetic skin look realistic, as skin's not a single uniform shade and it looks different in different lights. A team from the University of Liverpool aim to use a 3D printer to create more natural looking skin. They're first researching ways to take 3D images of the actual skin of a person, and also to build up a library of skin images. Once they have satisfactory images they'll be able to work on then reproducing realistic skin. How long till people get custom skin patches as they do tattoos now?

CUTTING THE CUTS: In crime shows the medical examiner slices into the body of the murder victim to get the post mortem underway. Now pathologists in the UK won't need to wield a scalpel at all. A digital post-mortem examination facility in Sheffield will help those families whose religions and customs require a quick burial and no violation of the body.

The body goes through an MRI or CT scan, both of which see beneath layers of clothes and tissue. Then a pathologist uses 3D digital imaging to zoom in to areas they want to study in greater detail. I presume victims of crime will still need to be cut open to observe damage from weapons in detail.

TWIN SHOTS: Vaccines often require two injections, spaced some time apart. If the doctor's clinic is only a short bus or car ride away then it's just a matter of remembering to get the booster. In developing countries though distance and lack of transport may make such boosters extremely hard to deliver. Now German researchers think they may be able to find a way around that. Tests in mice have shown that it's possible to receive the booster shot in the form of a water-based hydrogel implant that stores the booster dose. When the mouse swallows a pill containing an activating compound the booster dose is released. If this technique works for people it could mean a patient would receive two injections at once, and be sent home with a pill to take later. Then the trick will be to get them to take the capsule at the right time.

TIP OF THE TONGUE: Some wheelchair users may have to use a straw to drive their chair. The user sips or puffs air into a straw to be able to deliver basic navigation commands. Researchers at Georgia Tech have been developing a Tongue Drive System that seems to be just as accurate but faster to use. A tiny magnet is attached to the tongue.

Sensors in a headset can read changes in the magnetic field as the tongue moves and send data via WiFi to a smartphone that then controls the chair or other objects such as a computer. Although the magnet can be glued to the tongue it falls off relatively quickly and could be inhaled. Piercing the tongue may be a better solution for those going beyond mere testing. Who would have thought of a tongue piercing as being an assistive aid?

WAVING WITH LIGHTING: Wave your hand at the Goldee light controller and the lights will come on or go off. But the controller can also turn lights on or off by itself if it senses you're not home or you're getting up in the middle of the night. Team it with smart bulbs like those from Hue and the controller will create scenes to help you wake up or go to sleep. You can also operate Goldee with your smartphone.
The controller is a slim black box that attaches to the wall and plugs in to the power, one per room. The device includes a proximity sensor, an ambient sensor, a gesture control chip and uses an AMOLED display behind Gorilla Glass.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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