Tech Universe: Friday 13 December

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

WHERE THE WIND BLOWS: Skyscrapers are very exposed to the wind, and at 530 metres tall the Pertamina Energy Tower to be built in Jakarta will be well placed to harvest wind energy. The tower features an integrated wind funnel at the top to generate electricity from prevailing air currents. Interestingly the tower will be the headquarters for state-owned oil and gas corporation. A curved facade and exterior sun shades will also help save energy by reducing the need for artificial lighting and providing shade from the hot equatorial sun. The building should be complete by 2020. It's good to see big oil exploring alternatives.

FAST FOOD: The European Splendid project aims to help kids eat better and adopt healthier lifestyles. Kids in Sweden and The Netherlands will use various sensors to track how they eat. One sensor functions like a scale, measuring how quickly food leaves the plate placed on it.

Another is a wearable microphone that records how the wearer chews their food. Study participants will also provide information about how full they feel after a meal, how much they've eaten and exercised. Medical experts will analyse the data and give the kids advice about diet and exercise.

MOVING DATA: Garments from Athos in Canada are designed to help you work out. As you move the apparel records and analyses movements of up to 14 muscles, breath and heartbeat, while a 3-axis accelerometer tracks motion. The sensors in the clothing send data via Bluetooth to your smartphone where an app translates it into meaningful information. Remove the sensors before washing the clothes though. That's some serious motion tracking.

SWALLOW THE TAN: Batteries that contain lithium can be dangerous in devices used inside the human body. So a team from Carnegie Mellon University are developing a battery that relies on melanin, a pigment that occurs naturally in our skin when we tan, and sodium ions in a steel mesh structure. The power output is low compared with standard batteries, but it could run a device for up to 5 hours. The researchers found that natural melanin is better at holding charge than synthetic versions.

DEATH AND THE ROBOT: The Virtobot is a robot designed for forensic autopsies. The robot can collect the imaging equipment it needs, including still and 3D images, and then scan the body with various sensors and in predetermined patterns. It can also place markers and carry out a CT scan. The robot can also analyse the images it receives. That sounds like a robot that will be specially useful during natural and other disasters with high death rates.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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