Tech Universe: Monday 16 December

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

ANY CYCLISTS LEFT?: Cyclists and buses aren't a great mix, so researchers at Bristol University have created a device called a Cycle Eye. The idea is to mount depth-sensing radar and camera sensors on a bus to detect when cyclists are alongside. The system then alerts the bus driver to the cyclist's presence. The smart system's detection algorithm differentiates between a cyclist and other objects on the side of the road such as lampposts and railings even in poor visibility and bad conditions. In one trial the system had a 98.5% success rate at identifying cyclists. That sounds good, but on busy streets how long till the bus driver turns off the spoken alert or just tunes it out?

FOGGY VISION: Wink Glasses 2013 spectacles blink for you, in case you forget. Some computer users forget to blink enough and their eyes get dry or they get headaches as a result.

Wink Glasses become opaque for 0.1 or 0.2 second every 10 seconds, forcing the wearer to blink. The lenses are covered with liquid crystal sheets, and there's a small battery in the left arm. In fog mode the battery's current cuts off momentarily causing the liquid crystal sheets to become opaque. Don't get caught out with a flat battery though.

EYE DRIPS: Sometimes people need to use eyedrops regularly to treat a condition such as glaucoma. US researchers created a special contact lens by encapsulating latanoprost-polymer films in commonly used contact lens hydrogel. The lens then releases the latanoprost drug steadily over a period of a month or more. Lenses can be shaped to a corrective prescription or can simply be neutral and have a clear central aperture. Testing in animals has suggested the lenses are safe, so presumably human studies may come soon. That would definitely be better than constantly stopping to administer eyedrops.

SQUARING THE LIGHT: Fibre optic cables carry pulses of light. But to keep those packets of light from interfering with one another the pulses must be carefully timed, which means leaving a bit of empty space between each pulse. Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne found a way to make a cable carry 10 times as much data: by making each pulse more pointy so they fit together more closely. The technique actually relies on making laser light of a broader spectrum of colours, all with the correct intensity. I'm happy to believe that.

SHAKE NO FAKE: With a different, difficult password for every website your brain's probably full already. Verayo's Opal authentication key is a piece of hardware that its makers claim can't be cloned or hacked and that authenticates your smartphone or tablet. Shake the Opal to turn it on and pair it with your device then keep it nearby. The gadget's microchip has tiny imperfections that arise during manufacturing and are unique, which means it provides a unique authentication key. Your phone or tablet reads the Bluetooth signal bouncing off the Opal and, if it matches a predetermined pattern, accepts you as a trusted user. Isn't a fingerprint easier?

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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