Tech Universe: Friday 24 January

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

EYES ON THE APP: In the West End of London drivers with a smartphone may have more chance of finding a park. Smart parking sensors will detect whether a bay is vacant or not. An app allows drivers to see on a real-time map which bays are vacant and even pay for the parking. The scheme hopes to reduce pollution and congestion in an area where a driver will typically spend 15 minutes looking for a parking spot. Shouldn't drivers be watching the road rather than looking at their phones?

GLASSY: Sugoi's RPM Zap jacket should help cyclists be seen at night. It includes a layer of highly reflective ground glass pixels, screen-printed onto its exterior. In daylight the jacket looks like any other colourful coat, but at night the ground glass picks up any nearby light, for example, from car headlights, and reflects it evenly across the whole surface of the clothing. That means the whole jacket lights up without batteries or LEDs, making the wearer shine out.

Now you can go clubbing in your bike jacket.

CATCH A COLD COMET: The Rosetta spacecraft from the European Space Agency has been sleeping while it travels far from the sun. Its true mission has now begun though: it's chasing after a 4.6 billion year old comet heading towards the sun. Once it catches up, Rosetta will orbit comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko studying how sunlight melts it to create a tail. In November Rosetta will release a small craft to land on and sample the surface of the comet. The data it gathers should help us understand how Earth's oceans were formed. Landing on a comet will be a huge challenge.

SOUNDS IN SIGHT: Researchers at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid have developed a pair of glasses for blind people that can help them navigate, along with a cane or guide dog. The glasses include two tiny cameras that send images to a stereo vision processor that turns the images into sounds that indicate position and distance. The sound is amplified and sent to bone conduction headphones. The system is cheaper and less bulky than similar systems on the market. A prototype exists and has been tested with considerable success with blind people in real environments. That could be a very useful adjunct to a cane.

GLUE A BROKEN HEART: If surgeons perform open heart surgery they have to choose how to close things up again. Sutures and staples can be slow to apply and can cause further damage. Surgeons might prefer glue, but currently available substances don't work in the presence of liquid, or can't stand up to the heartbeat, or are even toxic. Now researchers have created a special glue that only becomes active when exposed to UV light. That gives surgeons more scope in using the glue. The substance is flexible, strong and biodegradable too. The glue has worked well on pig hearts and now needs to be tested on people. Presumably the glue would work well on other body parts too and could save a lot of time and injury.

Miraz Jordan,

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