Tech Universe: Friday 31 January 2014

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

GAME, SET, DATA MATCH: The Babolat Play Pure Drive is a flash name for a tennis racquet, but it does a few interesting things apart from allowing you to hit the ball. The handle of the racquet includes sensors that detect string vibration and movement and analyse your game. The racquet connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth or a computer via USB. The racquet counts swings such as forehand and backhand, the spin you put on the ball and other features of your game. The rules of the International Tennis Federation allow for the use of Player Analysis Technology like this racquet in games, but players may only access the data once the match is over. The next problem of course is sporting espionage where a competitor is able to spy on a player's data and use it to their advantage. How about using this to create virtual tennis matches where players don't even need to be in the same country?

FIT FOR WORK: Data shows that in the US adults may spend up to 11 hours per day sitting while they work on a computer or watch TV.

They are also likely to add around 1 Kg of weight each year. More exercise would help stop that weight gain. Researchers at Penn State University had test subjects use a compact elliptical device to increase physical activity while sitting in a standard office chair. The device is low cost, quiet and takes only a small amount of space. They found that the majority of the participants could expend enough energy in one hour a day to prevent weight gain. Add a little generator and perhaps you could pedal to charge your phone too.

SOMETHING IN THE AIR: Firefighters have a challenging job that could be helped with an accurate view of a fire, and that's where drones come in. Dubai Civil Defence aim to use 15 quadcopters to patrol high-risk areas, such as industrial zones, to monitor and record fires. The drones can be deployed from patrol bikes, and start imaging a fire while the firefighters are still on their way. Flying in smoke and heat will be challenging for the little robots.

SOMETHING'S AFOOT: Swedish researchers have developed a system to help track firefighters as they move around a burning building. Sensors inside the boot include an accelerometer and gyroscope, along with a processor. Data goes to a wireless module on the shoulder and then on to operational command. In practice the system worked even when firefighters were 25 metres below ground. Precise information about locations and movements helps emergency coordinators ensure that firefighters remain effective and safe in extremely dangerous conditions. The current system puts sensors in the heel of a boot but further development aims to use them in an insole that would allow more flexibility and more uses. That wireless module on the shoulder seems to be a point of weakness though.

LIFT THE GAME: What does the lift in your building know about you? In the Microsoft Research Centre a smart lift can figure out where you're going without prior programming or facial recognition. Instead the lift studies the motions of people in hallways and learns that certain types of people go to certain places at certain times of the day. After 3 months of training the lift correctly intuited the destinations of its passengers in a trial. The developers say the system could be made even more accurate with the addition of more sensors. And when it gets it wrong? Would you like to start your work day fighting with the lift?

Miraz Jordan, http://knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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