Tech Universe: Wednesday 19 February

By Miraz Jordan

A car with a difference. Photo / Kenguru
A car with a difference. Photo / Kenguru

WHEELS UP: So you're a wheelchair user who drives a car. That involves a lot of messing about transferring to and from the car, folding and unfolding the chair, stowing the chair and so on. Kenguru takes a different approach: you stay in your chair. The car has a single large rear door, operated by remote, that lifts up, and a ramp that drops down to allow the wheelchair to enter. The single-person electric car has a top speed of 40 Kph, a range of 96 Km and takes 8 hours to fully recharge. The steering wheel comes in the form of a handlebar or joystick, while large windows provide great visibility. A simple, clever idea that could transform lives.

SCOOT SCOOT: The URB-E electric scooter can run 32 Km on a single charge, and has a top speed of 24 Kph, but its biggest feature is that it folds up to about the size of a small wheeled shopping bag.

That means you can easily take it on the bus or tain, especially since it weighs only 12 Kg. You can add a small rack to carry a briefcase too. The scooter's made from machined recyclable aircraft grade aluminium and the Lithium Ion battery takes 3 hours to charge. Bus to office in a jif.

BOOT SCOOT: Colombia is just one of many countries where active landmines are a danger to the general population. But one Colombian designer is working on shoes that can alert the wearer to the presence of a landmine nearby. The idea is to add a metal detector to the shoe, with a sensor that sends a signal to a device on the wearer's wrist. The device is still being developed, but it sounds like a good idea.

IN HER EAR: A cochlear implant electrically stimulates the auditory nerve, helping many people around the world to hear. The implants require a small transmitter to be attached to the skull, with a wire down to a joint microphone and power source by the ear. Researchers at MIT have developed a low-power signal-processing chip that could wirelessly recharge a cochlear implant. The implant would run for about 8 hours per charge. Instead of using an external microphone the new implant would make use of the ability of the ear to hear sounds and use a low-power chip to convert that sound to an electrical signal. Not needing the external device would mean wearers wouldn't need to worry about it being damaged by water or getting lost or broken. That the device is even less visible is a bonus too.

THINK UP: Thanks to researchers at the University of Minnesota you can fly a quadcopter just by thinking about it. You need an EEG cap with 64 attached electrodes that pick up signals from the brain's motor cortex. The signals go to a computer, are decoded, then sent via WiFi to control the quadcopter. Students testing the system need 10 to 20 hours training on a virtual system before working with the real thing. In future a system like this could let people with disabilities more easily perform everyday tasks such as using the Internet. Presumably training for one purpose, such as flying a quadcopter also develops the skills you need for something like operating a cursor.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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