Tech Universe: Thursday 27 February

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

WALK THIS WAY: The inspiration behind the Lechal shoe was to help blind people navigate. The production version though helps everyone navigate the streets. A custom insole takes a rechargeable Lithium Polymer battery in the heel and communicates via Bluetooth with a smartphone. Set a destination on the phone, then the insole vibrates to indicate the direction to choose. The app and insoles can also count steps and track calories, point out tourist sites and alert you if you've left your phone behind. Excuse me, your shoes are buzzing.

HEART IN HAND: When one surgeon in the US faced a particularly tricky operation on the heart of a 12 month old child he discussed the case with colleagues who gave him conflicting advice. The next step then was to create a 3D printed model of the child's heart, in 3 sections, and at twice the size. With the heart in hand, the surgeon could see what he had to do. The model was built using additive printing with a flexible polymer called Ninja Flex that is similar in feel to that of the heart.

The replica took around 20 hours to print. What a difference a day makes.

TALK TO THE BAND: Huawei's Talkband is worn on the wrist to monitor activities such as steps, calories and sleep. If a phonecall comes in though, pop out the wireless earpiece. The band itself has a flexible OLED display and a 90mAh battery. There's another one on the wrist.

LONG ON THE MOON: We can collect energy from sunlight here on Earth, but much of the sun's light is blocked by our atmosphere and clouds. The Moon however, doesn't have those problems. The Shimizu Corporation in Japan plans to build a solar strip across the Lunar equator then beam microwave and laser energy to giant energy conversion facilities on Earth to ultimately power homes and businesses. Their plan involves shipping hydrogen from Earth and combining it with the lunar soil to extract water for use in construction. The company is planning for a strip of solar cells 17700 Km long. And their plans to protect the cells from meteorites and other random space dust?

IF A TREE FALLS: What's happening in the world's forests? Global Forest Watch combines satellite images, Google Earth, open data, and crowdsourcing to monitor forests almost in real-time. Previously deforestation was detected only once the trees had already gone. Satellite data from NASA's Landsat programme though can show where trees are growing and disappearing, sending alerts to officials who can put a stop to illegal logging soon after it starts. Anyone with web access can view the satellite data and help watch for detrimental activity. Meanwhile locals, who can see what is happening in their own area can contribute that data and call for action. It looks like New Zealand lost more forest than it gained over the last decade or so.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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