Tech Universe: Wednesday 12 March

By Miraz Jordan

Smog across the Shanghai skyline, China. Photo / Thinkstock
Smog across the Shanghai skyline, China. Photo / Thinkstock

SOMETHING IN THE AIR: China's cities have a smog problem, but the Government is tackling it with drones that disperse fog and smog by releasing a chemical catalyst. The parafoil plane features a gliding parachute, and can carry 3 times the cargo weight of common planes. Fog, smog, and now unnamed chemicals.

POLES APART: You've been in hospital and are feeling well enough to get up, but are still attached to an IV drip. At the moment you have to drag around a stand to hold the drip. The Mobiu Corporation has developed a wearable pole that should be more convenient. The EZPole is attached to a shoulder harness with a strap that goes across the body. A pad is buckled onto one shoulder and the pole is mounted to that. The EZPole leaves the wearer's hands free and allows for greater mobility, such as being able to use the stairs. Handy.

A ROUGH PICTURE: Fujitsu have a prototype haptic sensory tablet whose touchscreen conveys a sense of slipperiness or roughness depending on the image being displayed. The tablet uses ultrasonic vibrations to convey tactile sensations by varying the friction between the touchscreen display and the user's finger. The ultrasonic vibration creates a high-pressure layer of air between the screen's surface and the fingertip, reducing friction and creating a floating effect. Meanwhile, rapidly cycling between high and low friction generates a tactile illusion that the screen is bumpy or rough. One day we may be able to feel images on screen, which could be very interesting in movies.

BIG PRINT: 3D printing can be rather slow, and generally the printed objects are also fairly small. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory wants to change that with a large-scale polymer additive manufacturing system they're working on. Their aim is for their system to be 200 to 500 times faster and capable of printing polymer components 10 times larger than today's common additive machines. So far all they have is an agreement with a manufacturer of high quality machine tools. Let's hope it's not too long before they have a product that works.

HEALTH ON THE GO: People in remote spots, such as astronauts in space for example, could benefit from the Astroskin smart shirt currently being tested by the Canadian Space Agency. The WiFi equipped shirt is packed with sensors that monitor blood pressure, skin temperature, activity, blood oxygen levels, heart rate and breathing rate. The data helps monitor the health of the wearer in real time. Once testing on the ground is complete the shirt could be used in future space missions or perhaps in remote communities. It should be more comfortable than the half dozen bits of equipment it replaces.

Miraz Jordan,

- NZ Herald

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