Tech Universe: Monday, 17 March

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

IT'S A WASH: Water, water everywhere. It's familiar from any public toilet where you wash your hands at the sink, shake the water off all over yourself and the floor, then hope there's a decent way to dry your hands at the end that doesn't involve wiping them on your own clothes. The Robo-washer does it all in one, and even cleans itself afterwards. First you have to be brave enough to put your hands into an enclosure where a microprocessor dispenses just the right amount of water for cleaning. Rub your hands together to clean them, then the machine rinses and dries them. Presumably soap's included in the wash too. This could catch on with some strategically placed glass so you can see what you're putting your hands into.

BIG CONNECTIONS: The 77 Km long Panama Canal is 100 years old and connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. But some modern ships are just too huge to be able to use the canal so a third lane is being built which will double capacity.

The project should be completed in 2015, but at the moment 16 massive gates are being installed. Each gate is nearly 10 stories high, weighs 3,100 tons, and costs $34.2 million to fabricate, transport, and install. And at that size, robotic transporters are needed to put each gate in place.

IN A SLUMP: Our posture and movements tell others a great deal about us, including how we feel. At the University of Genoa in Italy researchers created a system that uses the depth-sensing, motion-capture camera in Microsoft's Kinect to determine the emotion conveyed by a person's body movements. Software takes the camera's input to create a stick figure representation of the person and compares that to body positions and movements thought to represent certain emotional states such as sadness or fear. Tests of the system showed it was almost as accurate as human volunteers, correctly determining how someone was feeling around 61% of the time. The researchers are going on to build games based on the system to help children with autism to recognise and express emotions through full-body movements. Are humans really that bad at assessing how others feel?

UP, DOWN, TURN AROUND: The Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded Systems, known as ARES, is a military autonomous flyer that holds its tilting ducted fans horizontal for liftoff, then tilts them to the vertical for flight. Outboard wing panels tilt with the fans and fold against the ducts when stowed. The vertical-takeoff-and-landing craft carries a detachable payload module under the centre section, between tall landing skids. The prototype has a span of almost 13 metres with the wings unfolded. Initial ground tests should take place early in 2015.

OUT OF THE BOX: Rummaging through boxes of stuff looking for that one needed item is time consuming. With King Jim Neutral BOX though it just became easier. Each box carries a digital tag on the side. Take photos of the box's contents with your smartphone to create a catalogue. Then the associated app lets you see those photos when you check the tag. Maybe unpacking the box would be just as easy…

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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