BADGE THE BIKES: Lights make it easier for a bike to be seen at night, but Brainy Bike Lights think there's more to it than that. Their lights display a recognisable symbol of a bike because research at Oxford University has shown this will make them stand out more amongst the clutter of lights. The LED lights are visible at up to 20 metres, can be static or flashing, and can be easily attached and removed. The front light has a battery life of around 50 hours in flashing mode, while the rear light will last for around 200 hours. Both lights use AA batteries. Nice idea, but is the symbol big enough to distinguish or will drivers be puzzling over what it is?
That screen also contains an invisible solar panel. In both natural and artificial light the solar panel generates enough energy to charge the phone. That's a move in the right direction.
SMALL TREASURES: M3D's Micro 3D printer has a tiny footprint on a desk: it's a cube, 185 mm per side, that weighs around 1 Kg. It also levels and calibrates itself so should be easier to use than some other printers, and its app contains a library of objects ready for printing. Because the device is so small, the items it prints are also small: objects up to 116 mm tall and around 73 millilitres in volume. It seems 3D printers are evolving all the time.
TREES GO HIGH-TECH: Supercapacitors are high-power energy devices useful in industry, cars, electronics and aviation. But they cost a lot to make and their high-quality carbon electrodes are difficult to produce. Scientists at Oregon State University found the cellulose in trees can be heated in a furnace in the presence of ammonia and turned into carbon membranes, the building blocks for supercapacitors. The process is quick, inexpensive and fairly friendly to the environment. The methane byproduct could also be captured and used as a fuel or for other purposes. There's more to a tree than meets the eye.
GESTURE GUARDIAN: Some devices may accept a fingerprint as an unlocking mechanism, but once unlocked anyone could pick them up and use them. The Georgia Institute of Technology want to add security by constantly checking that only an authorised user is at work. We all have a distinct pattern of speed and pressure in taps and swipes when we use a device. The LatentGesture system monitors those gestures and can lock the device if the pattern doesn't match what's expected. In tests the system was nearly 98% accurate on an Android smartphone and 97% correct on Android tablets. A system like that could perhaps allow different levels of access to different users of a device, preventing children from making in-app purchases, for example. How about drunk texting?
Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz