Tech Universe: Thursday 15 May

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

LOOKING GOOD: Some gadgets allow wheelchair users to steer by eye movements alone. The problem though is that the users have to stare at the device and lose the opportunity to look around, and it can also be very slow to operate. A team at Imperial College London have developed smart software that analyses eye movements and can distinguish between looking around and an intention to move in a particular direction. It also responds within 10 milliseconds to a person's intention to move — a speed that feels instantaneous. The system uses two cameras trained on the eyes and a laptop to analyse the images from the cameras. The developers say the hardware required can be low cost as it's the software that does the hard work. That's exactly what software should be: doing more work so we can do less.

BEND ALL THE THINGS: Flexible electronics are one thing, but their power supplies are generally not flexible enough themselves, or they're underpowered.

US researchers have developed a flexible thin film from nickel and fluoride that is full of tiny holes, or nanopores, that allow ions to flow easily. The film can be bent and folded and recharged thousands of times. It is also easy to mass produce. Ah, yes, flexible power supplies: of course!

SHIRT ALERT: Rather than using a separate wristband or heartrate monitor OMsignal embed sensors in their workout shirts to measure stats such as heart rate, breathing rate, and calories burned. The shirts feature a band of conductive silver-based thread around the chest. The band sends electrical signals to a small device that snaps onto the shirt and that connects via Bluetooth to a handset. The device includes an accelerometer, gyrometer, and magnetometer for tracking your movements in space. A smartphone app interprets all the data and gives you stats and graphs you can use. Just think of all the electromagnetic radiation washing around you.

SHIRT AVERT: Keep forgetting to mute your phone so you can work or party undisturbed? Or maybe you just don't like to be awash in electromagnetic radiation all day. Trident's Focus: Life Gear clothing is made from a fabric that keeps out all electromagnetic waves. Who knows how all that electromagnetic radiation is affecting us?

GIVE A BIRD A SHIRT: German researchers found that weak electromagnetic fields produced by equipment plugged into mains electricity and AM radio signals interfere with the internal magnetic compass of some migrating birds. Research over 7 years with European robins found that birds exposed to electromagnetic noise between 50 kHz and 5 MHz lost all sense of direction. But when the field was blocked out, they found their bearings again. Fortunately birds don't rely on a magnetic compass alone to navigate, but this interference could be strongest over urban areas. Sounds like birds need the protective clothing.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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