Tech Universe: Thursday 5 June

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

ONE WAY TO GO: Do you have a tendency to get lost, especially in strange cities? The BackTrack Personal GPS Tracker does one thing: mark up to 3 places in the GPS before you leave. After you've walked around for a while select the place you want to return to and you'll see exact directions to your destination. At the size of a matchbox, the device will easily fit into a pocket.

AROUND THE WORLD IN 180 STEPS: For many people Internet access depends on various wires and cables laid across the ground, in the air or under the sea. In some places though that kind of infrastructure is just impossible. That's why Google reportedly plans to put 180 small, high-capacity satellites into orbit around the earth at lower altitudes than traditional satellites. The small satellites will be able to deliver Internet access to unwired regions of the globe. That's going to be a lot of orbiting hardware that someone will have to track.

BY DEGREES: Australian researchers have created a thermometer that can measure temperature differences to 30 billionths of a degree in one second. The device works at room temperature by injecting red and green light into a highly polished crystalline disk. The two colours travel at slightly different speeds in the crystal, depending on the temperature of the crystal. By concentrating and measuring the light the researchers are able to determine that temperature very accurately — 3 times more precisely than the best current thermometers. The same kind of technique could also be used for other measurements, for example of pressure, humidity or force. There must come an end point at some time where no greater precision is possible.

TINGLING TOUCH: Braille is an important communications tool for many blind people, but learning it can be challenging and expensive. The HoliBraille is a smartphone case that combines chord input with a series of feedback vibrations that let the user know what the system is registering. First an Arduino microcontroller talks to the phone case via Bluetooth. The case then activates individual vibro-tactile motors next to the fingers that make up the chords. The smartphone also means it's possible to create games to help users learn Braille. Tests so far suggest the device is very accurate, though the team are now working on an autocorrect system to help those typing in Braille chords to achieve even higher accuracy. Feedback is so important in learning and in daily life.

A DOG'S LIFE: Concerned about your dog or cat's health? The PetPace collar monitors temperature, pulse, respiration, activity, positions and other parameters of dogs or cats. Data is sent via WiFi and feeds into a smartphone app. If there's cause for concern the app sends an alert. The battery is a LiPo 250mAh, that lasts for more than 6 weeks between recharges. Lack of walks will show up pretty quickly.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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