Tech Universe: Friday 13 June

By Miraz Jordan

The Polercoaster.
The Polercoaster.

GOING UP?: A 3 minute ride up and down 1585 metres of track at a top speed of 105 Kph makes a thrilling rollercoaster ride. The Polercoaster to be built in Orlando, Florida puts all of this on the outside of a 174 metre tower, creating a vertical rollercoaster. The project should open in 2016.

COLOUR YOUR WORLD: If you want to actually write or draw something on a piece of paper you may be choosy about the colour of the ink. The Scribble Ink ballpoint pen gives you lots of options — about 100,000 of them in fact. Unlike the pens you normally use, this one includes a 16 bit colour sensor at the top and refillable colour cartridges in cyan, magenta, yellow, white and black. Point the colour sensor at any real world object and the processor inside the pen works out how to create that colour. The ink from the cartridges is mixed in a chamber and then flows out through the nib so you can write or draw in almost any colour.

Another version of the pen does away with ink cartridges and gives you a capacitive tip for drawing on a tablet. A USB port, Bluetooth and a Lithium-ion battery round out its features. That could make scribbling on a passport so much more colourful.

HOW DO YOU FEEL?: Pepper is a robot designed to read and respond to your mood. The Japanese robot from Softbank is around 1.2 metres tall, weighs 28 Kg and has multiple cameras, audio recorders, directional microphones and sensors in its head, using facial recognition to gauge how the person it's interacting with is feeling. Pepper speaks 17 languages and learns how to behave over time, drawing on feedback uploaded to the cloud by itself and other units. The robot has fully articulated arms and hands but no legs, instead rolling on a base, though it can also dance. A tablet mounted on its chest helps with communication. Perhaps the tablet should be mounted on the head, given the robot's height and shape.

LOOK THERE: Serious gamers may be interested in the Sentry from SteelSeries. The device is an eye tracker rather than a controller and is designed to help users train themselves in looking at the screen. The Sentry provides statistics on where the user is looking, including fixations per minute. That's dedicated gaming.

ON THE DOT: Colloidal quantum dots are solid, stable light-sensitive nanoparticles that show promise for making cheaper and more flexible solar cells, as well as better gas sensors, infrared lasers and infrared light emitting diodes. One previous problem has been that exposure to air would reduce efficiency, but a new form of the dots doesn't bind oxygen when exposed to air, so is more efficient. The development could lead to more sophisticated weather satellites, remote controllers, satellite communication, pollution detectors, or even roofing shingles that are also solar collectors. When solar panels are as inexpensive and as easy to use a current roofing materials that'll be the biggest breakthrough.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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