Tech Universe: Friday 4 July

By Miraz Jordan

The Ladybird farming robot.
The Ladybird farming robot.

PROTECT THE VEG: Seen any Ladybirds recently? While the insect may be uncommon, the Australian Ladybird farming robot could become something we see a lot of in parts of the countryside. The ground robot was designed and built specifically for the vegetable industry. It can conduct autonomous farm surveillance, do mapping, classification, and detection for a variety of different vegetables. The solar powered robot has an array of sensors such as lasers, cameras and hyper spectral cameras for detecting vegetable growth and pest species, either plant or animal, and has an arm for doing weeding, or perhaps, in future, harvesting. It's when the humans are classified as pests that we have to start worrying.

LONG LIVERED: Speed is crucial when it comes to organ transplants. A donated organ can last anywhere between 5 and 24 hours, even when packed in ice and a special solution. A team from the US has been working on supercooling rat livers, which would normally last around 12 hours.

The supercooling has kept the livers viable for up to 4 days. First a solution that helps keep the liver alive is pumped into the liver. The organs were then cooled to -6C, but didn't freeze thanks to a specially tailored glucose compound in the solution. The longer the kidneys were kept before being used the less likely recipient rats were to survive, but the technique shows promise for use in humans. Even a slight easing in the time constraint could save many lives.

NOT SO LONELY GOATHERD: Herding sheep and goats in Western Turkey can mean living out in the wilderness for long periods of time. That means also being far from both entertainment and information.. With a solar-powered donkey though the shepherds can charge their laptops, surf the web, or run some lights to help them through the dark hours. A donkey is used to carry a solar panel and all the associated peripherals to gather energy during the day. Each panel can generate between 5 and 7 kilowatts of electricity. Half the cost of the plug and play solar packs is covered by the government to support development in the countryside.

YOU ARE FEELING SLEEPY: The Drift Light is a 530 lumen LED light bulb that plugs into a regular light socket. But it has a special power: set the switch and the bulb can either gradually dim to off or dim to a preset level so it works as a night light. The dimming takes around 37 minutes, mimicking a sunset and promoting relaxation. The bulb also emits a less blue light than many other bulbs, as blue light has been shown to disrupt sleep cycles. The bulb has an average lifespan of 30,000 hours. Having it work without setting up WiFi or other special gear is a bonus.

ON TRACK: Planes fly all over the world, which makes them perfect for tracking birds and other wildlife. First researchers attach tracking devices to the animals. Then commercial aircraft are equipped with antennae and receivers. Then as they fly along their normal routes they can track nearby animals. The data that's gathered can help researchers find migration routes and learn about the habits of the animals. As part of the project partner organisations are helping to develop smaller tracking devices so the range of animals to be tracked can be extended. Now add in software to let passengers see what animals they're flying over to get the public really engaged.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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