Tech Universe: Wednesday 9 July

By Miraz Jordan

A backpack and Jacket in one that keeps you and your belongings dry from the rain. Photo / FUNNELL - EJECT | WEAR
A backpack and Jacket in one that keeps you and your belongings dry from the rain. Photo / FUNNELL - EJECT | WEAR

ON YOUR BIKE: The rain unexpectedly starts half way through your bike ride. Do you stop and pull out the rain gear you thought to bring in your bag? Not with the Funnell backpack: tug on the cords in the backpack straps and a raincoat unfolds itself over both you and the backpack. Put your arms in the sleeves and zip up, then you're done. If you have great balance you may not even need to stop the bike. Of course, folding the jacket back into the pack could be the tricky part.

THE BIKE YOU LIKE: You need to set a bike up correctly to give you the best fit or it'll be uncomfortable to ride, maybe enough that you abandon the idea of cycling altogether. One option is to get a custom frame, but that's a costly way to go. The Universal Bike aims to give you an affordable but almost infinitely customisable carbon fibre frame so you can get everything just right. The design allows for an easy change of geometry, changing the angle of front forks and seat tube and the length of the bike.

To set it up take a few body measurements and feed them into an app along with the style of bike you want. The bike frame is marked so you can read settings the app provides and easily apply them. There's no need to fill the shed with different kinds of bike if this one so easily adapts to any riding style.

THE DOG KNOWS: We know dogs can sniff out drugs, food and even the dead, but hard drives? In Rhode Island the police aim to catch those trafficking in images of child sexual abuse with dogs that can sniff out hard drives, thumb drives and the like. A Task Force first identifies suspects and obtains a search warrant. Then the dog comes in to help find hidden stores of images. In one case a dog sniffed out a thumb drive containing images of child sexual abuse hidden four layers deep in a tin box inside a metal cabinet. Surely hiding a thumb drive amongst other electronics would confuse things a bit.

FOREVER FOCUSED: You may think you're concentrating on something, but chances are your attention has actually drifted. Research suggests we actually zone out somewhere between 20% and 40% of the time. Researchers at the University of Notre Dame think we could be more engaged and attentive if software would point out when we've lost focus. They use commercial eye tracker software and then observe specific features in the way the eyes move, such as how long they fixate on words, where the eyes move next, their overall movement patterns and other contextual cues. This analysis can suggest when a reader has lost focus, and then the idea is to pause the presentation of text, perhaps replaying portions, until the reader regains focus. The researchers believe such a system could improve learning or help prevent disasters among those whose jobs require a high level of attention such as air traffic controllers. And if we did away with sleep we could work 24 hours a day too.

SLOT CARS: The valet parking at Düsseldorf airport is handle by robots. Book parking online then drop your car at the valet parking spot and confirm on a touch screen that no-one's in the car. The robot measures the vehicle, picks it up with a forklift-like system, and places it in one of 249 reserved parking slots. The robot also knows when to have the car ready for returning passengers as it accesses flight data and customer trip information. A smartphone app lets passengers make any changes they need. But do you have to tip the robots?

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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