Tech Universe: Friday 25 July

By Miraz Jordan

The Pd.id drink tester. Photo / YouTube
The Pd.id drink tester. Photo / YouTube

DRINKS AND DIPS: Has your drink been tampered with? Might it contain a drug? The Pd.id can tell you in moments. Dip the rechargeable stick in your drink and it collects a tiny sample of the fluid in its reservoir. Then it tests the sample with light, current and temperature to determine the unique spectrum of its molecular components. If it detects any of the drugs in its database it shows that with its LED light. It can also pair with a smartphone. The device is about the size of a thumb drive and is intended to help everyone avoid becoming the victim of a date rape drug. Now the problem is to find a way that people will want to actually use it — perhaps a celebrity needs to make it a trendy test to do.

PICK AND PRINT: If you're designing your own electronic devices then you may need a customised circuit board. The Squink printer makes prototyping those boards easy.

Design the board on screen and then print conductive traces on a sheet of paper. Next swap printing modules to print glue in the right spots. Swap to yet another module and the printer picks and places components on the board. Then connect a power cable and you're done. Imagine if schools could have access to that.

SEEING EYE JET: Fog can be very challenging for pilots to land and take off in, especially with helicopters and small planes. Skylens is an augmented reality headset so pilots of business jets and helicopters can take off and land in fog, torrential rain, snow and dust storms. The system uses smart goggles fed with video from multispectral cameras embedded in the plane's nose. The goggles show clear images of the terrain, overlaid with information on local air traffic. A tiny depth-sensing camera on the instrument panel tracks the movement of the pilot's head so images can be synchronised, and allowing the pilot to look around rather than just at instruments. The headset also shows other instrument data such as artificial horizon, airspeed and altitude. Cameras that can see through fog just make great sense.

COMPOUND EYES: Researchers at Carnegie Mellon can capture 3D motion without needing actors and models to wear special suits studded with markers. They're testing their tracking system in a two-story geodesic dome covered with 480 off-the-shelf cameras across its entire inner surface. Software tracks an estimated 100,000 different points in motion. The 3D tracking is so accurate that it can capture the motions of every individual particle in a handful of confetti tossed into the air. Now try it with multispectral cameras and a fog machine.

MARS IN SIGHT: The United Arab Emirates is setting up a Space Agency and planning a project to send an unmanned probe to Mars by 2021. The UAE already has programmes in satellite communications and TV broadcast, along with an Earth mapping and observation system called Dubai Sat. The new project is intended to be an inspirational challenge, bringing benefits to both the people and the economy. Mars 2021 has a nice ring to it.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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