THROWBOT:

If soldiers want to look around in a building before they enter there's a lightweight but rugged robot they can throw inside. The iRobot 110 FirstLook weighs less than 3 kilos. The soldier tosses it into the building where it rights itself and sets off across any environment. It can survive a 4 metre drop and is waterproof to a metre. The robot sends data back to an arm unit the soldier wears. Emergency services would love this too, I'm sure.

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SEEDING THE STARS: The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency got the Internet off to a good start decades ago. Now they're dabbling in space travel. They will award $500,000 in seed funding to help an organisation begin studying what it would take to send humans to another star. They want to look not just at the technology, but at factors such as legal, social and economic considerations. From dreams to reality — every journey starts somewhere. New York Times has the story.

LEG IT: Vanderbilt University in the USA has created a new bionic leg with powered knee and ankle joints that operate in unison. This gives the wearer a more natural gait than the usual prosthetics do. Sensors monitor the wearer's motion and icroprocessors predict what the user will do. A wearer can walk, sit, stand, and go up and down stairs and ramps for up to 3 days on a single charge. I hope there's a low battery indicator. Vanderbilt University elaborates.

STEAL THIS: Kidnappings in Mexico have more than tripled in the last 5 years, so some people are inserting tracking devices into their bodies. An RFID device goes under the skin of the upper arm. It's around 13 mm long and a few mm in diameter. The antenna in the chip sends a signal to a GPS device the wearer carries. But remote operators can also send tracking radio signals to the chip if the GPS unit is lost. Some researchers are skeptical that the device actually works though, mentioning problems with signal reach and battery power. The biggest problem may be the signal to potential kidnappers that the wearer is worth taking. So that bulge under the arm isn't a gun. Washington Post explains the intricacies.

DO YOU GLOW?: Monitoring glucose levels is a tedious business that many people have to undertake every day. Researchers at the University of Tokyo are testing a fluorescent fibre sensor that's inserted under the skin and stays there. The fibre is 1mm in diameter and easy to insert and remove. It glows as blood glucose concentrations change. In mice it's been accurate, stable and sensitive for up to 140 days at a time. It'd be like a tattoo: you may want it where you can see it, but the world can't. Medgadget has more details.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz