What's a cheap way to find out where your house is leaking heat? Not a standard thermal camera, because they cost thousands. But perhaps a US$40 open source DIY detector would do the job. It's a thermal flashlight built around a single infrared thermometer. The thermometer picks up varying levels of radiation coming from a wall. The data goes to a microprocessor that responds by shining coloured LED lights, blue for cool and red for warm. Use a camera to capture the coloured light on the wall and see where the heat leak problems are. The device comes from the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science in the USA. Brilliant. New

Scientist has



UPLIFTING: Air Danshin Systems are fitting 88 buildings in Japan with a special air cushion. Their idea is that a sensor detects an oncoming earthquake and in less than 1 second an air compressor lifts the building as high as 3cm off the ground. Once the quake has passed the building sinks back to its foundation. There's creative thinking. More on the levitating houses at Spoon & Tamago and video here.

CAMERA RANGER: Samsung has a new CMOS sensor that captures both RGB and range at the same time. The sensor includes normal-sized red, green and blue pixels, as well as a large Z pixel. The Z pixel uses a time-of-flight method to detect range. The range detection ability could mean that ordinary digital cameras could detect gestures in the way a Kinect does. Given how often the Kinect is popping up in useful but clunky tech ideas, having the capabilities in a much smaller package sounds ideal.
Tech-On! has more.

FRUIT APP: When fruit ripens it changes chemically. Now imagine holding your smartphone over the fruit and getting a reading of whether it's still good to eat. That's what the new silk-based sensors designed by scientists at Tufts University can do. Embedded in the silk are sensors made of fine gold antennae. The silk film works like glue to stick the sensors to the fruit, while the sensors change their electromagnetic signal as the fruit ripens. Better: use the app to choose the best fruit while you're buying it. More details here.

CHARGE CARD: Come home and toss your phone on the shelf so it can charge up. That's what the Duracell Powermat WiCC could make real for us. The Wireless Charging Card relies on the phone including a couple of extra connectors, then it fits inside the device's case. When you put the device onto the Powermat it charges up. WiCC cards also double as NFC antennae so device makers don't even have to allow extra space. We can only hope. Engadget has more.

- Miraz Jordan