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Technology technology

Published on August 15th, 2017 | by Barry Healy

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New technology that could become a common sight in the future

Technological progress is happening faster than ever before – blink, and you’ll miss it. In recent months Researchers and Engineers from around the world have unveiled their newest inventions, some of which seem unlikely to be explored further and others seem useful enough that you might find them in your or your friend’s home in the next ten years.

Airless Bicycle Tires

All cyclists know the problem: You need to be on your way, but a flat tire stops you from heading to work and you can’t seem to find your bike pump!

Soon you might not have to worry about stuff like that anymore, because companies like Nexo and Bridgestone are about to launch the first airless bicycle tires.
The tires ditch the air tubes in favour of thermoplastic resin spokes that can alter shape as the bike moves. This allows it to support the weight of the rider while absorbing road shocks, all without the risk of a flat. That means less maintenance and a much lower chance of finding yourself stranded on the side of the road.
This should make cycling more convenient, since the lack of air-inflated tires means you can leave the bike pump, spare tube, and other dedicated tools at home.
They’re also meant to install onto bikes without any special equipment, so you can swap in a new airless tire for the one your bike is currently running on.

Face-detecting systems

Facial recognition has existed for decades, but only now is it accurate enough to be used in secure financial transactions and other sensible matters.
Face-tracking technology is expanding quickly in China. Both surveillance and convenience play a key part in the increasing popularity of this arguably invasive tech. This new development might transform everything from policing to the way people interact every day with banks, stores, and transportation services.

Face++, a face-detection software, is already being used in several popular apps. It is possible to transfer money through Alipay, a mobile payment app, using only your face as credentials. Meanwhile, Didi, China’s equivalent to Lyft or Uber, uses the Face++ software to let passengers confirm that the person picking them up is a legitimate driver. Local governments are using the same software to identify suspected criminals in video from surveillance cameras, which are omnipresent there.

Now the company Baidu is developing a system that lets people pick up rail tickets by showing their face. They are also already working with the government of Wuzhen, a historic tourist destination, to provide access to many of its attractions without a ticket. This involves scanning tens of thousands of faces in a database to find a match, which Baidu says it can do with 99 percent accuracy.

‘Atomic Fingerprinting’ Tech

A molecular pattern that can be incorporated into a holographic label and a smartphone app might be revolutionising anti-counterfeiting measures.
The new method has two components: A unique pattern is created by intentionally fabricating flaws into an atom-thin layer of material, such as graphene oxide. Flaws may include removing a carbon atom, or adding extra oxygen atoms, or creating a ridge of atoms, according to the researchers. Once the flaw is set, the material is incorporated into an ink and then, using an inkjet printer, printed onto a hologram, which can be added as a label to any product. The second component is the use of a smartphone camera and its built-in flash to photograph the label. The flash excites the atoms, which produce a unique colour based on the pattern. A corresponding app can instantly analyse the image and confirm whether the label is authentic or not.

The first application could be in the automotive industry, where parts are already spray-painted with labels. By piggybacking onto existing manufacturing applications, the researchers can prove that the method works.

From there, the researchers would like to branch out to other industries, including pharmaceuticals, where $200 billion a year is lost from counterfeit drugs. And what’s worse, this illegal medicine can sometimes lead to death.

Transparent Wood

Swedish researchers transformed wood in a way you never expected: They’ve made it transparent. This new material could be used as a stronger, more environmentally sustainable replacement for plastic or glass in everything from wood structures, load-bearing wooden windows that never crack or shatter, to wooden Soda bottles.

The advantage of transparent wood over something like glass is that it has all the strength of opaque lumber, but still lets in light. The “invisible” wood is sturdier than traditional wood, and can be used in place of less environmentally friendly materials, such as plastics.

In a world where modern urban architecture relies heavily on the use of glass and steel, replacing these materials with transparent, biodegradable wood could revolutionize design concepts — as well as reduce heating costs and help to lower fuel consumption.

Although not yet in production, recent tests on a small model house with a transparent wood panel in the ceiling showed that the wood provides better thermal insulation than glass and lets in almost as much light.



Smart Streets

Many cities around the globe are starting to find ways to reduce their power consumption while giving back to their citizens.
Budapest startup Platio for example, has spent the last couple of years developing a modular, self-contained paving panel that harvests the sun’s energy to produce electricity. The panels have recently been rolled out in front of a shopping mall and integrated into outdoor seating. The paving units cover a total of 80 square meters and help reduce the shopping mall’s need for grid power.

Another interactive installation in London is taking the first steps toward that futuristic idea, by lining a little-used lane with interactive tiles, to transform it into an energy-harvesting street. A tiled path down the centre of the street captures energy from their steps and generates power to trigger soundscapes of chirping birds and night time light displays along the avenue.

Energy produced by the tiled array also powers low-energy Bluetooth transmitters embedded in the pathway. The transmitters interact with apps that provide walkers with data about steps taken and how much energy those steps produce; their steps also deliver vouchers and discounts for a variety of pop-up shops along the street.

Other cities are following suite, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself walking down a smart street in the very near future.

Food from Electricity

We might be closer to ending world hunger than you think.

Finnish researchers have created a batch of single-cell protein that is nutritious enough to serve for dinner using a system powered by renewable energy.
The process requires only electricity, water, carbon dioxide, and microbes. After exposing the raw materials to electrolysis in a bioreactor, the process forms a powder that consists of more than 50 percent protein and 25 percent carbohydrates. Texture of the food can also be changed by altering the microbes used in the production.

The potential impact of food produced using electricity and other widely available raw materials is enormous. It could be used to feed starving people in areas that are not suited to agricultural production. In the future the technology can be transported to, for instance, deserts and other areas facing famine providing a source of cheap and nutritious food to those who need it most.

The machine also works independently of environmental factors, meaning that it could feed people consistently.

Virtual Reality at work

In recent times we’ve come closer to achieving the old Sci-Fi dream of living in virtual reality, with headgear and other controllers providing immersive experiences to those who can afford to buy them.

But VR can also be used for training in certain industries. HP has launched a Backpack and Headgear that businesses can use to deliver safe and effective simulated training in dangerous environments, in medical training or for heavy/large equipment operations.

Costly mistakes can be avoided with effective VR training solutions, but it doesn’t stop there. Virtual reality can also be used in architectural building development, for virtual walkthroughs at scale for client reviews, in product development where product concepts and executive agreement and sign off for new products can be done in virtual product showrooms. In commercial entertainment, new location-based entertainment centres featuring exhilarating virtual reality experiences can also be realized with VR.



Tech for the disabled

Technological progress also means better care for those who need it, thanks to the newest inventions in the tech world.

Even if it’s still in development, a high-tech belt and a phone app may soon help Parkinson’s patients and the elderly stay on their feet. The smartphone application records and creates a custom motion for their body tilt based on their individual limits of stability. The touch guidance from the vibrating actuators of the belt is almost acting as if a physical therapist is guiding them.

The system also provides visual guidance by way of a series of dots and targets on the smartphone’s screen, and it uploads data to an online server so doctors and therapists can track a patient’s progress or adjust exercise regimens.

A help for blind people might be the Google Glass, the augmented reality glasses that failed spectacularly because of privacy concerns a few years ago. It was adjusted though, by Aira, a San Diego startup that connects Google’s smart spectacles to an online human guide who sees what the glasses see and direct a person’s steps as needed.

Aira subscribers, who get a pair of smart glasses for free, pay up to $199 a month for 400 minutes of time with an agent. The company is currently working with AT&T to develop standalone smart glasses with their own cellular connection.

Translating Earphones

That international conference or your adventure through the backroads of an obscure country would be so much easier if you could understand the locals, right? Of course, learning the language is the best thing to do if you want to stay for a while, but learning languages takes time and in today’s society time is a scarce good.

Along comes the Pilot, a smart earpiece that will automatically translate foreign words or phrases it picks up into one you can understand.

That’s right, they made an earpiece that will pick up what the person you’re talking to says and translate it into any language you desire. That way, you can listen to a French speaker on the podium without having to learn a word of the language – just put this thing on and have it translate everything into your native tongue.

You only need to keep one earpiece on for the language translation, although it comes in pairs, to ensure two-way communication. They also double as wireless music earphones.

According to the creators at Waverly Labs, the system will support English and select European Romantic and Germanic languages during the initial rollout, with other languages to be sold as downloadable language packs.

Self-Cleaning Material

Doing your laundry can be a bit of a nuisance, but soon it could also be a chore of the past.

Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology used Nano-threads to create a fabric that can be cleaned with nothing more than sunlight. Silver and copper nanostructures woven throughout the textiles absorb sunlight; heat up the fabric on small scales and break down organic matter. In other words, when the fabric is exposed to light, it eliminates food stains.

The team will move on to weaving the nanostructures in with cotton and other materials used in clothing, with the hope of scaling up enough to provide a true anti-stain shirt that never has to be washed or dry cleaned.

Engineers have also created a chemical coating that causes cotton materials to clean themselves of stains and remove odours when exposed to sunlight. The researchers say the treatment is cheap, non-toxic and ecologically friendly.

For now the study focuses on titanium dioxide – a chemical known to be an excellent catalyst in the degradation of organic pollutants. The substance is already used in self-cleaning windows, odour-free socks and stay-clean kitchen and bathroom tiles.

By Catherina Arndt


About the Author

Barry Healy



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