An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.
Once upon a time, tasters were employed by the well-to-do, in order to check that their food or drink wasn't poisonous. Today, there are electronic biosensors that can do more or less the same thing. Unfortunately, as was no doubt sometimes the case with the tasters, the biosensors can’t always give us immediate results. Additionally, they’re usually only able to test for specific substances, and not simply for “anything that’s toxic.” An experimental new device known as the Dip Chip, however, is said to address both of those problems.
While there’s little doubt that dolphins are saying something
to one another with all their clicks, squeals and whistles, we’re still not entirely sure
just what it is that they’re communicating. We may be getting closer to figuring it out, however, as Japanese scientists have created an underwater speaker that’s capable of playing back the creatures’ entire acoustic range. The next step - see how they respond.
When most of us realize that we’re overdressed for the weather, we can simply take off that extra jacket or whatnot that’s causing us to overheat. Police officers, however, don’t have the option of taking off their bulletproof vests ... and those vests aren’t exactly known for being lightweight and breathable. Fortunately, a team from Swiss research institution Empa has developed just the thing for those hot cops – an air-conditioned ballistic vest.
If you use a MacBook Pro as your regular desktop computer, but also frequently take it out and about, you may find yourself getting annoyed at having to repeatedly disconnect and then reconnect all of its peripheral devices. Additionally, because the laptop’s input/output ports are located along its side, all those sideways-protruding cables can end up adding to the clutter on your desk. That’s why Wisconsin-based tech company Veritas Forge is developing W1PPS (pronounced “whips”) – it contains all of your plugs and cords in one MacBook Pro-matched device.
Nobody likes having to carry around a keychain full of keys, or – worse yet – arriving somewhere only to discover that they haven’t brought the key they need. The BOLT system offers an alternative. It allows you to open multiple padlocks, all using your vehicle’s ignition key.
Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in North America, while retinitis pigmentosa causes approximately 1.5 million people worldwide to lose their sight every year. Individuals afflicted with retinal degenerative diseases such as these might
someday be able to see again, however, thanks to a device being developed at California’s Stanford University. Scientists there are working on a retinal prosthesis, that uses what could almost be described as miniature solar panels to turn light signals into nerve impulses.
Keeping porous building materials free from stains and water damage has gotten a little easier in the past few years. Thanks to advances in technology, we’ve seen the advent of things such as spray-on glass
and anti-graffiti coatings
. Now, Spanish nanotech company TECNAN is offering a nanoparticle-based coating that repels liquid, yet still allows the underlying material to breathe.
Last month we told you about a team of Brigham Young University engineering students, who created a clever Batman-inspired wall-climbing system
. They were competing in the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s 2012 Service Academy and University Engineering Challenge, in which teams had to design gadgets that would allow soldiers to safely and quickly ascend vertical surfaces. Given that the Brigham Young entry didn’t take first place, however, we thought it only made sense to take a look at the entry that did
... and that would be a little something known as the Personal Vacuum Assisted Climber (PVAC), designed by a team from Utah State University.
Lately we’re hearing more and more about tiny medical and environmental diagnostic devices, that can perform a variety of tests using very small fluid samples. Working with such small samples does present a challenge, however – how do you thoroughly mix tiny amounts of different fluids, or wrangle individual drops for analysis? According to a team of scientists from the University of Washington, the answer lies in the lotus leaf.
Although you may have seen plenty of underwater videos shot using the GoPro HERO actioncam, its lens was never really designed for underwater videography – as we previously illustrated in a video report
, the footage sometimes looks a little fuzzy. As of today, however, would-be Jaques Cousteaus can now purchase a dive-specific GoPro housing, that promises sharp images.