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One of the FLOW-AID devices being field tested in Greece

We’ve already seen gadgets such as Koubachi and Flower Power, that communicate with users’ smartphones to let them know when their houseplants need watering. Scale that idea up to an agricultural level, and you get a prototype device known as the Farm Level Optimal Water management Assistant for Irrigation under Deficit – or FLOW-AID. It’s designed to let farmers in drought-stricken regions know when and how much water to apply to their crops, so they don’t run their irrigation systems unnecessarily.  Read More

Negobot at work, pretending to be a gullible young girl

For a number of years now, police forces around the world have enlisted officers to pose as kids in online chat rooms, in an attempt to draw out pedophiles and track them down. Researchers at Spain’s University of Deusto are now hoping to free those cops up for other duties, and to catch more offenders, via a chatbot that they’ve created. Its name is Negobot, and it plays the part of a 14 year-old girl.  Read More

Samples of North Carolina State University's metallic bubble wrap

Chances are that you wouldn’t use ordinary plastic bubble wrap in a helmet, automobile body panel, airplane wing edge or computer case. However, those are some of the applications that are being suggested for a new type of bubble wrap – one that’s made from metal. It’s reportedly lighter and stronger than regular sheet metal, so don’t go expecting to pop it with your fingers.  Read More

A newly developed optical transistor could be the key to higher-performance CPUs and a lea...

Researchers at MIT, Harvard and the Vienna University of Technology have developed a proof-of-concept optical switch that can be controlled by a single photon and is the equivalent of a transistor in an electronic circuit. The advance could improve power consumption in standard computers and have important repercussions for the development of an effective quantum computer.  Read More

A titanium dioxide nanofiber viewed under electron microscope (Photo: Kunal Mukherjee)

In what they're calling a breakthrough discovery, UCL researchers studying the properties of titanium dioxide catalysts, which are widely used in self-cleaning products and materials, claim to have challenged the accepted view of how mixed-phase samples of the material actually behave.  Read More

The prototype 'water chip'

Although various alternative technologies are being developed, the large-scale desalination of seawater typically involves forcing it through a membrane that allows the water to pass through, but that traps the salt. These membranes can be costly, they can get fouled, and powerful pumps are required to push the water through. Now, however, scientists from the University of Texas at Austin and Germany’s University of Marburg are taking another approach. They’ve developed a chip that separates salt from water.  Read More

A fingerprint obtained from a stainless steel surface, using the new technique

Here’s something that they don’t tell you in the TV cop shows: although fingerprints may be present at a crime scene, only about 10 percent of the prints found are of good enough quality for use in court. A group of scientists are working on boosting that percentage, however, through the use of a color-changing film.  Read More

The prototype soft exosuit in action

Powered exoskeletons show great promise both for augmenting the abilities of able-bodied users, and for rehabilitating the disabled. That said, they also tend to be hard-bodied contraptions that don’t look particularly comfortable (or light) to wear. Researchers at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute recently demonstrated what they hope will be a more user-friendly alternative – a “soft exosuit.”  Read More

A new Wi-Fi-based 'Wi-Vi' system can track people moving behind walls (Image: Christine Da...

Researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed what could become low-cost, X-ray vision. The system, known as "Wi-Vi," is based on a concept similar to radar and sonar imaging, but rather than using high-power signals, this tech uses reflected Wi-Fi signals to track the movement of people behind walls and closed doors.  Read More

One of the lithium-ion 'microbatteries'

While we’re currently witnessing the rise of tiny electronic devices such as biosensors, many of those devices do have one limiting factor – they still require not-so-tiny batteries, which ends up somewhat defeating the whole miniaturization process. Although some devices can get their power from external sources, scientists from Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have come up with an alternative ... functional 3D-printed lithium-ion batteries no larger than a grain of sand.  Read More

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