Photokina 2014 highlights

Water

AquaTop Display offers unique interaction modes that cannot be achieved with standard, rig...

If you keep getting your gadgets wet because you can’t part with them while taking a bath, maybe it’s time for you to reevaluate your options. As it turns out, it only takes a Kinect camera, a projector, some waterproofed speakers, half a year of coding and an enormous amount of ingenuity to turn a regular bath into an interactive entertainment hub. And that’s exactly what a group of researchers from Koike Laboratory at Tokyo’s University of Electro-Communications have done as part of their quest to explore the field of natural user interface design. Their AquaTop Display takes immersive entertainment to a whole new level, unattainable with regular, impenetrable touch displays.  Read More

The Viteo Shower offers a portable solution for those who want an outdoor shower with a di...

As someone who lives in the UK and can therefore count the number of hot days a year on one hand, the idea of having a permanent outdoor shower is rather novel. However, in countries where scorching summers are par for the course they're a common sight, but require plumbing and a dedicated space. The Viteo Shower avoids both these problems by literally turning the outdoor shower design on its head.  Read More

The WaterBean portable water filter

It's a given that recycling waste products is a good thing. It's certainly better than sending our trash to landfill where it will sit rotting (or not, in the case of non-biodegradable waste) for decades to come. However, even better than recycling is to not create the waste in the first place. Bottled water is now big business, and more popular than ever before, but bottled water guzzles energy and creates waste that really doesn't need to be created. WaterBean offers one possible solution to the problem.  Read More

Andreas Hammar's Sweat Machine

Unicef called upon the services of engineer Andreas Hammar to build the provocatively-named Sweat Machine which purifies sweat into drinking water. Though not intended as a serious measure to tackle shortages in drinking water, Unicef does hope to raise awareness of the issue, and invited visitors and footballers at last week's Gothia Cup soccer tournament to partake of a glass.  Read More

WaterBee demonstration at Castelldefels, Barcelona

With robots doing everything from milking cows to crop dusting, farming has come a long way since they days of plodding along behind a horse and plow. Irrigation practices are also benefiting from advances in technology. The large-scale WaterBee smart irrigation and water management system is a case in point: it allows farmers use their smartphones to not only switch on the water where and when it’s needed, but also to get up to the minute information on field conditions.  Read More

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

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

You probably wouldn't need to be told not to swim in this – a particularly scummy cyanobac...

Cyanobacteria, more commonly known as blue-green algae, can potentially be quite nasty. Some types of the bacteria produce toxins, which can poison humans or other animals that ingest water in which they’re present. Now, however, scientists are developing a portable sensor that will instantly alert users to the presence of the microbes in water samples.  Read More

The Kepler spacecraft could still hunt planets using gravity miscrolensing ( Image: NASA)

Last month, NASA declared its Kepler mission to hunt exoplanets at an end when one of the space telescope’s reaction wheels failed. Unable to keep itself pointed in the right direction, it could no longer carry on its hunt for planets beyond the Solar System. That seemed like the end of things, but Keith Horne of the University of St Andrews and Andrew Gould of Ohio State University disagree. They claim that Kepler could still hunt for exoplanets using gravity microlensing to detect how stars with planets distort space.  Read More

The Seal system consists of neckbands worn by swimmers, designed to sound an alarm if anyo...

It can’t be easy, being a lifeguard at a pool full of children. The kids that catch your attention are going to be the ones who are splashing and yelling, whereas the ones that you really need to look for could be silently slipping below the surface, where they won’t be seen or heard. North Carolina-based emergency physician Graham Snyder decided that those potential drowning victims needed more attention drawn to their predicament, so he created the Seal system.  Read More

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