ROUND-UP: THE TECHNOLOGY YOU MISSED THIS WEEK

‘So long and thanks for all the fish’

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Researchers think they have developed a real-time dolphin translator and soon might be able to talk to the finned creatures.

Dolphins produce sounds with frequencies well beyond the human hearing range but the breakthrough could mean we will soon understand what they’ve got to say for themselves.

Source: IFL Science


Drawing in 3D

Designing new products might have just got a lot easier with the invention of Gravity – a pen and pad that allows you to draw in 3D.

The set-up has been designed by students in London and is now ready to start the manufacturing process.

Source: Gizmodo


The spread of windfarms

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Windfarms have grown massive in recent years as both the need and desire for renewable energy have grown.

This interactive map from the US Department of Energy prettily shows how the number of farms has swelled over time.

Source: US Energy Department 


Around the world in 22 days 

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Google’s Wi-Fi carrying balloon has completed a journey around the world in just 22 days. The balloon is designed to deliver Wi-Fi to remote parts of the world and circumnavigated the globe a lot quicker than was expected.

Previously it was thought that the balloon would take 30 days to do a lap of the planet.

Source: Cnet


‘Start’ of something new

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With the announcement that it is bringing back the Start bar, Microsoft has made what will be a hugely popular decision.

The company announced its intention to include the much-missed bar in a future upgrade.

Source: Mashable


Image courtesy of Microsoft 


Keeping the Nest warm

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Google-owned smart-home company Nest has launched its clever thermostat in the UK. The search giant purchased the company in January this year for $3.2bn.

The release of the thermostat will allow UK users to control the temperature of their homes from their smartphones.

Source: The Guardian 


USB C has arrived 

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The insignificant but annoying problem of trying to plug the wrong end of a USB cable into a device will soon be over.

The latest iteration of the transfer cable has been unveiled and it’s reversible, so there will never be the wrong connection ever again.

Source: Tech2 


Image courtesy of Intel 


Spit power: How energy from saliva can predict a woman’s ovulation

Scientists have discovered that spit can be used to power small electronic devices – although the future isn’t going to involve us having to spit on our gadgets when they’re low on power.

The tiny fuel cell collects energy and can power equally small devices, the creators from Penn State University, US, say.

Potential uses include being able to predict when women are going to ovulate, days before they start.

“By producing nearly 1 microwatt in power, this saliva-powered, micro-sized MFC already generates enough power to be directly used as an energy harvester in microelectronic applications,” the researchers report in a recent issue of Nature Publishing Group’s Asia Materials.

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They don’t produce much energy but they can produce enough to run on-chip applications.

The scientists said that one use for the technology could be in a tiny ovulation predictor – which would be based on the conductivity of a woman’s saliva. The saliva in a woman’s mouth changes five days before ovulation.

The device would measure the conductivity of the saliva in the mouth while also using it as a power source and send the reading to a nearby mobile phone.

In theory the chip could be used to collect and report data on the health of those who use it. The researchers said the fuel cell can be powered with any liquid that has enough organic material, which opens the door for wider applications of the technology.


“There is a lot of organic stuff in saliva.”


The microbial fuel cells, which are made up of saliva input ports, an anode, cathode and a chamber, create energy when bacteria break down organic material. This produces a charge that is transferred to the anode in the device.

The researchers usually look to wastewater as a source for both the organic material and the bacteria to create either electricity or hydrogen. However theses latest cells work differently.

Bruce E. Logan from the University said: “There is a lot of organic stuff in saliva.”

He continued: “We have previously avoided using air cathodes in these systems to avoid oxygen contamination with closely spaced electrodes.”

“However, these micro cells operate at micron distances between the electrodes. We don’t fully understand why, but bottom line, they worked.”