Round-Up: the technology you missed this week

3D printed fruit

Popping to the shop for a banana could well be a thing of the past with this brand new 3D printer that can print fruit.

The machine combines droplets of liquid – using a technique called spherification – to create fruit imitations that can be eaten.

Source: Inhabitat


Apple’s moving to the Beat

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Finally after weeks of speculation Apple has confirmed that it will purchase headphone company Beats for $3bn.

The headphone brand were first established in 2008 and have stormed to success across the world and been featured in many big PR and advertising campaigns.

Source: Tech 2


Self-driving cars to be sold

Smiling to themselves as they drive down the street Google’s self-driving cars are set to be given a lease of life as the company builds 100 prototypes.

It has said the prototypes will be built later this year and will be tested by ‘safety drivers’ and it says it would like to have a small pilot program in California in the next couple of years.

Source: Google


Turning air into water

This device has been designed to collect water from condensation and its design, based upon a fig tree, allows it to produce up to 26 gallons of drinkable water a day.

The device was dreamed up in 2012 but the creators are now working on an ugraded version which may include solar pannels and LED bulbs to provide light at night.

Source: NPR


Travelling at the speed of light

Here’s a man smoothly flying around the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington D.C using a jetpack.

The demonstration took part as part of Smithsonian magazine’s second annual The Future is Here Festival.


A real time Skype translator

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Skype has announced it will soon be integrating a real-time translation service which it has been testing between German and English.

The translator will be rolling out on Windows 8 before the end of the year and then to other platforms in coming months.

Source: The Guardian 


Genetically engineered mosquitoes released in bid to fight disease

Mosquitoes that have been genetically engineered to produce non-viable offspring were released today in Panama in an attempt to tackle the country’s growing dengue fever problem.

Dengue fever is a severe flu-like disease that can sometimes be fatal. It is spread by Aedes aegypti, a type of mosquito that is found in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world.

The disease is only spread by female mosquitoes, so scientists at Oxitec genetically engineered mosquitoes to carry a lethal gene that would kill the offspring of any female that they mate with.

By releasing these genetically engineered mosquitoes into Panama, it is hoped that the disease-carrying insects will be wiped out, resulting in fewer cases of dengue fever.

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Serious concerns have been raised over the disease as it is increasing rapidly on a global scale, helped in part climate change.  The World Health Organisation estimates there to be 50-100 million cases each year.

Panama in particular has seen a marked increase in incidences of the disease. In 2012 there were 1,000 reported cases, but by 2013 this had risen to 3,000.

“Dengue fever is a major concern in Panama,” explained Panamanian health organisation the Gorgas Institute director Dr Nestor Sosa.

“The methods we have for controlling the dengue mosquito are limited and are increasingly of limited effectiveness: dengue cases in this country tripled between 2012 and 2013.”

There are also fears that climate change could result in the disease could spread to areas previously unaffected as climate change increases rainfall and temperatures.

In April UK-based biologist Dr Steve Lindsay warned that diseases spread by insects were on the rise in Mediterranean Europe, and could spread further north.

Genetic engineering is increasingly being seen as an environmentally friendly way to tackle insects that are a threat to human life and health.

Oxitec, the company behind the engineered mosquitoes, is a specialist in this field, having previously provided similar insects to tackle the issue in Brazil and the Cayman Islands. The company is also investigating the technology to protect crops from insect pests.

The technology is, however, still relatively new and many health institutes will be watching carefully to see if it can be deployed on a large scale.

“Oxitec’s technology has shown great promise in Brazil and the Cayman Islands; it’s efficient, effective, and can reduce reliance on pesticides,” added Sosa.

“Assuming we can show it to be equally effective here, we could be looking at an important new addition to our existing approaches for controlling the dengue mosquito – and that would be very good news for the people of Panama”.


Featured image courtesy of M via Flickr/Creative Commons.

Inline image and video courtesy of Oxitec.