Walkera Voyager

When consumer video camera drones were initially launched way back when, people fretted about the personal privacy ramifications of airborne “eyes-in-the-skies” that can see over hedges as well as right into people’s bathrooms. Yet in reality, many drones on the marketplace came with such a broad angle lens that the regular backyard sun-tanner would be just a minor detail in any shot unless the camera was right up close. However, it was just a matter of time before some bright spark came out with a drone that crammed in major telephoto zoom capabilities…and lo and behold, 2 have been released just recently, one of which is so potent, it’s a little worrisome: the Walkera Voyager 4 has a mind-blowing 16x optic zoom which is essentially the same as a 10-1500mm zoom lens on a regular camera. But why would anyone, other than your local neighbourhood spy, want such power? Such zoom capability is often essential when filmmaking from the air, because regular airborne cams normally only have really broad angle lenses – this made them easier to fly, but at the cost of visual filming prowess. Certainly, there’s also the personal privacy ramifications, because having such zoom means it can film ‘close-up’ from a couple of neighbourhoods away, which is far enough that the person being observed has no chance of hearing it flying. But it doesn’t stop there, the Voyager 4 has another powerful attribute, particularly from a monitoring viewpoint. It may be set up to run via its own Wi-Fi network, up to 1.5 kilometres away, and it can also operate via a 4G wireless network which basically gives it a limitless range. Walkera hasn’t yet released pricing or availability information, however we are certainly looking forward to seeing exactly how the Voyager 4 compares to other high-end camera drones on the market.

Bagel Smart Tape Measure

Despite the fact that the traditional measuring tape is still a very useful device, that crinkled length of steel tape can sometimes not be the ideal tool for the job. And so Bagel was created to fill those niches better. Essentially, Bagel is a “smart” (as almost everything is these days) tape measure that provides three methods for measuring, integrated data storage, and a Bluetooth connection. The first mode of operation is called “String mode” and can be used to measure up to 3 meters in length, but instead of using a unwieldy piece of metal tape, Bagel uses a retractable length of string with measuring data presented on its integrated display. Unlike its metal counterpart, the measuring string can also be used precisely wound around the item to be measured giving a more exact measurement. The second mode of operation is useful if you have a distance greater than 3m but less than 10m to measure, and if you’ve only got a single hand available. Called “Wheel mode”, Bagel can be carefully rolled along a surface measuring the distance from the start of the roll to the end. Lastly, but by no means least, if you’re attempting to gauge the distance to a place out of reach, then there’s the “Remote mode”, which uses both a built-in laser pointer (as a quick guide) and ultrasound to determine the distance from Bagel up to 5 metres away. Bagel has a USB port for charging and can run continuously for eight hours on a single charge. Measured dimensions can be stored in the system’s on-board permanent memory, and the system can even capture a voice memorandum with each measurement to remind you of exactly what it was you were measuring at the time. Finally, all those measurements and memos can be sent by Bluetooth to your Apple or Android smartphone for later use. Bagel has been launched on Kickstarter recently and right now US $59 will currently get you a single unit with an expected delivery in November… if all goes to plan that is!

Flow Battery

Flow batteries are rechargeable energy storage systems that do their job by storing energy in contained liquid chemicals divided by a membrane layer. Once the battery has been filled by drawing electrons away from a positively-charged liquid mixture into a negatively-charged fluid, an electric current is created when the battery is turned on and the electron movement goes in the opposite direction from the negative to the positive solution. The resultant cell voltage generated by this electron shift is typically in the region of 2 volts. Researchers at Harvard University have now come up with a new way to create these alkaline flow batteries making use of a modified natural vitamin, known as vitamin B2. Initially, the researchers replaced the metal ions that normally reside within the products of acidic electrolytes, with organic compounds called quinones. This was followed by a research study where they created a quinone able to operate in alkaline fluids by replacing the original bromine additive with ferrocyanide, a common anti-caking substance used in kitchen salt. This work eventually led to the hunt for a much more environmentally-friendly quinone, before the researchers realised that the natural vitamin B2 could be used as a substitute. Making use of molecules such as vitamin B2 opened up a new world of similar natural molecules for the group to explore, with the goal of creating a high-performing, long-lasting, organic-based flow battery. Like vitamin B2, many of these molecular derivatives are non-toxic and are able to be manufactured inexpensively, so the scientists hope that their use could one day facilitate large, ineffective power storage from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

inFORM

At the MIT Media Laboratory, the Tangible Media Group thinks the foreseeable future of the computer is tactile. Revealed recently, the inFORM is MIT’s brand-new scrying pool for visualizing the user interfaces of the future. Practically like a board of living bricks, the inFORM is a structure that three-dimensionally alters form, enabling individuals to not just connect with online information but also hold hands with an individual many kilometers away. It’s essentially an elaborate Pinscreen, any of those executive workdesk playthings that enables you to make an approximate 3-D design of anything by pushing it into a base of smoothed pins. With inFORM, each one of those “pins” is attached to an electric motor manipulated by an adjacent laptop computer, which can reposition the pins to transcribe digital material in physical form, and is able to even have an effect on real-life materials as a result of being connected to a modified Microsoft Kinect.

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