Category Archives: technology

Augmented Reality Laptop!!!

I do own a laptop, but I haven’t used it in years because it has a tiny screen and a tiny keyboard. In a word, it’s about as comfortable as…porcupine undies. Okay, that’s two words, but it is Sunday morning, and I’m not quite awake yet… Anyway, a little light bulb went off in my head when I read the title of this New Atlas article: ‘Spacetop AR laptop puts the screen on your face

Basically, you get special glasses – that’s the ‘on your face’ part – that allow you to see virtual screens in the air, like in the video below:

Spacetop AR screens

And this is what the whole Spacetop looks like:

Developed by Israeli company, Sightful, the augmented reality laptop isn’t ready for commercial production yet, BUT, in gamer terms, it is ready for beta testing, and that means commercial production may not be that far off.

I won’t be able to afford the new Spacetop laptop for many years yet, but just the thought of it excites me. This is real augmented reality about to go mainstream. The future is almost here. 🙂

Have a great weekend,

Touch…the missing link in VR gaming

Haptic gloves that simulate touch are not new, but up till now they have been waaaaay too expensive for the tech to be integrated into gaming. That could all change with the Bifrost Pulse VR glove:

And no, that young man is not a 14 year old gamer! He is part of the project team developing the haptic glove. Bifrost are hoping to crowd fund the development of the glove via Indiegogo. If successful, they will make the glove available to gaming developers in order to speed up:

a. the use of touch in gaming, and

b. the sale of low cost gloves that all gamers can afford.

As a gamer myself, I’d love to own a pair of these gloves, and I’d love to play games in which I can feel as well as see and hear. 😀

And as a scifi writer? This development brings Innerscape one small step closer.


Anti-ageing for some time in the future

I hit 70 this year, and there’s no way this particular avenue of research will mature fast enough to have any impact on my life, but as a science fiction writer I’m fascinated by the idea that future humans may live to twice the age they do now. How that might happen is discussed on the New Atlas website here.

I strongly recommend that you read the entire article, but if you only want the bare bones, keep reading.

Before I talk about the anti-ageing research, you need to know that:

Now for the interesting part. Once a cell ‘chooses’ a path to cell death, it does not deviate from that path. But what if it did? This is where the research comes in. The UC San Diego team:

‘…rewired a central gene regulatory circuit that controls cell aging. Usually it works like a toggle switch, sending a particular cell down a particular path, but in this case the researchers tweaked it to function as a gene oscillator. That triggers a cell to periodically switch from one path to another, slowing down the arrival at the destination of cell death.’ [The highlight is mine].

The cells were yeast cells, so about as far from human cells as you can get, but the results were amazing. Cells that zigzagged between the two paths took 82% longer to reach cell death.

Even assuming that the results could be replicated in human cells, the process of altering humans at the cellular level like this would trigger a $hit storm of ethical debate that could last for centuries, so no, this is not going to help anyone alive now. But…the mere fact that a possible mechanism has been found means that it could happen in the future. And that is what science fiction is all about, extrapolating from the now to the future.

I don’t write super hard science fiction, but everything I imagine has to have some basis in reality. It has to be possible, and today I’ve learned that life extension may become possible…in the future. 🙂


No Jab Vaccinations on the way

‘Researchers have developed a mobile printer that creates temperature-stable, dissolvable vaccine patches on demand. The novel device not only does away with vaccine injections, but it would also enable vaccines to be delivered to remote areas.’

New Atlas:

I’m not needle phobic, but I know a couple of people who are, so this ground-breaking way of administering vaccines [and potentially other medications] is fabulous.

More importantly, this 3D printing invention could be transported to remote regions where medical facilities are minimal. There it could print vaccine patches on demand, potentially saving millions of lives. That is a dream come true.

Read the whole article here on New Atlas.


Innerscape’s robotaxi?

This is not quite how I pictured the fully automated taxi’s in the world of Innerscape, and they don’t talk, yet, but I kind of like the shape/design. And it helps that they’re real:

Zoox is not the first self-driving vehicle to be invented, but I suspect it may become the fore-runner for all taxi’s in the future. I’m just a wee bit surprised it’s happened so soon.

You can read the full, New Atlas article about the Zoox here.


Old is New in battery storage

Renewables and battery storage have become mainstream topics in the last few years, and everyone knows about lithium ion batteries. Correction: everyone owns at least one, in their smartphones. But those batteries do have a number of downsides, including the fact that they can start fires .

On a more global scale, the concern is cost, so finding cheaper, safer forms of large scale storage is critical if we want to transition away from fossil fuels before we all turn into shish kebabs. Given the corporate obsession with profit at any cost, ‘cheap’ and ‘change’ seem to be joined at the hip, so I hope these new-old technologies become mainstream soon.

The video below describes one of the oldest and cheapest contenders for large scale battery storage:


What is a ‘solar garden’ and why we should want one

I put solar panels on my roof soon after I built this house because I was trying to plan for my retirement. That makes me one of the lucky ones, but what about those who are renting? Or simply can’t afford to put solar panels on their roofs?

Given the soaring cost of energy, this article by Citizen Mum, an Aussie blogger, really hit the nail on the head:

‘The concept of a solar garden is new in Australia, and is being developed by Pingala, a citizen led co-operative focused on developing people-centred and socially just energy solutions. At its core the concept is very simple and based along the lines of a community garden, in that cooperative members have the opportunity to purchase plots (panels) in the solar garden and have the energy that is generated from the plot credited to their power bill. It is ideal for people in rental accommodation, apartments or homes that are not suitable for rooftop solar.’

To give a little context to that quote, Citizen Mum is talking about ‘mid-scale solar arrays’. These are like the solar panels we’re used to seeing when we see photos of solar farms – fields and fields of solar panels almost as far as the eye can see:

Yeah, like those but smaller, much, much smaller. Mid scale solar arrays are big enough to provide a decent amount of solar energy, but small enough to be ‘owned’ by a small town. Or as the quote suggests, owned by the individuals of that town.

If you’re interested in mitigating climate change, and perhaps saving yourselves some money long term, I strongly suggest you read the whole article on Citizen Mum’s blog.


Is ‘art’ still art if an AI makes it?

The picture above was generated by an AI [Futurism].

“The artwork, titled “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial,” depicts a scifi-inspired scene of an opera performance. But Jason Allen, who submitted the artwork, used AI image generator Midjourney to create it.”

Further along in the article, Jason Allen talks about how he set up the parameters for Midjourney [the software/AI] to use. Then he chose what he considered to be the best from three outcomes. And it won first prize at the Colorado State Fair.

When I first read this article, my initial reaction was horror. How could a piece of software, no matter how sophisticated, produce something this…beautiful? But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that it was the parameters set by Jason Allen that had created an image of great beauty, so in that sense, Midjourney was simply another tool.

I admit an AI is a bit more high tech than a paintbrush, but the creativity still came from Allen.

What do you think? The beginning of the end for artists? Or just one more tool?


Aussie Innovation : Wave Swell

This is a really exciting innovation because it’s simple and [relatively] cheap to manufacture and run. That means it has the potential to be used worldwide, wherever a country has access to a beach.

I’m really proud that it’s one of ours. 🙂 You can read about the whole thing in the New Atlas article.


Hydrogen – the perfect renewable

Hydrogen has become something of a buzz word lately, but is it really a magic bullet for solving our energy problems? The answer is a qualified ‘yes’.

But first, what is hydrogen?

Hydrogen is the ‘H’ in H2O.

What is H2O? Why it’s good old fashioned water, that’s what!

About 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, so if we can find a cheap, easy way to extract hydrogen from water we’ll be half way there to our renewable magic bullet.

We can already use electrolysis to split water atoms into hydrogen and oxygen, but the process requires both energy AND catalysts like platinum and iridium. If we use solar or wind power to extract the hydrogen then we’re still left with the problem of the platinum and iridium, neither of which is cheap.

Luckily, a lot of research is being directed at the extraction process. One team, headed by Dr Alexey Ganin of the University of Glasgow, is working on ‘pulsing electric current through a layered catalyst’ in order to extract the hydrogen. With this discovery, the pulse is the key.

Another team, from Stanford University, ‘developed a low-voltage, single-catalyst water splitter that continuously generates hydrogen and oxygen for more than 200 hours’. The beauty of this discovery is that the catalyst used is nickel-iron oxide. Not platinum or some other rare earth.

Clearly then, the extraction process is being improved in leaps and bounds, but what of the other side of the equation, the use of hydrogen as an energy source?

At the moment, hydrogen ‘…can be physically stored as either a gas or a liquid. Storage as a gas typically requires high-pressure tanks (5000–10,000 psi tank pressure). Storage of hydrogen as a liquid requires cryogenic temperatures because the boiling point of hydrogen at one atmosphere pressure is -252.8°C’ [Hydrogen Storage – Basics].

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d like to be anywhere near a hydrogen car if/when it collides with a truck and goes boooom!

To be a true magic bullet, hydrogen has to be both cheap and easy to produce and cheap and easy to store [and then use]. It also has to be safe. This is where new research is really powering ahead. Recently, not one, but two, separate research teams have come up with novel ways to store and transport hydrogen.

I’m very pleased to say that a team from Deakin University, right here in Australia, has come up with ‘a super-efficient way to mechanochemically trap and hold gases in powders’. Powders!!!

The neat little gif below [not mine] illustrates the process:

The steel balls pounding away in the cylinder separate the gases and then bind one of them to the boron nitride. That’s why it’s called a mechano + chemical process. The resultant powder can be stored safely at room temperature. To release the gas, you simply heat the powder.

Hot on the heels of that discovery comes another, this time from a Hong Kong based company EPRO Advance Technology (EAT). They’ve made a silicon based powder that doesn’t contain hydrogen – it makes hydrogen… when you add water.

‘The Si+ powder can be made using a (preferably renewable) energy source, as well as metallurgical-grade silicon – which itself can be made from sand, or from crushed-up recycled solar panels and electronics. EAT’s process results in a porous silicon powder that’s completely safe and easy to transport.’

Two completely different approaches to the storage, transport, and use of hydrogen. Will either one become our magic bullet? I have no idea, but breakthroughs like these give me hope that we will be able to stop climate change before it stops us. 🙂


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