Honda are quick to dismiss this as a mere unicycle. According to them it is a “experimental personal mobility service”. The rider sits on it, and steers by leaning their upper body in the direction they wish to travel. What appears to be a large wheel, consists of several smaller wheels which are in line. The small wheels control side-to-side movements, while the large wheel controls forward and back motions. A combination of both allows the device to move diagonally. Some of the technology comes from the development of Asimo – the first robot capable of walking up and down stairs. I saw Asimo being demonstrated in California, and you had convince yourself there was not a small person inside the robot.
When on the unicycle, Honda state that the rider is apparently at about the same eye level as pedestrians. The seat, footrests and body cover all fold away into the device’s 10kg body. The device is powered by a lithium-ion battery, which is good for 60 minutes worth of travel – Honda claimed. There is no word, as yet, regarding plans to put it into commercial production.
Pico projectors have been around for about two years. I have been using one from Optomax, and it is quite an impressive piece of technology. Now mobile phone manufacturers have started incorporating pico projectors in to their phones. They have difficulty in coping in bright rooms, but are capable of projecting an image up to 6ft (2m) wide. They can be used for projecting your photos, stored movies, or heaven forbid, a session of death by PowerPoint. A pico projector on its own will cost about £230, combined with a phone you can expect to pay £480. However, next Christmas they will be half this price.
The idea of transmitting electricity without wires was first explored by Thomas Edison and Nicola Tesla in the nineteenth century (Nicola Tesla led a really interesting life, and is the subject of several conspiracy theories. He was played by David Bowie in the movie “The Prestige”). The recent systems have included the use of microwaves (concerns regarding health) and lasers (requires line of sight). One company has been gaining a lot of interest, perhaps for the silly name – Witricity. Their system relies upon resonance. with a recent demonstration showing how an Apple iPhone could be charged without wires.
When two objects have the same resonant frequency, they can exchange energy without having an effect on objects around them. Witricity’s approach exploits the resonance of low frequency electromagnetic waves. Two coils, with the same resonant frequency are used. One is plugged in to the mains, and the other in to the object which is to be charged. As each cycle of energy arrives at the second coil, it builds up a voltage which is used to charge the device. Charging begins automaticaly, as soon as the object is brought in to range.
Whilst I have parchuted and flown microlights, I have to say that Yves Rossy is a braver man than I – braver than most of us. The carbon-fibre jet-propelled craft, with a span of more than 2m (6ft 6in), is designed for speeds of 220 km/h (138 mph). It has been successfully tested, including a flight across the English Channel in September 2008.
A shop in Tokyo, Takashimaya, is experimenting with a robot shop assistant which is capable of dealing with enquiries from shoppers. The robot’s name is Saya and she was created by staff at the Tokyo University of Science in 2004. Prior to this experiment in the retail sector the robot was used in a primary school. Saya can respond to shoppers’ enquiries in seven hundred ways, and will direct shoppers to the right department or floor, or even to the nearest toilet. Saya can also make ‘small talk’ with customers. It is interesting to note that Japanese shoppers are uncertain how to respond to Saya, resorting to their innate politeness, even bowing to Saya to say thank you when they have received directions. Alan Turing must be viewing this experiment with some interest.
My first post, and I start it with some trepidation. My first thoughts are what types of technology should I cover? Should it be IT, or boyz toyz, or gadgets ? Should I look at medical technology, military technology, educational technology, consumer technology . . .
After a little thought I have decided that I should not restrict myself, but should feature anything that interests me. If you find it of interest, then that is a distinct bonus.
My next task is to decide what to feature as my first technology. I am going to take the pressure off myself and not search to find the ‘next big thing’ or a technology that is going to change all our lives. I will have a little trawl though the Internet and feature the first first thing I see which interests me.