News Bites

Robotic Lifesavers
 

    Swarms of the life-saving minirobot above may spread out over skiers buried by avalanches to find and rescue them. The robotic swarms would home in on skiers' radio beacons.
    The picture on the right shows my low-cost teleoperated robotic vehicle. The vertical gray box is the color video camera. The 2.3 GHz downlink has an unobstructed range of more than 1/2 mile. This teletruck can also be used as a ~$500 mobile robotic platform.

Ricoh Raises Digicams to New Heights
    The left-hand image in the lower figure shows how square pixels are arranged in most digital and video cameras. However, Fuji has found a way to increase pixel densities by employing hexagonal pixels that can be packed closer than they can in conventional, 1/2", square-grid CCD-camera sensors. Pixel counts in excess of 5,000,000 would seem to be feasible using Fuji's new design. Used in conjunction with the Ricoh technique described above, images with more than 10,000,000 pixels might be possible, yielding resolutions that are fully competitive with film cameras.

New Batteries
    At last! A better mousetrap!
   The Eveready Energizer batteries shown to the left may represent the first real battery breakthrough in 100 years. (Popular supposition to the contrary, alkaline batteries provide no greater total energy output than any other.) These new batteries, costing only slightly more than current batteries, will raise total energy output by a whopping 85%. A combination of redesign and the addition of a titanium compound are responsible for the increased battery life. The "e2"'s will become available this summer.
    If these could be made rechargeable, one wonders what effect that might have on the logistics and practicality of electrically-powered vehicles--e. g., scooters, bikes and autos.
Shedding New Light on the Subject

    The recent University-of-South-Carolina development of low-cost, blue light-emitting diodes has opened the door for super-efficient lightbulbs. These cool-burning bulbs should never wear out. A combination of red, green, and blue LEDs may pave the way to low-cost, white-light light bulbs.

    "What's New", Popular Science, May, 2000, pgs. 14-17.