Hot news! E&T news weekly #9 – we choose our favourite news stories from the week

Friday July 4 2014

  James Hayes Internet of Things address book to boost connections

The IoT is fast-becoming a driver for enabling technology innovation: a wannabe open-source IoT operating system – Contiki – has also emerged. However, the moniker ‘Internet of Things’ is fast becoming a misnomer:  there’s an argument for designating it more as a Web of Things, as many of the endpoint devices, and other connected entities, will not strictly speaking form part of the infrastructure of an internet, nor indeed necessarily have to be ‘manageable’.

James Hayes, technology features editor

 

  Aasha Bodhani Facebook investigated over secret experiment

Social media monitoring, wiretapping or even snooping has always been a concern for users, whether governments, employers or marketing and advertising companies are using this ‘big brother’ approach. This week, it was announced Facebook is being investigated as it supposedly carried out an experiment in 2012 which manipulated users’ news feeds to examine ‘emotional contagion’. Users of the site have branded this experiment as ‘creepy’.

Low-cost bionic hand for Third World amputees

A student from University of Derby has designed a high-tech artificial hand dubbed the ‘Myo’, specifically for the amputees in third world countries. Costing just £200, the hand is controlled using electromyography enabling the wearer to control the prosthetic hand using the muscle movements from the real upper arm. This invention can help those who have suffered from disease and war.

Aasha Bodhani, assistant technology features editor

 

  Edd Gent Laser-based chemical detection firm wins ‘Engineering Oscars’

Not being able to take grown-up sized bottles of liquids on planes is a major source of annoyance every time I arrive at the airport and I’m sure it’s one I share with many others. Obviously Cobalt’s invention has many other very worthy applications, but this is one of those rare engineering feats that could genuinely impact pretty much everyone in the country and is fully deserving of the award.

Edd Gent, online news reporter

 

  Lorna Sharpe Machining composites easy as cutting butter with new device

Researchers in Loughborough say ultrasound-assisted machining will be a boon for precise cutting and drilling of aerospace-grade composite materials without damage.

Low-cost bionic hand for Third World amputees

A real good-news story here: student Matt Thompson has come up with a design for a working prosthetic hand using only about £200-worth of materials, potentially making it affordable for people in poorer countries.

Lorna Sharpe, sub-editor

 

  dominic-lenton Robotics strategy targets world leader status for UK

Good to see the UK government acknowledging that robots are “very much of the here and now” and not just a mainstay of science fiction at the launch of a strategy developed for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills by the Technology Strategy Board’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems Special Interest Group. If adopted, suggested policies would see decommissioned nuclear sites, farms, factories, mines and even whole towns used as test beds for robotics research.

Laser-based chemical detection firm wins ‘Engineering Oscars’

Cobalt Light Systems is following in some illustrious footsteps as the latest winner of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s MacRobert Award. The 40-strong firm beat off competition from Rolls-Royce among others with its range of airport security scanners that analyse bottled liquieds without opening them, proving that a really useful idea will always be successful.

Dominic Lenton, managing editor

 

  Tereza Pultarova Russia’s new rocket to be delayed for weeks

The eagerly anticipated maiden flight of Russia’s brand new Angara rocket turned into just another blow for Russia’s once pioneering space sector which has been plagued with a series of unfortunate mishaps, failures and glitches for the past couple of years. Instead of taking off triumphantly to the sky, the rocket stayed on the launch pad as the countdown was cut off in the last seconds before the expected take off due to a problem in its fuel-pumping system. The fiasco was witnessed by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who has put Angara into the centre of an intended space industry overhaul – it seems more work would be needed to return Russia’s space industry to its former glory.

Tereza Pultarova, online news reporter

 

  Vitali Vitaliev Low-cost bionic hand for Third World amputees

This news story made me recall an extraordinary little girl, whom I met in Dublin about 10 years ago. Her name was Asset, and she was a recent refugee from war-torn Chechnya. We met via Frontline human rights organisation for which I was then doing some part-time editing and translating, and she was probably the brightest and the most outgoing 11-year-old I had ever come across, despite her war-inflicted disability: both her arms were blown off by a Russian booby trap mine, camouflaged as a lighter. She picked it up while playing outside her house near Grozny. A powerful explosion followed… It all happened when she was just 9, and by the time we met Asset was able to hold cutlery while eating and to turn book pages (she was an avid reader of books) with her stumps. She particularly liked ‘The Brave Tin Soldier’ by Hans Christian Andersen which I gave her for her birthday… Frontline was trying to organise prosthetic arms for her, but none of those that had been tried proved suitable, and the costs of bionic ones were prohibitive. It is, allegedly, very hard to find lasting prosthetics for a fast growing child, or a teenager. The latest I heard of Asset is that she was still living in Dublin and had just finished university. I am going to send her a link to this story hoping that Matt Thomson’s ‘Myo’ will suit her needs and will be affordable too.

Vitali Vitaliev, features editor
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