Focus On Technology

Mondays at 6:44 a.m.; 8:44 a.m. during Morning Edition and 4:44 p.m. during All Things Considered

Ann Thompson reports on the latest trends in technology and their effects on medicine, safety, the environment or entertainment.

Wikipedia

Lewis Owen, head of the University of Cincinnati's geology department, deals in very small quantities.

He shows off what important stuff is left of one sample he brought home from the Himalayas. “That’s a little steel disk and on it is just a little smear of sand grains," Owen said.

With the samples he brings home, Owen is trying to map where glaciers used to be , where they've moved and how climate change will affect the world’s future. For a quarter century The University of Cincinnati professor has been making trips to China, Tibet, India and Pakistan.

Purdue University

In a perfect world, your smartphone would automatically tag whatever it sees through the camera's field of view. This could be helpful when using Google Glass, facial recognition systems, robotic cars and more.

Big powerful computers can do it already with something called deep learning. It requires layers of neural networks that mimic how the human brain processes information. A Purdue University researcher is working on it for smartphones and mobile devices

Ann Thompson / WVXU

When diagnosing and repairing the heart's electrical system, doctors often have to use lots of radiation to pinpoint the problem. It's not uncommon for the patient to experience 50 minutes or more of radiation thanks to X-rays, CAT scans and nuclear stress tests.

Ad Astra Rocket

Right now traveling to Mars would be a full-time commitment. Astronauts would be cooped up in a rocket for seven months and if they were able to take enough fuel to get back to earth, they would have to wait another two years before the planets would be close enough again. During this time their bone densities would greatly decrease and crumble once back on earth.

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

A computer progam called VigiLanz is Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center's new secret weapon in treating and preventing "superbugs," and consequently making antibiotics last longer.

What's the problem?

VocaliD

An effort is underway to give individuality to people who have to use a computerized voice box to speak.

Just in the United States alone there are several million people who have lost their voice because of cerebral palsy, stroke, brain injury and more. If they are lucky enough to have a computerized voice chances are their voice sounds very similar to somebody else who also uses a computer.

Ann Thompson / WVXU

If just watching the game isn't enough for you, the Cincinnati Reds want to keep you engaged with new technology at Great American Ball Park. This year the team has invested in:

  • Instant Replay
  • Reds Connect Zone
  • iBeacons

At ballparks throughout the country teams are making instant replay available on the main video board. At Great American they are also on smaller monitors throughout the stadium.

Dr. John Halamka

Outside patient rooms at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center there's a Quick Response (QR) code on the wall. It is key to a new way doctors are doing things there.

Ann Thompson / WVXU

A solar panel is typically made up of lots of silicon cells that together form a circuit. The electrons zip through the panels to create electricity in a very efficient manner. But what if scientists could create the same efficiency in a different material that was cheaper?

Fei Yu, a University of Cincinnati doctoral student in materials engineering, is studying how to make polymer solar cells more efficient. Right now their performance is well below the most efficient silicon solar panels.

Why polymers:

NTV

This fall members of the African Union Commission are scheduled to release their recommendations for an African Space Agency. The feasibility study is chaired by South Africa and includes Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Egypt and Algeria.

For some, a space agency is the likely next step. Since 2010 satellite capacity across the continent has almost tripled, helping to fuel Africa's mobile revolution, according to University of Cincinnati aerospace engineering professor Grant Schaffner.

Marc Smith / Social Media Research Foundation

Many people struggle to make sense of Twitter. The constant stream of information containing up to 140 characters can often overwhelm. But believe it or not all the tweets in the world appear to fit into just six patterns.

The Pew Research Center and the Social Media Research Foundation studied thousands of tweets over a four-year period and came up with these six different conversational archetypes.

There's a stylish alternative in Europe to the sometimes geeky looking bike helmet. Hövding's airbag collar, complete with a gyroscope and accelerometer to detect a crash, is popular in its native Sweden and being sold in Europe and soon in Japan.

Ann Thompson / WVXU

Critical care nurses are dividing their time between a dozen patients at the new UC Health Simulation Center but Lt. Col. Elena Schlenker has her eyes on one in particular.

“This patient is another blast injury,'' Schlenker said. "So he has bilateral amputations to his lower extremities. He’s obtained a chest wall trauma and he’s on a ventilator."

Redi Heating and Air Conditioning

  

Heated Driveways

Tired of walking on snow and ice covered sidewalks and having to repeatedly scrape and plow your driveway? Why not order a "snow melting system" and encourage your employer to do the same?

Ann Thompson / WVXU

 The Cincinnati Fire Department is looking into the possibility of using drones in the future. The city is partnering with the University of Cincinnati to test, what promises to be, a turn-key system.

The whirr and the sight of this small quadroter freezes University of Cincinnati students in their tracks as they stare at it in subzero temperatures.

Graduate Student Bryan Brown says, “Oh yes, every time we do this we have about 10 people stop and they’ll come up and take videos, especially when it’s warmer.”

The manufacturer of an airbag for skiers is putting the final touches on the product that continues to be tested in high-speed downhill events. Dainese, an Italian company that also makes airbags for motorcycle racers, had hoped to have the D-Air® SKI ready for the Sochi Olympics.

Ohio EPA

One of the still hotly contested debates over fracking is whether the practice of extracting trapped gas underground contaminates drinking water. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati are using an expensive machine to determine whether, at least in eastern Ohio, any contamination is naturally occurring or from fracking.

There's no shortage of negative publicity when it comes to fracking. Take the 2010 documentary "Gasland."

Pete Kistler, a former Syracuse University student, had trouble figuring out why he couldn’t land even an internship. He had a high GPA, won a couple of scholarships and started two clubs on campus. And while all his friends were getting phone calls and going out on interviews, he got nothing. Why? When he Googled his name he found out. There was a convicted sex offender with the same name.   

Greater Cincinnati got its first taste of "extreme Christmas decorators" in 2004 when Carson Williams synced his 16,000 lights to music in Mason.

Consumer Electronics Association

Want to wrap your Christmas gift and New Year's resolution into one? Try a device that keeps track of your every waking (and sleeping) moment. The Fitbit Force and its competing brands, count your steps, distance, calories burned, stairs climbed, and active minutes. It also monitors how long and how well you sleep and syncs it with your computer and smartphone.

Emily Wendler / WVXU

You might have heard about the polar bear poop sniffing dog Elvis who tries to determine which polar bears are pregnant, as reported by WVXU in this story. Here he is in suburban Kansas City taking a whiff of each sample and sitting when there is an indication of a pregnancy.

Technology is leveling the playing field for the blind. A British researcher, Stephen Hicks of the University of Oxford, has invented a pair of glasses that act like a movie screen.

This BBC video shows how the glasses will work.

Ann Thompson / WVXU

International nuclear weapons inspectors are preparing to get a closer look at two Iranian facilities long suspected of having the capability of producing nuclear weapons. An agreement worked out Monday, with the International Atomic Energy Agency, failed to gain access to one of the most controversial sites, the Parchin military site, southwest of Tehran. The New York Times reports:

Holly Yurchison / WVXU

Key stakeholders in Ohio's bioscience industry just wrapped up a two day conference in Columbus where they charted their roles for an expanding future. BioOhio President and CEO John Lewis says the goal this year was to get more companies engaged and realize the resources available to them in Ohio.

Mark Rober, Digital Dudz, Morphsuits

Need a last minute idea for a Halloween costume that could light up the party, and in some cases, gross out your friends? Ray Cappel, co-owner of Cappel's, costumes, party decorations & supplies in Cincinnati, says if you know how to accessorize, you can make your costume very unique. He pulled a few technology-related items off the shelf and suggested:

Big data is everywhere and it's getting more complex. Mathematicians seem to think we have effective ways to analyze it, but are still in need of developing the tools to reach conclusions. Just look at what happened as people tried to sign up for the online insurance marketplace. Computer code glitches shut it down and President Obama promised a tech surge for the problem.

Ann Thompson / WVXU

Doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center are freezing out certain kinds of cancers and precancerous lesions with a tiny camera, a catheter and a special kind of spray. Traditional forms of cryotherapy (using liquid nitrogen to freeze and eliminate harmful tissue) are very localized. truFreeze, new to UC Health, enables doctors to treat larger surfaces.

University of Cincinnati/Hankook

The South Korean based tire company, Hankook has just unveiled its latest tire at the Frankfort Auto Show, the iFlex. That tire may have ties to Cincinnati.

The Environmental Protection Agency is working to finalize a plan that would essentially ban coal-fire power plants in their present form. New ones could not be built without having cutting-edge technology that dramatically reduces CO2. It's called carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). The proposal, announced last month, by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy at the National Press Club, is not expected to be a requirement for more than a year.

Ann Thompson / WVXU

By the end of the year, the Federal Aviation Administration says it will pick six sites to test unmanned aerial systems (UAS). The Dayton region hopes to be on the list and has taken another step to set itself apart.

On Monday Sinclair Community College announced:

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