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Smartphones have been boldy going into space for a number of years, as space agencies experiment with using handsets to control satellites.
Nasa has launched various HTC Nexus phones as part of its PhoneSat project to test whether smartphone hardware can act as an on-board computer for a satellite.
Using phone tech instead of custom-built devices could knock several zeros off the price of space-faring computers, as well as increasing processing power by as much as a factor of 100. The biggest challenge for phone electronics is surviving in the extreme temperatures and high radiation of space.
A new smartphone app promises to help the more than 285 million people worldwide who are blind or visually impaired.
The Portable Eye Examination Kit (Peek), developed at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, uses the phone’s camera to scan the lens of the eye for cataracts, as well as conducting a basic vision test. The system could allow a u00a3300 phone to replace equipment previously costing more than u00a3100,000, as well as being portable and easy to use. The upshot could be far easier access to eye tests for people living in remote and poor areas of the world.
Cancer kills more people in the US than any other illness save for heart disease.
By clipping an imaging module to a smartphone camera, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a low-cost tool for rapid diagnosis of the disease.
The D3 (digital diffraction diagnosis) tool captures images of treated blood and tissue samples and feeds them to a cloud-based service that spots tumors by analysing how light is scattered. A pilot test showed the accuracy of the system in detecting tumors matched the current gold standard and enabled simultaneous analysis of more than 100,000 cells.
Helping the blind to 'see'
Computer scientists in the UK are developing new mobile technologies that could enable blind and visually-impaired people to ‘see’ through their smartphone or tablet.
The system would work by using motion trackers and cameras built into the devices to create a 3D map of the world and then describing the world to users using vibrations, sounds and speech. Research is being undertaken at the University of Lincoln and will draw on depth-sensing technology being explored in Google’s Project Tango.
Software is being developed that allows a smartphone to act as a pocket doctor for diagnosing Parkinson’s and other degenerative diseases.
Researchers at Aston University in the UK have developed software to allow phones to collect data on changes to how a user moves and speaks over time. A machine learning system then scours the data to look for signs that indicate Parkinson’s. A lab based study of smartphone recordings of almost 17,000 people found that telltale changes in speech patterns yielded an accurate diagnosis of Parkinson’s in almost 99 percent of cases.
In an effort to develop a supercomputer that consumes orders of magnitude less energy than today – researchers are turning to phones and tablets.
European researchers in the Mont-Blanc project have built this prototype system that uses the same hardware that powers the Google Nexus 10 tablet. The prototype meshes together many Samsung dual-core Exynos 5 system-on-a-chips. Mont-Blanc systems could consume as little as one thirtieth of the energy per processor as typical systems today, according to the project co-ordinator.
The CrowdShake app for Android detects vibrations that could indicate an earthquake in California.
Upon picking up possible seismic activity the app transmits the user’s location and how violently the phone is shaking to the Caltech Community Seismic Network. The data, gathered from phone’s accelerometer, complements that collected by official monitoring services in the state.
A slightly more trivial example but a cool example of a new direction for smartphone tech nonetheless. How about a smartphone-powered robot?
RoboHon is an Android phone that Sharp will launch in Japan next year that slots into this bot, which will respond to voice commands, project videos and even dance.
This device can turn a smartphone from a selfie-snapper into a microscope for scanning DNA.
Developed by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) the microscope snaps onto a smartphone to allow it image fluorescently-tagged DNA, which is about 50,000 times thinner than a human hair. Working alongside a back-end system that measures the length of the DNA molecules, the device is intended for providing a low-cost and portable tool to aid in diagnosing various types of cancers and nervous system disorders, as well as in detecting drug resistance in infectious diseases.