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Solar Challenge car stars at show



Engineering innovation and cutting-edge green tech will be highlights of the SA Solar Challenge exhibit at the Rand Show’s Science & Technology Hall for the next ten days.

The SA Solar Challenge puts engineering to the test, tasking the country’s young engineers to build solar cars that can cover thousands of kilometres in an eight-day staged event from Pretoria to Cape Town with just sunshine in the tank.

The Solar Challenge team from North-West University (NWU) is bringing its futuristic solar car, the R1.5m Sirius X25, to the Rand Show.

Designed by a multi-disciplinary team of students from NWU’s Faculty of Engineering under the guidance of team project manager Professor Albert Helberg, the NWU solar car Sirius X25 is an aerodynamic masterpiece. Weighing just 208 kg without the driver and 4.5 m long, the Sirius X25 has lower wind resistance than some of the best sports cars in the world. While it typically travels at 80km/h on level terrain, it can reach speeds of 140 km/h. And it does all this while consuming less energy than a standard household light bulb, running off nothing but sunlight.

The Sirius X25 will be carrying South Africa’s hopes with it when it competes in the biennial World Solar Challenge that takes place in Australia in October 2015. The Sirius X25 and the NWU team are one of only two teams to have entered from Africa, putting the continent at the starting line for the first time ever in the world challenge. They’ll be driving some 3 000 km from Darwin in the Northern Territory to Adelaide in South Australia.

The Solar Challenge team will be presenting talks at the Rand Show on the Challenge, solar technology and solar cars, presenting specifically to school groups if requested. There will also be a model of a full-size solar-powered sedan car, and an interactive display of an electric motor to show how an electric vehicle works.

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CES: Most useless gadgets of all

Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.



It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”



Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator


The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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