Here is some cheer for the visually impaired. They can throw away the white cane and rely wholly on a new electronic device to walk with fewer handicaps. Students at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, have designed an electronic eye that would alert them to any obstacle on their way.
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|BRILLIANT IDEA: Bhoyar, Varma, Joglekar |
Drishti, a blind man's probe, is an electronic device that senses an obstacle at a distance of 75 cm and sends warning signals to the user.
It can be embedded in gloves, worn as a waistband or implanted in the shoe. "The ultrasonic sensor installed inside the device emits a signal that on encountering an obstacle bounces back. The signal is amplified by the device and a beep or vibration can help the person wearing it to stop or change his path," explains Parag Bhoyar, who along with Paridhi Varma and Manjiri Joglekar took up the project as part of their postgraduate study in design at the IIT. An added feature in the design is that it enables the user to switch it off while sitting or travelling.
The prototype costs about Rs 1,000 for its production, but the commercial price will be lower at Rs 700 and even less if micro-controllers are also used to make it compact and designed for mass production. The hidden advantage is that the gadget gives a blind person a feeling of being independent.
A QUESTION OF SEX
Baffled by the prospects of identifying the sex of exotic birds, breeders have often relied on their intuition. Now, the CCMB, Hyderabad, has devised a DNA-based technique that will make sex identification of birds easier. "All that we need is the blood, tissue or feather of a bird," says CCMB Deputy Director Dr S. Shivaji. The CCMB used the technique to determine the sex of about 20 vultures because it used to take many weeks before it could be confirmed whether the captured vulture was male or female.
Early indications hint at a relatively good monsoon in India this year
The scorching sun may indicate yet another summer of severe drought, but India's weathermen have forecast good rains this year. They have also discounted the threat of the El Nino effect, which dilutes the strength of the Southwest monsoon, as conditions are reported to be returning to "neutral" over the equatorial Pacific. The El Nino effect is the abnormal warming of the Pacific Ocean off South America that affects the monsoons. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has noted the transition from "warming to neutral" conditions which-if they continue for the next three months-assure India of a much-needed respite from the series of relatively dry monsoons.
Dr M. Rajeevan, director, Forecasting, IMD, Pune, says that only two of the eight parameters in its forecast model are "unfavourable." The irony is that weather forecasting, outside the tropics, is quite accurate because the weather systems are well-behaved. The extra-tropics have a single scale of atmospheric systems that make forecasting easier. But the tropics experience less stable atmospheric conditions and are responsible for poor accuracy. Yet, the weathermen are sticking their neck out and predicting a good monsoon-98 per cent of normal rainfall. Chances are that they may be right this time around.
-Compiled by Amarnath K. Menon