Researchers at the University of Buenos Aires hope that some bird species could help develop technology to synthesise speech for people who have lost the ability to speak naturally.
They have made some groundbreaking discoveries about how birds produce sound and how there are some unexpected similarities between birdsong and human speech. By studying the physiology of birdsong, the team has built mathematical models of the mechanics governing avian vocal organs.
Gabriel Mindlin, a physicist at the University of Buenos Aires, explained: “The birds use a vocal apparatus that is called a syrinx; when air passes through these lip-like passageways they begin to oscillate just like human vocal chords do, so if one studies the physics of how bird song is produced it can hold clues about how human voice is created. If one implements the mathematical equations that govern the behaviour of those passageways on a chip, you can use those equations to make a vocal synthesizer for birds; and the idea is that this serves as a prototype for the construction of a human voice synthesizer.”
The study, recently published in science magazine Nature, showed how songbird’s brains coordinate singing with intricate timing: while some neurons prepare to make sounds, others are synced with current sounds. The decoding of the neural representation of communication could also shed light on speech problems like stuttering or aphasia, a disorder resulting from a stroke.
Charge your smartphone in 30 second
In Israel, researchers have been developing a new gadget which is set to become a must-have.
A new means of fully charging a smartphone in 30 seconds will be in the shops within three years, according to StoreDot, an Israeli University spin off. It uses nanodots made from organic materials which measure just two nanometres across. Nanodots store energy fast in a compact form instead of using lithium-based chemicals as in current battery technology.
Doron Myersdorf, the CEO of StoreDot, demonstrated the charger and battery and explained how they work: “Now, what we will see now is a battery that we created with this bio-organic material. Right now it’s down to 21 percent [of the full charge] and we will show you that once we connect it to the charger, in 30 seconds it will be fully-charged and it will last for about two, three hours. So we still have a way to go to improve it. But while I’m talking you see that it’s charging very, very fast. In the future, all batteries will be charged like this.”
According to StoreDot, this advance was made by going back to the basics: ie looking at amino acids, which are the protein building blocks vital to life. Researchers use amino acids to make molecules that can store an electric charge.
StoreDot plans to start production of the 30 second charger by late 2016. They are likely to cost roughly twice the price of a standard smartphone charger, but the prospect of paying more does not seem to discourage potential new customers, who are already eagerly looking forward to buying the new gadget.