In this week's wrap, the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has boosted payphone usage as New Yorkers struggle to stay connected, and a Japanese company is developing new technologies to make teleconferencing more realistic. Get the details on these stories and more below.
The rebirth of the payphone
According to the Federal Communications Commission, 25% of cell towers in New York have been wiped out due to Hurricane Sandy, leaving millions in the city without power or cellular reception. In post-Sandy Manhattan, devices the smartphone had replaced now find themselves in high demand. Most strikingly, the storm has brought about the return of the public pay phone as long lines of New Yorkers turn to the long-ignored technology to stay connected.
Via: Huffington Post
Bringing emotions to teleconferences
Japan's NTT Communication Science Laboratories is developing new technology to bring better facial expressions and body language to the teleconference experience. This is achieved through a number of screens attached to sensors and small motors that move in concert with the movements of conference participants. If a participant looks to one side, the screen will move accordingly and move up and down should the person nod in agreement with a certain point, introducing a more realistic perspective to the conversation.
Tired dad invents nap app
Matthew Nifield, a tired father from Cardiff, has created a smartphone app to help get his twins to sleep after he discovered that certain sounds helped them relax. Nifield created the White Noise Ambience app for iPad and iPhone. The app has been downloaded by exhausted parents all over the world and has proved so popular that he is now making R834 000 a year from his desperation-induced invention.
Smart roads coming soon
Roads that glow in the dark and in the future could even charge electric cars are set to be introduced in the Netherlands from next year. These innovative "Smart Highways" were showcased at the recent Dutch Design Week and are intended to make highways "more sustainable, safe and intuitive". Among the most ambitious ideas for road travel of the future are special lanes that allow drivers of electric cars to recharge their vehicles as they travel. There are also plans to fit the roads with temperature-responsive dynamic paint, which will make ice crystals visible to drivers when cold weather makes road surfaces slippery.
Via: Daily Mail
'Info ladies' connect remote Bangladeshi villages
The Info Ladies project was created in 2008 by development group D.Net and is modelled after a programme that set out to distribute mobile phones in Bangladesh. Dozens of "Info Ladies'" travel into remote Bangladeshi villages with laptops and Internet connections, helping tens of thousands of people - especially women - access vital government services or chat to distant relatives. The project, which will enlist thousands more workers in the next few years, is a vital service in a country where only five million of 152 million people have Internet access.
Via: Daily Telegraph
Drug cartels kidnap engineers to build radio network
The notorious Zeta drug cartel has kidnapped at least 36 engineers and technicians over the past four years and is forcing them to build an extensive network of radio antennas. Authorities have had no luck shutting down Radio Zeta because the equipment is so easy to replace. None of the engineers have been held for ransom - they have all just disappeared. Among them is at least one IBM employee and several communications technicians from a firm owned by Mexico's largest construction company.