The week in gadgets: SELFIE mirror, NASA’s battery challenge, and a 30-second charger

14 Apr 2014

The SELFIE in action. Image via iStrategyLabs

A look at gadget happenings, as a start-up uses nanotechnology to charge a smartphone in 30 seconds, a digital agency builds a selfie-snapping mirror, NASA needs more power, and Sony issues a recall on the Vaio Fit 11A.

Nanodots power up in half a minute

Israeli nanotechnology start-up StoreDot has created a prototype smartphone charger that can complete a charge in less than a minute. The project comes from the nanotechnology department of Tel Aviv University where a team has been developing biological semiconductors called Nanodots, which are made from peptides (the building blocks that make up proteins).

These Nanodots are being used to create next-generation batteries and supercapacitors for smartphones, TV displays, bio-LEDs and bio-lasers.

Demonstrated at Microsoft’s Think Next conference in Tel Aviv, the current device can take a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone from 27pc battery power to fully charged in just 30 seconds, and the team is working on extending its compatibility with other smartphones.


The prototype device also needs to be trimmed down for portability as it’s currently the size of a laptop charger. There’s time to work out the kinks, though, with commercial production expected in late 2016.

Magic mirror

Digital agency iStrategyLabs has taken the selfie to the next level with its Self Enhancing Live Feed Image Engine, or SELFIE. Behind this two-way mirror is a Mac Mini equipped with facial recognition software, plus a webcam.

When a willing Narcissus stands on a custom vinyl graphic on the floor in front of the mirror, the SELFIE system kicks into gear, identifying when the subject smiles for their snapshot and powering up some LEDs placed in the mirror for a countdown to the flash.


The no-hands, no-fuss ‘selfie’ is then posted to Twitter with a user’s or company’s watermark embedded in the image.

While this is just an experiment from iStrategyLabs that’s only available by special request, it would make those photo-a-day projects a doddle.

NASA needs more power

NASA is seeking proposals for the development of advanced energy storage technologies that can go beyond the limits of lithium batteries while maintaining the life-cycle and safety characteristics needed for use in space.

An open call has been issued for proposals which will assist the American space programme and US government agencies such as the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) through ongoing collaboration with NASA and industry.

This comes as part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which will spend the next 18 months investing in developing solutions for high-priority challenges to achieving safe and affordable deep-space exploration – one of which is advanced energy storage.

Four awards are to be made for Phase I proposals, ranging in value up to US$250,000 each.

Sony Vaio Fit 11A warning

If you’re using a Sony Vaio Fit 11A laptop, stop doing so as soon as possible. It has been discovered that some of these units are housing faulty batteries made by Panasonic that can overheat and even catch fire.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, three reports have been received from users in Japan, Hong Kong and China who experienced incidents causing partial burns in March and April this year.

The Vaio Fit 11A is the last laptop from the Sony laptop series following the Japanese firm’s decision to sell its PC business to an investment fund.

Sales of the laptop stopped earlier this month and the near-26,000 units sold worldwide (7,000 of which were sold in Europe) have been recalled. Affected computers are being identified by serial number and a programme to repair or replace them will be implemented soon.

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.