8 of the most unusual tech stories of 2014

28 Dec 2014

A space elevator, a proposal involving 99 iPhone 6s and a photo of a napping burglar posted to Facebook stand out among the most unusual tech stories of the past year.

Limerick City installs audio reminders to pick up after your dog

In March, dog owners and walkers who take Fido for a stroll along either side of the River Shannon in Limerick City learned they will hear audio reminders to pick up after their pets.

Limerick City and County Council have undertaken the initiative to prevent dog fouling by erecting audio devices along the city boardwalk that deliver the message, “Do your bit to keep Limerick clean. Stop Limerick dog litter. Use any bag, any bin – please pick up after your dog.”

Riteview Solutions, a company based at NUI Maynooth, developed the two mobile programmable audio systems.

Dog clean-up sign image via Shutterstock

Japan to construct giant space elevator by 2050

Japanese construction firm Obayashi Corporation announced plans in September to construct a giant elevator with the capability of carrying humans 96,000 kilometres into space.

ABC News reported that the proposed elevator will be powered by magnetic linear motors that will propel people to a newly-built space station in seven days at a fraction of the cost of rockets.

Obayashi hope to complete the project by 2050.

According to the company’s research and development manager Yoji Ishikaw, the development of carbon nanotechnology has made the project possible. Japanese universities have been working in collaboration to advance the machinery.

Space image via Shutterstock

I got 99 iPhones but a wife ain’t among

Money can’t buy you love, but it can buy you 99 iPhone 6s. For one Chinese man, however, that wasn’t enough to win over his girlfriend when he popped the question in November.

The young man, a programmer, spent about €65,000 on the Apple devices for his lush proposal, according to The Nanfang Insider.

Arranging the smartphones in a heart shape, he invited his girlfriend to step inside the display and, clutching a bouquet of flowers, asked her to marry him. Sadly, as a small crowd of onlookers gathered, the woman rejected the proposition.

Photo via Weebo.com

Chinese city introduces mobile phone lanes for pedestrians

These days, it seems unlikely to be able to venture out without nearly bumping into someone fiddling with their smartphone.

The Chinese city of Chongqing has taken steps to address the issue: creating pedestrian lanes for mobile phone users.

The city of 28m people has created the painted lanes to allow mobile users to stare and walk with their device, something which has proven difficult with so many obstacles in the average city.

However, it is understood that the Chinese officials do not necessarily want to promote the lane as a solution to a problem, but rather as a way of showing mobile phone users that it might just be best to walk with a little more care.

Florida police catch burglar napping on job, post the photo on Facebook

Burgling is such tiring work, as shown by a photo police officers in Florida snapped and shared on Facebook in September of a suspect snoozing away on a bed with a bag of jewelry beside him.

A housekeeper arrived at her client’s home in Nokomis, Florida, to discover an open kitchen window – and a 29-year-old man asleep on a bed, with stolen goods next to him.

“Talk about falling asleep on the job,” the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office wrote on its Facebook page, accompanied by the hashtag #FloriDUH.

“A cleaning lady called deputies Monday morning when she found Dion Davis inside her client’s Nokomis home. He was passed out with a bag full of stolen jewelry next to him on the bed and didn’t even notice the deputies taking pictures!”

Police charged Davis charged with burglary of an unoccupied dwelling.

Photo via Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page

Parody Twitter account about mayor prompts police raid on house

Police officers in April raided a house in Peoria, Illinois, in connection with a parody Twitter account of the town’s mayor, Jim Ardis, and in what the local police described as an “internet crime”.

The account going under the handle @Peoriamayor had been posting a number of tweets making fun of the local mayor and now it seems that either the mayor himself or the local police force haven’t taken too kindly to the tweeter’s sense of humour.

According to the local news outlet, the Peoria Journal Star, a full unit of the local police force raided the house from where the IP was located and officers seized all electronic devices in the house.

The only person in the house at the time was 27-year-old Michelle Pratt, who denied any link to the account.

Two other residents from the house were arrested and charged on drug offences arising from the search.

According to US law, false personation of a public official is a Class A misdemeanour punishable by a fine of up to US$2,500 and even up to one year in jail.

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis. Photo via Merle Widmers PEORIA WATCH

Survey finds 11pc of Americans think HTML is an STD

When it comes to tech terms, 11pc of people believe HTML (hypertext markup language) is a sexually transmitted disease (STD), a survey of American computer users’ knowledge suggested in March.

A study by coupons site Vouchercloud.net found quite a few people needed to brush up on their tech definitions, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Some 77pc of those surveyed could not identify what SEO means and 27pc identified ‘gigabyte’ as an insect commonly found in South America.

Some 42pc said they believed a ‘motherboard’ was ‘the deck of a cruise ship’ and 23pc thought ‘MP3’ was a Star Wars robot related to R2D2 or CP30.

Eighteen per cent identified ‘Blu-ray’ as a marine animal and 15pc said they believed ‘software’ is comfortable clothing.

And 12pc said ‘USB’ was the acronym for a European country.

Confused tech user image via Shutterstock

#hummuselfie aims to give #chickpeace a chance in Mideast

An August campaign urged Facebook users to post selfies in which they are eating hummus and hashtagged #hummuselfie in an effort to help end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza.

The Hummus Initiative was behind the campaign on the social network to “fight against further importation of the hatred of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into France and other countries outside of Israel and Gaza.”

The Facebook page had attracted nearly 5,000 likes at time of writing and contained plenty of photos of people who have taken part in the campaign.

What was noticeable is many people in the #hummuselfie photos are smiling and larking about, in what is intended to shed light on a conflict that has killed some 1,864 people, including 300 children.

Hummus image via Shutterstock

News happening concept image via Shutterstock

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic