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New Google Apps to help people hearing loss

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Content: Reesha

Translation: Abhiramy R

Google has launched two new features for Android phones aimed at helping people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

1. Sound Amplifier

The app basically turns your phone (headphone or smartphone) into a hearing aid, by filtering, augmenting, and amplifying sounds. It is designed to improve the clarity of speech by filtering out ambient and unwanted noise, without increasing the volume of sounds that are already loud. To make it even more useful, it works without an internet connection, too.

2. Live Transcribe

Google also announced Live Transcribe, which Google says brings “captions to conversations” by transcribing speech in real time using a smartphone’s microphone and an internet connection. It makes it possible for people with hearing loss to read a text version of what was said in 70 different languages. Privacy advocates should note that Google claims it will not save transcripts or any of the audio or text data it uses for the service on its servers. The service, which was designed with help from the community at Gallaudet University, the top-ranked university for deaf and hard of hearing people, isn’t quite ready to launch yet. Sign up here to be notified when it is available.

Sound Amplifier and Live Transcribe are radically inclusive ideas, but they are also just good business for Google, as the World Health Organization estimates that by the year 2055, there will be 900 million people with hearing loss.

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Charge your mobile while walk: These school boys come up with an Innovation

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Abhiramy R

Four years ago, Mohak Bhalla and Anand Gangadharan, two X graders from Delhi decided to experiment a bit with their shoes and the Physics they were learning at school then. In three months, their ideas transformed into a device that they call the Walkie Mobi Charger. Now what is this device all about, you may wonder. This tiny device which easily fits in your pocket can charge your mobile phone using the kinetic energy produced by walking.

This portable mobile charger works on simple tenth-grade science, say the boys. Now, wait for the best part. Walkie Mobi charges 20 per cent faster than your normal charger.

We caught up with Mohak and Anand, who are currently pursuing their BTech Degrees from Bharati Vidyapeeth’s College of Engineering, Delhi and VIT respectively to know more about the story behind this invention. They were more than excited to share.

The duo say that the idea occurred when serendipitously when they were reading articles about Railway Stations that use electricity powered by passengers’ footsteps. “That’s when it hit us. If a person can generate electricity, they can definitely use it for themselves,” says Anand, adding,  “Everyone is stuck to their phones 24×7, that uses electricity. So we thought of developing a device that uses this energy to charge them.”

This might sound unbelievable, but these teenagers made their first charger entirely of scrap material. The production cost came up to Rs 2000. They say that if it is manufactured in bulk, the price per unit will drop to Rs 500. Anand continues to say optimistically, “The point is to keep it less expensive so that everyone could have access to it”.

Mohak and Anand are planning to make the newer version wireless. Though untested, the advanced circuit is supposed to charge the phones faster. They are also planning on making it function as a power bank so that it can continue to charge the phone after you’re done walking. “The current design of the charger also aims to make it suitable for any device. The circuit can be modified and improved so that the charger can be upgraded to charge even a laptop”, says Mohak. Fun fact: You’ll also get your daily dose of exercise in the pretext of charging your phone.

 

 

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Transforming a bane to boon: Black Carbon soot to Water purification

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Abhiramy R

A group of Indian scientists have come up with a new process which promises to help utilize black carbon soot, which is a major air pollutant, for treating industrial waste containing highly poisonous organic dyes. The scientists have developed two techniques: one to convert black soot into graphene nanosheets, and the second to utilize the nanosheets to remove organic dyes such as crystal violet, rhodamine B, and methylene blue from industrial waste.

Black carbon soot is emitted from gas and diesel engines, coal-fired power plants and other processes that involve burning of fossil fuel. It is known to be highly carcinogenic. Organic dyes, in turn, are an important component of industrial waste and are generally non-biodegradable and deadly. They enter water bodies and make them not only unfit for human consumption but also highly poisonous.

Treatment of waste water with organic dyes has remained a major challenge. The currently available methods are generally costly and cumbersome. According to the scientists involved in the development of the new process, it would offer a cost-effective and sustainable solution.


Speaking to India Science Wire, Kumud Malika Tripathi, one of the co-authors of the study, said “the technique we have developed for synthesizing Graphene nanosheets from black-soot is very easy, quick and economical. Black soot is available everywhere and even a lay person can convert it into Graphene nanosheets at home. The second process of utilizing the nanosheets for treating the waste water is also not very complicated. One just had to put the nanosheets into industrial waste water, in the presence of sunlight. The dyes in the water are broken down into simpler and harmless elements and are subsequently isolated.”

The scientists tested the sustainability and the suitability of the overall process by using the treated water for growing wheat. “Seeds which had been germinated for 24 hours were used. Their growth was normal and healthy as compared to those grown with untreated water”.

The research team comprised of Gunture, Anupriya Singh, Anshu Bhati, Prateek Khare and Sumit Kumar Sonkar, from Department of Chemistry at Malaviya National Institute of Technology, Jaipur, besides Kumud Malika Tripathy, who is from Department of Bio-nanotechnology at Gachen University, South Korea. They have published a report on their work has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.
This method can solve two problems at a time and becomes a part of sustainable development.

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‘First Question’: A Helpline number any question

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Abhiramy R

Education begins from home. When a child begins to talk, he/she asks questions frequently. Mamma… Why this is in blue colour?.. Mamma… How the light comes?…

All they need is answer for their questions. To answer and more importantly encourage the curiosity of our children, the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) has started a helpline aptly called ‘First Question.’ Launched on February 28 celebrated as National Science Day, the telephone helpline 0487-2690222 is active from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm from Monday to Friday.

Children are encouraged to ask Nature and Science based questions. According to Dr TV Sajeev, the principal scientist and coordinator of the imitative, the helpline is aimed at encouraging curious children to ask the questions they might otherwise fail to get answers for.
He also felt that answering the children’s questions will enable them to think further and ask more questions, thus improving scientific knowledge. “We will try to answer questions on all questions under the sun,” he said.

Currently, the helpline functions via landline with caller-id. The question is noted down, and within 10 minutes a call is made to the child with the answer, depending on their age level, says Dr Sajeev.
He encourages people to use this service to ensure that one always remains curious. The next time my children ask me a question I have no answer to, I know just the number to dial.

This is not the first telephonic helpline launched by KFRI. For nearly a decade the institute has been running a
‘Tree Helpline’ which attend to all queries related to tree planting and management such as site selection, species site matching, planting thinning, soil testing, fertilization, pest, disease and weed management, multi-species interactions, landscape level afforestation programmes, tree/wood sample identification, preservative treatments and economic valuation.

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