We keep an eye on the latest technology developments so you don’t have to. Here are some of the things we’ve spotted recently that are changing our world for the better - or at least, helping us raise a smile in challenging times.

Harvesting heat from the sun with graphene

Graphene has the potential to be used in many different applications, from desalination to body armour. Thin, light and flexible but unbelievably strong, its photothermal properties sparked the interest of researchers at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, who have developed a graphene film that captures energy from the sun and quickly heats up to 83C with minimal heat loss, allowing a new era of photo-thermal heat harvesting for industry: https://phys.org/news/2020-03-graphene-solar-opportunity-efficient-thermal.html

Virtual reality: an important tool for mental health

When we think about VR, the first thing that comes to mind is probably gaming. Anyone who has experienced the magic of Oculus or any of the other gaming headsets out there cannot fail to be inspired and overawed. Yet VR technology has a host of other applications, from virtual business meetings to personal training and development. Now NHS patients in some areas of England will be able to benefit from half-hourly sessions to help people overcome social anxiety. In an immersive environment, they will be coached through various situations they may find difficult (such as shopping or taking a bus), in order to give them the confidence to tackle these in real life: https://www.standard.co.uk/tech/vr-therapy-nhs-social-avoidance-oxford-vr-a4383111.html

Self-regenerating tyres

As any car owner knows, replacing tyres in order to stay safe and obey the law is both costly and tedious, not to mention the environmental damage that disposing of tyres causes. If Goodyear have their way, your tyres will now last the entire lifetime of your vehicle. Their innovation involves an automated tread-producing mechanism which forces material from a cartridge within the tyre through a frame to make the patterned tread. This process happens automatically, whenever sensors detect the tyres becoming bald, and all the owner needs to do is replace the cartridge periodically. More here: https://www.wired.com/story/goodyear-recharge-tire-concept/

Spot the robot rickshaw-puller

Boston Dynamics are fond of impressing - and in most cases, horrifying - the world with dystopian videos featuring their series of robots. Now, American TV host and futurist Adam Savage has come up with a novel use for his own Spot - pulling a rickshaw, in possibly one of the most steampunk videos ever to hit YouTube: https://www.theverge.com/2020/2/14/21137444/boston-dynamics-spot-robodot-robotic-dog-rickshaw-adam-savage-mythbusters-tested

Visit the world’s best museums without leaving your sofa

Trips to museums and art galleries might be off the menu for now while we do the socially responsible thing and self-isolate, but there’s no need to miss out entirely on the world’s greatest treasures. Check out this great resource and pay a visit to cultural hotspots like New York’s Guggenheim, the Musee d’Orsay in Paris and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, as well as gems such as the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum : https://upgradedpoints.com/best-virtual-museum-tours/