Local inventors take thousands on technological tour of the future

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 November, 2009, 12:00am

More than 20,000 visitors, mostly primary and secondary pupils, were given a first-hand look at the world of science yesterday at an annual innovation showcase at the Science Park in Sha Tin.

Most of the more than 100 exhibits at the InnoCarnival, ranging from a soil grinder designed for a space mission to a balance detector for the elderly, were made in Hong Kong. More than 40 organisations displayed their innovative ideas, with strong representation from local universities and colleges.

A computer programme that recommends Chinese pop songs according to listeners' tastes was one highlight yesterday, with a group of Chinese University researchers saying it could have wide applications.

Associate professor Lee Tan, of the electronic engineering department, said it was the first system of its kind to extract features such as a singer's voice, an instrument's timbre, rhythm and musical structure in Chinese pop songs and make comparisons. Recommendations could then be made, based on similar features.

'To search for songs on the Web that suit our music preferences is very time consuming,' Lee said. 'The software aims to analyse the preference of the listeners and choose the right songs for them.'

Lee said the project, which had been aided by about HK$1 million in government research funding, would seek to co-operate with record labels and search engines in the future with a view to entering the market.

In the aerospace section, Polytechnic University staged the first demonstration of its soil preparation system, a space tool designed for a historic Sino-Russian space mission, the Phobos-Grunt Mission.

The mission, originally scheduled for this year, has been delayed due to technical reasons but the PolyU device remains part of plans for a rescheduled launch in 2011.

The 400 gram device, designed by Professor Yung Kai-leung, associate head of the department of industrial and systems engineering, will extract soil samples on the Martian moon Phobos. The mission is considered a key step in understanding the evolution of the solar system.

While some exhibits have already been used in real life applications, many remain prototypes. However, just getting to that stage means that their inventors have been successful in realising their ideas.

A pair of year two students at Tsing Yi's Institute of Vocational Education unveiled their latest invention, a balance detector that can alert others to help if an elderly person loses their balance and falls.

Chan Yui-chiu, one of the young inventors, said they hoped their detector could be embedded into existing emergency services used by the elderly.

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, who officiated at the opening ceremony, said the innovation and technology sector was vital to the economic development of Hong Kong.

The carnival closes on Sunday. Admission is free.