From a glass globe that harvests energy from the sun and the moon to a car built of Lego blocks, here are our favorite tech pieces from the week.
German architect André Broessel, of Rawlemon, has looked into his crystal ball and seen the future of renewable energy. In this case it's a spherical sun-tracking solar energy-generating globe -- essentially a giant glass marble on a robotic steel frame. But this marble is no toy. It concentrates both sunlight and moonlight up to 10,000 times -- making its solar harvesting capabilities 35 percent more efficient than conventional dual-axis photovoltaic designs.
Rawlemon was a finalist in the World Technology Network Award 2013 with the globe's design and afterward produced this latest version, called Betaray, which can concentrate diffuse light such as that from a cloudy day.
A new bus design has appeal for both advertisers and commuters. The Willie Bus designed by Tad Orlowski integrates large LCDs into the sides of the vehicle to display a variety of information, including television shows, paid advertising and route information. The LCDs are mounted to a skeletal structure underneath and, because they're transparent, would not obstruct the view.
For the Aquaman in you just dying to come out, this underwater jetpack might be just the thing. Invented by SCP Marine Innovations, the $5,700 suit has two thrusters that are worn on the forearm. Each is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack the diver straps to his abdomen. In true superhero form, the user moves through the water by holding his arms out in front of and then angling them one way or another to turn. Speed is controlled via a hand-held device.
This quirky gizmo called Cubli is able to jump from a resting position onto an edge, balance there for as long as necessary and then spin up onto one of its corners. It can remain balanced and spinning on the corner, even if the ground beneath it moves. It was developed by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, who said the device can combine it break-dancing moves to amble across a surface. Cubli could find itself moonwalking for real one day, as its method of locomotion could be good for exploring distant planets and moons.
Druids, take note. Just in time for today's winter solstice, Great Britain has erected a new, modern visitor's center for Stonehenge that should help preserve this 5,000 year-old stone circle for another millennia. The new center offers visitors, via a large screen and immersive video, the experience of standing in the middle of the stone circle. Outside, the environment has been taken back to its roots by doing away with a road that formerly bisected the site and reintroducing an ancient path. Since cars will no longer be allowed on the premises, visitor can either walk to the stone circle or take a shuttle.
Using an inkjet printer, researchers have succeeded in printing adult eye cells for the first time. The demonstration is a step toward producing tissue implants that could cure some types of blindness. The yellow arrow points to a retinal ganglion cell, which transmits signals from the eye to the brain.
This week, Google announced new features to its Google Glass, among them the capability to take a photograph with a wink of an eye. According to the company’s blog post on the topic, the wink feature could eventually be used for more than snapping images. You could wink a taxi meter to pay the fare, for example, or wink at a pair of shoes in a shop window to make that purchase.
British adventurer Maria Leijerstam wants to be the first person to reach the South Pole by pedaling. Her customized recumbent trike could be just the vehicle to help her make the grueling 400-mile journey. Battling high winds, cold temperatures and rough terrain, Leijerstam will travel 20 days starting from the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf, over Leverett Glacier and then to the South Pole. Juan Mendez of Spain and Daniel Burton of the United States are also hoping to make to the pole, but both are riding two-wheelers and taking different routes.
Steve Sammartino of Australia and Raul Oaida of Romania built a life-sized working car using Legos. Most of the car, except for the tires and a few load-bearing components, is made from about a half a million Legos. The engine has 256 moving LEGO pistons that run on air and can propel the car forward at 20 miles per hour. Sammartino and Oaida call their car the Super Awesome Micro Project and for now, have it stored in an undisclosed location in Melbourne.
At this weekend's DARPA Robotics Challenge, 17 teams will push their robots to the edge, challenging them to accomplish eight different tasks. They are: 1. drive a vehicle, 2. walk over rugged terrain, 3. climb a ladder, 4. clear debris, 5. open a door, 6. cut through a wall, 7. turn a valve and 8. operate a hose. The goal of the competition is to foster the development of robots that could one day assist people in the aftermath of a disaster.