This week we feature a handful of technologies designed to help people out in the face of disaster -- as well as other innovations that will just make you happy to be alive.
Energy Duck, a whimsical submission to the 2014 Land Art Generator Initiative Copenhagen design competition , is not just a floating sculpture; it's also a source of renewable energy. Covered in off-the-self solar panels, the duck converts sunlight into electricity which is stored, not in batteries, but in the difference in water levels inside and outside the duck. When electricity is required, the duck is flooded and water passing over one or more hydro turbines generates electricity that's transmitted to the grid. Solar energy is later used to pump the water back out of the duck.
When architecture graduate students Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta were asked to design a product to assist post-earthquake relief efforts in Haiti, they came up with LuminAID. This inventive solar-powered light is lightweight and lies flat for easy shipping. When it's needed, the user inflates the light and enjoys sixteen hours of rechargeable LED light. The light can be used in disaster areas, but is also great for gardens and boats.
A new material called Vantablack, from U.K.-based Surrey Nanosystems, absorbs all but 0.035 percent of the incident light that bounces off it. It's so black, you can't see it, even when its crumpled. The material could be used as a coating for the outside of stealth craft and weaponry or for the inside of sensitive telescopes designed to detect some of the faintest faraway objects.
This portable antenna works even if the network is down. It uses a phone's Bluetooth service to reach other goTenna users. The person in need turns on the antenna and then sends a text message using the goTenna app. The text gets sent first from the smartphone to the antenna, which then piggybacks the broadcast signal in analog onto other radio waves. It could work well in disaster areas when conventional cellphone towers are destroyed.
The Porter School of Environmental Studies is Israel's first LEED Platinum certified building. It will feature a green roof, solar and thermal energy-based air conditioning and a garden with biological wetlands to treat and recycle graywater, to name a few. The building will open later this year.
A drone equipped with two powerful antennas is able to detect the data packets emitted by mobile phones. Developed by Jonathan Cheseaux and his colleagues of EPFL in Switzerland, the vehicle could be used to locate victims hidden in the rubble created by a natural or manmade disaster.
The UK government has officially committed to building a commercial passenger spaceport within the next four years. They better hurry because according to their own assessment, both Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace will be operating regular flights to the edge of space in two years.
A new prototype from LG Display is so bendable that it can be rolled up to a diameter of 6 centimeters without adversely affecting the screen’s function. The paper-thin screen has a resolution of 1,200 x 810 with almost 1 million megapixels.
MIT roboticist Cynthia Breazeal shows off her latest creation, Jibo. This robot serves as a photographer, a storyteller, a personal assistant and a telepresence avatar.