This week, everything seems to be in motion. We have a hoverbike, autonomous robotic mine detectors, one-wheeled motorcycles, new EV delivery vans and floating satellite dishes. Don't blink.
The US Army signed a 5-year, $440 million contract with Alabama-based GATR to develop portable, beachball-sized satellites for military use. The 70-pound dishes were used in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, but because the devices are relatively lightweight, they could have applications in the field. The dish itself is made from fabric and is contained inside an inflatable sphere. It can be carried in a backpack, assembled onsite and up and and running in about 30 minutes.
You thought you'd seen everything, but you haven't seen a one-wheeled motorcycle. The Ryno comes from the Portland, Ore.-based company of the same name and was inspired by a vehicle that the CEO's daughter saw in a video game. The machine works something like a Segway; to power forward, the rider leans instead of turning a throttle. Also, like the Segway, its top speed is about 10 mph. This is not a vehicle for getting somewhere fast. But it looks fun and because it's electric-powered, it's also clean. Ryno says it will start shipping pre-orders starting this April.
This hoverbike is expensive and runs on regular unleaded, but it looks like the future. The $40,000 machine, designed by Australian Chris Malloy, can reach speeds of 173 mph at 10,000 feet. It's also classified as an ultralight, which means owners need a pilot’s license to take it for a spin. It's not in production yet, but Malloy said he'll drop the price if he gets more than 1,000 orders. Operators are standing by.
Soft plastics and pneumatic artificial muscles make up this orthotic device designed to help a person strengthen a weak or injured ankle. The artificial muscles move the wearer’s foot through a series of exercise movements designed to improve the ankle’s strength and range of motion while the patient is sitting.
By embedding nanoparticles in a transparent material, researchers at MIT have found an innovative way to turn glass into a computerized display. The electronically controlled particles work to scatter only certain wavelengths of light, while letting others pass through, resulting in images and words. The technology could lead to displays that project images onto store windows or provide car drivers with a windshield display without blocking the view.
Gone are the days of the black-and-white sonogram of the baby growing inside mommy. Now, thanks to 3-D printing and computer software, parents can get a 3D-printed version of their future child. 3D Babies offers to create artistic renditions of fetuses printed as 3-D figurines and they come in three sizes: an eight-inch Lifesize 3D Baby for $600, a four-inch Halfsize 3D Baby for $400 and a two-inch Mini 3D Baby for $200.
Inspired by the way cats use their whiskers to sense the environment, scientists have come up with an electronic version for robots. The "e-whiskers" are made from elastic fibers coated with conductive composite films of nanotubes and nanoparticles and could be used to help robots feel their way around a space when other sensory functions, such as sight, are unavailable or limited.
Worldwide, there are about 110,000,000 active landmines buried unseen. Researchers at the University of Coimbra in Portugal wanted to address that problem. So they converted a Husky robot from Clearpath Robotics into a landmine detector. The scientists added sensors such as GPS, stereo vision and a laser as well as a robotic arm that has a metal detector and a ground penetrating radar system to locate landmines.
Nissan and FedEx have partnered up to bring electric vehicle delivery to the United States. They've already had success in Japan and Singapore and are now testing the vans in Washington DC. The Nissan e-NV200, based on the Leaf, is 100 percent electric and is ideal for city delivery routes, where frequent breaking helps recharge the battery.
This hybrid, chainless bicycle called INgSOC, looks like an alien species from another planet. The design incorporates the organic curves seen on triathlon bikes. A battery powers head and tail lights, an iPhone charging dock and a motor that runs in three modes: battery-powered, battery assist and battery charge mode, which requires pedaling.
On January 22, the Apple Macintosh turned 30 years old. It was three decades ago when the first ad for this iconic computer ran during the Superbowl. Two days later, Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh at the shareholder's meeting. See the ad and a video of Jobs' introduction here. You've come a long way, baby.