This week we focus on the future, when the world is flooded, when fossil fuels are defunct and when robots do the heavy-lifting.
BIO-INSPIRED CAR FRAME: Turtle shells are strong and designed to protect the animal's soft tissue. A concept car inspired by the reptile was showcased at the Geneva Motor Show by German automotive supplier EDAG. The concept was meant to demonstrate how large-scale 3D-printing could be used to manufacture the entire body of a durable car.
As sea levels rise, humans will have to figure out how to cope with shrinking land. This interesting concept called Noah's Ark, from Serbian designers Aleksandar Joksimovic and Jelena Nikolic, shows one solution. Terraced fields provide enough land area to grow crops. Deep underwater towers act as ballasts for stability. Energy to sustain the floating city comes from solar, wind and ocean waves and rain provides freshwater for the inhabitants.
Designer Chris Robinson, who met his wife 20 years ago in Fukushima Japan, began a project two years ago, after seeing the devastation the tsunami did to Japan. Robinson lives in Palo Alto, Calif., which theoretically could get hit by a big wave under the right conditions. He wondered how his family would survive. The submarine-shaped boat he designed, called Tsunamiball, is built from marine-grade plywood covered in xyletol and epoxy. He plans to test the boat first in a pool and then later in the ocean.
German automaker Mercedes Benz may have a hydrogen fuel cell car in showrooms and ready for sale by 2017. The car, based on the B-Class F-Cell concept from 2009, could deliver a hydrogen range of 250 miles.
Hydrogen fuel cell cars need efficient hydrogen fuel cells. And while many labs are working on this technology, researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a graphene-based version capability of folding and unfolding into a three-dimensional box that can serve as a container for hydrogen. The technique could greatly increase a fuel cell's ability to store and release hydrogen.
Researchers at MIT have developed the first self-contained autonomous soft robot that's able to perform an escape maneuver almost as quickly as a real fish. The robot, which has a soft exterior powered by fluid flowing through flexible channels inside, was built to demonstrate the myriad configurations a flexible robot can achieve compared to a rigid one with hinges.
The Commute-Case is an electric scooter that folds down into the size of a briefcase. Designed by Green Energy Motors, the contraption, which normally sells for $5,990, is currently on sale for $2,995 as part of an introductory offer.
Stephen Power was wearing a helmet when his motorcycle crashed in 2012, but parts of his face still got crushed in the accident. In a project to reconstruct the man's broken cheekbones, top jaw, nose, and skull, maxillofacial surgeon Adrian Sugar and team members from the Centre of Applied Reconstructive Technologies in Surgery and the National Centre for Product Design and Development Research produced a 3-D model of Power's head and then used 3-D printing technology to create the replacement parts.
A system that combines brain scanning technology with brain recording and virtual reality can now allow a researcher to journey through a person's brain in real-time. Philip Rosedale, creator of the game Second Life, and Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California San Francisco, showed off their Glass Brain at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival in Austin, Tex. Although the technology cannot reveal what a person is thinking, the brain activity captured by a cap studded with electroencephalogram (EEG) electrodes paints a lovely picture of brain activity.
The HyQ, a quadruped robot created by the Italian Institute of Technology, has mad skills. In addition to the basics of walking, trotting and kicking, it can now maneuver over a wide variety of terrain, recover from a stumble and stay on its feet even when whacked by a 25-pound bag. The most impressive move it made, though, was walking across a V-shaped platform without slipping and falling.