This week we turn to nature for inspiration, all the way from leaves that produce oxygen to humans that produce emotion.
ABOVE: The RollEvac concept is an all-terrain monocycle designed to autonomously evacuate wounded soldiers from the battlefield. The vehicle was inspired by the desert-dwelling Golden Wheel spider that flees from danger by curling into a ball and rolling down sand dunes. RollEvac is not necessarily meant for desert battles, though, but rather inaccessible places such as dense forests and mountainous environments.
This interactive game for children combines the old-fashioned physical motion of a see-saw with a modern-day electronic tablet. A screen in the middle displays a variety of games that have players competing or collaborating. With this game, children not only interact with an electronic device, but they get outside and interact with their peers.
UK-based McLaren Automotive is known for their Formula 1 champions. This year at the 64th Annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August, the car manufacturer will show off its newest concept, the P1 GTR supercar. Specs have not been fully released yet, but the car is expected to have 986 horsepower under the hood and sell for $3.36 million.
We have robotic vacuum cleaners so why not robotic tennis ball picker-uppers. This concept called Tennis Ball Boy from designers Yunjo Yu and Seonghyun Kim makes perfect sense. It sweeps the court with a velcro belt to pick up balls. Players simply slide out the drawer to retrieve the ball.
This week, researchers reported a phenomenon no one knew about before: bacteria build their own structures. When put into a saltwater solution that eventually evaporates, Escherichia coli bacteria manipulate the sodium chloride crystals to create a kind of 3-D shelter in which to hibernate. If the dried area is rehydrated, the bacteria revive. Not only are these creatures nature's smallest architects, but their behavior could help scientists find signs of life on other planets.
Digital avatars are still pretty robotic in their motions and expressions. A team of researchers from the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico are working to give computers more personality.
The team worked with volunteers and on each one, attached tactile sensors to the 43 muscles involved in facial behavior. The sensors released tiny electrical pulses to provoke different gestures and then the scientists captured those movements with a 3-D camera.
The data was combined with a computer model designed to animate the expressions and gestures of the virtual characters in situations of happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, anger and disgust.
This skyscraper proposal won first prize in the annual SkyScrapers & SuperSkyscraper Competition. Called Endless City, by SURE Architecture, this mixed-use vertical city features passive solar energy to heat and light space as well as various sustainable techniques in water and waste management.
Japanese railway company JR East is teaming up with Ferrari designer Ken Okuyama to build a luxury sleeper train -- think of it as a five-star hotel on rails. The Cruise Train will have 10 cars to accommodate 34 passengers in private suites. Guests can expect a high-end restaurant and lounge as well as top quality furniture and linens. Construction on the train will begin in 2016 and the first journey is expected to get underway in 2017.
Can't find your reading glasses? Don't worry. This display prototype from Fu-Chung Huang of Microsoft corrects your blurry vision. Huang overlaid an iPod with a clear film that had a grid of pinholes representing pixels. He wrote a computer program that chooses which pinhole pixels are revealed through the clear film.
In tests, he and his colleagues used a camera to simulate human vision, manipulating the lens to mimic farsightedness or nearsightedness. The algorithm was able to adjust the pixels and make the screen appear to be in focus.
The next step is to build in camera sensors that would analyze the reader's eyes, determine the sight correction and make the adjustment on the display.
Silk Leaf is a lightweight, low-power oxygen factory for space travel. It was designed by Royal College of Art Julian Melchiorri, who found a way to embed chloroplasts, the structures in plant cells responsible for photosynthesis, into a silk protein. The leaf absorbs water and carbon dioxide from the air to produce oxygen and could do the work of generating breathable air for long journeys through the cosmos.