The Labor Day weekend is upon us, but technology is not going on vacation. This week, we highlight innovations including roll-up batteries, transparent artificial muscles, robots that clean your house and a brain grown in a dish, just to name a few.
In a project called Warrior Web, the US Military is developing a soft, lightweight under-suit for soldiers that would reduce injuries and fatigue while improving the wearer's ability to walk, run, jump or crawl over a wide range of terrain. Durable and washable, the garment would boost endurance using no more than 100 watts of power.
This week, Boeing rolled out its first 787-9 aircraft, a variant of the Dreamliner. It's I20 feet longer than the 787-8 and will carry 250 to 290 passengers, 40 more than the 787-8.
Elio Motors recently announced financial plans for the future of its three-wheeled Elio, which costs $6,000 and gets 84 mpg. By the end of 2014, it hopes to sell 68,333 units, ramping up to a full quarter-million per year from 2015 onwards. Auto experts think that might be reaching a little too high.
Eliza Grinnell, Harvard SEAS Communications
Jeong-Yun Sun (left) and Christoph Keplinger (right) demonstrate their transparent ionic speaker, which uses ions, rather than electrons, to vibrate a rubber membrane. The material could lead to artificial muscles, transparent loudspeakers and power sources that generate electricity when squeezed or stretched.
An innovative idea from Yanko Design improves upon the battery. They've created a solar power strip that, when flattened under the sun, recharges. Users then roll up the strip into the shape of a AA-sized, AAA-sized or C-sized battery. The tighter you roll, the smaller the diameter of the battery.
Adrian Perez Zapata
Designer Adrian Perez Zapata is a semifinalist in the 2013 Electrolux Design Lab competition with his "Mab" concept for cleaning a house. The system incorporates hundreds of mini-robots that go forth and scrub, dust, sweep and shine. When they're finished, they return to a spherical home base to be recharged.
Madeline A. Lancaster
A team of European scientists has grown parts of a human brain in tissue culture from stem cells. The organoid, which took 20 days to grow, exhibited growth patterns seen in a developing, fetal brain and developed specific brain regions, such as the cortex and the hindbrain. Here all cells are in blue, neural stem cells in red and neurons in green.
Scientists at the TU Delft have built the world's smallest drone that comes with its own control system. The Lisa/S weighs just 0.07 ounces and measures only 0.8 x 0.8 inches. The micro aerial vehicle could be used for environmental surveillance as well as building reconnaissance.
In his latest visualization project, the Pittsburgh-based artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm imagines what the net household income of each neighborhood in NYC would look like if it were reflected in building height. The result: a towering cityscape of green, 3-D bars, where every $100,000 of net worth corresponds to one centimeter on Lamm’s map.
Robot enthusiast Adam Conway turned a drone into a flying Wi-Fi hotspot. Conway, a product manager at Aerohive, which provides corporate IT networks, used a quadrotor frame, some plywood, and an old router to build a drone that can provide a Wi-Fi connection over the local LTE phone network. Such a device could be handy in a post-disaster scenario or in areas lacking Internet.
Beware the glare. A London skyscraper under construction, called the “Walkie-Talkie” by locals for its distinctive shape, melted a black car parked nearby. The building’s curving, reflective exterior is also being blamed for scorching a van, cracking tiles and burning carpet.
Martin Lindsay recently parked his black Jaguar XJ on Eastcheap, a street near the 37-story 20 Fenchurch Street building under construction in London. Unfortunately for the tiling company director, the building curve concentrated a beam of light on the vehicle that was so powerful it warped some of the panels beyond repair. Before that, the ultra-bright reflection irritated pedestrians and melted the side panels on a parked Vauxhall Vivaro van.
The windows on the new building work sort of like a parabolic mirror, causing light reflections to converge and focus, the BBC’s Andrew Verity reported. Although the sun’s position creates the glare at certain times of day, it’s still been enough to cause a noticeably bright spot on the street — with enough heat to do damage. One reading from Tuesday measured the hotspot at 196.3 degrees Fahrenheit (91.3 Celsius).
City A.M.’s James Waterson reported that the building’s beam of light had also set fire to carpet at a neighboring barbershop as well as cracked tiles and melted paint at a restaurant. Dubbing the skyscraper “Walkie-Scorchie,” Waterson also just used the light beam to fry an egg in a pan on the Viet Cafe steps, site of the cracked tiles.
The skyscraper’s parabolic mirror effect recalls the “death ray” Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas that gave tourists sunburns and singed hair when the sun hit it at certain times of the day, first reported in 2010. In Los Angeles the curved, stainless steel Walt Disney Concert Hall also caused problems after it opened in 2003, blinding residents, passers-by and drivers with its glare. The steel exterior was sanded in 2005.
Meanwhile the Walkie-Talkie building developers told the BBC they suspended parking in the area and are currently working on a solution. The options aren’t easy or cheap. Suggestions have included coating the windows and reworking the window frames. Until this gets fixed, the neighboring restaurant could start serving novelty fried-egg sandwiches. Maybe they’ll call it the Light Breakfast Special.