Of the exciting tech stories to cross our desk this week, innovations that help people get from point A to B stand out. Take for example, a young man who made an elevator from a bicycle, or a group of researchers who designed an RFID ring that gives the wearer access to a subway, or virtual simulation of Elon Musk's Hyperloop that shows it could work or a wind-powered ship that has a hull that works as an airfoil. Read on.
Norwegian designers at Lade AS have designed a unique ship that they say would achieve fuel savings of 60 percent and reduce emissions by 80 percent. Their Vindskip (or Windship) has a specially designed hull that works like a symmetrical airfoil harnessing wind somewhat like the wing of a plane to generate "lift." The ship would also use a liquefied natural gas-powered electrical generator for additional power.
A virtual software simulation based on entrepreneur Elon Musk's futuristic Hyperloop shows that the tube-like train could work. Sandeep Sovani and his colleagues from the Canonsburg, Pennsylvania-based engineering simulation software company Ansys used illustrations and details from Musk's 58-page document and found that although the current design may not work, a few modifications could make Hyperloop a reality.
JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
In London this week, Dutch entrepreneur Van Abel unveiled the first ethically sourced smartphone, called the Fairphone. The company avoids sourcing materials from conflict zones or using factories with poor labor practices. More than 15,000 people have already ordered the new handset, which sells for $440, and is due to start shipping in December.
University of Illinois and Beckman Institute
Along with a team of researchers from the U.S., China, and Singapore, John Rogers University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has designed a prototype of a small, ultra-thin mesh electronic patch that adheres to a person's skin with a special glue. The patch is able to measure and collect data related to cardiovascular health, a person's cognitive state malignancy and other aspects of human physiology.
Researchers at Australia's national science agency, the CSIRO, developed a spring-mounted 3-D laser scanner that's able to scan and map buildings in record time. The success of the scanner, called Zebedee after a jack-in-the-box in the 1960s children's television series The Magic Roundabout, is due to its spring, which allows it to sway from side to side and see around obstructions, while also capturing small details from a variety of viewpoints. In a test, the scanner was able to map the interior of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in less than 20 minutes.
Guinness World Records
The 11-ton Tradinno, a 30-foot tall, 51-foot-long fire-breathing robotic dragon has been crowned the world’s biggest walking robot by the Guinness World Records 2014. Tradinno is 51 feet long and boasts a 40-foot wingspan. When it’s not breaking world records, the dragon’s main job is a prop/character in an outdoor rendition of “Drachenstich,” one of Germany’s oldest folk plays.
The Tower Infinity, which will be located near the Incheon Airport outside of Seoul, South Korea, will be designed with an optical illusion to make it appear invisible. The illusion will come from a high-tech LED facade that includes projectors and 18 weatherproof cameras strategically placed on the exterior. The cameras will capture real-time video and project them on the building. At certain times of the day, passersby will be able to "see" what's on the other side of the building, making it appear transparent.
The Ring Theory, Kickstarter
A 3-D printed ring embedded with an RFID chip could give subway riders in Boston an easy way to pass through the turnstiles. The ring, invented by two MIT students, Edward Tiong and Olivia Seow, is compatible with the city’s MBTA system and works like the CharlieCard, a rechargeable farecard, except that because riders wear the ring-card, they won't hold up lines at the turnstiles looking for their card.
Courtesy Ethan Schlussler
Sandpoint, Idaho resident Ethan Schlussler, 22, wanted to find better way to get to his treehouse, 22 feet above the ground. Ladders are so 2012. So he brainstormed with a friend and came up with the idea of using a bicycle as an elevator. Using an old bike, he removed the removed the tires and slung a cable so that it fit around the rear wheel. They is added a pulley system. The bicycle elevator takes Ethan less than 60 seconds to pedal his way up to his treehouse.
Jo McCulty, courtesy of Ohio State University
Ohio State University engineers took a crack at giving a camera lens some of the versatility of a human. They made a fluid-filled lens from a flexible polymer material that looks similar to an insect’s compound eye. Like an insect's eye, the lab-designed one has a single large lens made up of several small dome-shaped pockets, each filled with fluid. It's able to change its shape and focus, as well as alter the direction it focuses in.
Microsoft has unveiled the Surface 2, which sports a lighter and thinner design along with a full HD screen (the same as on the Surface Pro 2). Because there's a Tegra 4 chip under the hood, you get 72 cores of graphics performance for games like "Halo: Spartan Assault," even while running other apps side by side.
The Surface 2 is made of two pieces of magnesium, which allowed Microsoft to make the walls of the product thinner. The new white color of the device is designed to show off the sturdy mag frame more. [MORE: Best Tablets 2013]
The camera on the Surface 2 is 5X sharper, but Microsoft is touting the enhanced front camera more for Skype calls. A new third-inch sensor with a unique lens helps you make video calls in very dim lighting. Surface 2 owners will offer free international calling and free Skype hotspot Wi-Fi for a full year.
The new Surface 2 also promises to deliver 25 percent longer battery life. Other enhancements include double the bus speed for Wi-Fi and memory. The Surface 2 also moves from USB 2.0 to USB 3.0.
Because the Surface 2 runs Windows 8.1, you can run up to four apps side by side, including Office.
The Surface 2 won't take off without better Windows apps, though. And Microsoft has been working on that. There are now 100,00 apps in Windows Store. Flipboard, Facebook, Mint, NFL Fantasy and more are already in the store or coming soon.
Like the Surface Pro 2, you get two positions on kickstand. This helps you use the tablet in your lap. Combine that with the new uniformly backlit Type Cover 2 and its built-in predictive typing technology you should get a better typing experience.
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