This week we look at the future of travel and amazing ways to store and create renewable energy.
With this touchscreen, called Thumbles, users twist and turn tiny autonomous robots that move around on top of a projected screen. The moving robots serve a couple of functions, among them providing force feedback or representing virtual objects on the screen, such as molecules.
Solar Wind Energy Tower Inc.
Maryland-based energy company, Solar Wind Energy Tower, wants to build their namesake: a tower that generates renewable energy. The huge tower would rely on sunlight to heat the top, where water vapor mists into the air. As the vapor evaporates, the air cools and drops, creating wind up to 50 miles per hour. That wind powers turbines at the bottom that generate 500 megawatts of electricity. The company wants to have the tower built near the Arizona-Mexico border by 2018.
Croatian based automaker, Rimac, recently received $11 million to push the dream of their electric-powered Concept One sports car into the realm of reality. These are high-end electric vehicles that have four electric motors cranking out 1,088 horsepower and 1,180 foot-pounds of torque. The car goes from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds and has a battery range of 373 miles. Six cars have already been ordered for $1 million each.
This electrochemical supercapacitor is about a hundredth of an inch thick. Developed by researchers at Rice University, the battery-like device is simpler and safer than lithium-ion. The supercapacitor charges quickly with a high current rate and discharges in a short amount time. It retains 76 percent of its capacity over 10,000 charge-discharge cycles.
Not all drivers are smart and so it helps to have a smart bike. The Vanhawks Valour, a carbon fiber Bluetooth-connected bike, has sonar sensors that detect when a car has come into the cycler's blind spot. When that happens, it delivers a vibration to the handlebars, warning the rider that a car may be encroaching on your personal ride bubble. Other sensors measure speed, distance and calories burned, and riders can use a smartphone app to track the data.
Xavier Maître, University of Paris-South
An interesting exhibit at La Gaîté Lyrique, an art center in Paris, uses medical imaging and a mirror to give attendees a unique view of their body. Created by Xavier Maître, a medical imaging researcher at the University of Paris-South, the experience uses a Kinect camera to track a person's movement. Software analyzes whether the person is male or female and then provides a real-time animation that moves with the person, showing him or her how their organs and muscles move.
NRG Energy and MidAmerican Solar
The Agua Caliente project in Arizona just came online and it is officially the world's largest solar panel power plant. Owned by NRG Energy and MidAmerican Solar, the plant will generate 290 megawatts at peak capacity, enough to power 230,000 homes.
The Fly Citycopter concept from designer Eduardo Galvani is a two-person aircraft that can be parked on a roof. The electric-powered vehicle is currently designed to have a 300-mile range and a top speed of 120 miles per hour. Pilots could stop and recharge at any one of a number of electric vehicle charging stations popping up all over the country.
Beginning May 17, theHigh Museum of Art in Atlanta
will show off 17 concept cars from the early 1930s to the 21st century that embody visionary thinking. Although none have been mass-produced, their presence has inspired automakers and car enthusiasts around the world. Shown here is Marcello Gandini's "Stratos HF Zero" (1970), a wedge-shaped car only 33 inches tall. The exhibit goes until Sept. 7.
Mike Ko via Vimeo
Apple has filed a patent for a holographic phone, a concept that sounds absolutely cool. We can't wait. But what would it look like? A video created by animator Mike Ko, who has made animations for Google, Nike, Toyota, and NASCAR, gives us an idea. Check it outhere
From “Star Trek” to “Tron,” the concept of porting yourself into a digital world has long been a dream of super high-tech science fiction storytelling.
Turns out you can do it yourself at home.
Well, kind of. Oliver Kreylos, a researcher at the Institute for Data Analysis and Visualization at U-C Davis, has created a DIY virtual reality rig using the Xbox Kinect system and the Oculus Rift head-mounted display.
Kreylos started out by mounting three motion-sensing Kinect devices in a triangle to generate a real-time 3-D image of himself. He then sent the data into the Oculus Rift headset along with a separate data stream of a virtual office environment.
The result — a homebrew holodeck where you can navigate a virtual environment and look down to see your own body.
The avatar image is admittedly lo-res and glitchy, Kreylos says, but feels more “real” than motion-capture avatars.
“One of the things we’ve noticed [is that] even with low-res and low-quality 3D video, the resulting avatars just feel real, in some sense even more real than higher-quality motion-captured avatars,” Kreylos writes on his blog. “I believe it’s related to the uncanny valley principle, in that fuzzy 3D video that moves in a very lifelike fashion is more believable to the brain than high-quality avatars that don’t quite move right.”
Kreylos’ clever hack isn’t exactly a do-it-yourself home project yet. The consumer model of the Oculus Rift isn’t expected for at least a year — Kreylos used a developer’s model. He also did some tweaking of the Kinect sensors to reduce lag issues.
The project is geared toward remote collaboration, but clearly the potential for gaming and recreational use is enormous. I imagine the GDP will take a hit when everyone can generate their own virtual reality at home, but hey — that’s progress for you. Check out the video below.
Credit: Oliver Kreylos