Spectacular innovations always seem to be right around the corner. This week, we look at concepts that could become commonplace in the next few years, including edible mist, flexible touch screens, LED displays on vehicles and delivery drones. Above: This drone concept from Austrian firmWiGL Design
is aimed at the medical industry, where fast delivery of supplies and even organs can save lives. The drone takes off vertically and then transitions into a glider. A touchscreen offers secure locking and unlocking of contents.
General Motors has laid out the specs for its 2015 Corvette Z06, and the details are impressive. The car's 6.2-liter V8 LT4 engine will roar to life with 650 horsepower and 625 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful car the company has ever built.
Meza/Montemayor/Clarke/Greer at Caltech
A funny thing happens to materials on the nano-scale. Weak metal become strong and brittle materials become flexible. A team of researchers at California Institute of Technology want to capitalize on those traits and build supermaterials from the nanoscale up. Julia Greer and her team are exploring various nanostructures that allow scientists to incorporate hierarchical design into a material's architecture. The results could lead to very strong, lightweight materials or very thin, flexible materials that could be turned into any product you can think of.
Buildings just keep getting taller and taller. UK-based Chetwood Architects just unveiled plans for a pair of towers to be built in Wuhan, China. At 1 kilometer, the Phoenix Towers will be the world’s tallest pair of skyscrapers upon completion.
Charlie Harry Francis
The Edible Mist Machine produces 200 different flavors of mist that can be inhaled through a straw. The device comes from UK-based food inventor, Charlie Harry Francis, who has also created Popcorn Hairdryer, Nitro Ice Cream Buggy, Soup Washing Machine, Whirligig Glow in the Dark Ice Cream and the Olfactic Dog Nose just to name a few. The machine is not yet available for purchase, but can be hired for about US $1,100.
Thin, flexible electronic devices are closer than ever to becoming reality. German engineers at INM have found a way to print conductive nanoparticle ink directly onto thin plastic films. The material stays conductive even when bent, making it ideal for flexible electronics.
Si Hyeong Ryu via 2014 Electrolux Design Lab
Why not make good use of all that exercise? A concept treadmill, called The Wheel, dreamed up of industrial designer Si Hyeong Ryu, lets runners use their kinetic energy to wash clothes. The ring-shaped treadmill has canisters that can be filled with dirty clothes, soap and water. When the jogger runs, the motion spins the canisters, agitating the laundry.
The 2014 Camatte57 from Toyota is a cute little toy roadster meant to give kids an early appreciation for cars. A child can scan in his or her own artwork into a computer and have it displayed on the car's LED hood.
Eindhoven University of Technology
Adding wood fiber to ice makes a material called pykrete, which is three time stronger than pure ice. Who knew? A team of 50 faculty members and students from Eindhoven University of Technology, that's who. They want to use pykrete to build a 1:4 scale model of Barcelona's Sagrada Familia basilica. The 131-ft-high structure will be erected in Finland over a three-week period starting late this December.
Johann Kollegger and Benjamin Kromoser, TU Vienna
Concrete is strong, but forming it into a dome is expensive. Engineers Johann Kollegger and Benjamin Kromoser from the Vienna University of Technology have come up with a construction method that’s cheap and simple: inflating slabs of precisely shaped concrete that join together when they rise up.
Starting next month, a robot named hitchBOT will attempt to hitchhike across Canada. Using speech recognition, speech processing, and social media, it will try to charm its way from one coast to the other.
Its journey will commence on July 27th, 2014 at the Institute for Applied Creativity at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD). From there it will venture across Canada until it — hopefully — reaches Vancouver, British Columbia. That's a distance of 6,158 km (3,826 miles). Of course, that assumes a fairly direct route; depending on who pick it up, hitchBOT could go on a rather wild journey.
"Usually, we are concerned whether we can trust robots… but this project takes it the other way around and asks: can robots trust human beings?" noted Ryerson University's Frauke Zeller in a recent press release. "We expect hitchBOT to be charming and trustworthy enough in its conversation to secure rides through Canada." Zeller and his colleagues say it's part science experiment, part art project.
Other than its one hitchhiking arm, the device won't be capable of moving on its own. It will be completely dependent on others to move and transport it. Developer Harris Smith from McMaster University says it will look "like somebody has cobbled together odds and ends to make the robot, such as pool noodles, bucket, cake saver, garden gloves, Wellies, and so forth."
But hitchBOT won't be completely helpless. In addition to having speech recognition and processing capabilities, it will be able to pull information from a Wikipedia API to help it converse with people. And through 3G and wifi connectivity, hitchBOT will know its exact location and plan its journey.
The bot will also be somewhat self-preservational; hitchBOT will ask drivers to plug it into their car's cigarette lighter to charge its battery.
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