This week we go back to the future and forward to the past.
In the 1989 movie, Back to the Future II, Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) time travels to the year 2015 and sports a pair of Nike Air Mags that auto-lace with the press of a button. Although Nike released 1,500 pairs of Air Mags in 2011 for a charity event, those shoes only resembled Air Mags in style and appearance. They didn't have the auto-lace function. Well, it looks like that function might be coming to a future near you. According toSole Collector
, Nike is reportedly delivering sneakers with the "power laces" next year.
The modern-day air in Beijing China is blowing the lid off acceptable pollution levels and posing a health risk to its citizens. London-based Orproject wants to take the city back to a time when air quality was pure and clean. Their solution? Gigantic, inflatable bubbles filled with fresh air to encapsulate a variety of parks and botanical gardens. Will China go for it? Don't hold your breath.
Carnegie Mellon University and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Thanks to millions of microscopic hair-like projections on the bottom of gecko feet, these animals are able to temporarily "stick" to any surface, even walk upside down across a glass ceiling. The feet retain their adhesive properties after many, many uses.
Scientists wanted to mimic that bonding behavior to create tape that could stick to a surface after many uses without getting dirty. They created creating mushroom-shaped elastic micro-hairs in a variety of sizes and then experimented with tiny dirt-like balls to see which micro-hair stayed the cleanest. It turned out the smallest version worked best at repelling dirt. Stay tuned for rolls of gecko tape at your local hardware store.
This recumbent bicycle from Munich-based TroyTec lets the owner change out forks, rear swing arms and wheels to create four main bikes. For just one bike frame, riders can get a low and high rigid racing bike as well as a low and high full-suspension comfort bike.
This glove from Fujitsu allows the wearer to control electronic devices with different gestures. Embedded with a wireless chip, the glove is meant to communicate with specific devices within a limited range.That means it won't turn on the television if you're in the next room. So far, it recognizes six different gesture commands with 98 percent accuracy.
Ghent University, Optical Express
In the future, computer chips will likely send digital information via light photons instead of electrons, the way information is currently sent along fiber optic cables. But in order for advanced technologies such as wearable sensors or touch-enabled robot skin to use fiber optic communications, they'll need connections that will stretch where joints bend and lengthen.
Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium have made the first optical circuits with stretchable interconnections. In lab tests, the interconnections were able to guide light signals when stretched by up to 30 percent.
Anne Ollila, Reindeer Herders’ Association
To help reduce auto collisions with reindeer in Finland, members of the Finnish Reindeer Herders’ Association are experimenting with a reflective coating that can be sprayed onto the animals' antlers and hides. The association plans to use the spray during next fall’s reindeer roundup.
Yvon Martel via YouTube
Canadian inventor Yvon Martel has built himself an electric sled he calls the My Track Technology. He put an electric motor and battery pack inside an aluminum box that powers a tank-like tread. To that, he added a handlebar. He can do everything from pull a sled for fun or haul logs for work. A single charge to the battery can get him a range up to 130 miles.
If we want future robots to be more human, we'll need them to be lighter but capable of carrying their own weight and maybe more. They'll need muscle. Scientists at the University of Texas at Dallas have been developing artificial muscle for years. Previously, they did a lot of research using carbon nanotubes, but their latest breakthrough comes from an unlikely source: fishing line. They found that by twisting fishing line into a spiral, they could use the coiled energy to lift objects 100 times heavier than natural muscle of the same size.
Ryan Larkin, Cornell University
This electronic glove is actually a musical instrument. It's called the Aura and it was designed by engineering student Ray Li at Cornell University. Sensors in the glove track the position and orientation of the player's hands in a magnetic field. The locations and positions of the hands are then converted into MIDI signals, the universal language for electronic instruments, then fed into a synthesizer, which outputs the notes.
“The goal was to create the most intuitive instrument,” Li said in a university press release. “We’re trying to capture those intuitive gestures and make music.”