EcoHelmet: this collapsible paper helmet just won a huge award

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Isis Shiffer just won a Dyson design award for the EcoHelmet, an ingenious paper helmet that folds down to the size of a banana but offers significant noggin protection. Read the rest

Very satisfying videos of thermoforming

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There's something very pleasing about watching the process of thermoforming, where a plastic sheet is heated atop a mould. Here's a cool example of even more complex manufacturing, using 3d modeling and pre-printed color sheets: Read the rest

Hypnotic videos of high-tech tractors

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If you've never gone down a rabbit hole of watching tractor videos, that may change after watching tractors topping tulips or planting potatoes on Tractorspotter: Read the rest

A gauge to accurately measure the force profile of a keypress

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Annoyed by reviews of keyboards that describe mechanical switches the way men in bow ties describe wine, HaaTa spent fabulous amounts of money constructing a custom gauge that generates meticulously accurate graphs of the pressure profile of keypresses.

I take keyboards way too seriously. However, unlike most of you, I’m an engineer. This means I need facts, data, and real evidence before I can form an opinion. And this lack of actual information has always bothered me when it comes to how the keyboard community at large tends to review switches.

Similar in function to charts of speakers' frequency response, the gauge anchors subjective experience in empirical data that can be verified independently of manufacturers' claims. There are good and bad sides to this sort of thing. On one hand, it burns off technophile mysticism and helps prevents it from being sold on to low-information consumers. On the other hand, the desire to free phenomena from human experience is futile.

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Big Mouth Billy Bass melded with Amazon AI Alexa

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Cambridge DIYer Brian Kane has a novel use for that old singing fish gag gift languishing in storage: hack it to mouth Amazon AI Alexa's utterances. Read the rest

Video compilation of 8 personal hovercraft that work

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This year has seen some interesting movement in the world of hoverbikes, hovering platforms that can support a standing human, and drone prototypes large enough to carry people. EUKA has an overview of 8 noteworthy examples. Read the rest

Tesla announces full self-driving hardware on all models

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Tesla released a video of a commute from home to office, including parking as a demonstration of its fully self-driving hardware. "The person in the driver's seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself."

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Interactive clothing via dynamic projection mapping

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Technically, cloth is a "deforming non-rigid surface," so projecting a stable image onto clothes is a big technological challenge. To solve it, Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory combined two new techniques that allow stable projection of an image onto clothes even as they move. Read the rest

Bridge demolition fails in spectacular fashion

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A large crowd came out to watch The Broadway Bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas be demolished. Either the bridge builders were very good, or the demolition team was very bad (maybe both), because the bridge withstood an impressive explosion. Read the rest

Watch spiderbots weave a hammock-like web

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Maria Yablonina developed a system for wall-climbing robots to weave fibers into useful structures on vertical surfaces, like this hammock-like web that can support a human. The bots can even trade the threaded bobbin between units. Read the rest

NASA's forgotten 3mm gauge movie camera

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Dino Everett of USC's Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive shows off a nifty little gadget: a working 3mm movie camera developed by Eric Berndt in 1960 for NASA's Mercury missions. Read the rest

Adorable doglike robot can climb fences and open doors

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The Ghost Minitaur is the latest iteration of terrifyingly cute agile legged robots. I for one welcome our doglike robot overlords. Read the rest

Controversial road diet reduced accidents, say scientists

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Los Angeles is a car town, so it's controversial to promote "road diets," a form of roadway reconfiguration intended to slow cars and reduce collisions, especially with cyclists and pedestrians. Scientists reviewed data from one controversial road diet and found that crashes were cut in half, and unsafe speed crashes dropped to zero.

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What is "design fiction?"

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I've been writing "design fiction" for years (see, for example, Knights of the Rainbow Table), and when people ask me to explain it, I say something like, "An engineer might make a prototype to give you a sense of how something works; an architect will do a fly-through to give you a sense of its spatial properties; fiction writers produce design fiction to give you a sense of how a technology might feel." Read the rest

Sobering overview of the future of autonomous weaponry

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Sarah A. Topol profiles Mary Wareham and several other experts concerned about the near future of autonomous weapons. Read the rest

Electronic temporary tattoo measures how drunk you are

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University of California San Diego nanoengineers developed a flexible, wearable sensor that measures the blood alcohol level of its wearer and transmits the info to a mobile device. From UCSD News:

The device consists of a temporary tattoo—which sticks to the skin, induces sweat and electrochemically detects the alcohol level—and a portable flexible electronic circuit board, which is connected to the tattoo by a magnet and can communicate the information to a mobile device via Bluetooth.

The device could be integrated with a car’s alcohol ignition interlocks, or friends could use it to check up on each other before handing over the car keys, he added.

“When you’re out at a party or at a bar, this sensor could send alerts to your phone to let you know how much you’ve been drinking,” said Jayoung Kim, a materials science and engineering PhD student.

"Noninvasive Alcohol Monitoring Using a Wearable Tattoo-Based Iontophoretic-Biosensing System" (ACS Sensors)

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Neural Dust: tiny wireless implants act as "electroceuticals" for your brain

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UC Berkeley researchers are developing "Neural Dust," tiny wireless sensors for implanting in the brain, muscles, and intestines that could someday be used to control prosthetics or a "electroceuticals" to treat epilepsy or fire up the immune system. So far, they've tested a 3 millimeter long version of the device in rats.

“I think the long-term prospects for neural dust are not only within nerves and the brain, but much broader,“ says researcher Michel Maharbiz. “Having access to in-body telemetry has never been possible because there has been no way to put something supertiny superdeep. But now I can take a speck of nothing and park it next to a nerve or organ, your GI tract or a muscle, and read out the data."

Maharbiz, neuroengineer Jose Carmena, and their colleagues published their latest results on "Wireless Recording in the Peripheral Nervous System with Ultrasonic Neural Dust" in the journal Neuron.

From UC Berkeley:

While the experiments so far have involved the peripheral nervous system and muscles, the neural dust motes could work equally well in the central nervous system and brain to control prosthetics, the researchers say. Today’s implantable electrodes degrade within 1 to 2 years, and all connect to wires that pass through holes in the skull. Wireless sensors – dozens to a hundred – could be sealed in, avoiding infection and unwanted movement of the electrodes.

“The original goal of the neural dust project was to imagine the next generation of brain-machine interfaces, and to make it a viable clinical technology,” said neuroscience graduate student Ryan Neely.

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