An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.
Last June, a creation known as hitchBOT
successfully hitch-hiked its way across Canada. It has since also
traversed Germany. This July, its team decided to see how it would make
out in the US. Well, it lasted just over two weeks, until it was found destroyed in Philadelphia late last week.
Some higher-end prosthetic legs are equipped with things like gyroscopes
and accelerometers, in order to guide their knee joint through a more
natural bending motion. In developing nations, however, such expensive
prostheses usually aren't an option. That's why a scientist from MIT is
developing a knee that could allow inexpensive legs to perform like the
As of this week, drivers of BMWs may be a little less frustrated by
traffic lights. No, they don't now have the power to change red lights
to green, but they can at least find out how long it'll be before lights
change color. This feature comes courtesy of a partnership with
Orgeon-based startup Connected Signals, which makes an existing app
known as EnLighten.
For people with a serious obesity problem, dieting and exercising may not be enough on their own. Taking a pill that replicates the effects of exercise may be one solution, but scientists from the University of Kansas are developing what could be another – compounds that keep the fat in foods from being absorbed by the body.
Ever since the late 19th century, people have experimented with making textiles from natural-source-based gelatine, as a cheaper and less allergenic alternative to wool. Although the emergence of synthetic fibers largely put an end to that, a new technique may yet allow gel-based yarn to see the spotlight. The fiber is said to have an insulation quality similar to that of Merino wool, and the collagen used to produce it can be obtained from waste at animal-processing facilities.
We’ve already heard about drones being used to deliver pharmaceuticals to patients in remote locations, but scientists from Johns Hopkins University and Uganda’s Makerere University are now looking at the other end of the picture – using them to deliver remotely-located patients’ blood samples to labs in larger centers. According to a proof-of-concept study conducted by the researchers, the little unmanned aircraft should be able to do the job just fine.
While hub motors may be quite common on commuter e-bikes, they’re not so popular on full-suspension electric mountain bikes. That’s because they add unsprung weight, which nobody wants. Various companies have responded by developing motors that are located in the middle of the bike, near the bottom bracket. These solve part of the problem, although they have to actually be built into the frame. That’s why Germany’s Bionicon has created the e-ram – it’s reportedly the world’s lightest mid-mount motor, and it could potentially be installed on existing mountain bikes.
While there are already some truly tiny consumer drones out there, their protruding propellers still make them difficult to stuff into one’s pocket. AeriCam had been developing a model called the Anura, which featured props that folded into its sides – as a result, the whole aircraft became a pocketable rectangle. While we haven’t heard much about that one lately, Droidworx is now promising something similar in the form of its Blu quadcopter.
While city dwellers may be used to railway crossings marked with
flashing red lights, the easier-to-miss warnings at rural crossings
often just consist of a sign. That's because there's no easy way of
providing electricity to such isolated locations. While solar panels
could provide part of the solution, a team of engineering students and
faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln believe that photovoltaics
alone can't consistently provide enough power. Instead, they devised
several systems that harness power from the rails themselves.
While many people may like the "pop-in-your-mouth" texture of caviar,
not everyone likes the taste ... or the price. That's why Montreal
entrepreneur Naor Cohen created the grandly-named Imperial
Spherificator. It takes a liquid of your choice, and converts it into
fish egg-like pearls. Sriracha caviar, anyone?