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.
Assistive exoskeletons are a bit like electric bikes – they do indeed give users a power boost, but part of that boost is needed just to move the extra weight along. Japanese researchers at Hiroshima University and Daiya Industry Co., however, have created a minimalist exoskeleton that does away with heavy batteries and motors. Instead, their Unplugged Powered Suit (UPS) harnesses the wearer's own weight.
Christmas shopping for the electrical engineer who has everything? Well, chances are they don't have the Voltmeter Alarm Clock. Made by novelty electronics manufacturer Awkward Engineer, it looks like a vintage analog voltmeter, except it displays hours and minutes instead of volts and amps.
Although methane is one of the most potent of the greenhouses gases, scientists still aren't entirely clear on all of its ground-based sources. That's why researchers from Sweden's Linköping and Stockholm universities have created a camera that's capable of imaging methane in real time. They say that it could find use in monitoring sources such as sludge deposits, combustion processes, farms and lakes.
Credit card and banknote-style security holograms are an effective form of anti-counterfeiting technology, as they're very difficult to replicate. Every time a new batch is made, however, a "master hologram" has to be created first, to act as a template. These masters can take days to produce, using complex, expensive equipment. That could be about to change, however, as scientists at Russia's ITMO University have developed a quick-and-easy hologram production method that utilizes a regular inkjet printer.
As the engineers who developed Ford's kick-activated tailgate realized a few years ago, people tend to use their feet to perform tasks when their hands are full. Now, a team of researchers at the MIT Media Lab team has applied the same sort of thinking to the control of electronic devices. Their prototype KickSoul system lets users wirelessly control smartphones, computers and appliances using foot movements.
If the movies and TV are to be believed, picking a conventional lock is as easy as sticking a tool into a keyhole, thoughtfully moving it around for a few seconds, then pulling the door open with a crafty smile. While there are special high-security locks that are much harder to pick, they also tend to be quite expensive. That's why Canadian inventor Ryan Bowley created the Bowley Lock – it's claimed to be virtually pick-proof, yet affordable to the average home-owner.
Bicycles can definitely get in the way when parked against the wall in a small apartment. That's why Dublin-based entrepreneur Sinead Geraghty created the Stowaway. It's a pulley-based system that lets you store your bike up against the ceiling.
Large sprawling airports in unfamiliar cities can be difficult places to find your way around. While it helps if someone can point you in the right direction, what's best is if they can actually take you where you want to go. Well, that's where Spencer comes in. "He" is a multi-lingual robot that's designed to guide travellers through airports.
Along with its use in jewellery, gold also has numerous applications in fields such as electronics and scientific research. It's a handy material, but – of course – it's also expensive. That's why researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a new way of making a small amount of gold go a long way. They've created a gold foam that looks much like solid gold, but is actually 98 parts air to two parts solid material. As an added bonus, the aerogel-type foam can also be made in non-gold colors such as dark red.
When it comes to angling for big predatory fish, live bait is almost always the best way to go. Those bait fish must be caught and kept in a special "live well" aboard the boat, however, plus they'll inevitably tire out after spending much time at the end of the line. That's why Boston-based Magurobotics created the Zombait – it's a vaguely creepy device that makes dead bait fish move as if they're still alive.