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.
If you've ever watched a flying bird weaving its way through a forest, you may have wondered how it could do so without hitting its wings on the trees. Well, birds actually do
hit trees with their wings. Unlike the rigid wings of an aircraft, however, birds' wings simply fold back under impact, then immediately fold open again to maintain flight. Now, scientists from Stanford University have developed wings for flapping-wing drones that do the same thing.
In the near future, it's entirely possible that babies with heart defects will be born with complete pacemakers already installed. That's because scientists at Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) and the University of Southern California have developed the world's first fully-implantable pacemaker for fetuses.
The keyless Bluetooth bike locks are now coming thick and fast ... relatively speaking. In just the past couple of years, we've heard about the Skylock
and Noke U-lock
. Now, the Kadalock has appeared on our radar. It differs from the others in that it's a cable lock, and it mounts on the user's existing water bottle cage.
Because of its sweet flavor and aroma, thousands of wild animals, pets and children are poisoned by drinking automotive antifreeze/coolant every year. Its particularly nasty ingredient is ethylene glycol, which affects the central nervous system, heart and kidneys to the point that it can ultimately prove lethal. Now, however, scientists from Colorado-based ACTA Technology, Inc. have replaced the ethylene glycol with another compound that's not only safe, but that also improves the performance of the antifreeze.
We've already heard about two
in which scientists are developing camouflage systems inspired by squids' color-changing skin. If they're successful, the result could be military clothing that can change its coloration to match the environment. It's an intriguing idea, although it presumably still wouldn't allow soldiers to avoid detection by infrared cameras at night. Now, however, researchers from the University of California at Irvine are developed a stick-on covering that could let them do so.
The ability to view real-time video from a quadcopter's onboard camera is certainly a handy feature, but let's be honest – there are probably a lot of people who just think, "Wouldn't be great if I could use this to shoot at stuff?". Well, German cyberpunk weapons tinkerer Patrick Priebe
has adapted an off-the-shelf drone so it can do just that – using a laser.
In various types of manufacturing, parts are robotically picked and placed using graspers or suction cups. The former can damage fragile items, however, while the latter won't work in vacuums or on rough surfaces. That's why scientists from Germany's Leibniz Institute for New Materials (INM) have developed – well, a new material. It utilizes the same principle as sticky gecko feet
, but its gripping quality can be switched on and off as needed.
While there certainly are drivers who knowingly exceed the speed limit, many others aren't even aware that they're doing so. Given that using cruise control isn't all that practical when driving around town, Ford has instead introduced the Intelligent Speed Limiter. The technology will debut on the newest incarnation of the automaker's S-Max
In its recent Ah A May exercise, Yamaha both spelled its own name backwards, and got two groups of its designers to trade places – musical instrument designers from Yamaha Corp were tasked with creating motorcycles, while motorcycle designers from Yamaha Motor Company had to create instruments. We've already seen the interesting musical devices
that resulted, but now here's the pair of two-wheelers.
Whether they're on robots or amputees, artificial hands tend to be rather complex mechanisms, incorporating numerous motor-driven cables. Engineers from Germany's Saarland University, however, have taken a different approach with their
hand. It moves its fingers via shape-memory nickel-titanium alloy wires, bundled together to perform intricate tasks by working like natural muscle fibers.