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.
This July, PC Aero’s single-seater solar-electric Elektra One Solar airplane got some media attention by flying across the Alps in both directions within one trip. Starting in 2009, however, Solar Flight president Eric Raymond took his solar-electric Sunseeker II over the mountain range a number of times. This August, he did his own over-and-back trip … although this time he flew his two-seater Sunseeker Duo, which allowed him to bring his wife Irena along as a second pilot.
Readers of a certain age may remember those old-school roller skates that were strapped on over top of the user’s regular shoes. The Cardiff Skate Company recently brought the general idea back, but using rollerblade-type wheels instead of the original steel ones. Walk Wing takes the idea further, with strap-on skates that feature retractable rubber wheels.
Smartphones are already able to monitor things such as light, sound, movement and geographical location. Soon, airborne gases could be added to that list. That’s because VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed a miniature phone-compatible sensor, that uses light to identify the type and amount of gases in air samples.
If you should encounter a crewless ship out on the Atlantic Ocean in a few years, don’t worry about it being the ghostly Flying Dutchman … it may be the Mayflower, however. No, not the square-rigger that brought Pilgrims to America, but the Mayflower Autonomous Research Ship (MARS). Plans call for the wind- and solar-powered trimaran to sail itself from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 2020 – the 400th anniversary of the original ship’s journey – carrying out a variety of research projects along the way.
As any dedicated bicycle commuter will tell you, it’s important to let motorists know when and in which direction you’re turning. At night, however, drivers might not always see your hand signals. Using illuminated gloves is one solution, but British startup Cycl is now offering another: LED turn indicators that attach magnetically to the ends of your handlebars. They’re called WingLights, and we recently had the chance to try them out for ourselves.
A suspect says it on every forensics TV show ... "Of course my
fingerprints were at their house, I delivered a package to them earlier
this week!" Soon, though, that excuse may not be enough. Using a new
technique, investigators could be better able to determine how many days
ago fingerprints were left at a crime scene.
There are already plenty of external back-up batteries for smartphones,
although they won't do you much good if they've lost their charge by the
time you finally need them. That's where the Nipper comes in. It
provides some extra juice to your phone via two easily-obtained AA
batteries, and is much smaller than most other AA-powered chargers we've
Last November, California-based Made in Space grabbed headlines when one
of its specially-designed 3D printers became the first such device to print an object in outer space ... that was
within the protective confines of the International Space Station,
however. Now, the company is working on a printer that will work outside
the station, in the cold vacuum of actual outer space.
Amputees in developing nations frequently can't afford the high-end
prostheses used by people in other parts of the world. That's why
Technological University of Mexico spin-off company Protesta is
developing a low-cost artificial arm made from lightweight polyethylene
terephthalate (PET) plastic. As an added bonus, the arm will alert the
user if it gets too hot.
Unlike most other sea creatures, sea lions use their forelimbs
instead of a tail for propulsion. They also leave virtually no wake as
they travel through the water. With an eye towards applying this design
to human technology, George Washington University professor of
mechanical and aerospace engineering Megan Leftwich has developed a
robotic sea lion flipper.