Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Ben Coxworth

The WHILL on display at the Tokyo Motor Show (Photo: Gizmag)

Wheelchair users with full use of their arms generally don't need electric wheelchairs ... but sometimes, especially if those users have long distances to cover, it sure would be nice to have one. Instead of going out and buying themselves a full electric wheelchair, however, those people may soon have the option of using a WHILL. Recently spotted by Gizmag staff at the Tokyo Motor Show, the prototype device clamps onto the wheels of an existing manual wheelchair, temporarily providing it with electric drive.  Read More

The smart for-us is a concept car, that combines a smart fortwo with a pickup truck

Much as some people loathe it, I’ve always kind of liked the Subaru Baja. It has the quirky short-bed car/truck look of the Hummer, but isn’t anywhere near as large and nasty as that vehicle. Well, the designers at smart have taken the “little Hummer” idea to the extreme, with the for-us concept. Premiering next month at the North American International Auto Show, the two-seater electric car looks pretty much like a smart fortwo ... with a little cargo bed in back.  Read More

The ROBOCAST Project is developing a robotic system for assisting with keyhole neurosurger...

In keyhole neurosurgery, a small “burr hole” is drilled in the patient’s skull, and their brain is then accessed through that hole. The procedure is much less invasive than many other types of brain surgery, and can be used for things such as exploratory endoscopy, biopsies, blood and fluid sampling, cryogenic and electrolytic ablation (tissue removal), and deep brain stimulation. It is used to treat conditions including tumors, hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain), Parkinson's disease, Tourette syndrome, and epilepsy. For a neurosurgeon, however, it can sometimes be extremely exacting work – a slip of even a fraction of a millimeter can cause permanent brain damage. That’s why the European Union’s ROBOCAST (ROBOt and sensors integration for Computer Assisted Surgery and Therapy) Project is developing a robotic system to help out.  Read More

A cross-section of engineered cartilage tissue, which initially incorporated fast-degradin...

Injuries involving torn or degraded joint cartilage can be very debilitating, especially since that cartilage is incapable of healing itself, past a certain point. It's not surprising, therefore, that numerous scientists have been working on ways of either growing replacement cartilage outside of the body, or helping the body to regrow it internally. Just a few of the efforts have included things like stem cell-seeded bandages, bioactive gel, tissue scaffolds, and nanoscale stem cell-carrying balls. Now, researchers from Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University have announced something else that shows promise - sheets of mesenchymal (bone and cartilage-forming) stem cells, permeated with tiny beads filled with the growth factor beta-1.  Read More

The CICADA is a gliding unmanned air vehicle, designed to deploy sensors in enemy territor...

When soldiers want to gather intelligence in enemy territory, they often have to travel into that territory themselves, depositing acoustic, magnetic, chemical/biological or signals intelligence sensors by hand. Not only does this place the soldiers in harm's way, but the logistics of such missions can also end up being quite costly. That's why the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Vehicle Research Section created the CICADA unmanned air vehicle (UAV). The tiny sensor-equipped glider was successfully tested at Arizona's Yuma Proving Grounds on September 1st.  Read More

magnetU is a wearable electronic device, that wirelessly seeks out other magnetU-users who...

When I was younger and cared a lot more about being “cool,” I would sometimes wear T-shirts with the names of my favorite rock bands on them. While this was partly just to show off my supposed musical enlightenment to the world, it was also in hopes that some like-minded person (preferably female and attractive) would see it and strike up a friendship with me. Well, magnetU is sort of like a high-tech band T-shirt. The wearable radio frequency device wirelessly transmits your personality profile to the world as you roam the streets, ever on the lookout for another magnetU transmitting a compatible profile from a nearby person. Should that occur, both devices will alert their owners that a potential social match is in the vicinity.  Read More

Aptera Motors announced last Friday that it has ceased operations

With its stunningly-exotic “car of the future” looks, extremely high claimed fuel efficiency, and a projected price of under US$30,000, the Aptera was a car that captured many peoples’ imaginations. Perhaps best of all, when the vehicle was initially launched, the first consumer models were slated for delivery by the next year – this appeared to be no pie-in-the-sky concept. After several years of pushing that delivery date forward, however, Aptera Motors announced last Friday that it was ceasing operations.  Read More

bioWAVE is a wave power system, inspired by the swaying motions of kelp plants

Anyone who has ever been scuba diving in a bull kelp forest will tell you - the stuff does not stand still. The marine aquatic plant consists of a long skinny-but-tough stem (or stipe) that is anchored to the sea floor and topped with a hollow float, from which a number of "leaves" (or blades) extend to the surface. The result is a seaweed that extends vertically up through the water column, continuously swaying back and forth with the surging waves. The researchers at Australia's BioPower Systems evidently looked at that kelp, and thought, "what if we could use that swaying action to generate power?" The result was their envisioned bioWAVE system, which could soon become a reality, thanks to a just-announced AUD$5 million (US$5.1 million) grant from the Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources.  Read More

A team has claimed the complete prize purse in DARPA's Shredder Challenge, two days before...

At the end of October, DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) launched its Shredder Challenge contest. The objective: create a system for reconstructing shredded papers, then demonstrate it by piecing together five documents, the shredded remains of which were posted on the contest’s website. Although the contest had a December 4th deadline, the “All Your Shreds Are Belong to U.S.” team correctly reassembled all five documents with two days to spare.  Read More

The SteadePod is a camera-stabilizing device, that holds the camera steady using upward te...

When most of us want to steady a camera for a long exposure or telephoto shot, we look for something that will accept the camera’s weight, such as a tripod or a handy flat horizontal surface. The pocket-sized SteadePod, however, uses what could almost be considered the opposite approach – it requires the user to pull up on the camera, the upward tension serving to stabilize their shot.  Read More

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