Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Ben Coxworth

A Harvard computer scientist has created a digital 'face transplant' system, that could be...

If you've seen the film The Social Network, then you might have wondered about the identical Winklevoss twins - were a real-life pair of twins cast for the roles, or was it a bit of Hollywood magic? Well, it was magic. Although two different actors' bodies were used, their faces both belonged to actor Armie Hammer. After the movie was shot, the body double's face was digitally replaced with Armie's. While such computer-enabled face-swapping trickery has so far been available only to feature film-makers with deep pockets, that could be about to change, thanks to research being conducted at Harvard University.  Read More

The Top Brewer is a coffee-making system that dispenses brewed-to-order hot beverages from...

Wouldn't it be cool if, along with your flying car and your robot butler, you had a tap in your kitchen that dispensed hot beverages? You'd just shuffle into the kitchen in the morning, and grab a cappuccino in the same way that you'd usually get a glass of water from the tap in the sink - that said, it probably wouldn't be a good idea to put your mouth right up to the coffee tap. Anyhow, such a thing does indeed now exist, and it's called the Top Brewer.  Read More

Germany's DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics flew its unmanned solar-powered ELHAS...

There's no doubt that satellites have become an essential part of our daily lives, making things like communications, navigation, weather forecasting, and remote imaging all possible. Unfortunately, the orbiting objects can be very expensive, both to build and to launch into outer space. For some of the functions that they carry out, however, an actual satellite isn't required - a high altitude, long endurance (HALE) aircraft could also get the job done, and at a much lower cost. Some such aircraft have been powered by conventional fuel, batteries, and hydrogen. On November 13th, though, the Electric High Altitude Solar Powered Aircraft (ELHASPA) joined the ranks of HALE aircraft to fly using nothing but the power of the Sun.  Read More

The Traxxas XO-1 is an all-wheel-drive electric radio-controlled car, with a claimed top s...

The Traxxas XO-1 is an all-wheel-drive electric car with a claimed top speed of over 100 mph (161 km/h). Not impressed? Oh yeah, it's also only 27 inches (68.6 cm) long, and weighs 10.3 pounds (4.67 kg) with batteries. The one-seventh scale radio-controlled model is billed as "the world's fastest ready-to-race radio-controlled supercar." This thing clearly isn't designed for use on the living room floor ... or on neighborhood roads.  Read More

MIT has developed an algorithm that predicts which cars are likely to run a red light, so ...

According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for the year 2008, over 700 fatalities resulted from drivers running red lights at intersections across the United States. Approximately half of the people killed weren’t the errant drivers themselves, but were other drivers, passengers or pedestrians who simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. One approach to reducing these numbers is to utilize technology such as Mercedes Benz’s Smart Stop system, that won’t let drivers run red lights. Scientists at MIT are looking at the problem from another angle, however – they have developed a system that identifies cars likely to run the reds, so that the other drivers can be warned to stay out of their way.  Read More

The multigait robot squeezes its way underneath a glass barrier

More and more, it’s looking like many of the robots in the not-too-distant future won’t be hard, humanoid C-3PO-like affairs, but will instead be squishy, soft-bodied devices. Not only would such robots be better able to withstand mechanical shock, vibration and compression, but they would also be able to do things like squeezing through small spaces – an ability which come in very handy in settings like disaster sites or battlefields. Previous experiments with soft-bodied robots have included Tufts University’s GoQBot, which was clearly inspired by caterpillars. More recently, scientists from Harvard University demonstrated a squishy creation of their own, which could probably best be likened to a robotic starfish ... although it was apparently also inspired by squids.  Read More

PREDIBIRTH is a software system that determines how likely pregnant women are to experienc...

In the United States, approximately one-third of all births are performed via cesarean-section. Here’s another statistic: emergency C-sections are six to seven times more likely to result in death or harm to the infant, than are planned C-sections. Therefore, if a significant percentage of the emergency cesareans could instead be planned, that would potentially save a lot of babies. That’s where PREDIBIRTH comes in. Developed by Dr. Olivier Ami and a team of researchers from France’s Université Paris Sud, the software can accurately predict the likelihood of difficult births, based on MRIs of pregnant women's bellies.  Read More

The mobislyder is a compact video camera sliding system, for use with smartphone cameras a...

I have to admit to occasionally doing something that’s perhaps a little dorky. If I’m listening to particularly moody music, I’ll sometimes close one eye, then simulate a tracking shot or a crane shot from a movie, by slowly moving my head past the items on my desk. Yeah, I look pretty dumb doing it, but the continuous change in perspective created by such a simple move really has a way of making even the most mundane scenes look ... poetic? Profound? Good videographers realize how powerful such shots can be, which is why some of them put their DSLRs or prosumer-level camcorders on camera sliding mechanisms like the Glidetrack. Now, users of smartphone cameras and pocket camcorders can get in on the smooth-tracking action, with Glidetrack’s compact new mobislyder.  Read More

The Little Printer is a cloud-connected thermal printer, that prints off mini newspapers c...

Even though computers were supposed to usher in a paperless society, the fact is that for some things, people still like the simplicity and durability of printed text. Now more than ever, though, we’re being told to cut back on unnecessary paper use. Well, that’s where the Little Printer comes in. Announced today by UK tech company BERG, the small box-shaped device is designed to search the internet using user-defined criteria, then print off a cash register receipt-like mini newspaper upon request. Users can then stuff that printout in their pocket, jam it into their wallet, or use the back of it for their next shopping list.  Read More

The Origami is a stroller that automatically folds itself up, with the push of a button

Appropriately enough called the Origami, the new baby product from 4moms is billed as “the world’s first power-folding stroller.” This means that it will fold itself down into a compact car-trunkable bundle, at the press of a button – another press gets it to open back up again. Evidently, however, that one feature just isn’t enough. It also has running lights and headlights, plus it will charge your cell phone. There’s no word yet on whether or not in can perform diaper changes.  Read More

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