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Ben Coxworth

Dutch artist Olaf Mooij's 'braincar' records images of its travels, then projects them on ...

Have you ever questioned what it would be like if a car “could experience with a kind of consciousness its own passage through spacetime”? Well, Rotterdam artist Olaf Mooij has. It drove him to create “braincar,” which is ... well, it’s a car with a brain on the back. By day, the car captures stills and videos of its travels down the roads. By night, it remixes those images, then projects them on the inside of its translucent brain.  Read More

Scientists are experimenting with using genetically engineered spider silk proteins in the...

Spider silk is pretty amazing stuff. Pound for pound, it has a tensile strength close to that of steel while being one-fifth as dense, it’s tougher than Kevlar, and it can stretch to almost one-and-a-half times its length without breaking. As if that wasn’t enough, it now appears that a genetically engineered version of the substance could be used for delivering genes into human cells.  Read More

Willow Garage has just released the PR2 SE, a lower-priced one-armed version of its PR2 ro...

Among the various scientific/industrial robots in the marketplace, Willow Garage’s PR2 is one that stands out. This is because both its hardware and software are open-source – users are encouraged to share their latest upgrades and customizations with one another. With various parties using a common platform, instead of all having to start from scratch, Willow Garage hopes to move the field of robotics forward faster than would otherwise be possible. To that end, the company recently gave ten PR2s to groups involved in robotics research, to keep for up to two years. This Wednesday, commercial availability of the PR2 SE was announced. It costs US$285,000, which is significantly less than its sibling’s $400,000 price tag – users will just have to work around the fact that it only has one arm.  Read More

Ian Williams and and Anders Warn, with the WilliamsWarn beer brewing machine

Home beer-brewing is sort of like writing a novel – although you might like the idea of having done it, the thought of all the work involved in doing it can be off-putting. If the PR materials are to be believed, however, the WilliamsWarn brewing machine could make the process a lot easier ... and quicker. Unlike the four weeks required by most home brewing systems, it can reportedly produce beer in just seven days.  Read More

MIT has developed a system known as GelSight, that uses painted rubber to obtain 3D images...

Typically, if someone wishes to obtain three-dimensional images of micrometer-scale objects, they need to use a device such as a confocal microscope or a white-light interferometer. Such equipment is big, expensive, and often has to be mounted on a vibration-free table. Even then, it can take up to a few hours to get the finished images. Scientists at MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, however, have created a system that can obtain the same kind of images almost instantly, using a soda can-sized sensor and a sheet of rubber. It’s called GelSight.  Read More

Two groups of entrepreneurs are currently developing separate products (one of which is th...

Riding a bicycle on busy streets full of motorized vehicles can be risky enough in the daytime, but it potentially becomes even more dangerous at night, when motorists are less likely to see cyclists. Much of that risk can be minimized by using a bright headlight and strobing taillight, although those don't do much to increase a cyclist's visibility when seen from the side - and even if they did, there's no such thing as being too bright. Two separate projects, however, are aimed at developing systems that would allow a bicycle's wheel rims to act as running lights that would be hard not to notice.  Read More

The NuVinci Harmony continuously variable planetary e-bike transmission automatically main...

Fallbrook Technologies released the NuVinci Continuously Variable (CVP) N170 transmission for bicycles in 2007. The rear hub-based system does away with distinct, defined gears, it’s sealed against dirt and other contaminants (unlike a derailleur), and it allows riders to change drive transmission ratios even when standing still. Last year, the company unveiled the NuVinci N360, which is smaller and lighter than the N170, yet has a wider range of ratios. This Tuesday, Fallbrook announced yet another incarnation of the technology – the NuVinci Harmony, which is an auto-shifting version of the N360.  Read More

The Moto-Grip (seen here with the Moto-Grip Jr.) is a harness worn by a motorcycle operato...

If you've ever been the extra passenger on a racing or sport-touring motorcycle, then you'll know that it can be rather awkward. You typically sit higher than the rider, so you have to lean forward and down to grab them around the torso. If you aren't that chummy, you might instead choose to sit upright and reach behind you to clutch the rear grab-bar - definitely not the best way to keep from being thrown off the bike, either backwards or forwards. New York product designer and motorcyclist Andrew Lewis has come up with what he believes is a better solution - the Moto-Grip.  Read More

A new system for checking the quality of wood involves vibrating it at a rate of 20,000 ti...

When choosing wood for applications such as load-bearing beams in houses, it's important not to use pieces that contain cracks or other defects that could affect their structural integrity. While not quite as crucial, it's also nice to avoid flaws when building things like wooden furniture, piano soundboards, or window frames. Typically, people have been limited to visually checking the wood for such defects. Now, however, researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research have developed a system that highlights faults invisible to the human eye, using a process called high-power ultrasound thermography.  Read More

The Avatar-based Virtual Co-driver System is designed to replace a vehicle's owner's manua...

At one time not all that long ago, cars had a warning light on the dashboard that simply said “ENGINE.” That’s pretty vague. Really, it might just as well have said “CAR.” Some newer automobiles now have codes that appear on the console, which the driver must then look up in an index in the vehicle’s owner’s manual. Working with Audi, Germany’s Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) Institute of Business Informatics is now working on taking things a step farther, with the development of an on-screen avatar that will talk to drivers, and even understand their spoken questions.  Read More

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