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.
In honour of the soon-to-be-released new James Bond film Spectre, our techno-weapons-tinkerin' friend Patrick Priebe has created something else that you should never try building at home. It's a working plasma "cannon" disguised as a digital watch, and is just the sort of thing that 007 might use to escape from the clutches of … well, of the Spectre group.
Two years ago, Porsche first revealed its Macan line of compacts SUVs to the world. Now, at the Tokyo Motor Show, the automaker has unveiled the latest member of that family – the 2017 Macan GTS. Among other things, it offers more power than its predecessors, along with a reengineered suspension, unique exterior/interior appointments, and new connectivity options.
According to the World Health Organization, nitrogen dioxide (NO2)-based air pollution contributes to over 7 million deaths per year – children and the elderly are particularly at risk. Thanks to research being carried out at Australia's RMIT University, however, it may soon be possible to receive early warnings of dangerous NO2 levels in the air around you … via a sensor in your smartphone.
Speech-to-text systems already exist, as do augmented-reality displays. Now, a group of New York City teens led by Daniil Frants (who interned at the MIT Media Lab when he was 14) have combined the two technologies to form the Live Time Closed Captioning System (LTCCS). Once up and running, it could revolutionize the way in which deaf people communicate with the hearing world.
When it comes to electric cars, there tend to be two types – those that try to look totally normal (like the Tesla Model S) and those that look ultra-futuristic (like the Aptera 2e). Tennessee-based Shockwave Motors, however, has taken another approach. The design of its three-wheeled Defiant EV3 Roadster is distinctly "classic." It's the electric car that ZZ Top might drive.
If you've watched any of the various CSI TV shows, then you'll already be familiar with luminol. It's a chemical that, when sprayed onto trace amounts of blood that aren't visible to the naked eye, causes that blood to glow a pale blue. Unfortunately, however, the application of luminol and its reagent chemically compromises the crime scene, plus the glow can't be seen outdoors in sunlight. That's why scientists at the University of South Carolina are exploring the use of an innocuous alternative substance … steam.
If you were talking to someone and they blatantly shifted their attention to something else, chances are you'd have something to say about it. Most interactive robots, however, wouldn't even notice. That's why scientists at Japan's Toyohashi University of Technology have developed Talking-Ally, a robot that knows when it's being ignored.
Although stroke victims do receive some rehabilitative therapy while at the hospital, it's difficult for physiotherapists to track their progress once they've gone home. As a result, according to Prof. Thenkurussi Kesavadas at the University of Illinois, many of them end up declining in fine-motor abilities. That's why he's leading an effort to create a system that would allow them to continue supervised therapy, via their home computer.
Of all the bicycle light setups out there, Revolights has got to be one of the most unique. Using rim-mounted LEDs, it turns the bike's wheels into very eye-catching head- and tail-lights. Its San Francisco-based creators are now set to release a new version of Revolights known as Eclipse +, which adds wireless functionality to the mix.
Despite what various spy movies may have us believe, sending people into buildings' ductwork isn't a good idea. That said, those ducts do need to be cleaned periodically, otherwise the human inhabitants of the buildings can develop serious respiratory problems. Robots have been designed to do the job, although they've generally been wheeled or tracked devices that can only move horizontally. Now, however, scientists at UC San Diego's Jacob's School of Engineering have created DucTT – a highly-efficient robot that can climb up ducts, and run for up to six hours on one charge of its battery pack.