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.
Mussels have an incredible ability to cling to wet surfaces. It's an ability that scientists are trying to replicate
for use in man-made adhesives. That adhesion can't be turned on and off
as needed, however, limiting its potential applications. That's where
the Northern clingfish comes in. It can suck onto rough, slimy surfaces,
supporting up to 150 times its own body weight when lifted. That said,
it can also just let go and swim away whenever it wants. Scientists from
the University of Washington now understand how it's able to do so, and
are looking at applying the principle to fields such as surgery and
In order to conduct electrical signals from the skin, the electrodes
on heart rate monitors need to be slightly moist. That's why gel is
first applied to patients' skin. Unfortunately, that gel dries up within
24 hours. Now, however, scientists from Switzerland's Empa research
institute are developing a solution – a self-moistening heart
rate-monitoring chest strap, for use in situations where
electrocardiograms (ECGs) need to be recorded over a period of several days.
Some hobbyists might already be familiar with micarta, a solid material
made from layers of denim that have been bonded together with resin.
While it's usually carved to create objects such as knife handles, UK
startup Mosevic is using a micarta-like substance to make something else – blue jeany-looking sunglasses.
If you've ever seen a bat in flight, then you'll know how quickly and
precisely they can maneuver. Scientists from Johns Hopkins University,
Columbia University and the University of Maryland have now uncovered
one of the key factors that allows them to do so – and it could have
applications in the design of aircraft.
There is already a way of running with your young children – you
push them in front of you, in a running-style stroller. With your arms
holding onto its handle, however, your form isn't exactly ideal. That's
why a group of entrepreneurs from Bend, Oregon has created the
kidRunner. It's a kid jogger that you tow.
When it comes to donated blood, type O is special. It can be given to anyone, regardless of their blood type. By contrast, type A can only go to A or AB patients, and B can only go to B or AB patients. Additionally, type O patients can only receive O. Thanks to new research, however, it may soon be possible to give anyone whatever type of blood happens to be available, with no ill effects.
Competitive cyclists like to track their power output, and many use a power meter
in order to do so. Those meters mostly take the form of a device that's either added to or built into one crank arm, and they can cost anywhere from around US$1,000 to over $2,000. The Limits power meter, however, simply goes between the pedal and crank of any bike, and is planned to cost less than $400.
Flying a drone can be a nerve-racking experience. No matter how careful you are, there's always a chance that your several-hundred-dollar aircraft could lose a prop, lose power, or otherwise get messed up and come plummeting to the ground. That's why Nashville-based videographer and drone enthusiast Michael Pick developed SmartChutes.
If robots are ever going to interact with us on a daily basis, then it's important that they know what sort of emotions we're expressing. While some already use computer vision systems
to do so, Korean scientists have developed what they say is a simpler and more precise technology – users just have to be willing to stick something on their face.
Sweeping the floor can be a hassle in its own right, but for some people, having to stoop down and collect the sweepings in a dustpan is just too much. If you're one of those people, you might like Bruno – it's a garbage can that automatically sucks up debris that's swept toward it.