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.
It's not often that you hear the words "Cricket not included" used in reference to a toy car, but there's a first time for everything. That said, if you are able to supply your own cricket, it can now be used to steer Mattel's new Bug Racer. Presumably other similar-sized insects would work, too … just don't expect any of them to have great driving skills.
A little over a century ago, the US Patent Office estimated that about two-thirds of all new patents were bicycle-related. While the figure is no longer quite that high, bikes continue to inspire inventors in a way that few other devices do. With that in mind, we thought it was fitting to present another instalment of our annual Top 10 Bicycle Innovations list. Come take a look at what 2015 brought us.
We've already seen magnets and clips used in products that allow cyclists to do away with their frame-mounted water bottle cage. The problem with both systems is that they require users to stick with a brand-specific bottle. With Torq Athletic Gear's new SnapFlask, however, riders can use any bottle they want.
Although any eye injury can be painful and upsetting, those that involve damage to the inside of the eye are the most serious. For people like battlefield medics or rural physicians, however, it can be difficult to judge the extent of such injuries without the resources of a hospital. That's why scientists from the University of Illinois have created OcuCheck – it's a portable sensor that assesses eye injuries based on the amount of vitamin C in the patient's tears.
One problem with orally-administered painkillers is that even though you may just have pain in a particular area, the medication affects your whole body. This both increases the chance of side effects, and limits the effect of the medication on that one area. Now, however, scientists at Britain's University of Warwick have developed a solution – they've created the world's first ibuprofen skin patch.
Perhaps along with the fact that they don't allow for thousands of miles of travel on a single charge, electric vehicle batteries do have a shortcoming – they're only as good as their weakest cell. That's because all their 100-plus cells are connected in series, meaning that if one of them dies, then the whole battery pack stops working. That could be about to change, however, thanks to research being carried out at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation.
You've no doubt seen lots of them around town – rusting, abandoned bikes with all the components stripped away. Their owners haven't even bothered reclaiming their frames, as they were just cheap old "city beater" bikes in the first place. Well, Boston-based Fortified Bicycle is out to change that scenario. The company's new Invincible bike is well-enough made to not be considered disposable, yet is also highly theft-resistant – enough so that Fortified will replace it if it's nicked.
Well, it's now December and a lot of people are getting excited about a special day that's coming up … that's right, we're talking about Dec. 17th, the opening day of Star Wars - The Force Awakens. In honor of the event, German laser-tinkerer Patrick Priebe has created a "working" model of the original Death Star. It may not be able to destroy planets, but it can certainly melt metal.
If you've got a 3-inch diameter pipe to inspect from inside, chances are you're not going to try crawling in there yourself. At the recent IREX 2015 show in Japan, however, we spied a robot designed to do just that. Made by Tokyo-based HiBot, THESBOT is a sinuous robot that snakes its way through narrow pipework, transmitting real-time video and gathering other data as it does so.
Although commercial drones are being used for everything from delivering packages to spraying crops, consumer models still can't do much more than shoot aerial video. That's why British mechanical engineering graduate Ben Kardoosh created the Mantis Drone Claw. It allows quadcopters to pick items up off the ground, and doesn't require a power source.