In what seems like the most unlikely of unions, a team of scientists at the Linköping University Laboratory for Organic Electronics are working to combine flowers, bushes, and trees with electronics to produce a breed of botanical cyborgs. Led by Professor Magnus Berggren, the researchers have used semiconductive polymers to create the key components of analog and digital electronic circuits inside a rose plant.
Once upon a time, the choice in dog feeding bowls was metal, ceramic or plastic. The ProBowl from Obe takes things a step further with a smart design that monitors a dog's food and water intake in real time and sends alerts if there are abnormal changes, helping owners to keep watch on their pet's diet.
A time capsule that's not to be opened until the year 2957 has been recovered on the MIT campus. Discovered by workers building the new MIT.nano building, it contains a letter to the people of the next millennium and historical artifacts, including an experimental electronic component that once gave the transistor a run for its money.
Belgian researchers working in collaboration with the world's largest chocolate producer, Barry Callebaut, have bred robust yeasts that ferment cocoa to produce bespoke aromas and flavors in the finished chocolate. According to the team, this makes possible a new range of boutique chocolates that can match particular flavors in the same way that craft beer, coffee, tea, and wine can.
NASA has ordered the first mission by SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft to ferry astronauts from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station. This is the second mission planned with a private company under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts, which guarantees at least four such orders with two companies. The launch is scheduled for late 2017.
When NASA's Orion deep space capsule makes its next unmanned flight, it will be a bit shinier thanks to a new thermal coating. The new coating and an improved heat shield will protect the spacecraft against the extremes of heat and cold that it will encounter on its journey, as well as from the heat of reentry when it returns to Earth.
It may look like a bit of disco bling for the equestrian set, but the Tail Lights Rider Safety System has a very serious purpose. According to Michigan-based Tail Lights, thousands of horses and riders are injured and killed each year in collisions, so it's come up with an LED lighting safety system for horses.
The British electrical plug may be a design classic, but it's also very bulky and doesn't exactly fit in with the ultra-mobile digital age. To save some tablets from an undeserved scratching, Hong Kong-based OneAdaptr has come up with its Flip folding plug. The focus of a Kickstarter campaign running through December 18, the Flip opens like a pair of jaws and combines USB charging ports with an optional internal battery.
If one thing has been learned in the last half century, it's that sending astronauts into the harsh, unforgiving environment of space is both dangerous and expensive. To find a way to minimize risk and cost, NASA is sending a pair of prototype humanoid robots back to school. The space agency is giving two R5 "Valkyrie" robots to university groups at MIT and Northeastern University for advanced research and development of robotic astronauts that could act as vanguards for manned missions or as assistants for humans traveling to Mars.
Home security cameras can provide a sense of, well, security, but there's something Orwellian about having a lens staring at you like a prop out of an episode of The Prisoner. A more discreet solution is something that doesn't look like a camera and, better yet, combines some other functions to make it more welcome. One example is the Sentri home monitoring system that combines a motion-activated camera with the looks of a digital information center. We powered one up to see what it could do.