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Karen Sprey

Sunshade panels of the Minister of Municipal Affairs & Agriculture building

London may have The Gherkin but it’s not a patch on the cactus-inspired design for the new Minister of Municipal Affairs & Agriculture (MMAA) building in Qatar. The spectacular office building and adjoining botanical dome is a great example of biomimicry, a discipline that studies nature’s best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems. This increasingly prominent approach has yielded advances in fields as diverse as aerodynamics, robotic navigation, clothing design, UAVs and the detection of water pollution. It makes sense that architectural design can also learn from nature.  Read More

Barbie turns 50

Barbie turned 50 this month but she doesn’t look a day older than at her debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. Sure, she’s copped some flak along the way for being empty-headed and ‘tarty’, and reinventing herself to conform to current fashions, but essentially she’s still as glamorous as ever, not to mention technologically savvy.  Read More

RKS Laundry POD

It’s a great example of thinking outside of the box: as industrial design firm RKS were redesigning a salad spinner they discovered women were buying them to wash their delicates, so they modified the technology and created a portable, hand-powered laundry machine. The Laundry POD is stylish, easy to use and eco-friendly, saving energy and water, and is perfect for delicate items, “in between” and small loads, camping and traveling.  Read More

A new UM approach could save data center energy (Image: Kyle Anderson)

The average utilization for a typical industrial data center is as low as 20 to 30 percent - and the computers are still using 60 percent of peak power even when they're doing nothing. To combat this problem, researchers at the University of Michigan have put together an approach that could save up to 75 percent of the energy that power-hungry computer data centers consume.  Read More

Bionic Eye - Argus II implant

For those suffering from degenerative eye diseases, abilities which most of us take for granted like following white lines on roads and sorting socks can have a huge impact on quality of life. "Bionic-eye" technologies that can artificially restore sight are creeping closer to reality and now one of the most promising systems to grace our pages - the Argus II Retinal Implant - is beginning to reap rewards in the real world with positive outcomes reported in the preliminary results of the device's feasibility study and personal stories beginning to emerge of the difference this technology can make to peoples lives.  Read More

Rural students in their computer lab, using the Userful Multiplier software

In what's billed as world’s largest virtual desktop deployment, 356,800 desktops will be supplied to schools across Brazil using Userful Multiplier software, a system which effectively turns one computer into up to 10 independent PC workstations, reducing CO2 emissions by up to an estimate 15 tons per year per system and electronic waste by up to 80%.  Read More

Morris Architects Rig Resort design

Think "oil rig" and what comes to mind? Deafening noise, pounding seas, people covered in black muck and ugly metal structures? Perhaps even explosions and Red Adair, but it’s unlikely "luxury resort" popped into your head. However, thousands of decommissioned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico could in future be given a new lease of life as exclusive, self-sufficient eco-resorts that make use of renewable energy and cater for those looking for a new and unique holiday experience. The idea is catching on, with Morris Architects' program to turn a disused rig into a high-end resort experience winning it the firm a $10,000 Grand Prize in the Radical Innovation in Hospitality awards.  Read More

Designer Travis Baldwin's impression of the On-Orbit cup

Astronauts may have the very cool job of floating around in space, but when it comes to grabbing a caffeine fix, they are faced with the decidedly uncool prospect of drinking out of aluminum bags with straws. Donald Pettit was on Space Shuttle mission STS-126 when he decided enough was enough and came up with the idea of an "On-Orbit Coffee Cup" designed to hold liquid in zero gravity situations.  Read More

CLUE: Secret & Spies edition uses real-time text messages to send clues

Hasbro’s classic murder mystery game has been brought into the present day with the introduction of real-time clues via text in the new CLUE: Secrets & Spies edition.  Read More

China to get solar and wind powered skyscraper

Traditional architecture has been swept away and replaced by skyscrapers in China’s bid to modernize its cities and house its huge population and thriving business interests. Shenzhen in southern China’s Guangdong province has grown from a fishing village in the 1970s to a vibrant economic and financial centre - one of China’s most successful special economic zones. Now its skyline will be graced with a 49-storey solar-and-wind-powered tower designed by Austrian architecture firm Coop Himmelblau. The second skin of the building will be lined with photovoltaic cells and feature mechanisms to provide natural ventilation, reduce wind pressure, shade the interior from sun and display multimedia banners.  Read More

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