Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Loz Blain

The Abyss Board - decent, clean, safe fun

The watersports world has been a little spoiled in the last week with news of the Zapata Flyboard breaking - but even though that one's going to be very tough to top, we thought the Abyss Board was pretty unique and fun in its own right. Towed quite slowly behind a boat, this simple device lets you steer yourself around under the water. With separate control of right and left side wings, you can dive, rise, bank, carve and barrel roll your way through the water. As you're underwater the whole time, you don't need to be going fast to get quite a motion thrill - so in a way the Abyss Board is a reasonably eco-friendly rush. I tell you what though, I wouldn't want either of my brothers at the boat throttle while I was playing with this thing - and they wouldn't want me driving either!  Read More

The Zapata Flyboard: Aquaman meets Iron Man

We don't think Franky Zapata knows what's about to hit him. The French jet ski champion has just put together an absolutely insane leisure product, released a short video about it - and then took off on honeymoon, where presumably he's having about the least romantic getaway of his life as his phone and email inbox go absolutely bananas. And here it is: the Zapata Flyboard. This ingenious and deceptively simple device bolts on to the powerful motor of a jet ski, then routes the resulting water jet through a long hose that connects to a pair of jet boots and hand-held stabilisers. The arrangement lets you fly, Iron Man style, up to 9 metres in the air - or leap headfirst through the waves like a human dolphin. The best part? You can buy it for under 5000 Euro (US$6700). That is, once Franky digs his way out from under the avalanche of orders he's going to come home to.  Read More

The world's first molybdenite microchip has been successfully tested in Switzerland.

Back in February, Darren Quick wrote about the unique properties of Molybdenite and how this material, previously used mostly as a lubricant, could actually outshine silicon in the construction of transistors and other electronic circuits. In brief: it's much more energy efficient than silicon, and you can slice it into strips just three atoms thick - meaning that you can make transistors as much as three times smaller than before, and make them flexible to boot. Well, the technology has now been proven with the successful testing of the world's first molybdenite microchip in Switzerland. Does this mean Lausanne will become known as "Molybdenite Valley?"  Read More

Nissan's JUKE-R concept

Happy times must be returning to the world economy when a car company can put its cash toward a concept like this. Nissan has fulfilled the wet dreams of hot hatch lovers all over the world by cramming the engine, drivetrain, suspension, electronics and sheer maniacal giggle factor of its monstrous GT-R supercar into the compact dimensions of the funky Juke city car. The Nissan Juke R (which can really only be pronounced as "Jew car") is an outstanding example of what happens when you give your best engineers the freedom to build what's in their hearts - in this case, a 480-horsepower, 4WD mega-mini-SUV that handles like a racer and should eat Ferraris for breakfast on the way to pick up the kids from soccer. Awesome.  Read More

Aedes aegypti, the #1 disease vector for dengue fever (Photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim, publ...

War, plague, famine, heart disease, cigarettes, road trauma: six very effective killers of human beings. But they're all amateurs when their records are compared to the number one mass murderer of all time. The humble mosquito, and the deadly diseases it carries, is estimated to have been responsible for as many as 46 billion deaths over the history of our species. That staggering number is even more frightening in context - it means that mosquitoes are alleged to have killed more than half the humans that ever lived. So if any species deserves the full wrath of human technology, this is the one. And here, it seems, is how we might take our revenge - genetically modified strains of mosquito that are designed to cripple their own offspring and systematically destroy entire populations. And these mutant, auto-genocidal mozzies are already loose in the wild.  Read More

Ducati's 1199 Panigale

A formula one car, at 640 kg and about 800 horsepower, has a power-to-weight ratio around 1.25 horsepower per kilogram. The new 1199 Panigale, with 195 horsepower and 164 kg, has a ratio of 1.19 horsepower per kilogram. Granted, that figure changes significantly if you add my porky badonkadonk and a full tank to the equation ... but regardless, this roaring L-twin beast is not only the new power-to-weight champion of the production motorcycle world, it's a ground-up reinvention of the Ducati superbike that has reportedly been in development since the venerable 1098 first hit showroom floors in 2007. Even without factory support, the 1198 won this year's World Superbike championship ... and absolutely everything about the Panigale looks significantly better, including Troy Bayliss' lap times. Let's take a closer look at what is easily the most desirable supersports bike of 2012.  Read More

Hublot's miniature replica of the Antikythera mechanism

Why on Earth would you want to strap one of these to your wrist? It barely tells the time, and it can't take pictures, tweet or connect to your Facebook. In fact, very few people would have the faintest idea what it is, or why you'd want one at all. But for those that do recognize its intricate gears and dials, this tiny, complex piece of machinery tells a vivid and incredible tale. It's a story of gigantic scientific upheaval, of adventure and shipwreck on the high seas, of war and death. A story of amazing intellect, lost riches and impossible chance - a sunken treasure that Jaques Cousteau once described as "more valuable than the Mona Lisa" - and it's connected with an ancient celebrity whose star shone so brightly that he's still a household name more than 2200 years after his death... Read on!  Read More

The Quadro 4D Parkour - an off-road focused tilting 4-wheeler.

Tilting three- and four-wheelers make a lot of sense - they're almost as narrow and light as motorcycles, and perhaps even more maneuverable, but they offer enormous amounts of grip and stability. There's so many new narrow track vehicle designs sprouting up all over the world right now that it's easy to see them becoming a significant part of the commuting mix in the congested cities of tomorrow. So here's three new designs we spotted at EICMA Milan - one electric four wheeler, a petrol powered three wheeler and an aggressively styled four wheel tilter that seems to have off-road ambitions.  Read More

Luis Cruz's Eyeboard - an eye tracking computer interface for the disabled

This unique and worthwhile project was put together by a 17-year-old electronics and programming whiz from Honduras, of all places. The Eyeboard system is a low-tech eyeball-tracking device that allows users with motor disabilities to enter text into a computer using eye gestures instead of a physical interface. This kind of system is not unique - there's plenty of eye tracking interfaces out there - but Luis Cruz has figured out a way to build the full system into a set of glasses for less than US$300, putting easier communication within reach of users in developing countries. He's also releasing the software as open source to speed up development. Personally, I spent my year as a 17-year-old in a series of heroic failures trying to impress girls with my air guitar.  Read More

KTM's Freeride E (Photo: Schedl R.)

Pretty much every major motorcycle factory has hinted that they're working on battery-electric models, but Austria's KTM has just become the first to get e-rubber on the road. The Freeride E, just unveiled at EICMA, is a featherweight, electric off-roader reminiscent of the Zero MX. Geared towards big fun in short bursts, it should be comparable to a 125cc 2-stroke to ride - although with a much smoother throttle response and a bigger wallop of torque available. And while it's a baby step, it heralds the next wave of electrics that will hit the market soon - backed by big factory development dollars and ready to duke it out with the little guys in a tough market segment.  Read More

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