Inventors & Remarkable People

Innovative levelling and stabilizing hydraulic system seeks global partner

March 8, 2006 One day about 12 years ago, Tony Pike called in to have a coffee at a friend’s Bondi Trattoria restaurant on Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach. As his friend Ross put the coffee on the table, it tilted slightly on the uneven stonework floor and the coffee spilled. Ross looked up as he was adjusting the table legs with some folded cardboard, and he said to Tony, “whoever solves this table stability problem will become a billionaire - it’s the biggest single problem in hospitality worldwide.” A decade later, after working on the problem on-and-off between other projects, Tony finally solved the problem by developing an innovative, levelling and stabilizing hydraulic system which is now patented as the FLAT (Fluid Locking & Adjustment Technology) system. FLAT is based upon an interconnected series of hydraulic actuators to provide horizontal support on uneven surfaces and then locks to provide stability at the chosen level or angle the user requires. What was conceived as a table and chair stabilisation system for the hospitality industry appears to have potential for solving problems in many military and aviation situations, with dozens of domestic and industrial applications (see demonstration movies) seeking the system.Read More

Industrial Archeology - designers and engineers preserve history using CAD to recreate products that no longer exist

March 7, 2006 Museums and history buffs have begun using CAD software for an exciting new application - breathing life into centuries past. "Industrial archeology" is the study and re-creation of machines, parts, vehicles, and buildings that may have vanished, been destroyed, gone obsolete, or perhaps never existed at all. The practice combines art, history, craftsmanship, and, in a new twist, computer-aided design. Industrial archeologists like Californian William L. Gould use SolidWorks software as an efficient, mechanically faithful way to illustrate, in three dimensions and myriad individual components, a piece of lost history. Gould’s (pictured) full-color 3D CAD model of the 1879 Mason Bogie steam locomotive, is rendered in SolidWorks and PhotoWorks software, and exists only as a 3D CAD model with hundreds of discrete parts. It is available as a fine art lithographic print or a set of plans in exacting detail. Read More

Deflexion - the board game with a high-tech twist

March 2, 2006 Deflexion is an electronic board game with a high tech twist that we suspect has the oomph to compete with heavyweight classic board games such as Monopoly, chess and chequers, as it combines the strategic appeal and universality of chess with modern technology yielding an innovative and instantly engaging game experience. It’s played on a board similar to that of chess and the Egyptian-themed game pieces include obelisks, pyramids with mirrors and a Pharaoh, which needs to be protected in a similar way to the King in chess. Surrounding the board is a raised frame into which are built two low-power lasers, one for each player. After each move, the player presses the button to fire up the laser beam, which bounces from mirror to mirror around the playing field. The challenge is to protect one's own pharaoh while maneuvering to "light up" the opposing player's pharaoh. Read More

The solar system no longer has nine planets

February 8, 2006 Since 1930 when American Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto, schoolchildren have been taught that Planet Earth is one of nine planets which orbit the sun, and that Pluto is the outermost planet in the solar system. Then last July 30, an American team found a more distant and quite large object circling the sun some 15 billion kilometers beyond earth. Dubbed UB313, an enormous debate has erupted over whether it should be classified as the tenth planet. More fuel was added to the debate last week when a group lead by Bonn astrophysicists determined that this putative planet is bigger than Pluto. By measuring its thermal emission, the scientists were able to determine a diameter of about 3000 km, which makes it 700 km larger than Pluto and thereby marks it as the largest solar system object found since the discovery of Neptune in 1846. For the last six months, many astronomers have argued that UB313 should be classified as a Kuiper belt object (KBO) but Pluto is also in the Kuiper belt, and the revelations about its size will weigh heavily when the special 19-member panel set up by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) determines exactly what constitutes a planet. Either way, the official planetary count will no longer be nine as a decision against UB313 will demote Pluto to the status of a KBO.Read More

Power Plastics to provide electrical power to packaging and intelligent clothing

January 27, 2006 One of the more interesting companies we’ve encountered in the last 12 months has been Konarka. For starters, Konarka was founded by the winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize for chemistry, Dr. Alan Heeger, who has since become the company’s chief scientist. We first wrote about Konarka’s light-activated plastic power supply for the battlefield, but in more recent times we’ve seen the company announce a joint development program with Textronics to create prototype garments and fashion accessories with portable, wearable power generation capabilities and more recently comes the news that the Konarka’s Power Plastic materials are being developed to extend and enhance packaging and display applications. Imagine a can or bottle with dynamic content, boxes that light up or containers that serve as power sources for their contents. Read More

Intel First to Demonstrate Working 45nm Chips

January 26, 2006 Intel Corporation has become the first company to reach an important milestone in the development of 45 nanometer (nm) logic technology. Intel has produced what are believed to be the first fully functional SRAM (Static Random Access Memory) chips using 45nm process technology, its next-generation, high-volume semiconductor manufacturing process. Achieving this milestone means Intel is on track to manufacture chips with this technology in 2007 using 300mm wafers, and continues the company’s focus on pushing the limits of Moore’s Law, by introducing a new process generation every two years. You can listen to a recorded interview with Intel senior fellow Mark Bohr by clicking the Manufacturing channel here.Read More

Heavyweight transparency – Light Transmitting Concrete

January 26, 2006 Thanks to a lot of unimaginative work over the last half century, concrete has a bad name, yet at the same time, some of the world’s most beautiful and innovative works of contemporary architecture derive their character from the material. Interestingly, though concrete might seem a low tech material, it is evolving. We’ve recently written about bendable concrete and now there’s Light Transmitting Concrete (known as LiTraCon), which is created by mixing concrete and glass fibres optical strands to create a solid yet translucent block suitable for floors, pavements and load-bearing walls. The inventor of LiTraCon, Hungarian architect Aron Losonczi, gave a public lecture at the United States National Building Museum earlier this week to present his revolutionary product that brings translucence to a traditionally opaque material. The lecture complements a current exhibition at the Museum entitled Liquid Stone: New Architecture in Concrete, which features a five-foot tall LiTraCon wall.Read More

The world’s lightest solid finds myriad other applications

November 29, 2005 When we first wrote about aerogel, we treated it as somewhat of a technological novelty. Aerogel is 99.8% air and 1,000 times less dense than glass yet it can withstand high temperature, delivering 39 times more insulation than the best fibreglass. This exotic substance was invented in the 1930s but has been refined by NASA in recent times for the purpose of catching space-dust. Now it has been recognised that aerogel’s unique properties are in fact very applicable to some of man’s greatest challenges. Its unique nanostructure offers higher electrochemical surface areas, better mass transport, reduced or eliminated ionic contamination and price competitiveness – in short, lower cost and higher performance compared to current membranes on the market, making it ideal as a high performance electro-catalyst for fuel cells, non-electro-catalysts for emissions control, and aerogel materials for energy storage. Read More

Auto Skins - digital clothing for your car

Auto Skins is a product that has been on the Australian market for several years. Developed by the aptly named promotional company Decently Exposed, the AutoSkin is a digitally coloured skin for automobiles. You can have high resolution artwork emblazoned on the skin which is then bonded to the car and indestinguishable from normal paint other than by its photographic reproduction. The AutoSkin has the double advantage of forming a protective coating which can be stripped off to reveal the original, as-new unblemished duco the car came with. Over 2500 cars have been reskinned to date with corporate branders the logical first-movers, but an increasing number of innovative marketers and consumers keen to individualise their most public personal expression. The skins sells for between US$1500 and US$3000 depending on the amount of real estate needed to be covered and the complexity of the design. They’ll work from your artwork and when you start making more than one, the price drops quickly. For US$3000, a luxury-sized car can be completely reskinned with digital imagery of your choice – that price includes the creative design, manufacture and fitting of the skin to create a new vehicle with a completely different look. Read More

Breakthroughs In Cross Lingual Communication and Speech-to-Speech Translation

November 4, 2005 Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Karlsruhe's joint International Center for Advanced Communication Technologies (InterACT) held a landmark videoconference last week to demonstrate new breakthroughs in cross-lingual communication. InterACT director, computer science professor Alex Waibel, who is a faculty member at both institutions, demonstrateed domain-independent, speech-to-speech translation in a lecture, which was simultaneously translated from English to Spanish to German. Current speech-to-speech translation systems allow translation of spontaneous speech in very limited situations, like making hotel reservations or tourist shopping, but they cannot enable translation of large, open domains like lectures, television broadcasts, meetings or telephone conversations. The new technology developed by InterACT researchers fills that gap and makes it possible to extend such systems to other languages and lecture types.Read More


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