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Inventors & Remarkable People

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

Eddie Paul - If it doesn't work, it just isn't finished yet

Serial inventor Eddie Paul has created working prototypes of dozens of inventions. If you can conceive it, he can probably build it. Beginning as a self-taught welder, painter, metal fabricator and machinist he along the way turned from a customiser to a creator, designer and inventor. Initially, he did it to enable a change of circumstance – to move away from homelessness and violence and street gangs but he found that he learned quickly and had that uncanny ability to look at the machinery he was working on and make it better. For the last 20 years he’s been doing it for fun at the same time as earning a handsome living as his engenuity, easy going nature and delivery on time and on budget has become recognised far and wide. That's Eddie with his Circlescan camera for capturing 360 degree images at a Victoria's Secret shoot.Read More

MIT unveils the $100 computer designed to educate the children of the Third World

October 1, 2005 The MIT Media Lab has launched a new research initiative to develop a US$100 laptop designed to revolutionize how we educate the world's children. To achieve this goal, a new, non-profit association, One Laptop per Child (OLPC), has been created. The initiative was first announced by Nicholas Negroponte, Lab chairman and co-founder, at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland in January 2005 and earlier this week, Negroponte showed the first prototype images and concept drawings to the world’s press.Read More

The world’s biggest and fastest newspaper press

September 7, 2005 The Mitsubishi DIAMONDSTAR is the world's fastest double width newspaper offset press – it is as tall as a four story building with a printing speed of 90,000 full colour, 96-page broadsheet copies per hour. And who could possibly use a press that produced so many newspapers? Well, newspapers like the Yomiuri Shimbun which is the only newspaper in the world with a daily audited circulation greater than 10 million copies, a feat it first achieved in 1994 – its current audited circulation is 10,075,479 and a full page advert costs JPY47,910,000 yen, (US$437, 770) which is very reasonable when you consider the cost per thousand figure calcs to just US$42.34. The Yomiuri Shimbun bought four DIAMONDSTAR presses and can produce 100 full colour newspapers a second at full capacity. And Mitsubishi sold eight of the machines last year, so at least four others are lurking elsewhere, probably in Asia given this list of the world’s 100 largest newspapers. Read More

One of history’s most prolific inventions

August 29, 2005 Okay – hands up all those who know what this invention is? Though this invention has been around in very similar form for thousands of years, a major breakthrough in technology enable a new more convenient version to be produced in post-war Europe, first going on sale in 1950. Since that time, 100 billion have been sold – in every country, at the rate of 57 per second for 55 years. It’s one of history’s greatest business success stories and it is ... Read More

Electronic Music Pioneer Bob Moog Dies

August 23, 2005 Electronic music pioneer Dr. Robert Moog (71) passed away at his home in Asheville, N.C. earlier this week and will be mourned by a generation of music fans whom he introduced to electronic music via his world famous “Moog synthesizer”. Moog's instruments have influenced many styles of music from jazz to rock, R & B to classical. Moog keyboards can be heard in the music of artists as diverse as funk masters Parliament and Funkadelic; rock icons Yes, the Beatles, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer; and jazz greats Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. Read More

First human robotic arm implant

July 15, 2005 The first implantation of robotic arms into a human being is to be performed at the Syrian-Lebanese Hospital, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In a statement issued by the hospital, an agreement was signed during June that will see a team of neuroscientists from Duke University, in the United States, led by Brazilian doctor Miguel Nicolelis, perform the implant in approximately three years time. A microchip implanted into the patient's brain will make it possible to control the prosthetics. Nicolelis has long been regarded as the most-likely to develop the technologies for such a procedure, having recently been named one of the 50 top scientists in the world by Scientific American.Read More

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