Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Biomimicry

A color-changing tree, printed with the new ink

British scientists have already looked to principles employed by butterfly wings, as a means of thwarting currency counterfeiters. Now, researchers from China's Southeast University have developed another such technology, that's inspired by a different insect – a color-changing longhorn beetle known as Tmesisternus isabellae.  Read More

RMIT's sensor-equipped MAV in a wind tunnel experiment

Turbulence can be unpleasant enough for passengers in full-sized aircraft, but it's even more of a challenge for unmanned micro air vehicles (MAVs) – a good gust can blow one of the little drones completely off course, or even cause it to crash. That's why a team from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, has looked to birds for a solution. The result is a system that detects turbulence before it buffets the MAV, allowing the aircraft to anticipate it and thus maintain a smoother flight. The technology could also be applicable to regular airplanes.  Read More

An extremely lightweight, smartphone-controlled bionic bird could fly for over a mile on a...

A French startup has turned to crowdfunding to build an extremely light bionic bird that can be controlled using the magnetometer and accelerometer in a smartphone. The bird, currently at the prototype stage, would communicate via Bluetooth for a range of 100 meters (330 ft) and be able to fly for up to eight minutes at a time, or over a mile, after a quick 12-minute charge.  Read More

Carnegie Mellon's snake robot – now better able to ascend sandy slopes (Photo: CMU)

If a robot is looking for victims at a disaster site, or even exploring another planet, then it certainly better not get stuck in the sand. That may now be a little less likely to happen, as scientists recently studied one of the best sand-travelers in the animal kingdom – the sidewinder rattlesnake. After they analyzed its movement patterns and applied them to an existing snake-inspired robot, that robot was better able climb up sandy inclines.  Read More

The PLANTOID robot, with its 'trunk' and sensor/leaf-bearing branches

The animal kingdom contains many examples of efficient forms of locomotion, so it's no wonder that we've been seeing a lot of animal-inspired robots – recent examples have included a robotic cheetah, fish and snake. Plants, however, just sit there ... don't they? Actually, they do move, just not necessarily in a Point A to Point B manner. With that in mind, Europe's PLANTOID project consortium is now in the process of developing a tree-like robot. Its descendants might ultimately find use in the exploration of other planets.  Read More

Squids change color by contracting pigment-filled cells known as chromatophores – the Rice...

Scientists have long marveled at the squid's ability to sense the color of its surroundings, and then instantaneously change its own skin coloring in order to blend in. To that end, a number of projects have attempted to create man-made materials that are similarly able to change color on demand. One of the latest studies, being led by associate professor Stephan Link at Rice University, may ultimately result in improved LCD displays.  Read More

Robot raptors that fly like the real thing are designed to act as a deterrent to flocks of...

Birds that stray into the paths of aircraft, eat crops, or spread disease from foraging in large numbers at landfills are, at best, a nuisance and, at worst, downright dangerous. Over the years people have tried everything from scaring them away with loud noises to trapping them – all with varying results. Now a designer from the Netherlands has come up with robotic birds of prey that look and fly exactly like the real thing.  Read More

A green anole, that has regrown the end of its tail

If you ever had a pet lizard as a child, it was quite likely a green anole. As is the case with other lizards, they have the ability to break off their own tail when attacked by a predator, and then regrow it. Scientists from Arizona State University recently announced that they have cracked the code regarding that tail regrowth process, and are now hoping that it could be applied to the field of regenerative medicine.  Read More

A flexible artificial skin is designed to wrap around objects and autonomously camouflage ...

A new device developed at the University of Houston can automatically sense its surroundings and blend into them in a matter of seconds, imitating the behavior of squids and other marine creatures. Once it is perfected, the prototype could have interesting applications for the military, or even make its way into consumer technology.  Read More

MIT's porous tissue scaffold, as imaged by an electron microscope (Image: MIT)

A team of chemical engineers from MIT has developed a new method of stimulating bone growth, by utilizing the same chemical processes that occur naturally in the human body following an injury such as a broken or fractured bone. The technique involves the insertion of a porous scaffold coated with growth factors that prompt the body's own cells to naturally mend the damaged or deformed bone.  Read More

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