Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Inflatable

The Pneumad is an inflatable portable shelter designed for the nomadic traveler

The speed and ease with which portable shelters can be erected are often two of their key attributes. One recently designed portable shelter promises to be not only quick to erect, but nigh on effortless. The Pneumad folds out from a car trailer and inflates automatically.  Read More

MIT researchers have come up with a 3D printed, soft-shelled, disembodied tentacle robot t...

Once upon a time, robots were imagined as human-like machines with a distinct body complete with head, arms, hands, feet, and legs. More recently, designers have explored the benefits of emulating other creatures and their capabilities, with robots that can fly like birds, run like cheetahs, swim like a squids or, in this case, slither like snakes. Researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) have come up with a single 3D printed, soft-shelled tentacle that is designed to navigate through all manner of pipes, channels, and burrows.  Read More

The Air Pakk features inflatable padding, converting quickly and easily to a travel pillow...

We first caught wind of Ryan Frayne and his rapid self-inflation technology on the back of his Air Pad mattress last year. Incorporating an innovative air flow technique, the air bed could be ready for use in a matter of seconds. Now Frayne has adapted this functionality to a multipurpose backpack with a view to bringing on-demand comfort to a variety of situations.  Read More

The LDSD test vehicle being fished from the Pacific Ocean by the Kahana recovery vessel (P...

NASA has successfully carried out the first of three airborne tests for its Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), a saucer shaped test vehicle which will one day be used to slow down scientific payloads entering the atmosphere of Mars. This new system of atmospheric deceleration will allow the agency to contemplate heavier, more ambitious endeavors, building towards a manned mission to the red planet.  Read More

Would built-in flotation bags have allowed the Costa Concordia to remain upright?  (Photo:...

The European Union has invested in a project designed to keep damaged ships stable and afloat by means of airbag-like balloons. It is hoped that the new system, developed under the Su Sy project, will give emergency services extra time to evacuate stricken ships, minimizing the devastating losses of life synonymous with the sinking of cruise ships such as the Costa Concordia, and the South Korean ferry Sewol, which sank earlier this year.  Read More

Inside a test dome built using the pneumatic wedge method

There probably aren't many domed concrete structures where you live, and there's a reason for that – they're difficult to build. Doing so usually requires the construction of a supporting wooden structure, that holds the concrete in place while it hardens. Now, however, a team at the Vienna University of Technology has devised a system that allows concrete shell structures to simply be "inflated" and cinched together with a steel cable.  Read More

NASA's inflatable flying saucers could help astronauts land bigger and heavier spacecraft ...

It's tough to slow down spacecraft descending through Mars' thin atmosphere at supersonic speeds, as they need to drop to a speed that allows them to land in one piece. This is why NASA is developing lightweight inflatable flying saucers that will fit around the outer rims of spacecraft such as human habitats, inflating as the habitats descend to permit a safe landing. The technology will allow astronauts to land bigger and heavier spacecraft on Mars without needing to carry massive atmospheric shields or huge amounts of extra fuel.  Read More

From backpack to child seat in about a minute

Volvo isn't afraid to try new things with inflatables. Those things include its pedestrian airbag and now a child safety seat concept. The new concept has nothing to do with crash-activated airbag systems though, it's a child seat with a fully inflatable structure designed to make the seat lighter and more portable.  Read More

The Buoyant Air Turbine, from Altaeros Energies

Winds are stronger and steadier at higher altitudes, that’s why the Buoyant Air Turbine (BAT) from Altaeros is pushing to be the highest wind turbine in history. Already tested to 500 feet off the ground in 45 mph winds, this helium-filled shell with a wind turbine in the middle is soon shooting for a world record 1,000 ft float. Packing down into a shipping container for transport, the BAT is being proposed as a quickly deployable tethered power source for remote areas and emergency zones.  Read More

Aesent's 4-man tent features an inflatable base

Inflatable tents are nothing new, with offerings such as the Wedge, the Cave and the Kelty Mach 6 built around inflatable frames to speed up pitching times. But Utah-based start-up Aescent is turning things upside down with its four-man domed tent that features an inflatable mattress built into the base to provide a comfortable place to rest your weary bones after a day's hiking.  Read More

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