Movies sometimes have some pretty fantastical devices which we find hard to believe. There's the DeLorean from Back to the Future, the deneuralyzer from Men in Black and of course the holodeck from the Star Trek franchise. But some movies contain nifty gadgets and technology that seem simple enough to build or develop with current technologies. I mean, it's almost 2009 for christsake.
1. Safety Foam from Demolition Man
In the movie Demolition Man, Stallone's character John Spartan gets into a high-speed car accident during an electric car chase through the future streets of San Angeles. Instead of smashing to tiny bits, a foam fills the car and solidifies, saving his life and leaving him totally unscratched. It would seem easy enough to create such a foam (there might be problems with people inhaling it as it expands) so why the heck isn't it in cars yet?
2. Cold Fusion from The Saint
In The Saint, Simon Templar steals notes from a scientist which, when arranged properly, show how to make cold fusion work. While research into cold fusion technologies is progressing, it's kind of surprising there hasn't been a breakthrough yet in the field. You'd think someone could at least prove that it can or can't work by now.
"You can have children reading about Alice in Wonderland ... and Alice can pop out of the page, and have a tea party on the page."
Every amazing new technology needs to be wrapped in an equally elegant high-demand application if it is to diffuse past just the military on through the human masses. Often the first killer app is targeted at youth (ie, Facebook, Club Penguin, MMORPGs), then gradually spreads upward to older generations that require more convincing and immediately useful applications.
When it comes to augmented reality, it's possible that a company called Mixed Reality Lab (MXR), a spin-off owned by the National University of Singapore, is on the verge of creating such a cross-over app: Virtual 3D Pop-ups for Children's Books.
Coming on the heels of MXR's real-time augmented battlefield displays, the new Magic Books product aims to generate revenue from mommies and daddies who feeled compelled to get their kids interfacing with the most advanced new media.
Toshiba recently announced that they would start producing a 16-Gigabyte MicroSDHC in January of next year. "Toshiba Corp. (Toshiba), a leading innovator in memory card technologies and solutions, and Toshiba America Electronic Components, Inc. (TAEC), its subsidiary in the Americas, today reinforced their memory card line-up with the launch of a 16GB microSDHC card offering the largest capacity available in the market." Although the smaller chip only transfers at 6Mps instead of the faster 20Mps, the fact that 16 Gigabytes can be crammed into such a small area could mean huge changes in the computer/smartphone environment.
The bridge between phone and computer has been constantly blurring with the increase of mobile internet use among smartphone users. The ability to link the phone and the computer so far has been relegated to files and applications both share. The increased space on the phone could be used for more files, but it could also be used as a back-up for your computer.
I wrote a few days ago about GE Labs creating a surface so hydrophobic that water could literally bounce off it, but Swiss researchers at the University of Zurich have gone ahead and done it with polyester fabric. By coating polyester fibers with millions of tiny silicone filaments, the fabric is made so hydrophobic that you could literally put your jacket into a bucket of water, let it sit for two weeks, pull it out and it would be dry as a bone.
How did they accomplish this?
Researchers managed to create this amazing fabric through the use of silicone nanofilaments which are very highly chemically hydrophobic. “The spiky structure of the 40-nanometre- wide filaments strengthens that effect, to create a coating that prevents water droplets from soaking through the coating to the polyester fibres underneath.” Lead researcher Stefan Seeger went on to explain it was like a “like a fakir sitting on a bed of nails.” Took me a second to figure out exactly he meant by that but luckily I read a lot of Tintin when I was a kid and it finally paid off. Applying the coating is easy — a silicone gas is released which condenses onto the fibers of the fabric.
Sony is finally selling the worlds first Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) television. At 3mm wide (imagine a stack of three credit cards, that’s how thick) it boasts an HD display, an aspect ratio of 16:9, Dolby Digital Surround Sound, and a contrast ration of one million to one. The greatest feature I feel is the ability to turn off the pixels in areas of the screen that are meant to display black — too often a black screen glows annoyingly making colors seem blurry. This set is sharp.
And while this amazing beast is going to eventually kill off old power-hungry LCD televisions over the next few years, right now it is tiny and expensive as Hell. How much you say? With a screen size of 11-inches (diagonal) and costing $2,500 on the Sony site, it gives one pause.
I remember the first LCD computer screen I ever bought in 2001. It cost an arm and a leg, but it beat those old 40-pound monoliths everyone else was sporting those days. I showed it off to all my friends, laughing when they had to move their belongings from apartment to apartment, lugging their computer monitor like a dead weight everywhere they went. I enjoyed this feeling for about a year or two before my world came to an end with even thinner LCD monitors costing half the price of mine. I wept silently.
The grainy video you see above is footage of the new Samsung concept phone. While much is not known about it, the video itself is quite amazing simply because it’s the first time a real physical phone has had a flexible display incorporated into it. The best part (for me) was when the phone folded and the keypad was on the other side, gives it a sort of realism to it, like it’ll be available soon.
When can you expect it?
Again, not much information is given about the concept phone, but chances are that you will be seeing it by next summer, winter at the latest. The real question though is whether or not the display is touch-sensitive — a large screen won’t do you much good if you can’t interact with it.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to develop a plane capable of flight as well as submerging underwater. “The objectives issued by DARPA are for a vehicle that would have an airborne tactical radius of 1,000 nautical miles, a low-level flight radius of 100 nautical miles (which may leverage surface effects), and a submerged tactical radius of 12 nautical miles.” The hope is that it could carry up to eight people and a 2,000 pound payload (check out their full proposal here).
The problem with developing a submersible aircraft is that air flows around structures differently than water. Developing a body that is efficient through the air as well as water will be incredibly difficult. It may be so daunting that the cost of developing and building working prototypes would render it un-obtainable. The funny thing is, the Navy has wanted something like this for over 60 years. “The U.S. Navy had begun contemplating the merger of aviation and submarine technologies into a single vehicle as early as 1946.” Even the Russians tried to dabble in submersible airplanes (video after the jump).
The Economist reports that a Humvee-mounted laser is already being used in Iraq to detonate roadside bombs which have plagued the military over the years. And yes, it’s named after the Greek God of lightening.
The Zeus laser (I am inclined to say cannon for all you Final Fantasy fans out there) possesses a range of 300 meters (just shy of 1,000 feet) and has been successfully used in Iraq. Although they only possess one Humvee equipped with the laser, plans are in effect to make more.
Why is the military laser-crazy?
Lasers are the dream weapon for the military. You can fire them from incredible distances with pinpoint accuracy and have the potential to be a game-changer in any battle. Advanced lasers could be used to detonate RPGs or missiles before they get to the target, they can punch through walls, and could potentially blow up ICBMs before they get too far off the ground (Reagan’s infamous Star Wars plan). There’s no ammunition concerns, just power, and despite being totally un-serviceable in the field, the lack of moving parts makes the possibility of breaking very slim.
You’ve heard about electronics that can bend and even stretch, but a team at Northwestern University has managed to make electronics that can withstand any configuration, including twisting.
This breakthrough could help in developing gadgets that are located on the human body which is itself highly flexible (except mine). “This emerging technology promises new flexible sensors, transmitters, new photovoltaic and microfluidic devices, and other applications for medical and athletic use.” Flexible electronics have the potential to change how we view visits to the doctors office, how we talk on the phone, even interacting with people.
Imagine being able to wrap an X-Ray machine around your leg at the emergency room to see exactly what the break looks like and where it’s located. Or having a 40-inch screen folded into the size of a pack of cigarettes. Why not incorporate your music into your winter beanie? The possibilities are already amazing and we haven’t even scratched the surface.
The video you see above is from a high-speed camera shoot where water is bouncing off a superhydrophobic surface. Posted at the GE Global Research Blog (nicknamed “Edison’s Desk”), they have three videos which show surfaces repelling water to different degrees, even managing to have water bead up right on top of it without getting wet. Some of you may recognize it from the concept phone Nokia dreamed up in this video (go to 2:55 minute mark).
Superhydrophobic surfaces could help us out in more ways than just being able to keep your car clean year-round. Applying them to wind turbines, airplanes and ships could help reduce corrosion, a huge problem with water. Being able to coat a dock, boat or car with this could ensure your property will only die of old age, not rot.
Flying planes has been the sort of thing that, to most, seems daunting enough to avoid entirely. Pilot’s license, cost of the plane, upkeep, runway dues, etc. Luckily for us, there’s a company out there which designed a small airplane that’s cheap, easy to handle, and drives like a car. Meet the ICON A5.
Designed for the budding sport-flying enthusiast, the A5 is more affordable than most small aircraft (it will cost an estimated $139,000) and is incredibly easy to operate having taken much of its cockpit design from cars. Its carbon fiber body ensures that it will be lightweight, durable and corrosion resistant to water. The wings also fold back for easy transportation.
Worried about how Fluffy will handle being in the cargo hold at 35,000 feet? For just $1,780 you can purchase a Cryo-Pet™ which uses the latest cryonic technology to put your pet into a gentle slumber.
Although the operation of such a device may seem rather daunting, Cryotranz™ hopes that by combining their newest cryo-breakthroughs with eye-appealing design that cryonics will move past the image the industry has of just freezing the heads of the rich and break into the mass consumer world.
How does it work?
On the side of Cryo-Pet™ you’ll find a “Pre-Cryo Preparation Kit” which contains all you need for putting your animal into a suspended state.
First, a breathing nozzle is used to deliver two different chemicals to your animal. One is a drug which will knock your pet out for easy handling, the second is a chemical which enters into the blood stream and begins slowing the metabolism of your animal. The effects only last for about thirty minutes in case you change your mind.
After your animal is asleep, place him or her into the chamber and close the door. A button will light when the door has been locked and his or her metabolism and breathing has stopped. Cryo-Pet™ is then ready to begin the freezing process.