This was a big week for cars that fly. Dutch company PAL-V has conducted the successful maiden flight of a prototype of the Personal Air and Land Vehicle, a car and gyrocopter that can fly up to 315 miles at an altitude of up to 4000 feet. And in the same week, American firm Terrafugia debuted the Transition, a car and airplane at the New York International Auto Show. Both vehicles must take off and land at an airport, but are then street-legal for driving away. Wow! Helicopter-car and an airplane car? I was hoping the first flying car would be a dirigible, because I'd be less angry getting rear-ended by a teenager flying a soft, Met Life Snoopy-mobile.
Bonobo app store
The bonobo species of great ape have been known to communicate through lexigrams, and now a new Kickstarter project is looking to fund an experiment to give bonobos the ability to control their own environment with a touchscreen app. The apes of the Bonobo Hope Great Ape Trust Sanctuary would control vending machines, communicate with people, and play games. I wish we'd had this eighty years ago -- King Kong could've just pummeled the Empire State with virtual Angry Birds.
High heels plant seeds
One way to rehabilitate nuclear disaster areas, like the Japanese Fukushima site, is to plant certain varieties of rapeseed, which are known to remove radionucleotides cesium-137 and strontium-90 from the soil, and store them in their stalks. Now, Japanese designer Masaya Kushino has created a unique shoe with a high heel that plants rapeseeds with a walking motion. The project, called “Healing Fukushima” (Yeah, they speak Japanese but their puns are in English) is an artistic statement to inspire discussion, rather than a practical invention. Vince, do these shoes clash with my hazmat suit? No? Do they make my butt look big?
Challenge for a humanoid robot
Insiders believe that DARPA will soon issue a new grand challenge to build a humanoid robot. As yet there has been no official announcement, but the unofficial preliminary requirements are for a bipedal humanoid that can drive a tractor, unlock a door with a key, climb a ladder, seal a leaking pipe and replace a faulty pump, all with only supervisory teleoperation. Come on, DARPA! Don't give them a prize, unless that robot can be programmed for etiquette and protocol. Bonus points if it speaks Bocce.
Tongue controls Kinect game
Students from Japan's University of Electro-Communications have developed a video game for the Kinect system you control with motions of your tongue. While the game is only a basic version of asteroids, it showcases interface technology for people with oral motor function disorders, or those who have trouble speaking, and it can be used without physically clamping to the tongue. I say we use this for the bonus round of Guitar Hero: Gene Simmons edition! Star Power!
Earthquake stability from wallpaper
Brick walls, while cost-effective, tend to break apart in the extreme lateral forces of an earthquake. Now, materials scientists from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology's Institute of Solid Construction and Construction Material Technology, along with Bayer Material Science, have developed a glass fiber fabric wallpaper and a polyurethane adhesive that give a flexible, tensile strength to the surface of the wall, and keep it together in an earthquake. I'm just glad they didn't have this technology in the 70's. If one thing survives an earthquake, please don't let it be the green and orange floral print. Hippies!