Google+

Inflatable Space Elevator

The Thothx inflatable space tower would extend to 20 km above the Earth's surface

The Thothx inflatable space tower would extend to 20 km above the Earth’s surface (Credit: THOTHX.COM)

In space travel, the first step is always the most expensive, but why blast-off in a rocket if you can catch a ride on a space elevator? Canadian space firm Thoth Technology has received a US patent for an elevator to take spacecraft and astronauts at least part way into space. If it’s ever built, the 20 km (12.4 mi) high Thothx inflatable space tower holds the promise of reducing launch costs by 30 percent in terms of fuel, and may even replace some classes of satellites. read more

Google’s Cardboard VR Gear

By now you’ve probably heard about virtual reality. (Heck, the technology has even found its way into a Hot Pockets commercial!) But while some of the more famous virtual-reality devices include the Oculus Rift ($350 for version two of the development kit) and the Gear VR ($200), you’ll find an intriguing device at the other end of the price spectrum.  -

Enter Google Cardboard. Originally introduced at the company’s developer-focused I/O conference in 2014, this device is made of (you’ve guessed it) cardboard, and is essentially a mount for a smartphone. read more

Now You Time Traffic Lights

The EnLighten app allows BMW drivers – or anyone else – to know how long green or red lights will lastThe EnLighten app allows BMW drivers – or anyone else – to know how long green or red lights will last (Credit: BMW)

As of this week, drivers of BMWs may be a little less frustrated by traffic lights. No, they don’t now have the power to change red lights to green, but they can at least find out how long it’ll be before lights change color. This feature comes courtesy of a partnership with Orgeon-based startup Connected Signals, which makes an existing app known as EnLighten. read more

Gear Hauling Trailer Transforms in a Boat

The Tetra-POD lid locks into place and opens with the assistance of gas springsThe Tetra-POD lid locks into place and opens with the assistance of gas springs

At first look, the Tetra-POD is a large, capable ATV trailer that can haul gear, tools and debris as an open tub or an enclosed box. A closer inspection reveals that it’s also a boat. With a few simple steps, the lid swings down to join the trailer body in creating a hull that can be motored out onto the open water.

We’ve seen a few products with a land-water split personality, but nothing quite the same as the Tetra-POD. The American Dream Trailer we covered just last month coupled a camping trailer with a rooftop rowboat. The Sealander amphibious trailer was another camping trailer/boat hybrid, and the Boatbox was a cargo-hauling roof box that doubled as a watercraft. While similar to each of those in certain ways, the Tetro-POD has a design and utility all its own. read more

Origami Style Emergency Bridge

The Mobile Bridge Version 4.0 receives foot traffic at a demo in Fukuyama CityThe Mobile Bridge Version 4.0 receives foot traffic at a demo in Fukuyama City (Credit: Hiroshima University)

Whether they’re floods, earthquakes or landslides, natural disasters have a nasty habit of cutting survivors off from aid by destroying bridges. While traditional portable bridges can already be set up in such situations, researchers from Hiroshima University recently demonstrated a new model that is said to be “the world’s fastest, largest, strongest, and lightest expanding temporary bridge.” read more

First Ever Bionic Eye Transplant

The 80-year-old Raymond Flynn was the first to receive the implant for AMD treatmentThe 80-year-old Raymond Flynn was the first to receive the implant for AMD treatment (Credit: Second Sight)

You might remember the Argus II implant from when it first gained market approval in the US back in 2013. The ambitious prosthesis is back, with researchers now looking to utilize the technology to treat patients with dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The effort forms part of a feasibility study, and early results are positive. read more

Robotic Hotel

Robots are deployed at the front desk to help guests check-in and outRobots are deployed at the front desk to help guests check-in and out (Credit: Henn-na Hotel)

A new hotel that is staffed with robots has opened in Japan. The Henn-na Hotel (which translates as “Strange Hotel”), is part of the Huis Ten Bosch theme park complex in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture. Guests can also access their rooms via face-recognition, and are able to control room amenities via tablets. read more