[Stillboy] alerted us to a flying car that runs on biofuel. Flying cars have been the mainstays of science fiction and technological wish lists for years, but they elude production, as expenses, fuel, and gravity get in the way. [Gilo Cardozo], a paramotor manufacturer, managed to overcome those hurdles by thinking simply. He attached a paramotor to his car, which is powered by a Yamaha superbike engine and a gearbox from a snowmobile. His modified Rage Motorsport buggy is street legal in the United Kingdom, and in the air, can get up to 80 miles per hour. It will be fully tested in January, when he and his chief pilot and expedition organizer [Neil Laughton] drive and fly the car to Timbuktu.
[Kottke] posted advice for watching and sharing high quality YouTube videos. While it’s not HD quality, it’s much, much better than the normal, fuzzy quality you get on most videos. This hack has been available for some time, but it hasn’t been documented very well until now. When you’re logged in, you can just set the default to “Always play higher-quality video when it’s available”. When you’re linking to a video, add &fmt=18 to the YouTube URL. This also works when you’re embedding the link in WordPress. If you’re not in WordPress, then tack &ap=%2526fmt%3D18 onto each URL in the embeddable code. It’s pretty simple, and makes wasting your day at work much more enjoyable.
Liquid Tree is decorative, functional, and green. It’s a liquid feedback display created by [Jia Yi Lin] that is designed to tell you exactly how much water you’re wasting in the shower. Behind the pretty tubes is some interesting hardware. [Lin] used an Arduino board, and based her code off the Unipolar Stepper example. She’s posted her own code and wiring for the project. When hot water is turned on, the motors decrease the amount of liquid in the tubes. This causes the pattern to slowly disappear, indicating water consumed.
Gift-giving season is upon us, and it’s time for people to start panicking about what to give to their friends and families. Gift cards have gained in popularity over the years, as companies count on people to forget to use them. But how about gift cards that do more than store a token amount of cash? Best Buy is now selling a gift card that doubles as a speaker. It has a mini headphone jack that’ll plug into any audio player. You only need to spend fifteen dollars to get it. Target’s gone all out, with a gift card that is also a 1.2 MP digital camera. It comes with a USB cord and driver disk, and there’s even one with a 64MB USB flash drive. We’re very interested to see if these will take off, and what people will do with them once the cards are used up.
Not to be outdone, Popular Science published their Best of What’s New 2008 and packed it with videos and photo galleries. Inspiring inventions include the Pipistrel Taurus Electro, the longest-flying two-seated electric plane, the Intel Core 2 Duo Small Form Factor, which you can thank for the thinner laptops like Apple’s MacBook Air, and the GroundBot, a spherical robot that can roll through the mud, sand, and snow. It’s not even the end of the year yet, but with all these great inventions, we can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2009.
Everyone always complains about the Christmas season coming earlier and earlier, but we think when we can have Christmas trees like the one pictured above, it’s not such a bad thing. Created by English fashion designer [Gareth Pugh], the tree features sixty white neon tubes, and is supported by a freestanding metal rod. It reminds us of the light sabers in Star Wars, which is probably why we like it so much. The tree is just a carrier for the decorations anyway, right? You can check out the tree in person at the TOPSHOP in Oxford Circus, London.
The Department of Defense wants you to design a pack of robots that would hunt humans. Or, as they put it, “search for and detect a non-cooperative human subject”. While the project brings to mind Terminators, there are also non-terrifying uses for these robots, including search and rescue missions. The robots should be about 100 kilograms or less, provide immediate feedback, and defer to a human operator in the event of a difficult decision. This project presents some interesting challenges for robot designers. They’ll need to consider several key issues, like robot cooperation and decision-making abilities. We knew it was only a matter of time before the DoD turned the Grand Challenge into Death Race.