Lost in Space Gets 3D Printing Right

When it has become so common for movies and television to hyper-sensationalize engineering, and to just plain get things wrong, here’s a breath of fresh air. There’s a Sci-Fi show out right now that wove 3D printing into the story line in a way that is correct, unforced, and a fitting complement to that fictional world.

With the amount of original content Netflix is pumping out anymore, you may have missed the fact that they’ve recently released a reboot of the classic Lost in Space series from the 1960’s. Sorry LeBlanc fans, this new take on the space traveling Robinson family pretends the 1998 movie never happened, as have most people. It follows the family from their days on Earth until they get properly lost in space as the title would indicate, and is probably most notable for the exceptional art direction and special effects work that’s closer to Interstellar than the campy effects of yesteryear.

But fear not, Dear Reader. This is not a review of the show. To that end, I’ll come right out and say that Lost in Space is overall a rather mediocre show. It’s certainly gorgeous, but the story lines and dialog are like something out of a fan film. It’s overly drawn out, and in the end doesn’t progress the overarching story nearly as much as you’d expect. The robot is pretty sick, though.

No, this article is not about the show as a whole. It’s about one very specific element of the show that was so well done I’m still thinking about it a month later: its use of 3D printing. In Lost in Space, the 3D printer aboard the Jupiter 2 is almost a character itself. Nearly every member of the main cast has some kind of interaction with it, and it’s directly involved in several major plot developments during the season’s rather brisk ten episode run.

I’ve never seen a show or movie that not only featured 3D printing as such a major theme, but that also did it so well. It’s perhaps the most realistic portrayal of 3D printing to date, but it’s also a plausible depiction of what 3D printing could look like in the relatively near future. It’s not perfect by any means, but I’d be exceptionally interested to hear if anyone can point out anything better.

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Take Robby Home

Ok, we’ll stipulate it right up front: this isn’t a hack. But you have to admit, it would make a fine starting point for a truly epic one. Robby the Robot — the robot from the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet is up for sale. Well, technically he isn’t so much a robot as he is a suit with some animatronics. The auction lot includes Robby, his (non-functioning) vehicle, a control panel, and some other accouterments. If you have deep pockets, you’ll need to bid before November 21.

MGM reportedly spent $125,000 on Robby which was a crazy amount of money in the 1950s. In today’s currency, that would be well over a million bucks. They got their money’s worth, though, as Robby appeared in movies and TV shows including Lost in Space and several episodes of the Twilight Zone. He even made a motionless cameo on The Big Bang Theory.

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That’s No Moon! That’s a Virtual Assistant

[Wisecracker] likes how the Amazon Echo Dot works, but he doesn’t like how they sound or how they resemble hockey pucks. A little 3D printing, though, and he transformed the Dot into a credible Death Star. That doesn’t sound very friendly, we guess, so he calls it Alex-Star.

What makes it work is the Death Star’s “superlaser” — the weapon operated by a console that looks suspiciously like some studio video equipment — happens to be about the size and shape of a two-inch speaker. [Wisecracker] added a slot to let the sound out of the second speaker. You can see the thing in action in the video below.

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Devilishly Advocative: Microsoft Heats Ocean; Builds Skynet’s Safe Haven

Have you heard that Microsoft is testing underwater data centers? On the surface (well, actually on the ocean floor) it’s not a bad idea. Project Natick seals a node of servers in a steel pipe for an undersea adventure planned for at least 10 years. The primary reason is to utilize cold ocean temperatures to keep the machines cool as they crunch through your incessant Candy Crush Saga sessions.

microsoft-project-natick-squarePassive cooling is wonderful, and really drops the energy footprint of a data center, albeit a very small one which is being tested. Scaled up, I can think of another big impact: property taxes. Does anyone know what the law says about dropping a pod in the ocean? As far as I can tell, laying undersea cabling is expensive, but once installed there are no landlords holding out their hands for a monthly extraction. Rent aside, taking up space with windowless buildings sucking huge amounts of electricity isn’t going to win hearts and minds of the neighborhood. Undersea real estate make sense there too.

But it’s fun to play Devil’s Advocate, and this one immediately raised my eyebrow. I read as much Sci Fi as time allows, and am always interested to see which authors are registering the best technology predictions. This is the second time in short order that I turn to [William Hertling’s] work. Back in November, Google announced a project to add predictive responses to Gmail. This parallels the premise of [Hertling’s] Singularity Series which begins with Avogadro Corp. Another major point in that novel is the use of offshore data centers.

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How to Make a Hugo (Base)

A lot of hackers like science fiction. If you aren’t one of them, you might not know that the Hugo is a prestigious science fiction award handed out at the World Science Fiction Convention every year. The statue looks like a rocket ship, but every year the base the rocket ship rests on is different. Kinetic sculptor [gfish] realized the convention would be in Spokane (his hometown and near his current residence) and decided to enter the competition to create the bases. He won, so the 2015 Hugos all have [gfish’s] bases on them and it’s pretty neat that he’s shared the process he used to make them.

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Course correcting the Science Fiction genre

Usually we post our own mad ravings in the rants category. But we think [Paolo Bacigalupi’s] take on the meandering focus of the Science Fiction genre worthy of the deviation. He discusses the course correction that happened in the 1980’s and makes a case that it’s time for another nudge in the right direction.

We’ve done our own extensive reading of the Sci-Fi that’s out there. And it’s not hard to agree that the pillars of the genre (Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke) feel dated. We remember the thrill of reading Neuromancer, Snow Crash, and other cyber-punk offerings with new enthusiasm. But we never really put it together that this was a course correction. The older novels were focused on forecasting the future of older technology, and as the digital world develop those predictions didn’t mirror the reality of “the future”.

So what about now? Do the Tessier-Ashpools secretly govern that majority of the planet from a lofty orbital platform? Is it time for another reboot? Of course there’s never one single pivot point for these things, but we think it’s already happening in novels like Ready Player One. We haven’t read [Paolo’s] award-winning book The Windup Girl (pictured above) yet but he thinks that biopunk may be one of the new directions for science fiction literature. What do you think?

[via BoingBoing]