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There have been whispers for the last 2 years or so about Planetary Resources.   How could there not be. With a who-is-who list of ex astronauts, scientists and tech geniuses on is management staff, as well as some pretty hefty cash backing… what geek wouldn’t be curious what they were up to.  Well, they let the news out yesterday. ASTEROID MINING!

In short, PRI sums up their plan to 4 phases:

  1. Tiny low orbit space telescope satellites targeting asteroids roughly within the same range as the moon. These are used to identify the most likely candidates. Highest priority, asteroids with water on them.  With water, we can make fuel far more economically then you can ship it up via rockets ($20k per liter)
  2. Next interceptors are sent out. Imagine the tiny satellites in phase 1 with propulsion. They will head out to asteroids to capture more detail on them.
  3. Tiny Robot  swarms are sent out to completely scan likely asteroids. Each has specific functional tasks like radar, thermic scanners, and electromagnetic scanners.  As well as some tasked with simply transmitting all the data back to Earth.
  4. Asteroid exploitation.  In the case of smaller asteroids, PRI has a couple strategies for capturing the little treasure box of materials and bringing it home to mother Earth.  In instances of asteroids that are too large,  robotic mining operations could be setup to make the asteroid a viable fuel or supply depot for further exploration.

I know what you are thinking… Can there really be enough of value on a asteroid to make it worth all this effort? The math says yes.  Even if PRI does nothing more extensive then bringing in asteroids that contain water. That alone could turbo boost (hehehe)  space exploration.  A tiny 10 meter asteroid could have 120 tons of water in it… that translates to $2.4 Billion in costs if we needed to lift that by rocket into low orbit.  But PRI has set their sights on the bigger prize of precious metals like platinum, gold, iridium, osmium, palladium, rhodium, and ruthenium.  The quantities of these metals that can be found on asteroids far exceed anything we have down here on earth. PRI says an asteroid about 850 meters in diameter contains eight hundred thousand tons of precious metals worth about US$50 trillion. Those kind of numbers make me want to strap on a rocket booster myself!

In short, I think their plan seems sound, and PRI seems to be taking a very pragmatic and practical approach to a concept that has only ever been in Scifi novels. With a lot of backing and a solid 10 year plan… things could get really interesting in space in the next 20 years. E.E. Smith would be proud!

What do you think?

ImageIf you have a mobile device, be it iOS or Android, you have likely heard of, or played with Talking Tom. Especially if you have a a little one at home that plays with your electronics…  My five year old can spend 30 minutes at a time playing with the interactive elements of Tom. Whether that is making him repeat what you say in a high-pitched helium induced voice, or by hitting or stroking the feline to get a reaction. Judging by the nearly 35 million downloads a month Outfit7 reports of Tom and his animal farm of cousins,  these apps  are still some of the best known and loved offerings on either Android or iOS mobile platforms.

Given that the original precept of the apps was to provide a platform for in-app advertising, as well as in-app upgrade sales, these numbers are nothing short of fantastic! Calling it good and going home at this point would not be out of the question.  But Tom isn’t done yet. Due to the huge international popularity of these talking characters, Disney Interactive Media Group and Outfit7 are now engaging in the development of a new webisode series for Disney.com based on the adventures of Tom and his buddies.  “The Talking Friends characters are global mobile app sensations. We’re thrilled to bring these very popular characters to life in a new family-friendly online video series,” said Mark L. Walker, Senior Vice President, Disney.com.

Now, I may not be the most up to date on interactive media trends, but even I know how monumental it is when a product or character that was intended as a a simple marketing tool transcends that role and begins to swap media. Can anyone say ‘Yo Quiero Taco Bell?”   Since these kind of transitions usually come from a more traditional media outlet like TV really speaks to the power of interactive media in the new world marketplace.  The richness of interactivity fairly ensures that there will be more of these transitions happening in the future. All those shops out there rolling out these advertisement interactive apps, look out, the game has just been upped! Memorable characters, and clever functionality can mean the difference between making money and causing a cash windfall across multiple revenue streams!

Honestly, I am actually surprised Angry Birds didn’t make it there first!

Please let me know what you think!

Sorry folks!  I have been remiss for the last couple months!  I had a 3 freelance projects come up at the same time!! Needless to say… I have been swamped since.  Luckly, those projects are put to bed and now I can get back on the site.

 

Okay, if you want to dial up the nostalgia meter to a healthy 9, come back with me to 1985. That’s right, lets go old-school to the days of the dinosaurs and the most fearsome of video console predators… The NES!!  Four directions, 2 buttons and a nigh indestructible putty grey case. It fairly makes shivers go down my back! :)

Now as adults, we can revel in the nostalgia by replacing our common blah coffee table with a functional scale NES controller  shaped from beautiful and fashionable hard woods!  Brilliant!! Its just gravy that the controller happens to work!  The designer even has a plan to make a model work with the Wii!

 

Of course at a price tag of $3500, only the truly dedicated NES fanatic need apply…

In a world that is progressively becoming more mindful of our day to day consumption of resources, recycling has become a large part of the American lifestyle.   I can say honestly that my family recycles more then it throws away on any given  week.  So much is recyclable these days, it just doesn’t make sense not to. It has become so ingrained to me that I feel bad if I throw something away when a recycling bin is not available. Judging by the creation of such websites as craiglist and freecycle, I’m not the only one.

Designer  Lina Fenequito of Brooklyn came up with the Swap-O-Matic based on a similar ‘one mans trash is another mans treasure’ concept.  In short, its a vending machine for items a person may not want, but someone else could. When a person puts in one item, they have the option to  get a credit for later, or pull a different item out of the machine. Any credits you gain are attached  to your email address and usable later.  Obviously such a device could be exploited by unsavory individuals, so a honor system needs to be maintained.

Its a clever idea, at the very least, it would give me a place to liberate some of the more interesting dust-catchers I have strewn around my house. Of course, in order to make the Swap-O-Matic viable for mass distribution, it seems like a ‘Buy Now’ option may be necessary.   If it used the old Garage sale thought process of $.50 and $1 items, I would bet people would grab items they were interested in pretty quickly.  Maybe take a cue from freecycle and add a ‘Want’ option to the touch-screen so others would know what people are looking for.

For some reason, I can suddenly see these devices popping up in large corporate offices as a show of eco-friendliness.  It would definitely make for some interesting office discussions. ‘Who took  the Mayan fertility statute?’ and ‘Wow! I want that Where’s Waldo book!’.


As you may or may not know, my wife is a fitness instructor ( as well as blog enthusiast fitrockmom.com) and she is constantly in search of cleaner, healthier ways to eat.  As you can imagine, fresh food is a large part of the family diet.  What ends up being perhaps the most challenging aspect of clean eating is often herbs.  The dried varieties of herbs  that are available via the average grocery store have already had significant loss in vitamins and minerals, and if I may say so, often a significant loss in flavor, as anyone that is used to fresh ingredients can tell you.  On the other hand, fresh herbs from a specialty store are likely to put quite dent in your pocketbook, while also either providing too much or not enough of the ingredients to be useful.

Wouldn’t it be great if fresh herbs were a viable option throughout the year, with the convenience of any of our other kitchen appliances?  That is

what the developers of the Urban Cultivator definitely had in mind. In short, this device is a automated hydroponics lab roughly the size of a dish washer that is designed to be installed into a kitchen as a standing fixture, connecting to existing water and power outlets. The system  regulates sunlight and water, humidity and airflow as needed to automatically grow herbs and small vegetables. The only thing the device doesn’t do is apply organic fertilizer, which is recommended once a week. At a price point of $2,200 for the residential model,  it may seem a little steep, but in the case of my family, I can honestly see us getting our value out of the Urban Cultivator in around 2 years. Better yet, the Urban Cultivator comes in a wide variety of styles to fit your particular kitchen needs. No need to go with the industrial look yet!
If you are are either a die-hard freshy, or a restaurant, there is a industrial model as well that is roughly the size of a refrigerator. Those models start at $6000.  Thus far, it looks like some higher end restaurants and hotels have already invested in the CU, their website flaunts the Four Seasons logo on it…

Given the shifting  nature of the environment, further studies on the effects of pesticides, as well as the continuing clean eating movement, I believe  the CU, and appliances like it, are going to become common place in kitchens in the near future.  Urban cultivators will become a real estate question like bedrooms, bathrooms, and square feet.

If anybody gets one of these before me, reach out and let me know!

Hobbit Home for 5K!

Anybody that grew up reading the JR Tolkien Lord of the Rings series, knows about Hobbit houses. These cozy little homes were the first model of a eco-friendly home.  Now, s gentleman by the name of  Simon Dale in Wales decided to build his own.  That in itself is pretty cool, but what is perhaps even more amazing is his total expense for the construction of $5000. Some key points of his design:

  • Dug into hillside for low visual impact and shelter
  • Stone and mud from diggings used for retaining walls, foundations etc.
  • Frame of oak thinnings (spare wood) from surrounding woodland
  • Reciprocal roof rafters are structurally and aesthaetically fantastic and very easy to do
  • Straw bales in floor, walls and roof for super-insulation and easy building
  • Plastic sheet and mud/turf roof for low impact and ease
  • Lime plaster on walls is breathable and low energy to manufacture (compared to cement)
  • Reclaimed (scrap) wood for floors and fittings
  • Anything you could possibly want is in a rubbish pile somewhere (windows, burner, plumbing, wiring…)
  • Woodburner for heating – renewable and locally plentiful
  • Flue goes through big stone/plaster lump to retain and slowly release heat
  • Fridge is cooled by air coming underground through foundations
  • Skylight in roof lets in natural feeling light
  • Solar panels for lighting, music and computing
  • Water by gravity from nearby spring
  • Compost toilet
  • Roof water collects in pond for garden etc.

 

I’m pretty impressed with his simple ingenuity, never-mind the eco-friendly aspects of the design.  Gandalf would be proud!

If you would like to know more, check out Dales site!

No, this is not some type of anti-acne gadget!  Its is in fact one of the coolest and simplest (looking) percussion instrument I have ever seen!

Long and short, the creator says this instrument can fill the role of a shaker, a rain stick, a rhythm stick, and a finger drum. It comes in both acoustic and electric versions in 3 and 5 point configurations, as well as many custom wood options.  Check out their website at http://www.z-stik.com

See below, where Stevie Wonder jumps on one at the Winter Namm 2012 show.  Stevie says he plans on using the Z-Stik on his next record.

I would love to hear from any musicians what they think of this instrument!

So apparently, I am on an aeronautical kick right now, that Australian hoverbike really made me start thinking about what other innovative designs in aeronautics are getting developed currently.  Cue the spotlight, on the cyclogyro.  I know, it’s a mouthful, it even sounds a bit odd, when I looked at one for the first time I felt it must be reminiscent of a steam boat floating down the Mississippi, not a flight capable craft that may put the helicopter in the grave.

Helicopters by their very nature are not very efficient at forward flight, are very loud, with serious vibration issues and a low altitude ceiling. A cyclogyro doesn’t suffer from any of those issues.

A cyclogyro is in fact a class of aircraft that uses rotors on their sides to generate thrust which can be then directed based on the angle of the blades.  This allows a cyclogyro to do vertical takeoffs and landings like a helicopter, but also produce more forward thrust then any helicopter ever could (sorry Airwolf!).  The design has been around since the mid 1920s but the necessary knowledge of aeronautics, as well as the lighter materials needed to make it effective have only recently been developed.

According to current developers of the technology, as the aircraft increases in size, the system actually becomes more efficient.  Needless to say, I was intrigued.   A lot of colleges have programs working on prototypes and little models. I particularly like the model in the video below which was done at Northwest Polytechnic in China:

I found a larger implementation targeting UAV potential like the FanWing which blurs the line of plane and cyclogyro.  The merger of the two technologies appears to provide a lift improvement that could make the FanWing an excellent cargo hauler. You can find a video of  a prototype at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zc2RSuW1Mbw

Then, there is the D-Dalus, which was showcased at the 2010 Paris Air show.  The developers of this cyclogyro hope to target it for sea rescue or heavy lifting. Their design allows the D-Dalus to lift vertically, hold perfectly still, move in any direction, or reverse thrust to ‘glue down’ upon landing (pretty handy in rough weather!). I can’t wait to see some more footage of this design!

Only time will tell if the cyclogyro will prove to be a contender, but I for one am excited to find out!

So, I had Suzuki GSXR 600 (crotch rocket)  in my younger years, it topped out at about 160mph… And its responsible for several of my broken bones and scars.  But all and all, it never killed me. Heck, it was never the bikes fault when I was hurt…I blame it on very solid stops I would have when gravity took control and oh so gently place me back on  roads, dirt, grass (or road signs) .  Anyways, all that cannot stop me from being super stoked about the possibilies of Chris Malloy and his Hoverbike.

ah... there's my ride!

In short, this hoverbike has been the pride and joy of Malloy for the past 3 years, as he worked out the various kinks to designing a flying motorcycle that could top out at 173mph at up to 10,000 feet of altitude.  Can you say SWEEET? That wold get me excited about going to work each morning!!!

Malloy has yet to test the hoverbike untethered yet, but his tests to date have shown significant promise. Looking at his blog, Malloy is still working on fine-tuning his control system.  But obviously, there is still some interest. He reported as of Novvember 16th, Pentagon representatives flew to Sydney to see the Hoverbike in action.  I really have to wonder how that went…

Below is a youtube video showing the thrust capabilities of vehicle.

It seems pretty sci-fi to think of a swarm of little robots flitting around a construction site, building 24 hours a day, but it appears that day may not be too far off. Scientists in France managed to program a small fleet of 4 rotor drones to build a complex tower out of 1500 blocks 18 feet tall!  All without any human intervention!

I have attached a video of the process it is really quite phenomenal!

Obviously, this is strictly what I would consider a proof of concept, and many stark realities would need to be managed to make this economical on a work site. Robot design, outdoor resilience, modified construction materials; advanced swarm management including recharge, maintenance, and repair would need to be addressed for long-term viability. But the impacts of swarm construction could impact everything from pre-fab housing to skyscraper construction.

18+ feet of robot built construction goodness!

Perhaps most important, these swarms could conceivably operate 24 hours a day with little to no supervision, without risking human lives during complicated and dangerous construction tasks.  That is, until they rise up and take control of their human overseers! ;)

Flight Assembled Architecture/Architectures volantes from FRAC Centre on Vimeo.

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