Event Calendar
October 2016

It's not every day that you can come up with an improvement on a tech that's remained mostly unchanged for the better part of a half a century, but that is what the folks at the research institute SRI International appear to have done. Their new Abacus transmission is quite likely the first new rotary transmission system to be designed in 50 years.

Designed to translate the low torque, high speed rotation of a typical electric engine into a lower speed, higher torque rotation, this transmission—dubbed the "Abacus drive"—uses a series of beads that roll in and out of indentations built into the machine's outer ring. One of the project's chief engineer's explained the system in detail to IEEE Spectrum:

The other main solution to this problem are "harmonic gears," first patented in 1957, which use an elliptical disk inside a metal ring that flexes, which then interacts with another metal ring using a series of teeth:

The Abacus drive, named for the shape of its not-quite-ball bearings, offers a number of advantages over harmonic gears, chief of which is that its internal components only ever roll across each other. This generates much less waste heat and friction than harmonic gears, which flex and have teeth that crash against each other, making the Abacus more efficient.

The idea of manipulating ball bearings through the use of precisely machined grooves is not completely novel; it's the same trick we've seen at work in some brilliantly-designed greaseless bearings. But this new application proves that there's always room for innovation, even if you think you've got everything figured out.

[GWG] Daeima AdminD.X.O. Looks like an ideal manual Hershey Kiss machine :d
[GWS] RedSpartacus That reminds me a Wankel engine.

A group of Japanese researchers have managed to build a robot that can do a whole bunch of pushups—by sweating like a human.

The researchers, from the University of Tokyo's JSK lab, built a humanoid robot called Kengoro that can move in pretty much all the ways a human can. In order to do that, the robot has over a hundred different motors, which generate a lot of heat.

Most other robots use active cooling, with water pumps, fans, radiators, and heat sinks. But those systems can be rather bulky and eat up a lot of power. Kengoro has too many other components to have room for an active cooling system. So instead, the team decided to build a passive cooling system directly into the robot's frame.

The team built a water circulation system into Kengoro's metal skeleton, and allowed the water to seep out around the motors to cool them. This allows the water to evaporate, cooling the robot's motors. Essentially, Kengoro can sweat.

Sweating is a very effective cooling method. It allows Kengoro to do pushups for 11 minutes straight without overheating. Sweating is more efficient than other passive cooling methods like air cooling and simple water circulation, although it's less efficient than active cooling. Still, this method is small and lightweight and requires zero power.

Using this method, Kengoro can run for about half a day on a single cup of water. Although this means that the robot can sometimes get a little thirsty.

Source: IEEE Spectrum

As if 4K TVs, curved screens and HDR weren’t impressive – and expensive – enough, Panasonic’s unveiled a new type of super-advanced telly that’s almost completely invisible. 

The company’s showing it off at the Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies trade show in Tokyo, and it looks like a mind-bendingly impressive bit of tech. 

As you can see from the clip below, the TV looks like little more than a pane of colourless glass when it’s switched off, initially appearing to be an ordinary sliding door. 

In Panasonic’s demo setting, you can look right through the TV when it's switched off, and see the ornaments positioned on the shelf behind. We imagine the effect could be slightly less attractive in a regular living room where tangles of wire lurk around every corner. 

However, the set’s display quickly bursts into life, transforming the transparent panel into what appears to be a regular TV. Though we can’t draw any sweeping conclusions from a few seconds of YouTube footage, brightness and image quality look pretty impressive.

How does it work? The TV’s OLED screen is made from an incredibly fine mesh embedded in the glass. It works best in a dim environment, with picture quality suffering in brighter environments, according to Engadget.

Unfortunately, even if you’ve got your hands on a particularly juicy bonus this month, we wouldn’t get too excited about it just yet. It’s only a prototype model, and will likely stay in development for a further three years.

For most of us, a Rubik's cube is just that: a cube. But to the enthusiasts who are deep, deep, deep down the rabbit hole of these twisting puzzles, that's not always the case. When you get to the extremes of the genre, things can get pretty surreal.

This 10x8x6 cube was home-built by a cuber and 'Tuber who goes by corenpuzzle. You may remember him from that time he went viral trying to assemble a 22x22x22 cube that exploded on him during a livestream of the assembly. This video doesn't go as wrong.

If you're having a hard time wrapping your head around exactly what's happening here, don't feel bad. This is a very complex place to start if you're trying to understand shapeshifting puzzles. For a clearer explanation, check out this video of a simple 3x3x1:

Despite making the horrific and mesmerizing puzzle you see at the top, our cube-building hero isn't entirely sure he knows how to solve it. As he notes in the video, he'll probably be able to figure it out if he pokes at long enough, and I wish him the best of luck. Though if I were him I'd just leave it scrambled. It looks awesom

Franky Zapata's water-jet Flyboards have very quickly become a popular vacation experience, but the French jet ski champion has bigger goals in mind. Over the weekend, he released the first video that claims to show his new Flyboard Air in action. The Air ditches the water jet for what appears to be a jet turbine engine, and allows him to fly untethered through the sky to a maximum height of 10,000 feet and a maximum endurance of 10 minutes. It's early days yet, but we humbly propose a jet race against David Mayman and his JB-9 Jetpack.

We'd estimate that no human alive has more experience operating a standing jet platform than Franky Zapata. The French jet ski champion stunned the world in 2011 with the release of his Flyboard, a jet platform tethered to a jet ski that put enough thrust under your feet to lift you 9 meters (29.5 ft) into the air on a jet of water and perform all sorts of aerobatics.

The simple, fun Flyboard very quickly became one of the must-do holiday experiences of the noughties. It was tricky to fly, required a lot of core body strength and sent a lot of people forcefully into the drink – but it was the closest thing you could get to a safe and affordable personal flight experience.

And as it turns out, it may have been a stepping stone to something far greater.

Over the weekend, Zapata released the first video of his latest invention: the Flyboard Air. Gone is the jet ski, gone is the hose, and gone is the tether. This thing appears to take the handling and control system of the Flyboard, but replace the water jets with at least one jet turbine engine and what appears to be a backpack fuel tan

That puts Zapata in a similar league with David Mayman and Nelson Tyler, whose JB-9 jetpack is also capable of such numbers. And it saddles him with similar problems: what do you do in case of engine failure? How can you make it safer for non-Zapata level athletes to fly? Can you responsibly sell these things to people?

Parachutes are more or less useless below 100 feet, as they just don't have time to open and slow you down. Even that's a stretch – 250 feet is about as low as you want to get to feel like you're not pushing your luck. And yet, presumably, people will want to fly these things low enough to get a bird's eye perspective on the world. That means both the Flyboard Air and the JB-9 will spend a lot of their flight time in a deadly zone between 30 and 200 feet off the ground where the failure of a jet engine or a miscalculation in fuel load will be catastrophic. With no wings or autorotation to bring them down softly, they're entirely reliant on the thrust they produce.

Still, safety issues aside, the Flyboard Air is a proper space-age flying platform, and Franky Zapata is the perfect man to pilot it. He makes it look nimble and fun, if slightly terrifying. It'll be fascinating to see where things go from here, but clearly we need to get Zapata and Mayman together for some kind of jetpack race.

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