I See Robots Everywhere

They’re everywhere. New movies. New military programs. Even the slug community is talking about them. But some of the most fun and inspiring are still those designed for distant planets. And here are a couple of articles that might be interesting for the design community.null

New Scientist has been carrying this article on a “Spherical Robot”. Looks like a millipede (rolly-polly) to me. I expect it to unwrap and skitter away. Maybe I should watch the video to see if it does.

Nature.com is carrying a different article on the “Scorpian Robot”. This one looks more like a spider, but at least they’re in the same family (I think). Unlike the cute round one, this one reminds me of something from a low-budget sci-fi/horror flick. Cool. I can hardly wait to see these two fighting on tv.

Phenylene Vinylene Oligomer

Say that in a meeting and collect your brownie points. Or just say, “You know, the plastic that changes color when it’s stretched”. New Scientist has news of research being performed at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland into a polymer that visually indicates it’s reaching its breaking point.

Formally known as “elasto-plastic” deformation, anyone who has tried to fold/break their old credit card has run into what the article calls “the point of ‘non-recoverable deformation’ at which it becomes seriously weakened.” Their first efforts are apparently going into creating fishing line an angler could inspect under UV light. The hope is they’ll soon be able to create a material that can be visually inspected in normal light, for use in such things as tamper-resistent packaging. In the meantime, fishermen will be opening up a new can of…. PVO…. on fish everywhere. But will they stop tugging on tangled lines even if they can see it isn’t helping?

We need a kidney, not a liver! Where’s the Print Cancel button?!?

popsci_inkjet_articlePopular Science online reminds everyone of the versatility of the humble technology used in the ubiquitous inkjet printer in this short article. And of course there have been recent mentions of mad scientist/ Chicago chef, Homaru Cantu, using a Canon i560 to print food (and edible menus), and more than a few news reports of a University of Manchester research team printing skin and bones in similar fashion. Somehow Star Trek’s “replicator” doesn’t sound so crazy anymore. Now if people can make anything, what will they really make? Shudder to think.

Growing Green Buildings (and the stuff inside)

The Economist has an excellent article discussing “green buildings”. For anyone who caught the popular television show Numb3rs last night (“Structural Corruption“), the article makes clear the developer’s jealous, vengeful office mistress was screwing him a third way – by cutting costs during construction, the building wouldn’t just collapse, it would cost him more money to maintain over the life of the building. Hell hath no fury….
For industrial designers (and anyone who didn’t watch that show) the article mentions some interesting things like computer-controlled blinds, LED exit signs, weather sensors and motion detectors. For software geeks there’s mention of Autodesk’s increased role in providing evaluation tools. There’s also mention of some free software called DOE-2 which might be useful for some of you.

And if you just like pretty pictures, the article includes this pic of “the Gherkin”. Funky.

Building Brands with Gadgets

BusinessWeek online has an interesting article on consumer products behemoth Procter & Gamble’s method for building brands by incorporating technology into new delivery systems. With Tide Buzz Ultrasonic Stain Remover and Mr. Clean AutoDry already in stores, new parents everywhere must be anticipating a Pampers technology revolution. At least they’re aware there are limits to gadget fever. In the meantime, read up on how technology is finding its way into the most basic consumer goods.