I'm definitely among those who have been waiting for Minority Report-like gesturing to become a reality. While light beams on desks and walls seems close, it's not our hands manipulating objects in thin air. But now researchers at the University of Bristol have developed the starting point, called MisTable. And they're doing it with mist.
Words will only fail to properly describe the look of this thing, but a tabletop computer system projects images onto a thick blanket of fog. They appear as ghostly apparitions, much like R2D2's projected Princess Leia.
We can interact with the 3D images by sticking our hands into the 'objects' and moving them—maybe to the person sitting next to us. At this time it's simple stuff, but still it means moving something as if it were actually something tangible. Check out the video:
A group of MIT scientists have created a new material that can be both a mirror and a window, and no it's not a one-way mirror.
This new material can filter light depending on the direction of the light beams. In the image above light that hits from one angle goes straight through (white beam) but light that hits the material at different angle is reflected back (red beam). For designers it might make for interesting new tricks for walls or new forms of windows.
To filter light one must alter either it's frequency or polarization. In terms of frequency, stained glass windows are a good example, where the glass lets specific wavelengths pass through.
Polarized glasses, like the 3D glasses you wear at the movies, are able to let light through that oscillates in a specific way. But the idea of filtering light based on the direction it comes from has always been tough.
One of the most popular wearable medical inventions so far might be the Band-Aid. A flexible strip that heals our cuts and burns and yet never slows us down. Well imagine if the band-aid could diagnose a problem and release therapeutic drugs hidden inside nanoparticles.
This is the new domain of a flexible very thin medical wearable under development by Korean researchers. And it gives a solid glimpse into our personalized medical future, and the future of wearable design.
The idea is that one day—in as little as five years—we'll have diagnostics and medical therapies delivered through devices that are as simple to wear as "a child's temporary tattoo," said Dae-Hyeong Kim, one of the researchers.
Wearable devices today are bulky, cold, obtrusive and impersonal. The future designs, like this proven patch, are intended to be nearly invisible to everyone including the wearer themselves.
Nanoscale membranes embedded into a stretchable, sticky fabric can detect tiny movements, deliver drugs and store all the necessary data. Now, this hasn't been tested on human patients yet, just pig skin. Their results are published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
About a year ago, I traveled to Cornell University to interview a bunch of materials scientists who work at the nanoscale level. This means they work with stuff that is very, very tiny. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter. One of the challenges nearly all of the scientists kept mentioning is the issue of overheating in electronics. Most of us are directly familiar with the heat released from our computers when we balance them on our lap for a period of time, for example. And this becomes a big deal as devices get smaller and smaller. The smaller the copper wires—which connect chips, among other things—the more heat they emit. This is important for future devices and wearables.
Scientists are exploring all kinds of solutions but a proven one has recently been announced in the journal Nano Letters. We've mentioned the magic material graphene before and it continues to be the superhero material, coming to the rescue over and over again. This time, it shows up as a possible damper for heated copper wires.
Graphene is a one-atom thick material that can move electrons and heat. And it is able to cling to copper. Apparently by sandwiching copper between layers of graphene, the heat created by the metal is decreased by 25 percent. When attached to copper, the graphene actually changes its structure in such a way that allows the heat to move more freely through the metal, instead of being trapped in it.
From left: (1) copper before any processing, (2) copper after thermal processing; (3) copper after adding graphene. Image via UCR Today
There's an entirely new direction for materials coming to life—specifically, a hybrid that combines the best of non-living matter with living matter. Sounds sci-fi, but it's here and it's quite promising. Researchers at MIT have found a way to coax E. Coli bacteria to latch onto inorganic materials in order to create a much more flexible and adaptable non-living material. What this means is that we get the benefit of a living cell that can easily and smartly adapt to its environment, as well as the benefit of a non-living material that can conduct electricity and emit light. Essentially, the result is a non-living material that mimics a living one.
The scientists have created bacteria that can latch onto gold nanoparticles and semiconducting crystals called quantum dots. (Quantum dots are tiny particles that can emit light in an incredibly beautiful array of glowing and very discrete colors.)