It's time again for Hankook Tire's biennial design school team-up, where they task ID students with developing futuristic tire concepts. Last time 'round they paired up with Cincinnati's DAAP, and this year they're at Germany's University of Design, Engineering and Business in Pforzheim. And once again, not only did the students did not disappoint, but pulled off some real socks-knockers!
The central trend is to stop looking at the tire as a rubber cladding for a wheel, and to think of it instead as something that works together with an actively transforming wheel to create some ker-azy functionality. Now maybe I'm biased because I know ID students were involved, but the following video showing the three winning concepts in action is more exciting than any action movie trailer you'll see:
The U.S. Army announced that starting today, a batch of decommissioned Humvees are going to be auctioned off to the general public for the very first time. Here's the listing for the first 26 units, all currently parked in Utah and all with starting prices of $10,000. "This item is offered for Off-Road Use Only," the listing states, meaning it will not be possible to apply for license plates for the vehicles. "No further demilitarization is required. The HMMWV is available for pick up as shown."
In a weird twist on this, a plumber in Galveston County, Texas, named Mark O. was puzzled when his phone started ringing off of the hook—and people began making "really ugly" threats. He was stunned to find that his company's old Ford F-250, which he'd traded in at a Houston dealership last year, had been converted to a mobile anti-aircraft platform by an Islamist extremist group and was being used to wage jihad in Syria. His company's decal—and the company's phone number—was still on the side of the truck, plainly visible in a photo the terrorist group Tweeted of their exploits.
Despite Mark the Plumber having zero connection to terrorism—the dealership claims they sold his truck at auction, and no one has any idea how it came to arrive in Syria—the threats have been pouring in. "We have a secretary here, she's scared to death. We all have families. We don't want no problems," Mark told a local news organization. And Galveston County's The Daily News spells his thoughts out: "I just want it to go away, to tell you the truth."
Moral of the story: If you're trading in a vehicle that can support an anti-aircraft gun, take your company's logo off of it first.
Years ago William J. Beaty released a paper called "Ultra-Simple Hovercraft: A DIY Science Fair Project." In it Beaty, a research engineer at the University of Washington, laid out the plans for building a three- or four-foot wide hovercraft made out of a plywood disc and a battery-powered leaf blower.
That was in 1997, so there wasn't exactly any YouTube video of Beaty's concept in action. But earlier this year, the EdVenture Children's Museum in South Carolina took the idea and ran with it. Here's what they came up with:
It works! And EdVenture, it turns out, wasn't the first to realize Beaty's concept. In 2011 Torben Ruddock from Engineering.com built this model, with decidedly better seating:
As we've discussed before, dashboard cams have become a crucial safety feature for Russian motorists. But they've also become something else: A series of distributing hit-making machines that capture millions of eyeballs on video-sharing sites. Thus this stunning footage, captured on a German highway, racked up nine millions views this weekend when the original was posted to Facebook:
Cynical internet denizens were quick to question the clip's authenticity: The gents outside the wreck, they explained, are wearing standard-issue Stormtrooper uniforms, rather than Empire-approved official TIE fighter pilot get-ups.
Posted by Kat Bauman
| 5 Dec 2014
Aw yeah, Orion! We thankfully got good news about the second attempt to launch NASA's Orion spacecraft. Originally scheduled for Too Damn Early AM PST Thursday, the delayed launch today (at Still Too Early AM PST) went off beautifully.
If you're even generally into science, or just movies with a lot of spaceships and lasers, the Orion project should pique your interest. Its success is a key stepping stone towards building the most powerful rockets in history, capable of taking us ungrateful bipeds past the moon, to asteroids and eventually Mars. The thing itself is a mix of new and old technologies, and it's absolutely massive. Reminiscent of the Apollos of yore, this new space explorer is based on super powerful Delta IV Heavy rockets with the "Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle" perched on top. No crew today, but after proving itself it will seat 4 for future deepspace explorations.
I want to believe.
Thursday morning the lift-off was stalled by wind, misbehaving valves, and (somewhat surprisingly) a nosy boat. But even without leaving the pad, the security checks still yielded good information about the monitoring and powering systems. Today's launch showed that the setup worked very well, delivering the capsule into orbit a whopping 3,600 miles above Earth, passing through the intense radiation band of the Van Allen belt, making two orbits and a perfect on-target splash down off the coast of Baja. Vitally, it survived both lift-off (a traditionally explosive point), and a blistering 4,000 degree Fahrenheit reentry.
Scandinavia is famously cycling-friendly. Norway, with a population of just five million people, is home to some three million bicycles. But even for seasoned cyclists accustomed to commuting on two wheels, there are some obstacles that no one looks forward to tackling daily. One example is Trondheim's Brubakken Hill, a 130-meter uphill stretch of road with an incline ranging from ten to eighteen degrees.
The Brubakken was part of cyclist Jarle Wanvik's daily commute, and in 1992, he was sick of arriving at work each morning covered in sweat and with sore legs. He came up with the idea for the Trampe, a sort of in-ground ski lift for bicycles, and actually managed to get city backing for his company, Design Management AS, to build it the following year.
The brilliance of the paternoster system shown below is that it's always moving, conveyor-belt-style. Assuming a manageable flow of bodies, the "feed rate" could be continuous.
The modus operandi of a paternoster points to a very basic limitation with elevators that most people don't consider: With the latter, you can only fit one car per "line." Which is to say, you can't have cars stacked one on top of the other. And this, reckons German conglomerate ThyssenKrupp, is ridiculous. "The present use of one cabin per elevator shaft," the company writes, "[is like] using an entire railway line between two cites to operate a single train—clearly a waste of resources."
Transportation Design is undoubtedly one of the more glamorous subsets of Industrial Design. But the sheer complexity of designing a performance vehicle that must be safe, attractive, durable, and affordably mass-produced must present terrific restrictions. So this recently-unveiled, blue-sky project undertaken by GM's Advanced Design Studio must have been exhilirating to work on.
"[The Chaparral 2X VGT is] an example of what our designers are capable of when they are cut loose, no holds barred," said Ed Welburn, Vice President of GM Global Design. "A fantasy car in every sense of the word." That's because VGT stands for Vision Gran Turismo, the 15th-anniversary edition of the PlayStation videogame.
The game is where the Chaparral concept will "live," but despite it being a virtual project, it's cool to see GM's design staff--and members of longtime collaborator Chaparral Cars--speaking with such passion about the project. And the footage of it is pretty nuts:
Posted by Ray
| 13 Nov 2014
This thing is making rounds and we'd normally be too embarrassed to post what by all means must be a hoax, but for the fact that this souped-up bike helmet is a compelling example of design fiction. As Bike Snob pointed out, Toby King's "Smart Hat" essentially turns a cyclist—specifically, a cyclist's head—into a car. It's a patently absurd concept that, as far as this bike nerd can tell, is intended to insinuate that cyclists and motorists are very different classes of road user indeed, and that urban planning and policy ought to reflect that simple fact.
In "Things We'd Like to See: Subway Stations with Better Lighting" we showed you Paris' gorgeous Arts et Metier metro stop and a conceptual design for a sunlit underground station. But since then little has been done in the real world to change subway lighting.
Little, but not nothing. This week a video emerged showing that the UK's Network Rail has installed blue LED lighting on parts of platforms at Gatwick Airport. They're following Japan's lead, as that nation began installing blue LED lighting on Tokyo platforms in 2009--to combat the nation's high suicide rate. (We Americans should recall that in countries without as many firearms as we have, jumping in front of a train is the method of choice for those looking to take their own lives.) It's thought that blue light "has a calming effect on agitated people, or people obsessed with one particular thing, which in this case is committing suicide," as a therapist at the Japan Institute of Color Psychology put it.
Beyond that, Network Rail is hoping the blue lights will influence everything from circadian rhythms to crime figures:
In Part 1, we looked at storage options for motorcyclists that don't have a garage to call their own. But even for bikers that do have garages, there are other issues, like how to fit the bike in the space when it's being shared with a car.
One design solution is to get the bike in there first, then get it up and out of the way before Florence Four-Wheels comes home. For that there's the nifty Moto-Lift from Germany:
From Italian company Bike Shuttle comes a similar solution, minus the lift:
Motorcyclists know the thrill of the open road... and those without garages know the hassle of securing motorcycle covers to their bikes in inclement weather. For garageless riders, a host of companies have designed a variety of solutions to keep bikes dry, ranging from flimsy to whimsy.
From Japan comes this armadillo-style Cycle Shell:
For those seeking a little more structure, from Poland comes this steel Moto-Box Roller with a sliding track that locks the front wheel into place (warning, turn your sound down):
In 1990 Dennis Amodeo, a carpenter from Long Island, won a rather amazing VH1 giveaway: A collection of 36 Corvettes, one from each year from the model's birth in 1953 up to the then-recent 1989. Something like that is an American boy or man's dream come true, the crappy 1980s models notwithstanding.
But it's also an American man's dream to receive six-figure checks, so when pop artist Peter Max offered $250,000 for the collection that same year, Amodeo handed over all five pounds of car keys. Max had some kind of art project in mind for the cars, and got as far as taping up the sides of some of them for color tests. But that's as far as Max got, so the cars just sat. And sat. And sat. For decades.
Cities like New York and Washington D.C. were designed with nice, rational grids. Cities like Tokyo and Kyoto were reportedly designed to confuse invaders with twisting, irrational angles. And cities like Valparaiso, Chile and Taxco, Mexico were designed in reaction to Mother Nature, being built as they are atop a number of rugged hillsides.
The crazily-narrow, winding alleyways of Valparaiso and Taxco follow gravity and topography more than logic, and as it turns out, this makes for an extremely compelling downhill bike course. Organized downhill racing through urban environments has existed since the '90s, but this year a bunch of sponsors got together to organize the City Downhill World Tour 2014, spanning Valparaiso and Taxco as well as Santos, Brasil and Bratislava, Slovakia.
Last week's race was held in Taxco, and the on-bike footage from rider Filip Polc is unsurprisingly insane—this seems like the entire reason GoPro cameras were invented:
How is this not a video game yet?
Posted by Ray
| 29 Oct 2014
I can't for the life of me recall where or when, but I once heard that you turn a bicycle ("cornering," as we call it) not by steering with the handlebars but by 'pointing your belly button in the direction you want to go.' It comes naturally to anyone who has surmounted the learning curve, but it's easy to forget that we aren't born with the ability to ride a bike. Jersey City, NJ-based brothers Steve and Rich Thrush sum up the problem:
As you probably know, the experience of riding a traditional tricycle or a bicycle with training wheels is quite different than riding a bicycle. In fact, because you cannot lean into turns on a traditional tricycle nor a bicycle with training wheels, kids riding these toys often develop bad habits which they then have to unlearn when learning to ride a bicycle.
The recently Kickstarted Dreisch leaning tricycle addresses the counterintuitive physics of muscle memory by shifting the steering to the rear axle via a hinge and a pivoting swing-arm that runs the length of the frame. The result is a 'natural' turning mechanism.
As big-time bike nerds, we're glad to see a genuine innovation in bicycle design, albeit for a specific subset of riders. By sheer coincidence, a commenter suggested a use case for a certain much-discussed concept bike just this morning: "Age 2–5 kids glider bike I think. Gonna make one." We'd be curious to see the results if he or she does, as this would be a bicyclic evolution of a baby walker—for which trade names include Exersaucer and Jumperoo—though I'm not exactly sure if a harness has any advantages over a traditional balance bike or, say, Andreas Bhend's convertible take on a child's first bicycle.
Via Bike Rumor
You probably remember Richard Branson's April Fool's joke about Virgin producing glass-bottomed planes. I figured this next bit of news might be a gag too, but apparently this proposal for a virtually invisible passenger airplane is sincere.
Put forth by the UK's Centre for Process Innovation, a science/engineering/technology incubator, this "Windowless Fuselage" concept is intended to save fuel and reduce emissions. The CPI's thinking is that commercial airplanes have windows for the passengers' comfort, but that if the windows could be jettisoned from the design, airplanes could be made lighter and thus save on fuel. To offset the feeling of sitting inside a tin can, airplanes would then be lined with ultrathin, flexible plastic screens covering the interior surfaces and even the seatbacks.
These screens, the concept goes, could serve as mere lighting, or the entertainment systems, or be linked to external cameras to provide the impression of flying al fresco. The screens could even "allow the colour changes associated with sunrise and sunset to be controlled on long haul journeys, helping passengers to adjust to time zone differences."
Left: Aluminum; Right: Steel.
When trying to "lightweight" something made out of steel, the designer's natural inclination is to turn to aluminum. But the R&D guys over at Mercedes-Benz recently did the opposite of that, and scooped up a Materialica Design and Technology Award for their trouble.
The MDT Awards are part of recently-held trade fair Materialica, which is dedicated to "Materials applications, surface technology and product engineering," and were intended to highlight lightweight design in transportation. To that end Mercedes took an aluminum piston design for a diesel passenger car and replaced it with a redesigned steel one.
With a lot of folks buying the Back to the Future 2 hoverboard prank earlier this year, it's no surprise that a purportedly real hoverboard just got funded on Kickstarter. (Or so we assume—at press time it was at $234,708 of a $250,000 goal, with 53 days left to pledge.) "We aim to get this technology into everyone's hands (and under everyone's feet)!" writes Hendo Hover, the California-based company behind the Hoverboard.
Yes, you can really stand on the thing and yes, it really floats, but there is a bit of a catch:
Our patented technology transmits electromagnetic energy more efficiently than previously possible, enabling platforms to hover over non-ferrous metals with payloads. It is scalable to any size and any weight.
The limitation of needing a non-ferromagnetic metal surface to float over aside, the technology still looks pretty cool.
Amazingly, only a handful of the actual backers will receive a working hoverboard; the ten units have all been snapped up at a buy-in of ten large. The sub-$10,000 tier of funding is for developer kits and short hoverboard rides at Hendo's facility.
Posted by Sam Dunne
| 13 Oct 2014
About this time last year, Siemens unveiled their vision for the future of the London Underground: an innovative, lightweight and energy-efficient 'mass transportation solution' with the exterior styling grace of a plastic worm, and all the interior character of a hospital waiting room. When Priestmangoode unveiled their design for the New Tube for London last week, we breathed a sigh of relief that they didn't let the engineers design it.
The New Tube design comes two and half years after the Heatherwick's New Routemaster hit the roads of the capital and follows recent news that the city's upcoming Crossrail project (the hugely ambitious underground rail line cutting directly through the centre of London) will have exterior, interior and livery designed by Barber Osgerby when it opens doors to commuters in 2017. All told, we're pleased to see that London is turning to top British designers to shape the city's public realm.
Yesterday Tesla Motors held a press event where they announced their new all-wheel-drive models, which hit the road in December. These being electric cars, rather than using a single motor to drive all four wheels, Tesla is simply dropping a second motor into the car; with one up front and one in back, there's no need for a driveshaft in between and all of those pesky linkages.
And these cars will go from 0-60 in an absurd 3.2 seconds, in case you need to smoke a Bugatti. "This car is nuts," Tesla skipper Elon Musk told the audience. "It's like taking off from a carrier deck." (See video below for the full carrier deck/Battlestar Galactica-esque "launch sequence.")
Some optimists assumed that at last night's event, Musk was going to pull the sheets off of a completely self-driving car. While that's undoubtedly a ways off, the autopilot features announced last night for the new models indicate it's not as far off in the future as you might think. Using a combination of radar, a camera and a dozen sensors, this is what Tesla's new models can reportedly do:
- The new system will move the car over a lane when the driver uses the turn signal.
- The car reads speed-limit signs and adjusts the car to the speed on the sign.
- Drivers will be able to get out of the car in their driveways and watch it park itself in the garage. When drivers are ready to leave, the car will able to drive itself up, with the car's temperature and stereo system set to the driver's preferences.
"It will come to you wherever you are," Musk says. "It will slowly make its way to you."
I'm not sure why you'd choose to get out of your car in the driveway rather than in the garage—most architects are thoughtful enough to put a door between the garage and the house—but then again, perhaps Musk is targeting the super-rich owners who live in manses apart from the stables.
Years ago I was driving down Interstate 80 when a minivan rocketed past me in the left lane. I was doing about 70 in my Golf, the Dodge Caravan was doing maybe 95. Seconds later my rearview mirror filled with the flashing lights of a New Jersey State Trooper. As I pulled to the side to let him pass, I then realized he was pulling me over.
The cop explained that he had me going 87 on his radar gun, rolled his eyes at my suggestion that he tagged the wrong guy, and wrote me a big, fat ticket. It was obvious to me that the gun picked up the minivan, but as the cop came over the rise in pursuit, he saw my sporty little Golf and figured I was the culprit.
They used to say that if you bought a car in red, you were more likely to be pulled over. And if I was a cop tagging a group of cars and unsure of whom was the speeder, yeah, I'd probably pull over the car with the sportiest design. Backing this up, if a recent U.S. auto insurance study is to be believed, seven out of the top ten Cars That Get the Most Tickets (doesn't say for speeding, so it could be for any traffic infraction) have what we consider sporty designs. What's surprising is how un-sporty the other three are. Admittedly our parsing of this study involves a little guesswork, as only the models, not the specific production years, are mentioned. But here's the top ten, judge for yourself:
Some 28.1% of drivers that own this tiny econobox with a rather dramatic side swoop get ticketed.
9. Toyota FJ Cruiser
A bit too bulky to be considered sporty, we think, though you can't deny it has an aggressive profile. At any rate it's good enough to get 28.4% of its drivers pulled over.
8. Scion tC
This diminutive but fat-fendered coupe, particularly in this color, looks like trouble. It also has 28.8% of its owners reaching for their license and registration.
This is a fascinating idea that was developed by a research group at Japan's Keio University. By applying optical camouflage technology and using recursive reflectors, which "[reflect] light back in the direction of incidence," the researchers were essentially able to render the back of a Toyota Prius invisible, at least from the driver's point of view. Take a look:
What we found fascinating is their proposal that this could be applied to all 360 degrees. And aside from average motorists trying to back passenger cars into parking spaces, imagine what a boon this would be to folks driving delivery trucks, tractor-trailers, construction machinery and other bulky, blind-spot-laden vehicles.
Unfortunately, the technology may never come to pass. The concept was put forth in 2011, and there's been no word on an update since the video above was released in 2012. But tell me this thing wouldn't get Kickstarted in a heartbeat.
Via DigInfo TV
Last week Argentinian director Fernando Livschitz released this video titled "Rush Hour," shot using some clever film trickery:
What's interesting is that if all cars were autonomous, that scene could one day actually be possible. Maybe the motorcycles are a stretch, and the humans and cyclists travling at such perfectly measured paces that the cars could accurately predict their timing; but at a minimum self-driving cars could certainly be programmed not to hit each other, and to thread the needle at intersections.
The hardest part would probably not be the technology, but garnering human acceptance. As safe as I knew it was, I'd have a hard time not having a heart attack while riding in any of these vehicles.
Everyone loves to bash corporations, but few talk about how much good they can do in this world. Their immense fortunes and longevity means they can undertake radical, expensive experiments that smaller outfits simply couldn't sustain.
A good case in point is Walmart and their Advanced Vehicle Experience concept truck. Built earlier this year as a testbed for their fleet efficiency program, it features a 53-foot trailer whose roof and sidewalls are made from single-piece 53-foot-long panels of carbon fiber. This confers a weight savings of some 4,000 pounds, meaning it can carry an extra 4,000 in cargo to burn the same amount of fuel, or carry the same weight of cargo as before and save a tremendous amount of fuel.
Creating carbon fiber panels of that length is fiendishly expensive, and a company would have to ship a lot of cargo indeed before they'd make their money back on fuel costs. In other words, you'd need a Walmart to do something like this. With 6,000 trucks crawling our continent and logging millions of miles, the overall, long-term impact would be substantial.
With the goal of "revolutionizing the watersport industry," Swedish company Radinn has released their first product: an electric powered wakeboard. The carbon fiber craft carries onboard lithium batteries and is controlled via a wireless handheld remote, allowing the rider to cruise at up to 30 miles per hour.
The coolest thing about having a self-propelled board is that it frees the rider from the beach. With an EPW one could navigate rivers, lakes, public fountains in Stockholm...
The 64-pound board's batteries can provide 30 minutes of runtime. Currently in its final testing stages, it's expected to go on sale next year. And no, it won't be cheap, but if you've got twenty grand to throw around, you could do a lot worse.
Posted by Sam Dunne
| 22 Sep 2014
UK design blog Dezeen have collaborated with car manufacturer MINI at London Design Festival this year to create an exhibition of commissions exploring the future of transportation. Far from a showroom for shiny self-driving cars or connected-car dashboard concepts, was eclectic collection of exploratory interpretations by artists, designers and architects was on display in the ground floor entrance of design and furniture fair designjunction. The exhibition space itself embodied the theme—architect Pernilla Ohrstedt teaming up with 3D-scanning specialist ScanLAB to create her contribution 'Glitch Space'—an enormous arrangement of vinyl white dots meticulously laid out across the exhibit floor as a representation of the swaths of environmental data that will flow through the city in a future of driverless cars.
On the same theme, Dominic Wilcox, ever the inspiring out-of-the-box thinker, turned a lot of heads with the revealing of his incredible 'Stained Glass Driverless Sleeper Car.' Not just a pretty piece of craft, Wilcox's creation is actually a profound reflection on the future design possibilities for the automobile. In a future in which cars are self-driving and super safe, the forms, materials and uses that have constrained automotive design in our time may no longer apply. Although Wilcox's fictional future car manufacturer's website shows a spectacular array of possibilities this could present, the stunning stained-glass model on view demonstrated the equally appealing option of rolling around town in a half-car, half-bed 'hybrid,' revealed when lifting up the hood (below).