Featured Image - Ooh, technology!



Finally, a major step towards flexible display screens has been made. UCLA has developed a stretchy sheet of plastic that glows blue when given an electric current. It is a combination of carbon nanotubes and polymer layers. The future possibilities for this kind of technology are endless. The first thing that comes to my mind is a super-portable, resilient computer screen. Imagine a newspaper that plays videos, and you get the idea. As smartphones become more and more capable, it might be convenient to keep an external monitor in your pocket. As you sip your morning coffee, you could pull out a folded-up sheet of plastic. Unfold it, plug it into your iPhone, and have the iPhone download the latest news stories to be displayed like an old-fashioned newspaper. Better yet, go to YouTube, and you have videos playing on a high-definition display. If touch-sensitivity was included, then you could fold the sheet in half for a makeshift laptop. The flexible screen would serve as keyboard and monitor, and the iPhone would do all the computing.

There are other exciting applications, too. Think about safety—construction workers and other people exposed to traffic dangers. Instead of vests that reflect light, they could wear ones that glow in the dark like neon signs. Traffic cones that glow, too. Clothes with computer displays would come in handy. Again, smartphones might be crucial. A jacket covered with the flexible screen could enable a user to access a smartphone without taking it out of its pocket. Connected to a smartphone, a [smart-jacket?] could show the time of day on its sleeve, like a watch. If the user wants to dial a number, then the sleeve shows a keypad. For self-expression or advertising purposes, the front and back of the jacket become personal billboards. The jacket might even be used for camouflage. Imagine wallpaper and curtains that, once wirelessly connected to your computer, can illuminate a room from all angles. What strange lighting effects that might produce! Selecting a picture or video instantly turns an entire wall into a panoramic vista. Interior design would be radically changed by walls that can change color and pattern at the press of a button. Do you have any ideas?

Featured Image - NASA Helios

Featured Company - AeroVironment

This company is based in California and was founded by Paul MacCready. AeroVironment specializes in flying machines, most notably unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and solar-powered airplanes. Innovation has been a prime goal of this company for something like forty years. This company created an all-electric, solar-powered airplane, named Solar Challenger, that successfully flew from France to England in 1981. No fuel! Think about that for a second: an international flight that used zero gallons of fuel. In the same decade, AeroVironment collaborated on the GM Sunraycer, a solar-powered car that won the first World Solar Challenge.

Two of the most significant projects that AeroVironment has today are Raven and Global Observer. The Raven is a UAV that is small enough to be launched by hand. Over 13,000 have been made, and many of them are used by the United States military (especially in Iraq). Various foreign countries also use the Raven, such as the U.K. and Netherlands. Once launched, the Raven can fly for over an hour, reaching speeds exceeding thirty miles per hour and altitudes around two miles up.

The Global Observer is still in development, but it is very promising. It is a high-altitude UAV that should become a versatile alternative to some space satellites. Soaring eleven miles above Earth, the Global Observer burns hydrogen to power its four motors for up to a week. When it runs low on fuel, it will be relieved by a second Global Observer and land for refueling. It may require two UAVs to take the place of one satellite, but flying on hydrogen is cheaper than launching a huge rocket into space. Some of the desired uses for the Global Observer include spying on terrorists, capturing real-time data on weather and natural disasters, and serving as as communication relay.

AeroVironment's latest innovation is called the Nano Hummingbird. This miniscule UAV is capable of flying in any direction and hovering, just like a live hummingbird. It has a built-in camera for surveillance and weighs less than one AA battery. Its wingspan is only six inches long! The DARPA-funded Nano Hummingbird is likely to generate controversy in the coming years. While such devices are great for spying on terrorists, the possibility exists of spying on local citizens (either by the government or other citizens). America has been struggling to find a satisfactory balance between security and privacy lately, and the Nano Hummingbird will not make that struggle any easier. But it will probably save some soldiers' lives and make their jobs a little safer.

Featured Image - Infosys building

Featured Company - Gridbots

Gridbots is a robotics company based in Ahmedabad, India. It was founded by Pulkit Gaur, who has been awarded a TED fellowship. His company focuses on developing robots that are “more intelligent” and can be used in everyday life. Gridbots' products range from smart surveillance cameras to telepresence robots. This company also makes educational robots; ones that are user-friendly and designed for experimentation. The Turtle, for instance, is called the “do it yourself robot,” and it is claimed to have an assembly time of just fifteen minutes. It is accompanied by visual programming software and preset behavior modes to make first-timers' experiences that much easier.

Featured Image - Fuel Cell Bus

Featured Image - Last Shuttle Mission