Want to ascend in a giant gondola to the very edge of outer space? Better yet, would you like to delegate tasks to employees simply by using your mind?
Entrepreneurs and researchers are working on innovative new apps and gadgets that can do these things and whole lot more. Here, we've rounded up 10 examples of technology that are pushing the envelope and make us scratch our heads and say, "What the heck?"
Thanks to Harvard, you could someday control others -- with your mind
Researchers at Cambridge, Mass.-based Harvard University are at least one step closer to creating technology that could enable you to use your mind to telepathically control the actions of someone else. Yes, mind control. That's what they're up to.
In a recent lab test, a human researcher wore a standard EEG-based "brain-to-computer interface" while a reverse "computer-to-brain interface" was worn by a giant rat (seriously, the thing looks like the size of a small dog). The rat's interface includes non-invasive technology that can excite a specific region of neurons the wearer's brain using an ultrasound signal. Bottom line: the researcher was able to make the rat's tail move simply by thinking about it.
Pretty far out. Also very creepy.
An app the captures the 'mood' of an image
Movies have soundtracks. Heck, some people even have their own personal soundtracks. But what if you could compose a soundtrack for your favorite images? Thanks to a new app called Mhoto, you can.
Mhoto analyzes any picture and then creates a song that is suited to that particular image. It looks at the picture's saturation, brightness and contrast levels and creates music that supposedly fits the "mood" of the image.
A smartphone-powered microscope
Smartphones can be great for surfing the web, taking pictures, keeping track of business expenses and all sorts of handy functions. But a professor at UCLA thinks smartphones should have a higher purpose. A research group at the college used a smartphone-powered microscope USB plug-in to detect human cytomegalovirus particles -- which can cause birth defects like deafness and brain damage, among other health complications.
This desk actually 'breathes'
By now you've probably heard of standing desks and how they're supposed to help improve your health. But what about a "smart" desk that knows when you should stand and sit, and can automatically rise and fall for you?
Enter the Stir Kinetic Desk, which was created by a former iPod engineer. And get this: it reminds you to change positions by "breathing."
Robotic blocks can self-assemble, 'Transformers' style
Watching these blocks self-assemble makes us think of Transformers, the robots that could reconfigure themselves into cars, trucks, planes and other objects. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory are developing M-Blocks, tiny cubes contain a battery-powered flywheel that when spun at high speed -- up to 20,000 revolutions per minute -- enable them to move across a surface or flip into the air. An external magnet system allows the cubes to easily yet powerfully attach and detach from one another.
Why did Elon Musk buy this submarine?
Funny-looking car, isn't it? That's because it's not really a car. It's a submarine.
Modeled after a vintage Lotus Espirit sports car, this submarine was featured in the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. Tesla Motors co-founder and all-around tech innovator Elon Musk purchased it recently at an auction for nearly $1 million.
Musk wants to transform the vehicle into a working submarine and car that's able to drive off the road, into the drink and then navigate the dark blue depths.
A pocket-sized circuit board that can make virtually any object play music
A British creative agency has created something called Ototo, a pocket-sized circuit board designed to be a "musical invention kit." In other words, it can turn virtually any object into a musical instrument. Have some pots and pans lying around? How about a chocolate candy bar? Hook up the Ototo and you can create your own music.
Yes, even with a chocolate candy bar.
'We can rebuild him. We have the technology.'
In the 1970s TV show The Six Million Dollar Man, doctors essentially rebuilt crippled test pilot Steve Austin with robotics. That fiction is a little closer to reality now that biomedical engineers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago in Illinois have created a robotic leg that and surgically attached it to a 32-year-old man who lost his knee and lower leg in a motorcycle accident.
And, get this: the robotic limb is controlled by the wearer's mind.
Biodegradable sensors that can tell if food has gone bad
What's more rotten than food that's gone ... rotten? Hu "Tiger" Tao, a post-doctoral student at Tufts University in Massachusetts, is working on a chewable sensor that's made from silk and can detect when food has gone bad. If the sensor works as he says it does, it could have future applications for the food and health industries, to name just a couple.
Up, up and away -- to outer space
Entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Elon Musk are working on ways to get paying customers into outer space via space craft. Meanwhile, a Tucson, Ariz.-based wants to do sort of the same thing but for a fraction of the price.
Paragon Space Development Corp. is building a helium-filled balloon that it hopes will be able to transport as many as eight passengers to an altitude of about 100,000 feet, or basically the edge of outer space. Aboard a 4-ton, highly pressurized gondola equipped with life-support systems and large windows, people will be able to take in the awe-inspiring panoramic views of the earth. No space suits or oxygen tanks necessary.