Entrepreneurs on the Moon, DNA Hacking and Real-Life Iron Man Gear
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A 3-D printed house? Check. A smart pair of shoes that can help the visually impaired navigate? Oh yes. A solar-powered poop-cleaning toilet? Yes, check, done. Entrepreneurs and other professionals are doing some far-out crazy things in technology, that's for sure.
We've rounded up 10 recent examples of technologies that are pushing the boundaries of innovation. We think they'll make you scratch your head and say, "What the heck?"
To the moon (with your startup)!
Doing business on the moon might not be just an idea in sci-fi novels. NASA, it turns out, is working with private companies to mine the moon for rare natural resources. The goal is to be able to create water, hydrogen and oxygen on the moon -- all essential elements for supporting human life.
NASA says a lunar mission named Resource Prospector is set for 2018. A similar mission is set to take place on Mars in 2020.
Ah, the possibilities of humans colonizing outer space. And where people go, business is sure to follow, right?
Would you buy a house made of 3-D printed plastic?
A plastic house? Really? At first it sounds kinda of ridiculous, but if you hear Dutch architect Hedwig Heinsman explain it, it starts to sound kinda cool.
Heinsman and her team are spearheading a project to 3-D print an entire house in Amsterdam. The project is called Canal House and requires a massive 3-D printer called the Kamermaker, printing one 400-pound honeycomb-like plastic block every week. The blocks will eventually be put together to form a house, somewhat like Legos.
"You can print buildings, and then just [tear them down] and then print them anew," Heinsman says.
Can you see me now?
Entrepreneurs and big companies dream up apps for the darndest things. In this case, an app called UltimEyes aims to improve people's vision through a series of workout programs.
Created by a neuroscientist with the University of California and developed by a company called Carrot Neurotechnology, the app consists of four 25-minute sessions per week for eight weeks.
UltimEyes was tested on a team of baseball players who, after finishing the training sessions, reported an average 31 percent increase in eyesight, with some players reached 20/7.5 vision.
Who needs carrots when you have this app on your smartphone?
Poop-cleaning tech (yes, seriously)
For the millions of people in the world who don't have access to modern sanitation, human waste and the subsequent health issues are a big problem. So, researchers with the University of Colorado Boulder have used technology to develop an unconventional solution: a solar-powered, waste-cooking toilet.
OK, let us explain. It's a self-contained, waterless toilet. It uses parabolic mirrors to capture sunlight and focus it on a small spot on a quartz glass rod. It is transferred to bundles of fiber optic cables, which can produce a total of about 700 watts of energy.
All that energy is used to heat solid and liquid wastes to temperatures that effectively disinfect it. Pretty neat. The leftover product is something called biochar, a charcoal-like material which can then be used as fuel or fertilizer.
Comic-book tech comes to life
Remember the villain Dr. Octopus from the Spiderman comic books (and movies)? Then this piece of technology will look eerily familiar.
Engineers in a Germany-based company have developed a bionic tentacle which can learn and remember actions and situations. While Dr. Octopus used his appendages for evil, these robot arms were designed to help with more mundane tasks, like picking fruit or replacing light bulbs. The tentacles mimic the incredibly complex, minute actions and adjustments humans make to do these same tasks. It's pretty far out.
Whether they were inspired by Dr. Octopus remains unclear. You'll just need to see it in action to believe it.
Please, please let this be real!
Unfortunately, it's not. Tech nerds and '80s movie geeks were up in arms over this well-played spoof.
Comedy site Funny or Die created a pair of videos featuring Back to the Future actor Christopher Lloyd and a cast of celebrities showcasing a multi-colored hoverboard called HUVr. It was all too like the hoverboards from the 1989 movie Back to the Future Part II.
While the videos were fun, the product was clearly a fake. As Lloyd said in an apology video, we were all "hoverduped." But we can dream. Ah, yes, we can dream.
Hacking ... your DNA?
A startup called Exogen Biotechnology is developing products that allow people to monitor damage to their DNA. To make the results even more useful, it is crowdsourcing the huge amounts of data it collects.
Sound totally crazy and far out? You'll have to read more to understand.
Instead of growing body parts in science labs or building them from machines, the future of body part regeneration might be in ... 3-D printing.
From ears to bones and even skin, a small army of startups and initiatives have popped up to push 3-D printing technology further into the health industry. Come on, the idea of a custom built 3-D bio-printer churning out skin cells? That's awesome.
Actually, it's not even an idea anymore. It's reality.
Your feet just got smarter.
The latest in wearable technology isn't a watch or a ring, it's a pair of shoes. Why would anyone want or need smart shoes? The founders of India-based Ducere Technologies think they have the answer.
The company has created "Lechal" interactive-haptic footwear using technology to help the visually impaired navigate from one place to another. Basically, a smartphone app connects to technology in the shoes. The wearer sets a destination in the app, which then uses GPS to determine the best route.
The shoes can also be used as a fitness-tracking system. So, the applications are far and wide.
Tony Stark, eat your heart out.
Think the technology in the Iron Man comics and movies is awesome? If so, you're not alone.
Last month during remarks at a White House event, President Barak Obama mentioned an Army project called TALOS. What's TALOS? It stands for Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit. The U.S. government is developing a special operations suit that can repel flames and ammunition.
"Basically I'm here to announce that we're building Iron Man," Obama joked during his speech. "This has been a secret project we've been working on for a long time. Not really. Maybe. It’s classified."