It doesn’t get much sweeter than bringing sci-fi movies into real life, like this:
Jacob Rosen is developing a wearable robotic “exoskeleton” that could enable a person to lift heavy objects with little effort. It’s a bit like the robotic armor that has long been a staple of futuristic battle scenes in science fiction books and movies. But what excites Rosen is the device’s potential to help people disabled by stroke or degenerative diseases.
“One of the major challenges in this field is to establish an effective human-machine interface, or ‘bio-port,’ between the operator and the wearable robot, such that the robot becomes a natural extension of the human body,” he said. “This bio-port may be established at the neural level, allowing the human brain to control the wearable robot with the same type of signals that it uses to control its own actuators, the muscles.”
Rosen’s current exoskeleton prototype, developed with a grant from the National Science Foundation, consists of two wearable robotic arms mounted on one wall of his UCSC laboratory.
Two innovations distinguish Rosen’s prototype from other exoskeleton designs. One is a special design of the exoskeleton arms that allows the user to reach 95 percent of the natural range of motion, or “workspace,” of the human arm. The other, which is still the subject of active research, is a method for using neurological signals to control the exoskeleton.
“By using the body’s own control signals as input to the exoskeleton, you can achieve a natural control of the robot by the human operator as an extension of his or her body,” Rosen said.
Next, PC World recently did an article about the best gadgetry for the super-rich, and it’s full of fun stuff. Here are a few of my favorites:
Hardcore Reactor Extreme Desktop PC
Price tag: $10,866 (fully loaded)
You know what your mom told you about not using the blow dryer in the bathtub? Well, she was right: You really shouldn’t do that. But Hardcore has found a way to violate the whole no-electrical-devices-in-liquid law without causing immediate death to anything other than a lesser person’s wallet.
The guts of the Hardcore Reactor Extreme are immersed in liquid coolant. Hardcore says that the coolant–which is circulated through the system at 2.5 gallons per minute–absorbs heat ten times more efficiently than air does. That means two things: For ten grand you’ll get a system that’s as fast as anything we’ve ever tested.
Price tag: $109,000 (base price)
Normally cars give you a simple choice: You can be politically correct but plodding, as with the Toyota Prius. Or you can go very, very fast and burn through so much fossil fuel that Sarah Palin will start drilling on the North Slope just for you.
Tesla’s sports car represents a third way. It’s 100 percent electric, goes from 0 to 60 in less than 4 seconds and can travel nearly 250 miles on a single charge. You may recall I posted on this beautiful car about a year ago…it still revs my engine!
Panasonic Pro 103-Inch Plasma TV
Price tag: $69,995
One drawback of suddenly being richer than everyone you know is that you may become, well, an arrogant jerk. What better way to cut yourself down to size than with a really big TV?
With Panasonic’s 103-inch plasma-screen set, not only will movie stars be more attractive than you are, they’ll be bigger and perhaps even higher-def than you, too. Imagine a tight closeup of Daniel Craig in full James Bond glower spread across 7.5 feet by 4 feet of pixels. That’ll put you in your place.
And if you’re ego can survive even that reality check, wait until next year when Panasonic releases its long-anticipated 150-inch plasma.
Trip to Space on Virgin Galactic
Price tag: $200,000
Being fabulously affluent isn’t all chocolate truffles and champagne fountains. There are days when all those stocks, bearer bonds, and hedge funds in the Caymans just weigh you down, and you long to get away from it all. That’s when it’s time to fly Virgin Galactic and take a load off.
The Richard Branson venture promises to transport the well-heeled on a three-and-a-half-hour round trip that’s literally out of this world. Virgin’s specially designed aircraft will whisk you into suborbital space, where you’ll experience weightlessness for a few minutes. Then, on the homeward voyage to Earth, according to Branson, “the spacecraft turns into a giant shuttlecock”–an image that may alarm anyone who’s watched a game of badminton and noticed how often the shuttlecock spins out of control and crashes into the ground.
Surely, those fears are groundless. But just in case, Virgin Galactic will make sure that your check clears before you take off.
I’ve mentioned this one before, too.
Have a great weekend!