The Future is Here: Smart Roads for Smart Cars

smart-highwaysWhen it comes to the future of transportation, it is clear that clean energy, automated systems and robot cars will all figure pretty prominently in the mix. But how will this effect our system of roadways and travel infrastructure? This is a question that is often raised whenever futuristic concepts for cars and transportation are showcased. Clearly, they deserve to be modernized as well, with something cleaner and smarter taking their place.

So argues Dutch design firm Studio Roosegaarde, whose ‘smart highway’ concept is set to be unveiled in the Netherlands in 2013. The design involves motion sensors that detect oncoming vehicles and light the way for them, then shut down to reduce energy consumption. Lane markings will use glow-in-the-dark paint to minimize the need for lighting, and another temperature-sensitive paint will be used to show ice warnings when the surface is unusually cold.

smarthighway1The highway also established for priority lanes that will accommodate electrical cars. Studio Roosegard hopes that these will one day l feature induction loops buried beneath the tarmac, which will allow electric car owners to literally charge their cars as they drive. While this concept is not-yet cost effective, the motion sensors and luminescent lane markers will be field tested next year along a 200 meter section of road.

The addition of these features along major highways is expected to reduce incidents of accidents, as well as save energy costs by reducing the reliance on streetlights. In addition, the road markings are expected to have longer-term applications, such as being integrated into a robot vehicle’s intelligent monitoring systems. As automated systems and internal computers become more common, smart highways and smart cars are likely to become integrated through their shared systems.

smarthighwaySustainable architecture advocate Rachel Armstrong sees all this as becoming part of a future where highways are truly multifunctional:

Not only will they light the way, but they will update geo-databases, informing us of traffic accidents, for example.

What’s more, drivers may even have the option of extricating themselves from the driving process and allowing a “self-drive” or autopilot feature to take over, where the vehicle will link up to the highways own navigation charts and find the optimal route to a destination. And, hold on to your hats, this could also become part of a national “drive safe” campaign, where driver’s are required to turn on the autodrive feature if they are past the legal blood-alcohol limit.

robotaxi_sanjoseIn short, smart highways are a proposal that only embraces clean energy and seeks to increase road safety, but seeks to integrate our roadways with emerging transportation technology. It will be very interesting to see what comes of this, especially when you consider the appeal of light rail and self-driving pod cars. For all we know, the future could consist of entirely automated transportation where no one drives anymore and traffic accidents are a thing of the past.

Nice, but think of the damage to the entertainment industry. With driving a thing of the past, what’s to become of car chases? Won’t someone please think of the car chases! Ah well, check out this video of the concept below:


Source:
forumforthefuture.org

 

Robots Meet the Fashion Industry

robot_fashionRobotics has come a long way in recent years. Why, just take a look at NASA’s X1 Robotic exoskeleton, the Robonaut, robotaxis and podcars, the mind-controlled EMT robot suit, Stompy the giant robot, Kenshiro and Roboy, and the 3D printed android. I suppose it was only a matter of time before the world of fashion looked at this burgeoning marketplace and said “me too!”

And here are just some of the first attempts to merge the two worlds: First up there’s the robot mannequin, a means of making window shopping more fun for consumers. Known as the MarionetteBot, this automaton has already made several appearances in shops in Japan and can expected to be making debut appearances across Asia, in North America and the EU soon enough!

Check out the video below to see the robot in action. Designed by the Japanese robotics company United Arrows, the mannequin uses a Kinect to capture and help analyze the movements of a person while a motor moves a total of 16 wires to match the person’s pose. Though it is not yet fast or limber enough to perfectly mimic the moves of a person, the technology shows promise, and has provided many a window-shopper with plenty of entertainment!


And next up, there’s the equally impressive FitBot, a shape-shifting mannequin that is capable of emulating thousands of body types. Designed by the British virtual shopping company Fits.Me, the FitBot is designed to help take some of the guesswork out of online shopping, where a good 25% of purchases are regularly returned because they were apparently the wrong size.

But with the FitBots, along with a virtual fitting room, customers will be able to see right away what the clothes will look like on them. The only downside is you will have to know your exact measurements, because that’s what the software will use to adjust the bot’s body. Click here to visit the company’s website and see how the virtual fitting room works, and be sure to check out there video below:


What does the future hold for the fashion industry and high-tech? Well, already customers are able to see what they look like using Augmented Reality technology displays, and can get pictures thanks to tablet and mobile phone apps that can present them with the image before making a purchase. Not only does it take a lot of the legwork out of the process, its much more sanitary as far as trying on clothes is concerned. And in a world where clothing can be printed on site, it would be downright necessary.

The "magic mirror"
The “magic mirror”

But in the case of online shopping, its likely to take the form of a Kinect device in your computer, which scans your body and lets you know what size to get. How cool/lazy would that be? Oh, and as for those AR displays that put you in the clothes you want? They should come with a disclaimer: Objects in mirror are less attractive than they appear!

Source: en.akihabaranews.com, technabob.com

The Future is Here: Robotaxis and Podcars!

2010 Zagato 2getthere Podcar

Fans of Total Recall may recall the Johnnycab, a robot taxi service that helped Arny get to where he was going and flee his armed assailants. Well, as it turns out, personal automated podcars (aka. robotaxis) are not a thing of the future anymore. Yes, as it turns out, Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates has a taxi service that consists of a small fleet of autonomous taxis which run entirely on electricity.

Invented by a European company named “2GetThere”, the service accommodates somewhere in the vicinity of 25,000 people per month. As part of the growing project to create a self-sustaining city that runs on clean, renewable energy, these rails are consistent with the city’s ethos and are expected to pave the way for clean mass transit. Best of all, the 2GetThere models don’t have weird-looking animatronic robot busts sitting in the front seat to creep you out and provide needless comic relief!

But of course, the UAE is not the only place where robotaxis can be found, nor is 2GetThere the only company investing in this revolutionary technology. In San Jose, the so-called “Capital of Silicon Valley”, similar efforts are being made to create clean, sustainable transportation. In this case, it takes the form of the Personal Rapid Transit System; or as it is more widely known, Podcars.

The system involves a series of on-call, point to point transit cars which move about on main lines and intermediate stations to find the quickest route to a destination. Under normal conditions, this means of transit has been shown to be faster than other forms of mass transit or automobile. The “matrix”, or looped layout structure of the network, allows for high-volume and is also expected to lessen the burden on conventional transit systems.

Granted, both networks are in their infancy, but both the science and the planning behind them is sound and expected to take off in the near future. Much like mag lev and light rail train systems, they are part of a growing Eco-friendly attitude towards city planning and mass transportation which is anticipated to become the mainstay of urban development and renewal in the 21st century.

And of course, Google and other companies are also hard at work trying to bring us other designs and concepts. Amongst them are true self-driving cars, the kinds that may very well involve robot drivers. But in all likelihood, these will take the form of truly “smart” cars – i.e. the kind that can guide themselves, pick optimal routes, and avoid accidents and traffic congestion. Sad to think that the days of driving might actually be coming to an end. But hey, at least we might save the planet in the process!