Is this (finally) our flying car?
May 9th, 2013
03:52 PM ET

Is this (finally) our flying car?

By Doug Gross, CNN

It's one of science fiction's greatest unfulfilled promises, right up there with teleportation and time travel.

And, no, Terrafugia hasn't built us a Tardis or promised to beam us up. But they say they're closer than ever to giving us a flying car.

This week, the Woburn, Massachussetts-based aerospace company announced it has begun feasibility studies on a car capable of vertical takeoffs and landings. The TF-X would be a four-seat, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, according to the company.

“We are passionate about continuing to lead the creation of a flying car industry and are dedicating resources to lay the foundations for our vision of personal transportation,” Terrafugia CEO Carl Dietrich said in a media release. “Terrafugia is about increasing the level of safety, simplicity, and convenience of aviation.  TF-X is an opportunity to provide the world with a new dimension of personal freedom!”

Yes, the long-awaited promise of "The Jetsons" may soon become reality.

Lest you think  the company is just getting our hopes up for some cheap publicity, know this - they've already created a flying car of sorts.

The Transition is a street-legal vehicle that's designed to fly in and out of airports. It was successfully flown for the first time in 2009. The second-generation version of the Transition performed a driving-and-flying demo last year.

The new TF-X project comes as work on the Transition shifts "from research and development to certification, production, and customer support activities," the company said.

Terrafugia says it has about 100 orders for the Transition, which goes for $279,000.

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The big difference between the Transition, which is scheduled to hit the market in 2015, and the new flying car is that the TF-X would be able to take off anywhere,  like a helicopter, and not just at an airport.

Its automation systems would make taking off and landing a self-driving process, though the driver would be able to take over manual control at any time.

Terrafugia (Latin for "escape from Earth") says it has had "preliminary conversations" with the Federal Aviation Administration about the TF-X and that the agency has "demonstrated their willingness to consider innovative technologies and regulatory solutions that are in the public interest and enhance the level of safety of personal aviation."

In other words, we might actually get to ride in one someday.

What do you think? Will we see widespread use of flying cars in our lifetimes? Let us know in the comments.

More: Rugged wheelchair offers off-road freedom for disabled

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Meet the inflatable, 'invisible' bike helmet
August 17th, 2012
04:44 PM ET

Meet the inflatable, 'invisible' bike helmet

By Doug Gross, CNN

Hey, cyclists! Want to look more stylish while riding and still avoid the inconvenience of a cracked skull?

Then a pair of Swedish designers have got just the helmet for you - provided you're willing to fork over about $600 and aren't afraid of looking a little like a deployed airbag when you fall.

The newly released Hovding (no, Americans, that's not a futon from Ikea) is billed as The Invisible Bicycle Helmet. Begun in 2005 as a project for a master's-level industrial design course,  the blow-up helmet is housed in a pouch that, when wrapped around your neck, looks a little like a puffed-up ski-jacket collar. FULL POST

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Filed under: Design • entrepreneurs • Fashion • Innovation • Science • Tech • Uncategorized
A touchscreen with keys that rise and disappear
June 6th, 2012
11:10 AM ET

A touchscreen with keys that rise and disappear

If you've ever followed up a garbled text with "Damn You, Autocorrect," some high-tech help might be on the way.

A California company says it's created technology that could make keyboard keys rise out of the touchscreen on a smartphone, tablet or other device, then disappear when you were done with them.

Tactus Technology this week demoed Tactile Layer, a product that uses haptics, or a touch-based interface, to make patterns or shapes rise and recede on a regular touchscreen.

The company says its panel, which it displayed on a prototype Android tablet at this week's Society for Information Display showcase in Boston, is  "the world's first deformable tactile surface."

"The origin of Tactus goes back to 2007," said CEO Craig Ciesla in a video.  "Looking at the iPhone and all the elegance of that user interface, I also realized that I like my BlackBerry with the buttons ... . As human beings, we really want to be able to feel things; we really want that tactility."

The layer is flat and transparent and wouldn't add any thickness to a gadget since it would replace a layer that already exists, Tactus says.

For tech consumers, devices that could benefit from the system include smartphones, tablets, e-readers, gaming devices and remote controls, the company says.  But it also has potential in automobiles, medical devices and personal navigation systems, they say.

Tactus has partnered with Touch Revolution, a touchscreen manufacturer. The first Tactus products will be available by mid-2013, Ciesla said.

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Filed under: Design • Innovation • Tech
5 extra-creative Webby Award winners
May 1st, 2012
02:29 PM ET

5 extra-creative Webby Award winners

By Doug Gross, CNN

(CNN) - The winners of the 2012 Webby Awards were announced on Tuesday.

Established in 1996, the Webby Awards are arguably the Internet's best-known honors.

After starting small, the Webbys now hand out more than 100 awards each year.

Many of each year's honorees tend to be celebrities, big companies or well-known online entities. Among this year's big winners are Pinterest (best social media app), photo-sharing app Instagram (breakout of the year), and the comedian Louis C.K., honored by the Webbys for creating "a new precedent for distribution" by releasing his comedy special through his own website.

FULL POST

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MIT researchers seek to create robotic 'self-sculpting sand'
MIT has tested the potential of "smart sand" with these larger cubes with rudimentary microprocessors inside.
April 4th, 2012
04:01 PM ET

MIT researchers seek to create robotic 'self-sculpting sand'

By Doug Gross, CNN

It could be something out of "Harry Potter," or a scene from "Terminator 2" if you want to take it to a creepier place.

Take a box full of sand and tell it what you need - say a hammer, a ladder or a replacement for a busted car part. Bury a tiny model of what you need in the sand, give it a few seconds and - voila! - the grains of sand have assembled themselves into a full-size version of the model.

MIT robotics researchers say such a magical sandbox could be no more than a decade away. FULL POST

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Nanotube fabric could let you charge your phone by walking
Wake Forest graduate student Corey Hewitt works with a sample of thermoelectric fabric in the school's Nanotechnology lab.
March 30th, 2012
08:25 AM ET

Nanotube fabric could let you charge your phone by walking

By Doug Gross, CNN

What if you could power up your smartphone with just a brisk walk?

That’s the promise of Power Felt, a new creation of nanotechnology researchers at Wake Forest University.

It’s a fabric, made up of tiny carbon nanotubes locked in flexible plastic fibers, that uses temperature differences to create a charge. FULL POST

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Look, no hands! The driverless future of driving is here
The driverless car 'Made in Germany' (MIG), being put through its paces at Berlin's Tempelhof airport, October 13, 2010.
February 22nd, 2012
07:27 AM ET

Look, no hands! The driverless future of driving is here

By Doug Gross, CNN

Will there be a time in our lives when cars don’t crash? When a Mustang can warn a BMW that it’s changing lanes – or when we can just sit back and relax and our cars will drive themselves?

Auto technology experts say “yes." And they say that some of those advances may happen quicker than you might think.

“We are seeing just seismic changes as we speak,” said Scott Belcher, president and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. FULL POST

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MIT camera system captures speed of light
December 13th, 2011
01:42 PM ET

MIT camera system captures speed of light

By Doug Gross, CNN

A trillion exposures per second sounds amazingly fast. But that capacity is what you need in a camera if you're going to capture images of the speed of light.

A team of MIT researchers say they've created a revolutionary camera system that can, literally, render the speed of light in slow motion.

"There's nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera," said Andreas Velten, a post-doctoral researcher who called the system the "ultimate" version of slow motion. FULL POST

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Welcome to 'What's Next'
November 7th, 2011
02:04 PM ET

Welcome to 'What's Next'

Welcome to "What's Next."

Launching today, this blog will be the home for a forward-leaning look at the people, ideas and inventions on the cutting edge of innovation.

While other areas of CNN.com focus on the ways technology, science and other fields impact our lives, "What's Next" will introduce you to the people helping create tomorrow's reality.

There will be a focus on technological breakthroughs - from promising start-ups to cutting-edge gadgets. But innovations in the fields of medicine, transportation, commerce and environmental research (among others) will also be featured here.
FULL POST

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