Laura DeMaria

Post image for Human Achievement of the Day: Boingy Boingy Suspended Drum Kit

If you thought Justin Bieber was the best Canadian export in recent music history, you must not have heard of the Boingy Boingy bouncing drum kit!

Canadian inventor and drummer Charlie Rose created the Boingy Boingy in an effort to make the old fashioned drum set more “dynamic.”

The set is suspended by car springs and features a steel oil barrel to “ride” on as the player bounces around. Rose has ensured player comfort by mounting the barrel with a horse saddle, creating an overall effect like that of a mechanical bull — a mechanical bull with rhythm.

The current model, the third after a couple of failed prototypes, was developed in collaboration with a group of custom motorcycle builders in Medicine Hat, Alberta. The group worked for ten months, after which the Boingy Boingy was born. Rose cites the development cost at “$4,000 in beer and pizza and an El Camino.”

Rose has taken the drum kit across western Canada and the United States, even playing into the south rim of the Grand Canyon, which proved to be a crowd-pleaser. He also took the Boingy Boingy to the TV show Dragon’s Den, wherein entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to millionaires looking to fund new businesses. Though ultimately it was not funded, the judges couldn’t resist trying it out for themselves.

Of his project, Rose says, “There is therapy in moving, bouncing, drumming and singing.” Plus, it gives you a great core workout!

Check out Boingy Boingy’s Facebook page and watch a video of the Boingy Boingy in action below:

The folks at Chaotic Moon, one of the world’s premiere mobile application studios, have turned their sights to a decidedly more domestic piece of modern technology: the shopping cart.

Having already utilized Microsoft Kinect, the motion-sensing device used in Xbox 360, to invent The Board of Awesomeness, Chaotic Moon is now wielding this technology for the benefit of the general consumer. Teaming with organic grocery giant Whole Foods, Chaotic Moon has created a prototype for a grocery cart, known as the Smarter Cart, that not only follows the customer around the store, but also identifies and adds up groceries as they are placed in the cart; can tell you which aisle your desired product is located in; and can even identify if you pick the “wrong” item. For example, in the video demonstration, non-gluten-free pasta is incorrectly chosen, which the cart’s scanner notes. The programmed voice lets the customer know where the correct pasta can be found.

The key to this fun and useful product is the movement-sensing Kinect software, synced with a Windows 8 tablet, which monitors user movement and follows accordingly. It also uses barcode scanning capability to keep track of the user’s groceries (including incorrect things placed into the cart mistakenly).

While the technology is only weeks into its development, Whole Food has tested single Smarter Carts in some stores, and will be demoing multiple carts in an Austin, Texas, store starting April 1.

Post image for Human Achievement of the Day: “Cheetah” Breaks Legged-Robot Speed Record

Boston Dynamics, a defense technology research company, has created a cheetah-lookalike robot which recently broke a long standing record for fastest running speed achieved by a robot.

Inspired by its feline namesake, the Cheetah robot has four legs and a flexible spine, plus the ability to flex its back as it moves, like a real cat. As for its speed: the previous record dated back to 1989, when an MIT robot reached 13.1 mph. The Cheetah clocks in at a respectable 18 mph, setting the new world record.

The project was funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which funds research and technology development to aid the U.S. military.

This is not the company’s first foray into animal or humanoid robots: they also developed the BigDog robot which acts like a pack animal, carrying heavy loads while walking through rough terrain; and the Petman, a headless humanoid robot that does push-ups. All of Boston Dynamic’s products are designed with military use in mind and these projects will no doubt become increasingly sophisticated, useful and maybe even a little bit scarier in the coming years.

For more information, see here.

Watch a video of the Cheetah in action below:

Post image for Human Achievement of the Day: LED Lamp that Lasts 37 Years

Continuing the celebration of human achievements this week, we highlight a beautifully designed, and brilliantly engineered, LED lamp which lasts 37 years.

Not possible, you say? Well, Jake Dyson begs to differ. The UK-based designer has been building innovative light concepts for years, but has now focused his efforts on inventing an efficient and sleek LED lamp, called CSYS, which uses microprocessor cooling technology to stay lit 12 hours a day, for 160,000 hours straight. Or in other words, for 37 years.

With a form reminiscent of a building crane, the sleek lamp contains a copper pipe which conducts heat away from the light source, allowing the notoriously hot and brief life of the LED bulb to last longer — much longer. This technology is most commonly seen in satellites and processor chips, making Dyson’s use of the technology even more unique.

Aside from looking futuristic and fancy, this desk lamp is highly user-friendly, emitting warm, white light which can be focused or spread out according the user’s preference. And while government-endorsed LED lights often contain mercury, in addition to having short life spans and tricky disposal requirements, the CSYS contains no mercury and never needs to be replaced.

See more pictures of the CSYS LED lamp here.

You may remember last year when the Human Achievement Hour blog highlighted mosquito-zapping lasers which selectively kill female, blood sucking mosquitoes and reduces the spread of malaria. This invention was needed, in part, as Michelle noted, due to the unfortunate demonization of DDT. “[Malaria, the mosquito-borne blood infection sickens more than 250 million people every year and kills a child every 43 seconds. Though DDT had been extremely successful in eradicating malaria in many parts of the world, baseless environmental concerns ultimately resulted in the banning of the technology, resurgence in the spread of malaria, and skyrocketing numbers of people infected.”

While DDT has since been re-legalized, many countries, particularly African nations, are wary of using the chemicals. “This year, researchers have made even more advances in finding non-chemical means to protect humans from the deadly virus, creating  a vaccine which may eliminate the need for lasers and other mosquito-vanquishing means altogether.

For the past several decades, researchers have been searching for a vaccine for malaria, but GlaxoSmithKline is the furthest along. The pharmaceutical company developed a malaria vaccine which, as of October 2011 trials, has been able to reduce the risk of the disease in young children by half.

Malaria is spread through infected mosquitoes that bite humans and inject parasites into the bloodstream, causing high fever and vital organ shutdown. Small children with developing immune systems are especially susceptible.

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Post image for Human Achievement of the Day: Robot Learns to Sculpt

If you thought all robots were good for is mass producing Coke and zippers, think again.

The KUKA robot, an industrial German robot arm typically used for manufacturing, has broadened its horizons to sculpting. Wax sculpting, to be specific.

Product designer Hermann Weizenegger, Studio NAND, and MADE in Berlin developed this interesting project, called Valse Automatique, as a way to integrate multiple disciplines in an innovative way.

The best part is, the KUKA robot designs his (her?) sculptures to the sound of classical music. How it works: violinist Mihalj “Miki” Kekenj plays an original waltz while the KUKA robot listens, analyzes the sound, and creates a sculpture out of a blank shape of wax. Each creation is unique and brings out the machine’s interpretation of that music’s “character.”

Stephan Thiel of Studio NAND believes the sculptures are not meaningless abstractions, but more like transformations or visualizations from one medium (music) to another (wax). In the future, KUKA robot may expand its repertoire to include some of the most famous pieces in classical music.

Watch a video on KUKA below: