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Posts Tagged ‘Flying Cars’

How America might invent the future

Modern humans may impatiently look forward to their robot servants and flying cars of the future, but true lessons about innovation come from the past. And history suggests that making a great leaps forward in science and technology requires much more than lone genius. Cooperation, financing and hard work are at the core of progress. 

The question facing the United States right now: Is the country up to the task? 

President Obama’s recent call for a “new spirit of innovation” as a means to reinvigorate the economy and create lasting prosperity comes at a meaningful time when U.S. inventors have become celebrated individuals supported by society. This marks a huge contrast with much of the past, when many would-be inventors or lone geniuses likely died alone and unknown.
Now the U.S. and other modern nations pour huge resources into education and scientific research, which form the bedrock conditions for fostering innovation. They also host thriving private sectors which can commercialize inventions and transform novel ideas into useful, practical applications. But it took the industrial and scientific revolutions to bring about societal conditions friendly to innovation. 

Made by … anonymous 
Most inventions throughout human history came from anonymous inventors, according to experts in a 2004 report by the Lemelson-MIT Program and the National Science Foundation. Such inventions only slowly grew refined over long periods by different individuals and societies, with random chance playing a large role in whether they ever saw the light of day. 

That changed as society began taking a more active role in fostering science and education. 

For instance, the United States set its course for future innovation when Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act into law in 1862. The law set allowed each state to establish endowments for new agricultural and engineering universities, which boosted the number of engineering schools from six to 126 between 1862 and 1917. 

U.S. engineering’s expansion also coincided with a surge in industrialization and economic growth following the Civil War. The Lemelson-MIT report ultimately credits the government’s law with laying the foundation for much U.S. innovation, and perhaps boosting economic prosperity as well. 

The other large government action supporting U.S. innovation came after World War II, when the GI Bill “educated at least two generations of engineers and scientists” by granting veterans a college education, according to the Lemelson-MIT report. Those GI Bill produced 450,000 engineers, 238,000 teachers, 91,000 scientists and 67,000 doctors. 

Culture of wild ideas 
Just as society has collectively cultivated innovation, modern inventors can also pool their resources. 

Many successful companies have corporate cultures that foster open communication and provide opportunities to network with smart individuals. Google represents a prime example with its “20 percent time” policy, which permits employees to work on their own creative projects and enlist the support of colleagues. 

Another private outfit called Intellectual Ventures draws on the likes of Microsoft founder Bill Gates and other top entrepreneurs, as well as the brightest scientists and engineers, to brainstorm wild new ideas as a group. The company then patents the best ideas to sell off as intellectual property. 

This notion of having legal ownership over ideas has represented a powerful societal step toward fostering innovation. However, experts warn of a delicate balance between protecting intellectual property and not choking off the free flow of ideas. 

“There is a growing tendency to reward all creativity with protection of intellectual property,” stated the Lemelson-MIT report. “Hence what were once islands of protection in an ocean of public domain are now large continents of protection, with only lakes of free access.” 

Tomorrow’s innovators 
If the federal government needs new direction for future innovation, it could look to the future innovators. The 2009 Lemelson-MIT Invention Index found that 43 percent of U.S. teens want President Obama to focus on the energy crisis, and 33 percent would like to see a focus on medical discoveries. 

The survey also showed that 37 percent of teens believe that gas-powered cars represent the most endangered invention of modern times. That may reflect a youthful confidence in the pace of innovation moving forward, as U.S. students have grown up in a society that strongly supports its inventors.
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it,” said Alan Kay, a computer scientist who worked at Apple and Hewlett-Packard. 

Modern inventors have some of the best advantages at their disposal to follow that advice. But whether each nation or society chooses to continue encouraging the best conditions for innovation remains an open question. 

As history has shown, scientific breakthroughs and bold new inventions don’t typically occur as an individual flash of genius. Instead, they rely heavily upon the resources which society invests in educating and supporting the next generation of innovators.

'Need a lift?': Debut flight of first flying car which can go from road to sky at the flick of a switch

Since man first found himself trapped in traffic jams, we have dreamed of finding a way to leave the gridlock behind.

Well dream no longer, for the world’s ‘first flying car’ has made its debut flight, soaring over the skies of the U.S.A. before touching down and – at the touch of a button – folds its wings away and hits the highway.

The Terrafugia Transition can cruise at 115mph before driving ‘at highway speeds’ on the roads – and it can be safely stored in the garage.

Takeoff! The Terrafugia flying car takes off from the New York airstrip

Carl Dietrich, creator of the Terrafugia, said: ‘This breakthrough changes the world of personal mobility – it’s what aviation enthusiasts have been striving for since 1918.’

The company claims its flying vehicle can soar 400 miles through the air on a single tank of gas.

Meanwhile refueling involves no more than driving into the nearest forecourt and filling up with unleaded petrol.

Time for a refuel: The flying car takes unleaded petrol and its foldable wings allow it to be used at petrol stations and parked in garages
Touchdown: The Transition heads back down to land, where at the touch of a button it can fold its wings and go for a drive

Other flying cars have been demonstrated before, but this is the first proven model with foldable wings which allows it to seamlessly transfer from air to road.

However there’s a few barriers to entry – the car/plane will cost around $194,000 (about £139,000) at launch, although car enthusiasts may note this is no more than a top-end Bentley.

Drivers will also need to provide full driver’s or pilot’s license if they get pulled over mid-flight.

As a light aircraft, it will struggle to fly in poor weather, bad visibility or restricted airspace, but it does have the added advantage of continuing the journey by road if conditions turn for the worse.

In tandem: The Terrafugia Transition flies in formation with another light aircraft
Ready to fly: The Terrafugia parked on the runway

 Pilot Phil Meteer in the cockpit during the test flight

Company test pilot Phil Meteer – a former air force colonel – piloted the maiden flight earlier this month.

He told AVWeb: ‘The first flight was remarkably unremarkable.

‘I’ve flown several thousand hours in everything from Piper Cubs to F-16s, and the Transition flew like a really nice airplane.’

The Transition is classed as a light aircraft, fitting into the U.S.’s ‘light sport’ category and making it easier to gain a licence. 

The company is still waiting for certification from the National Highways and Transportation Safety Administration.

However Transition are ‘confident’ the vehicle will soon be taking to the roads and skies.

See video of the Terrafugia’s first debut flight here:

Top 10 Tech Cities

We might not have jet packs, flying cars and food in a pill yet, but we do have the internet, HDTV and the iPod — solid technologies that make 21st-century living pretty cool. So where is the future coming from? Amazingly, it’s being created by a select group of cities that have strong research and development in technology and a population that embraces it. From North America to the Far North to Asia, and a few countries in between, we’ve compiled a list of tech cities from around the world where technology is tops.

Here are our picks for the top 10 tech cities you must visit if you’ve got a hankering for some extensive Wi-Fi coverage.

Tel Aviv, Israel
There’s a good chance that the one in four Israelis working in a high-tech fields are positioned in Tel Aviv, on of the world’s top tech cities. Considered the cultural capital of Israel, Tel Aviv has a young population and a 24-hour scene. These are two big ingredients why the city has so much venture capital and start-ups are so well-funded. Microsoft likes Tel Aviv so much that it’s opening a new R&D center in the city. With a population that spends more time online per capita than any other country, it appears the city is in a good spot to experience even more growth in the future.

Munich, Germany
Almost 65% of Germany’s population uses broadband — the largest percentage in Europe. And Munich is considered the country’s high-tech center. But in 2003, the city of Munich suggested something that spurred Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to get on a plane to Munich. What? The city wanted to migrate their 14,000 computers from Microsoft to Linux, and Steve’s pleas didn’t change a thing; they flipped in 2006, making Munich one of the top tech cities in the world. Other bold elements of the city’s tech culture include airport wireless connections that let you use your own ISP and in-flight broadband services for long-haul flights from Munich.

Bangalore, India
Thirty-five percent of India’s IT talent works in Bangalore and generates a massive chunk of India’s overall GDP. Bangalore has a countless number of top engineering schools that feed the IT economy, which have attracted elite companies like Microsoft, HP, 3M, and Infosys to set up offices here. As one of the top tech cities, Bangalore has been dubbed the “Silicon Valley of India.” The city’s culture reflects that with Wi-Fi coverage for much of the city. Biotech is the other show in town with just under half of all Indian biotech companies in Bangalore.

Helsinki, Finland
Finns traditionally like quiet and aren’t big on small talk, yet they stormed the world with a cell phone brand. Nokia may not make much sense, but it does make a lot of money. Ironically, it’s a big topic of conversation for Finns in and out of the high-tech industry. In fact, Helsinki has more cell phones per capita than Japan or America, and Finland claims that 70% of its population uses the internet. Also with the Helsinki University of Technology readying thousands of students for its high-tech market, Helsinki is considered the second fastest growing urban area in Europe. For a quiet place, it makes a big racket as one of the top tech cities around.  

Seattle, Washington
Seattle is widely known for two things: tech companies and coffee shops. Bill Gates set up Microsoft here with offices throughout the city and its suburbs, but he’s not alone. Amazon.com and T-Mobile are two other big companies in Seattle’s white pages. In all, the popularity of tech companies in Seattle was so big in the ‘90s that close to 50,000 people moved in. So, residents should have no trouble at all finding a wireless network, especially when they’re enjoying a cup of coffee in a Starbucks or Seattle’s Best Coffee — both of which started here and exist on every street corner. It’s a handy relationship for techies who get to stay wired all day and night in one of the coolest tech cities in North America.  

San Francisco Bay Area, California
The southern San Francisco Bay Area, which includes San Jose, is the gold standard of American tech cities. Known as Silicon Valley, the area got its name in the ‘70s because of a number of computer companies developing silicon microchips there. Since then, all the big names in tech have moved into the San Francisco Bay Area: Intel, Yahoo, Hewlett-Packard, Google, and of course, Apple. The area’s residents get to reap the rewards, like access to a “connected bus” service with free Wi-Fi and touch-screen maps. It looks like Rice-A-Roni isn’t the only treat in this town.

Hong Kong, China
You can place an order with a robot waiter in Hong Kong. This is just one example of this tech city’s gadget-crazy life, which also includes extensive cell phone coverage and the fastest residential broadband in the world. In a bid to encourage more high-tech business, Hong Kong opened a high-tech area called Cyberport with apartments and shops all covered by Wi-Fi. Creative and special effects companies have moved in, which is a big industry in Hong Kong. School kids are also early technology adopters, some getting their fingerprints scanned into a primary school database every morning for attendance. All of this adds up to make Hong Kong a world-class tech destination.  

Singapore, a city state of just under four million people, is a tech utopia. Wireless broadband is available to everyone free of charge. The government also promises
to increase wired broadband speeds to 1gig a second by 2012. This year, mobile money will be made legal tender so residents can pay for items from their phones, handheld computers and wristwatches. Plus RFID (radio frequency identification) tags are mandatory on every car, charging people different prices based on what time they use certain roads. It comes as no surprise that multinational companies like HP, Fuji, IBM, and Microsoft have set up a presence in this techie fantasy island.

Seoul, South Korea
Samsung and LG Group are based in Seoul, and are the backbones of the country’s strong mobile phone industry. This explains why the phones of most Seoul residents are 10 times faster than yours. The other big business here is online gaming. Over half of South Korea’s produced games are shipped to China. And just under half of Koreans are hardcore gamers who meet regularly in internet cafes to play online. It’s so popular that a Seoul university offers an online gaming course. Seoul is also considered one of the most connected tech cities; people have wireless access on public transportation, even underground in the subway.

Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo is the ultimate canvas of high-tech living. You can find everything here: techie gadgets, next-generation cell phones, a high-speed public transportation system, advanced electronics, smaller microchips, and the highlight — digital toilets. While some of the big tech companies in Tokyo include Sony, Nikon and Panasonic, the city is a marketplace for every Japanese product from Nintendo to Epson. In Tokyo, the majority of residents have ketai (mobile phones) glued to their hands. They use them for texting, e-mailing, talking, and shopping. When they’re not on them, they’re using broadband with speeds several times faster than anything in North America.