It’s easy to stand in awe gazing from the 163rd floor of the Burj Khalifa, atop the Hoover Dam or outside the Great Pyramid of Giza. The world’s largest man-made wonders are monuments to human ingenuity, perseverance and innovation. However, their grandeur should not detract from our more diminutive advancements.
To borrow from Neil Armstrong, small steps can result in giant leaps. In fact, this week’s collection of design wonders proves that even the smallest designs have the potential to change the course of the future.
Science fiction is full of robots looking to wipe out humanity. Right now, science fact is that robots are here to save us. In Dr. Stephen Hoffman’s case, he needs a robot that will crush malaria and protect the nearly 3.4 billion people at risk of contracting the disease. Dr. Hoffman has been on the front lines of the effort to create a malaria vaccine for more than 30 years. His passion was ignited while watching countless young Indonesians die during a stint as a doctor in Jakarta. Last year, Dr. Hoffman developed the first vaccine to provide 100 percent immunity. The problem: extracting mosquito saliva glands in a sterile environment is an art form. Think about it, we mostly crush and swat mosquitos – can you imagine having to find their saliva glands? Enter SporoBot. Developed in conjunction with the Harvard Biorobotics Laboratory, SporoBot has the precision and delicate touch often lacking in human hands. Dr. Hoffman is looking to crowdfund SporoBot in hopes of saving as many lives as possible.
The 2014 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Hong Kong has been host to engineers from around the world gathered to share their latest developments and research. Among this group is a team led by MIT Prof. Daniela Rus, who is literally baking the future of 3D-printed robotics. Rus’s big dream: to create a “hardware compiler” where you can cook up a robot to play with your cat or clean your floor. Sounds like it’s time to toss the Easy Bake Oven and start heating some Voltrons and Kaiju-killers under the broiler.
Engineers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) are designing the next generation of robotic movement. It just so happens that they’ve modeled a robot after a velociraptor. As if robots weren’t scary enough, they had to go ahead and make a robot version of the most lethal killer in Jurassic Park. Nightmares aside, the velocibot is an experiment in balance and motion that will eventually lead to advancements in robotic movement. Soon robots will be able to trade in two treads in favor of two legs. Clever girl.
Time might be a flat circle, but that doesn’t stop us from having to know what time it is. Franck Muller is home to the world’s most complicated watches. It’s not that these watches are difficult to read. No, these watches are micro-engineered masterpieces that will make you angry for ditching a timepiece in favor of a smartphone. See the meticulous effort required to produce these watches, including a production team that responds to feasibility tests with either “Yes, it’s possible,” or “No, are you crazy?” on Born to Design. Somewhere on Mars, Dr. Manhattan just had his breath taken away again.