If you’re making a 2-mm-long walking robot, it pretty much goes without saying that the thing won’t be able to carry much of a battery. That’s why Georgia Tech’s new “micro-bristle-bots” are instead propelled by vibrations. And someday, they may actually be capable of moving within the human body.

The robots are 3D printed out of polymer resin, via a process known as two-photon polymerization lithography. Each one has either four or six springy “legs,” which are really more like bristles – hence the name. Additionally, glued onto the back of each bot is a piezoelectric actuator made of lead zirconate titanate.

When vibrations are delivered to the robot via either a shake table, an external ultrasound/sonar source, or a tiny acoustic speaker, those vibrations cause the angled legs to move up and down, propelling the robot forward. The onboard actuator can also produce the vibrations when subjected to an electrical current, although that current presently has to come from a hard-wired source. Down the road, however, it may be possible to wirelessly activate the actuator using electrical fields.

The amplitude of the vibrations determines the speed at which the robots move. What’s more, by tweaking their legs’ size, diameter, and overall geometry, the bots can be designed to respond to different vibrational frequencies. Therefore, by linking together two differently-designed robots that respond to different frequencies, it should be possible to steer the two by varying the frequency and amplitude of the vibrations.

Hundreds of the devices have already been created, and the researchers are now looking at ways of scaling up the manufacturing process, so that thousands could be made at once. Possible applications include the movement of materials within tiny spaces, or even the treatment of injuries within the body. And, because the actuators can be tuned to generate an electrical current when exposed to vibrations (the opposite of what they usually do), the robots could also carry environmental sensors that are temporarily powered up as needed.

A paper on the research, which is being led by Asst. Prof. Azadeh Ansari, was recently published in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering. The micro-bristle-bots can be seen in action, in the video below.

Ant-sized robots move by pickin’ up good vibrations [New Atlas]

As compared to most other joints in the human body, the knee has quite a large range of motion … so why not put that motion to use, as a source of electricity? That’s what a new prototype device does, and it reportedly does not cause its wearer to expend more energy while walking.

Developed by scientists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the 307-gram (0.7-lb) device incorporates a slider-crank mechanism, which converts the rotary motion of the knee into linear motion.

That mechanism consists of a rod (attached to a band on the wearer’s thigh), which moves in and out of a “slider” that’s attached to a band on their calf – both units are able to pivot, changing their angle relative to the bands. Therefore, as the user walks, their knee motion causes the rod to move straight in and out of the slider.

Additionally, a strip of carbon fiber is attached at either end to the top of the rod, and to the slider. Adhered to that strip is a “smart” macrofiber composite (MFC) material, that generates an electrical current as it bends. This means that whenever the rod moves into the slider and the carbon fiber bends, the material bends with it – producing 1.6 microwatts of power at walking speeds of 2 to 6.5 km/h (1 to 4 mph).

This should reportedly be enough to run wearable devices such as health-monitoring gadgets or GPS units. What’s more, when the breathing patterns of test subjects were monitored as they walked on a treadmill, it was determined that they weren’t working any harder when using the device.

Ultimately, it is hoped that the technology could find use with people such as mountaineers, who need to keep electronic items charged while trekking through remote locations. A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

British scientists previously developed an energy-harvesting wearable of their own, that generates electricity by using knee movement to “pluck” arms that respond by vibrating.

Wearable device harvests energy from bending of the knee [New Atlas]

DoneGood, an e-commerce platform, is taking the ‘high road’ by offering exclusively ethical brands, but it isn’t above aiming to steal the loyalty of its competitor’s customers on the highly anticipated Amazon Prime Day. On July 15 and 16 — the same days that Amazon will offer major Prime discounts — DoneGoodis hosting “Better Days.” According to DoneGood representatives, using this site instead of Amazon is a no-brainer. The sales are “better than Prime Day — you get great deals and create ‘Better Days’ for people and the planet.”

DoneGood is an e-commerce platform that only includes socially responsible brands that have been vetted and tagged for searchable categories like environmentally friendly, vegan or women’s empowerment. The site conveniently knocks out hours of due diligence and research that well-intended customers have had to do in order to find eco-friendly brands that pay fair wages and treat workers with respect. The site contains hundreds of brands and a wide variety of projects, including sunglasses made from ocean plastic and candles that give refugees a fair wage.

By contrast, workers at Amazon have filed lawsuits for mistreatment, including long hours and limited water breaks. Some Amazon workers are planning a strike during Amazon’s Prime Days.

DoneGood also offers a downloadable plugin that users can run simultaneously with their regular searches on Google, Amazon or other major retailer sites. The plugin will highlight the items within the user’s search that are approved as ethical, mission-driven items.

“The dollars we all spend are the world’s most powerful force for change,”
Cullen Schwarz, founder of DoneGood, said. “Americans donated $400 billion to charity last year but spent $130 trillion buying stuff. If even a fraction of that spending is diverted to brands that are reducing poverty, protecting the environment, making the world better, the impact of that is huge.”

DoneGood challenges Amazon Prime Days with rival discounts that help the planet [Inhabitat]

Let’s get one thing straight: camping was always cool. It wasn’t, however, always a very popular pastime among young people. According to the 2019 North American Camping Report, sponsored by Kampgrounds of America, there are more millennials and Gen Xers likely to identify themselves as lifelong campers now than in any other year. The study, which began in 2014, was conducted through surveys in both the United States and Canada.

The percentage of North Americans who camp three or more times per year has increased by 72 percent since 2014, adding 7 million more camping households (families with children under 18 years-old who camp) to the Canadian and American campgrounds. Younger campers are also helping to increase the popularity of hiking and backpacking while they camp, according to the report.

While the majority of campers choose the traditional approach of camping (sleeping in tents), there are more millennials choosing to camp in cabins and RVs instead, with 14 percent using cabins in 2016 and 21 percent in 2018 to be exact. The study also found that campers are more diverse than ever. Of the 1.4 million households that went camping for the first time in 2018, 56 percent were millennials and 51 percent identified as nonwhite. For the first time since 2014 (when the study began), the percentage of non-white first-time campers outpaced the percentage of new campers who identified as Caucasian.

When it comes to trendy “glamping,” all age groups are showing interest. Particularly in millennials, 50 percent of which said they were interested in glamping in 2018 versus the 25 percent who said they wanted to try it in 2017. Glamping refers to unique camping accommodations that often includes enhanced services like luxury yurts, king-sized beds, spas and even private chefs. Some glamping companies have been praised for providing an eco-friendly alternative to traditional hotel or resort accommodations. Many take advantage of locally-sourced food, composting toilets and solar power to give their guests opportunities to connect with nature while still having access to the creature comforts they’re used to.

The same goes for “van life,” a camping lifestyle that uses altered camper vans, or motorized class B vehicles, as opposed to RV’s or tents. The main objective is often to go off the grid and easily move from place to place without having to disassemble a tent or find an electrical power source for your RV. The number of millennials who wanted to experience van life shifted up by about 4 percent between 2017 and 2018. Those who live the van life trade modern comforts and space for a chance to get as close to nature as possible while living a minimalist lifestyle.

So why the spike in camping interest? 30 percent of millennials say that major life events such as having kids is impacting their desire to camp more, while another 30 percent said that the ability to see other people traveling and exploring popular destinations (thank you, social media) made them want to spend more time camping.

Even more encouraging, half of all campers said that the “love of the outdoors” first sparked their interest in camping, meaning that more camp-loving North Americans are beginning to value nature even more than before— a good sign for our national parks, and the planet as a whole. One out of every 20 camping families said that 2018 was the first time they’d ever camped. 2018 also saw the highest number of self-identified lifelong campers ever recorded, with more millennials identifying themselves as lifelong campers than in past years.

As studies have shown, spending as little as two hours in nature can improve mental health, and camping offers the opportunity to connect with nature with the added benefits of unplugging from the internet and electronic devices. Additionally, activities such as hiking which often accompany camping provide good exercise, even setting up your tent and site counts!

Since the study began in 2014, the amount of North Americans who intend to camp more has almost doubled. The groups who were most optimistic about their camping future were families and millennials, as 61 percent of millennials said that they planned to camp more in 2019.

There’s no denying it, the future of camping looks bright. So if you were in one of those families growing up that had an annual camping trip, consider yourself lucky. You’re already ahead of the pack!

Millenials are bringing camping back [Inhabitat]

Waiting for the bus is typically pretty uneventful — unless you live in one Dutch city.

Utrecht, a city in Holland, the Netherlands, recently gave makeovers to 316 bus stops, outfitting them with “green roofs,” The Independent reports. The roofs are covered with sedum flowers and other plants, which act as an oasis for bees. Plus, the added greenery has a slew of other positive environmental effects.

As explained by BrightVibes, the plants will also help absorb rainwater, capture dust or pollutants from the air, and regulate temperatures. Not to mention, adding plants in urban spaces has plenty of other benefits, including: reducing noise pollution, reducing stress, increasing biodiversity, beautifying the city, absorbing carbon, and improving air quality.

In addition to the green roofs, the bus stops also feature bamboo benches and LED lights, which are much more efficient than fluorescent and incandescent lights. And to keep the maintenance of the green bus stops as eco-friendly as possible, Utrecht’s municipal employees who service the bus stops travel from station to station using electric vehicles.
If Utrecht citizens find themselves inspired when waiting for their daily bus ride, the city is encouraging residents to install green roofs on their houses. In fact, Utrecht residents can actually apply for a subsidy to cover the costs of planting greenery on their roofs, according to BrightVibes.
As pollinators, bees play a very important role on Earth, namely in terms of food production for humans. According to the USDA, bee pollination assists in producing one out of every three bites of food we take in the U.S. Many foods we regularly enjoy would not be possible without bees. According to the NRDC, 42 percent of U.S. bee colonies collapsed in 2015, putting our nation’s food supply in jeopardy.

But over the past few years, there have been a few other local projects to protect bees around the world.

For example, in 2010, a German couple began installing bee hives on buildings around Berlin, with the goal of helping bees, as well as creating awareness for the importance of protecting pollinator insects.

And also in the Netherlands, designer Matilde Boelhouwer recently invented self-sustaining artificial flowers, designed to feed insect pollinators including bees and butterflies. She aims to eventually install the flowers around various cities, and she told Green Matters that the flowers do not need maintenance, and that they’ll continue sustaining themselves for about 10 years.

If you have a garden at your home, there are plenty of ways to use your outdoor space to help beesand other pollinators. For example, you can plant flowers that will attract bees, such as alyssum, echinacea, geranium, and clover, preferably in bright colors like blue, purple, and yellow, according to Gardeners Supply Company. You can also stop weeding your garden and mowing your lawn. As explained by the New York Bee Sanctuary, dandelions and other weeds are great food sources for bees.

Hopefully other cities follow in Utrecht’s footsteps and plant green roofs on their bus stops in the near future.

Bees Can Take Refuge on These Bus Stop “Green Roofs” [Green Matters]

The promise of reusable sticky things, from Post-it Notes to Blu Tack, has never quite been fulfilled. They’re just never quite as sticky the second time around, or the third. But now, a team of engineers from University of Pennsylvania and Lehigh University thinks it has an answer, inspired by one of nature’s great stickers, the humble – and slimy – snail.

Snails secrete mucus constantly, to keep their bodies from drying out, and to aid in locomotion. They also use this mucus to form an adhesive layer called an epiphragm to securely anchor themselves in place. This layer of slime finds its way into pores and irregularities of a surface where it hardens (ever tried to pull a resting snail off a wall?), but at night when the environment becomes moist and the snail decides to move along, the hardened slime softens and its adhesive properties are reversed.

While we’ve had non-marking, removable adhesives for a while, a removable, strong and – most importantly – truly reusable adhesive has yet to hit the market. Of course there’s the ingenious Geckskin but that’s more of a mechanical adhesive, using a process known as “draping adhesion” (akin to those gooey Wacky WallWalker toys from the ’80s).

The problem to date has been two-fold: Removable, reusable adhesives are handy, but not very strong (and not as reusable as we’d like), while strong adhesives like super-glue are completely irreversible. What we really need is the best of both worlds.

So, with this challenge in mind, the research team tore a slimy page out of the snails’ book of reversible, super-adhesion and set to work. Led by Shu Yang (a professor in both the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering), the team made the discovery almost by accident. While working on another project using a hydrogel made of a polymer called polyhydroxyethylmethacrylate (pHEMA) – commonly used in contact-lenses – researchers noticed that it had remarkably similar adhesive properties to that of the snail’s epiphragm.

In short, pHEMA was rubbery when wet, but rigid when dry. In fact, when it was dry, it became as stiff as a plastic bottle cap. But pHEMA had another trick up its slimy sleeve. Unlike most glue-like substances, when pHEMA dries, it doesn’t shrink and pull away from the surface, and it’s this attribute which creates its incredibly secure bond with a surface.

“When it’s conformal and rigid, it’s like super glue,” says Yang. “You can’t pull it off. But, magically, you can rewet it, and it slips off effortlessly. Additionally, pHEMA doesn’t lose its strong adhesion when scaled up. Usually, there’s a negative correlation between adhesion strength and size. Since pHEMA is not dependent on a fragile structure, it doesn’t have that problem.”

To prove this scalability point, Jason Christopher Jolly (co-first author on the paper) volunteered to climb into a harness held up by a postage-stamp-sized patch of the pHEMA-based adhesive, and survived to tell the tale. This and other tests in the lab showed that while pHEMA might not be up among the strongest adhesives out there, it’s certainly the strongest among reversible adhesives to date.

So, where next? The applications for a strong, yet reversible adhesive are endless. From non-destructive yet strong household tasks, to assembly lines and even making glued products easier to pull-apart and repair.

“Car assembly uses adhesives, and, you can imagine, if there are any mistakes putting parts together, the adhesive is set and the parts are ruined,” says Yang. “A car is pretty big. Usually they don’t glue things together until the last step, and you need a room-sized oven to host the car and cure the adhesives. An adhesive that’s strong and reversible like pHEMA could completely change the process of car assembly and save money because mistakes wouldn’t be so costly.”

But while pHEMA is truly impressive, the research team acknowledges that since its reversibility is influenced by water, it’s not quite suitable for widespread applications. With this in mind, the team is keen to move forward with further investigation into finding – or engineering – similar adhesive polymers.

Snail slime inspires reversible, super-strong glue [New Atlas]

Getting a filling isn’t always the end of a tooth’s cavity problems. Sometimes, bacteria is able to get down between the filling and the surface of the tooth, causing another cavity to occur. A new antibacterial dental restorative material, however, could help keep that from happening.

It should be noted that this isn’t the first bacteria-killing filling material we’ve seen. Most of the others, however, work by slowly releasing antibacterial compounds into the mouth – these chemicals can be toxic to the adjacent tissue, plus they may contribute to antibacterial resistance. Additionally, the fillings will presumably start running out of the compounds at some point.

With these limitations in mind, a team from Israel’s Tel Aviv University started with a dental resin composite, then added a modified amino acid known as fmoc-pentafluoro-L-phenylalanine. The latter remains within the resin, and has a nanostructure that ruptures the outer membranes of cavity-causing bacteria as they come into contact with it – thus killing them.

Additionally, the antibacterial resin is “aesthetically-pleasing” in appearance (unlike the old-school mercury fillings), plus it’s mechanically rigid. By contrast, the mechanical strength of some previously-developed antibacterial restorative materials was compromised by the presence of the compounds within them.

“The minimal nature of the antibacterial building block, along with its high purity, low cost, ease of embedment within resin-based materials and biocompatibility, allows for the easy scale-up of this approach toward the development of clinically available enhanced antibacterial resin composite restoratives,” says co-lead scientist Dr. Lihi Adler-Abramovich.

A paper on the research, which was also led by doctoral student Lee Schnaider, was recently published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Antibacterial filling material is aimed at keeping cavities from recurring [New Atlas]

Let’s face it: due to the amount of thrust required to lift a person off the ground, practical personal jetpacks may never exist – at least, not for use in the air. Underwater jetpacks, however, are another story. We’ve seen a fewlately, with one of the latest incorporating a novel backpack unit.

Created by Hong Kong-based AquaBeyond, the SubCruiser is intended to propel users through the underwater world, augmenting but not necessarily replacing their swim-kicks.

It consists of three main parts, all of which are hard-wired together. There’s the backpack, which contains the two battery packs and the “brains,” there are dual thrusters that can either be strapped to the thighs or mounted onthe backpack, and there’s a controller that gets strapped to one wrist.

Using a thumb wheel on that controller, users select their speed. At maximum output, a combined 10 kg (22 lb) of thrust takes them up to a claimed 4 knots (5 mph or 7 km/h). It should be noted that the controller is stepless, meaning it that smoothly ramps the speed up and down – some other similar devices can only be abruptly switched between Fast and Slow presets.

The SubCruiser is submersible to a maximum depth of 300 meters (984 ft), with one charge of its 22-volt/4.5-Ah lithium batteries reportedly good for 40 minutes of maximum-output use. And despite that depth rating, it looks like it’s mainly intended for use by snorkelers. There are shots of it being utilized by scuba divers, with the backpack being worn on front (over top of their buoyancy control devices), but that looks like it could be a little unsafe.

Should you be interested, the SubCruiser is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. A pledge of US$299 will get you a system, when and if it reaches production. The planned retail price is $600.

SubCruiser takes a unique approach to underwater jetpacking [New Atlas]

How safe would you feel, going back into a multi-story building that had just been through an earthquake? A new sensor system could allay your fears, as it optically measures how much a building has swayed, and thus how damaged it may be.

Some buildings already incorporate accelerometers on multiple floors, which are used to determine the extent to which those floors move from side-to-side. According to scientists at California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, though, such systems can be costly, plus processing the data from them can be a complex and time-consuming process.

With that in mind, the Berkeley Lab researchers teamed up with colleagues from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the University of Nevada-Reno, creating what is known as the Discrete Diode Position Sensor (DDPS).

In development for the past four years, it consists of a laser mounted on one floor, that shines a beam down onto a rectangular array of light-sensitive photodiodes on the floor below. As the building sways in an earthquake, the laser beam moves back and forth across the array, providing an electronic record of how much the two floors have moved laterally relative to one another.

Once the earthquake is over, centrally-located authorities can consult that wirelessly-transmitted record in order to instantly determine if the building exceeded its maximum structural tolerance. If it didn’t, then it can be safely reoccupied.

The DDPS has already been shown to provide accurate readings when subjected to shake table testing, and is now about to be installed in an actual multi-story building – on the Berkeley Lab campus – for the first time. Because the campus is situated adjacent to the highly-active Hayward Fault, the system should see a lot of action.

“Until now, there’s been no way to accurately and directly measure drift between building stories, which is a key parameter for assessing earthquake demand in a building,” says Berkeley geoscientist David McCallen, who is leading the research project. “We are excited that this sensor technology is now ready for field trials, at a time when post-earthquake response strategies have evolved to prioritize safe, continued building functionality and re-occupancy in addition to ‘life safety’.”

Laser tech is set to measure earthquake damage to buildings [New Atlas]

If you think vinegar is just for pickling vegetables or for making homemade dressings, then prepare to be amazed by all the surprisingly wonderful things vinegar can do around the house. Aside from fermenting kombucha, preserving ketchup, and offering hot sauce and mayonnaise a sweet kick, vinegar has many uses in the home.

Whether it’s white distilled or apple cider vinegar, this miracle solution can do a lot: clean the home, rid hair of yeast overgrowth, cut through grease, remove stains. Vinegar can even breathe a second life into wilting lettuce.

Both vinegar and citrus peels contain the acidity and grease-cutting capabilities that make for an unstoppable cleaning force. Together they can dissolve soap scum and other yucky build-ups. While white vinegar is sometimes too hard for certain surfaces — like granite, marble, stone, hardwood floors, and cast iron pans — it is generally effective at cleaning windows, mirrors, glass, drains, garbage disposals, bathroom steel fixtures that suffer from mineral deposits, hard water build-up, and soap scum, laminate, ceramic tile, appliances like ovens, refrigerators, microwaves, and dishwashers, and stainless steel.

To make the all-natural cleaner, add citrus peels to jar (can be lemon or orange peels). Fill the jar to the top with white vinegar. Let the mixture sit for two weeks before straining out the peels and diluting 1:1 with water.

Liven up leafy greens

This one’s pretty cool; vinegar actually has the ability to perk up wilting leafy greens. If you have some lettuce in the fridge that seems on the verge of going bad, toss them in a mixture of cold water and white vinegar. It will liven the greens up a bit, giving them a few extra days of life. Wondering why it works? The acidity of vinegar encourages cell turnover in the limp lettuce, therefore causing an increase of water absorption. You also might want to cut off any far-gone, browned parts of the lettuce before bathing it in the water-vinegar mixture.

Wash dishes

Vinegar cuts through grease in all-natural way that not even dish soap sometimes can. To wash dishes, you can use either white or apple cider vinegar. Both of the same grease-cutting effect.

The average American runs anywhere from four to five loads of laundry per week. Using vinegar as an all-natural fabric softener can help ease the carbon footprint of those many necessary loads of wash.

Add three to four teaspoons of vinegar to your normal dish detergent for optimal results. For glassware, use a ratio of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water; let the glassware air dry. For particularly greasy pans, boil two to three cups vinegar in the pan; it will restore the pan’s original non-stick quality.

Laundry

Vinegar acts as a double agent when it’s used in laundry; not only is it a powerful deodorizer, but it also functions as a gentle and non-toxic fabric softener. To use vinegar in your wash, pour half a cup of distilled white vinegar into the machine in place of conventional detergent. To use vinegar as a fabric softener, pour 1 cup of vinegar into the washing machine during the final rinse cycle.

Pre-treat stains

Vinegar doesn’t just do wonders in the wash; it’s also beneficial for pre-treating stains. Dilute one-half cup of vinegar in a gallon of water and apply the mixture directly to the stain with a clean cloth. Then, wash.

White vinegar is exceptional at whitening and brightening your clothes, but also removing yellow underarm stains from perspiration (as well as odor), and also mildew stains. When added to baking soda to make a type of paste, vinegar can also dissolve red wine stains. It also is handy for deodorizing and removing cat or dog urine stains out of carpets and removing grass stains.

Train cats

Say what?! Cats loathe the smell of vinegar, so vinegar spray can be super effective in dissuading cats from clawing or climbing on furniture. Vinegar can be especially effective for cats who “mark their territory” in territory other than a litter box. Spray the marked area with vinegar to rid the smell and prevent future accidents.

Remove water stains from wood

For those frustrating times when you or a guest forgets to use a coaster, vinegar can help. It actually rids wooden furniture of that annoying water ring. All you have to do is take a mixture of equal parts vinegar and vegetable oil and rub it on the stained surface, going with the grain.

Defrost your car in winter

The acidity of vinegar allows it to melt ice more quickly. The acetic acid in vinegar lowers the melting point, but sometimes it’s best to use vinegar as a preventative measure to defrosting car windows. Spray a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water on your car windows the night before snow or freezing temperatures are expected. The acidity prevents the ice from forming in the first place.

Use as Goo-Gone alternative

Who needs Goo-Gone when you have a gallon of household vinegar at your disposal? The acetic acid in vinegar is strong enough to cut through the sticky mess that things like bumper stickers, labels, and stickers leave behind.

Saturate a paper towel in white vinegar, then place the towel over the adhesive for up to five minutes. Pull up one corner of the sticker — no razor blade required. Instead, you could use a spatula or even a credit card to peel it back. Leftover adhesive residue? Take a clean cloth saturated in white vinegar and rub the affected area.

 

 

Three Miami-based brothers, Nick, Matthew and Mark Gunia, have joined forces to create a device that allows users to make their own soaps and detergents at home, with the goal of eliminating excess plastic waste. Dubbed Cleanyst, the compact household appliance that allows users to blend their own shampoo, shower gel, handwash, liquid detergent and dishwashing liquid by simply adding water to pre-prepared sachets.

“In 2015, we were inspired by reusable bottle systems for mixing surface cleaners by diluting low viscosity concentrates,” say the Gunia brothers. “Since the products you can produce this way are very limited, we set out to build a system that could blend virtually all concentrate types and fully unlock the power of mixing in reusable bottles.”

The Cleanyst unit features a water jug in the rear for tap water and comes with pre-mixed sachets, made from plant based ingredients. Users simply fill up the jug, place the ingredient sachet into the device, select the function on the device’s LCD display and press go.

It then warms the tap water and prepares the mixture which is discharged directly into a reusable bottle. The entire process from start to finish takes between one and three minutes, and essential oils can also be added to the blends, allowing users to personalize their homecare products to suit their personal tastes.

“Although sustainability is at the heart of our mission, we’re also dedicated to giving you amazing products that are safe, effective, and customizable,” say the brothers.

The current Cleanyst prototype weighs 12 lb (5.4 kg) and measures 16.5 in (41.9 cm) high, 8.5 in (21.6 cm) wide and 12 in (30.48 cm) deep, which should fit in your average kitchen cabinet. These dimensions and weight may alter slightly once it goes into final production.

In addition to saving money, the brothers developed the device to help reduce household plastic waste, so despite the bottles provided being made from plastic, they can be used over and over again. They’ve also put a system in place to recycle old ingredient sachets.

Cleanyst was recently the subject of a successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, with deliveries for supporters scheduled for December this year.

Final retail price and commercial availability are yet to be announced, however, it is anticipated the appliance will cost around the US$200 mark, including two reusable bottles (12 and 16 oz/350 and 475 ml) and two soap sachets.

Cleanyst cuts plastic waste by pumping out shampoos, detergents and handwashes at home [New Atlas]

Big commercial aircraft are already routinely guided in for automatic landings at large airports, as their autopilot follows radio signals transmitted by ground-based antennas. Such auto-landings currently aren’t possible at most small airports, although that could be about to change, thanks to a new German-designed system.

The technology is being developed as part of the German federal government’s C2Land program, in a collaboration between the Technical University of Munich and Technische Universität Braunschweig.

It relies partially on GPS, which it uses to guide small private aircraft towards small-airport runways even in low-visibility conditions … generally, at least. The problem is, the supplied coordinates aren’t exact or reliable enough to put the plane right on the runway, so the pilot would still have to take manual control before the aircraft touched down – if the system were using GPS alone, that is.

For that reason, the aircraft is also equipped with both a visible-light and an infrared camera. As the plane nears the airport, onboard image-processing software analyzes the cameras’ video (pictured above), determining where the plane is relative to the runway. Combined with the GPS data, this information is used by the aircraft’s autopilot to guide it safely into a landing.

The system was field-tested in late May, when it was successfully used to land a modified Diamond DA42 at a small airfield. That landing can be seen in the video below.

“The cameras already recognize the runway at a great distance from the airport,” said test pilot Thomas Wimmer. “The system then guides the aircraft through the landing approach on a completely automatic basis and lands it precisely on the runway’s centerline.”

German tech may bring automatic landings to small airports [New Atlas]

They say sitting is the new smoking, but for the typical truck driver it’s a pretty unavoidable part of the job. Iveco is imagining a future where drivers of its vehicles can mix in a bit pf physical activity, unveiling a new cabin concept fitted out with gym equipment for some serious gains on the road.

Iveco revealed its so-called Fit Cab concept at the global launch of its new Way range of future-focused truck cabins, looking to explore new ways drivers can work on their health and wellbeing when putting in long hours on the road.

The exterior carries a very fitness-club-like aesthetic, and on the inside are built-in hooks and anchors to rig up fitness accessories. Integrated into one of the walls is a multi-directional pulley and built into the ceiling is a folded multi-grip solution. Also onboard are an assortment of resistance bands, sliders and weights, while the retractable front step can be slid out for use as an additional training aid.

The concept is more of an ongoing research project than a near-production-level concept, with Iveco to showcase the Fit Cab at the upcoming 2019 European Truck Racing Championship, which kicks off on July 19 in Nürburgring, Germany. There it will conduct workshops with customers and gather feedback for the next development phase of the cabin concept.

“In developing our products we adopt a customer-and driver-centric approach: they participate in our field-testing activities, they give us guidance with their insights and feedback,” says Gerrit Marx, President Commercial and Specialty Vehicles at Iveco. “With these concepts, we want to co-create with drivers and owners these statement vehicles and, most importantly, we also want engage them in a dialogue about their job to tailor the next trucks to closely match their needs and desires – trucks developed by the customers for the customers.”

Iveco’s fitness-focused truck cabin is more like a gym on wheels [New Atlas]

If you’re much of a world traveller, then you’ve probably experienced it – a several-hour airport layover during which you’d like to get some sleep, but without going off to a hotel. That’s where the Trollaby is intended to come in, as it serves as a sort of bag-connected airport-floor tent.

Invented by Austrian entrepreneur Marc Brugger, the Trollaby takes its name from the words “trolley” (as in a wheeled carry-on suitcase) and “lullaby.” When not in use, it packs down into a flat rectangular bag that’s about the size of a laptop computer.

Once it’s time to snooze, the user places their third-party suitcase in some out-of-the-way place, then cinches an included belt around it. The Trollaby’s tensioned aluminum poles and nylon-webbing straps get attached to that belt, with the poles also running through sleeves built into the Trollaby’s canopy – just like they would on a real tent.

The user can then make a nest out of their jacket, sweater or whatnot, or they can simply lay out an optional inflatable mattress. After that, they just crawl in and go to sleep. There shouldn’t be much of a risk of theft from their suitcase as they zone out, as its fasteners will be located right by their head.

The basic setup tips the scales at a claimed 900 grams (2 lb), although that doesn’t include the weight (and added bulk) of the mattress.

In any case, should you be interested, the Trollaby is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. A pledge of €69 (about US$78) will get you a base package – when and if it reaches production – with €89 ($100) required for one that includes the mattress.

Trollaby lets sleeping travellers lie – on the airport floor [New Atlas]

Full of trains, electronics and people packed in like sardines, subway tunnels are pretty warm places. In theory, all that heat could present an untapped source of energy, if only it could be captured. Now, researchers at EPFL have crunched the numbers on heat transfer in the air of train tunnels, and outlined a geothermal heat recovery system that could potentially supply heating and cooling to thousands of nearby homes.

The air in underground railway tunnels and stations is sapping heat from many different sources. It rises up from the ground. Trains braking and accelerating heat the air around them. Add in heat from electronic devices like lights and signals, and body warmth from all the passengers, and you’ve got plenty of potential energy floating around down there. It’s no wonder these places need such complex ventilation and temperature control systems.

Accurately calculating the amount of heat in the air of train tunnels has been a difficult task, but now researchers at EPFL’s Soil Mechanics Laboratory (LMS) claim to have cracked it. The team has developed a model that allows them to precisely calculate the convection heat transfer coefficient of a given tunnel environment.

That important formula could be applied to develop systems that harness the extra energy and pump it back up to the surface, where it can be used as heating (or cooling) for nearby apartments.

The concept of the technology works a bit like a giant fridge. Plastic pipes are built into the walls of the tunnel, and filled with a heat-transfer fluid – or failing that, just plain old water. Cold liquid is pumped through the pipes, where it’s warmed by the air in the tunnel and emerges at the surface as a hot liquid. In summer, the system can be reversed to act as air-conditioning. Heat can be ferried away from homes and dispersed into the ground, which tends to naturally stabilize its own temperature.

The team says the system would be relatively cheap and energy-efficient to install, and have an expected lifespan up to a century. The heat pumps are the most vulnerable piece of the puzzle, needing to be replaced every 25 years or so.

As an example, the researchers applied the model to a metro line currently in-development in the city of Lausanne, Switzerland, and calculated the potential benefits to the city.

“Our research shows that fitting the heat-recovery system along 50 to 60 percent of the planned route – or 60,000 sq m (645,000 sq ft) of tunnel surface area – would cover the heating needs of 1,500 standard 80 m2 (860 sq ft) apartments, or as many as 4,000 Minergie-certified energy-efficient units,” says Margaux Peltier, lead researcher on the study. “Switching from gas-fired heating would cut the city’s CO2 emissions by two million tons per year.”

This isn’t the only attempt to tap into waste energy from the subway. A few years ago Transport for London trialled a regenerative braking system for trains in the London Tube that would feed energy back into the grid.

There’s a lot of excess energy all around us, it’s just a matter of finding ways to harvest it.

Turning train tunnels into giant “fridges” could heat thousands of homes [New Atlas]

 

Fossil fuels cop the brunt of attention for reducing climate-changing emissions, but they’re far from the only culprit – livestock like sheep and cows are responsible for huge amounts of methane being released into the atmosphere. Now, an international team of researchers has analyzed the gut microbes of different sheep and found clues that may help us curb the problem.

While carbon dioxide is the most common greenhouse gas being emitted today, methane makes up for its smaller amounts by being more potent. Though it only accounts for 10 percent of emissions in the US, the gas can be up to 28 times more damaging, thanks to its prowess at trapping heat.

Methane is a by-product of coal, gas and oil processing, but the biggest source comes from the burps and farts of farm animals. And considering there are over a billion cattle in the world and about that many sheep as well, that’s a lot of gassy animals warming up the planet.

So researchers from Monash University, AgResearch, and the Universities of Otago, Illinois and Hokkaido investigated how to reduce the methane emissions where they begin – in the stomach of these animals.

The methane released in a hearty fart isn’t actually produced by the animal itself – blame it on the microbes in the gut. As they break down the animal’s food they release methane, which then builds up until it’s released out of one end of the digestive tract or the other.

The researchers on the new study looked at the microbes in the guts of two groups of sheep, one that produced high amounts of methane and one with low emissions. The biggest difference between the microbiomes of the two groups were in the bugs that consumed hydrogen.

In high methane emitters, a group of microbes called methanogens – which eat hydrogen and produce methane – were the most dominant. Unsurprisingly, in low emitters the more common bugs were those that didn’t produce methane, including acetogens, fumarate, nitrate and sulfate reducers.

Of the bugs that produced hydrogen, the team found that Clostridia were the most active, while a group called Ruminococcus albus was seen to alter its metabolism depending on the hydrogen levels in the sheeps’ guts.

Armed with this information, scientists could change up the types of food given to livestock in order to manipulate their gut microbiomes and reduce the amount of methane released into the atmosphere.

“Controlling the supply of hydrogen to the methanogens will lead to reduced ruminant methane emissions and allow us to divert the hydrogen towards other microbes that we know do not make methane,” says Chris Greening, an Associate Professor of Monash University’s School of Biological Sciences who led the study. “We’re excited about this research because it has strong potential to lead to new strategies that slow agricultural methane emissions, which will vital for the ongoing health of the planet and sustaining economies.”

In a similar vein, other studies have found that feeding livestock certain types of seaweed or tropical leaves can lead to reduced methane emissions.

Manipulating gut microbes in livestock could cut their methane emissions [New Atlas]

Over a thousand houses built on the Store Lungegårdsvann lake will form the heart of Trenezia, a sustainable village masterplanned by Waugh Thistleton for Bergen, Norway.

London architecture studio Waugh Thistleton designed Trenezia in a bid to create a carbon neutral residential and cultural hub for the city that would attract locals to remain within central Bergen.

“Given the scale of the development, to achieve carbon neutrality in terms of operational energy on a net annual basis will be a challenge,” senior associate Kirsten Haggart told Dezeen.

The masterplan, designed for BOB Housing Association, imagines 1,500 homes positioned on the lake in the city centre. These will be built on a series of artificial islands connected to the shore by a giant, publicly-accessible boardwalk.

Once built, the boardwalk spanning the lake will form the “central spine” of Trenezia. There will be floating structures along its length, including a swimming pool, performance space and moorings, intended to encourage community activity and interaction.

It will also form a link between Bergen’s old town on the west of the lake and the city’s arts hub on the east, which will be complete with a new beach.

Waugh Thistleton’s priority for the scheme is that it is ecologically friendly, with low energy and water consumption and minimal waste generation.

“Firstly, the demand from the buildings and facilities will be minimised through a highly efficient building envelope and water and energy saving technologies,” explained Haggart.

“Secondly, the scheme will generate energy from clean on-site renewable sources and export more energy than it consumes, thereby effectively offsetting its carbon emissions.”

All the houses will be made from timber, while the foundations will be filled with locally-sourced material from current infrastructure projects in the area.

There are also plans to create on-site energy centre to help offset carbon emissions, which will use technologies like biomass and seawater heat pumps.

Given the limited daylight hours in Bergen’s winter, each cluster of housing in the Trenezia masterplan will be split by a “solar corridor”, intended to maximise the natural light in the homes.

This will also be helped by the sizes of the houses, which Waugh Thistleton has designed to increase in height from south to north of the site to reduce the amount of shadow they create.

The smaller buildings within each cluster will comprise small, private family properties, while the taller blocks will host homes more suited to individuals, couples or students.

Throughout the housing, the number windows, access points, materials and colours will also vary, “to create a palette of materials that create variation and identity for those living there, and yet are harmonious and coherent as a whole”.

At the centre of each cluster, Waugh Thistleton will create shared outdoor spaces, which will vary in character depending on the type of building it sits next to.

Between the larger buildings, including an elderly centre and nursery, “civic squares” will be built to encourage interaction between different groups

Meanwhile, the smaller buildings will surrounded linear, domestic-scale courtyards. Houses will also each have front gardens complete with trees and shrubs, planting beds, play spaces and seating.

Each building and courtyard throughout the scheme will be accessible to visitors and residents by bridges and pathways that also offer long vistas of the lake and surrounding mountains.

“Trenezia is a world class demonstration of how to build in a truly sustainable way both environmentally and socially, representing a microcosm of the vision for Bergen as a leading sustainable capital in the world,” concluded the studio.

Waugh Thistleton is an architecture studio based in Shoreditch, London, founded by Andrew Waugh and Anthony Thistleton in 1997.

Other recently completed projects by the studio include a modular maze installation in V&A’s Sackler Courtyard, cemetery buildings with rammed-earth walls and its collaboration with Japanese architect Shigeru Ban to build a five-storey house beside London’s River Thames.

Waugh Thistleton designs eco-village in a lake to reinvigorate central Bergen [Dezeen]

Among the criticisms of e-bikes is the fact that because they provide pedalling assistance, riders don’t get as much of a workout as they would otherwise. The Romanian-designed Xmera is designed to address that concern, by varying its level of assistance based on the rider’s heartbeat.

Xmera riders start by using an iOS/Android app to select the type of workout they want (fat-burning, cardio, high-intensity intervals, etc), along with the BPM (heart beats per minute) that they wish to maintain. They then put on an included electronic bracelet that monitors their pulse, or they use a compatible third-party BPM-capable fitness tracker.

Once they start riding, the wearable transmits their heartbeat data via Bluetooth to the bike’s microcontroller. It responds by continuously varying the amount of pedalling assistance provided, keeping the rider in their BPM zone while delivering the selected workout.

If they wish, riders can switch off the Workout function, using the Xmera as a regular e-bike. In that case, it either delivers preset levels of assistance, or it can be used in a non-pedalling throttle-only mode. Additionally, if its onboard sensors detect that a crash has occurred, the app will alert a predetermined list of contacts.

The bike itself is definitely of the increasingly-popular retro-minibikevariety, with a long seat and foot pegs for accommodating a second passenger. The base model incorporates a Bafang 250-watt rear hub motor, powered by a 36V/10Ah Samsung lithium-ion battery. That combo delivers a top motor-assisted speed of 16 mph (25 km/h), and a range of about 37 miles (60 km).

Riders desiring increased speed can select between upgrades ranging from 750-watt to dual front-and-rear 500-watt motors, along with dual batteries for extra range. They can also opt for a “Smart Helmet” – this device monitors the wearer’s brain waves, instructing the bike to deliver more assistance as they get tired, or to help them reach their top speed more effectively.

Should you be interested, the Xmera is currently the subject of an Indiegogo campaign. Assuming it reaches production, the base model can be had for a pledge of US$1,199. Its planned retail price is $2,399.

Heartbeat-tracking e-bike modulates its power to give you a workout [New Atlas]

Most of us are guilty of repeatedly hitting the snooze bar on our alarm clocks and going back to sleep, which is why we’ve seen devices that won’t stop ringing (or even electrocuting) until they’re taken to a remotely-located docking station. EzLarm takes a cheaper and simpler approach, utilizing a free app and an inexpensive tag.

The adhesive-backed NFC (near-field communication) tag is applied to a surface in a room where the user plans on starting their day, such as the bathroom or kitchen. The iOS/Android app, meanwhile, is used just like a regular alarm clock app – users indicate the time of day that they wish it to go off, switch it on, then put their smartphone on their bedside table when they hit the hay.

Once the alarm does go off, however, there’s no way of silencing it using the phone’s touchscreen or button controls. Instead, the user has to get out of bed and carry their smartphone to the room where the tag is located, then touch the phone to that tag. No matter how tired they may be, by that point they’re pretty unlikely to just turn around and go back to the bedroom.

Because NFC tags are temporarily powered by magnetic fields generated by smartphones or other devices, the EzLarm “hardware” doesn’t require any batteries or an electrical outlet. It should be noted, however, that it won’t work with Apple phones older than the iPhone 7. All newer Samsung phones should reportedly be good, along with many older ones – a complete list of NFC-enabled Android phones can be accessed via the link at the end of the article.

EzLarm was invented by two Canadian students who’ve had trouble dragging their sorry butts out of bed, and it’s currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. A pledge of CAD$18 (about US$14) will get you two tags, when and if everything is ready to go. The planned retail price is 18 US dollars.

EzLarm forces you out of bed using an app and a tag [New Atlas]

MAD Architects has been commissioned to produce a new theater in Yiwu, Zhejian province, China. The building will be located on the banks of a river and its design is inspired by traditional local boats, complete with glass “sails” that serve as a canopy.

The Yiwu Grand Theater will measure 95,290 sq m (roughly 1 million sq ft) and consist of the grand theater, with a capacity of 1,600, a second theater with 1,200 seats, and a conference center seating 2,000 people.

The project will feature considerable landscaping, including tree-lined footbridges, an amphitheater, and a large open plaza that extends to the water. Terraces will also offer choice views and areas of quiet contemplation.

“Positioned with the mountains in the distance as its backdrop, and the water as its stage, MAD’s design responds to its locale, and appears as a boat, floating on the river,” says MAD Architects. “It is defined by a layering of glass sails that are reminiscent of the Chinese junks that once transported goods across the waters, while their subtle curves echo the Jiangnan-style eaves of the ancient vernacular architecture that is typical of the region.

“The transparency and lightness of the glass express the texture of thin, silky fabric, creating a dynamic rhythm that makes them appear as if they are blowing in the wind. They act as a protective canopy around the building, resonating with the river, elegantly floating above the water’s surface, setting a romantic atmosphere. ”

MAD Architects also says that the Yiwu Grand Theater’s glazed facade will produce a greenhouse-like warming effect, helping to heat the building naturally in winter. During summer, when the interior gets too hot, ventilation systems will be used.

The project was chosen following an architecture competition and is due to begin construction sometime in 2020. We’ve no word on its expected completion date at this early stage.

Riverbank theater inspired by traditional Chinese boats [New Atlas]

 

We live in increasingly polarized times. Times where your point of view defines more than your stance on a particular topic – it defines who you are. Perhaps that’s why people are so unlikely to change their minds on any given issue, even when there’s overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. Take immunization, flat-Earthism and, yes, global warming.

Cue climate scientist Ed Hawkins who’s come up with a new and striking way to visualize climate data: a series of vertical stripes that convey rising temperatures year on year. “All other superfluous information is removed, so that the changes in temperature are seen simply and undeniably,” Hawkins writes at the Climate Lab Book.

What these charts don’t try to show is how hot it was for any particular place in any particular year. Instead, the extremes of color correspond to the extremes in temperature evident for the location. So the darkest blue of a chart for one location probably won’t correspond to the same temperature for another. And the same is true for any other hue.

What the charts do a very good job of showing is a clear trend for warmer temperatures at many locations, with recent years typically showing various shades of red, denoting warmer years than average for the data available. None more so than the chart for annual mean temperatures for the whole Earth, which, as you might expect, show less variation than some charts for more localized regions:

n each case, the charts date back to the earliest data for their location. In many cases, charts are only available at the national level.

The data is drawn from Berkeley Earth, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the UK Met Office, MeteoSwiss and the German meteorological service DWD. Ed Hawkins is a climate scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of Reading.

You can find charts for your locations of interest at showyourstripes.info. Charts for new locations continue to be added to the site.

Global warming: Can these striking charts convince nay-sayers? [New Atlas]

The way-out-of-the-box skimpy shoe market slowed down considerably since the trendy barefoot days of fuzzy five-toed shoe socks and chainmail foot sleeves just a few years back. Lately, though, it feels like it might be making something of a comeback. We’ve seen a few oddball ultralight footwear concepts in recent months, and the Link flip-shoe is possibly the weirdest of them all, the lightest slice of footwear we’ve seen since adhesive foot pads. Designed to combine the advantages of flip-flops and sneakers into one, these “sole-based shoes” keep your feet free, cool and protected … and probably at the business end of an endless flurry of sneers and jokes.

Link sets out to combine the free, breezy comfort of the flip-flop with the protection and support of a sneaker. At least some of that very mix is already available in the form of a closed-toe sport sandal like the Keen Newport H2, but Link has something different in mind. And to be fair, its thick, bright flip-shoe does appear to offer a better mix of cushy underfoot support and easy slip-on design than many a sport sandal. On the other hand, it doesn’t appear quite as effective in terms of toe protection since it leaves everything but the toe tips exposed — or at least that’s how it appears in the photos.

“Sole-based shoe” is an apt description, as the meat of the flip-shoe design is below the foot. A wrapping heel counter, side ribs and a slight toe box extend up from the sole to better secure around the foot. It’s a shoe without an upper, a flip-flop without a thong or straps.

Link claims the design offers the cool summer comfort of a flip-flop when out on the street but with better adherence to the foot during walking and less fear of toe-stubbing. It even says you can run, bike and skateboard in it, though we’re not sure we’d want to. We’re even less sure about the claim that the flip-shoe is “always appropriate for work.”

Link’s flip-shoe is a simple piece of footwear, but there are still a few materials and components at work. Cushioning comes from a breathable EVA insole with anti-odor/bacterial properties, while traction comes from sole pads interlaced with flex joints that mimic the joints of the foot to deliver more natural movement. Hard TPU sides hug the foot for a closer, surer fit.

Bright, open-topped foot pods aren’t really our thing, but they do look like an interesting alternative for travel, packing fairly small and working for a variety of activities, from hitting the hotel pool to strolling through town on a warm afternoon.

Link’s flip-shoes are doing a lot better in crowdfunding than naysayers might expect. Link hit its Indiegogo goal in just over a day after launching and is now moving toward tripling that goal with over a month left to go. So someone’s digging them. If that’s you, you’ll find them for early bird pricing as low as US$69 per pair, less if you buy two or more. If all goes according to plan, they’ll start shipping in November of this year. Retail price is estimated at a far less enticing $119.

Link smashes the sneaker and flip-flop together to create a weird wearable outsole [New Atlas]

 

More and more phones and devices are able to be charged wirelessly these days, but that usually still requires a pad for each that takes up a power plug. Now, a Spanish start-up called Proton New Energy Future has unveiled Ebörd, a smart table that has a wireless charger built into the entire surface, allowing it to charge multiple devices at once. Better yet, it harvests energy from the Sun or even artificial light.

With a dark glass top and metal frame, the Ebörd looks like any other modern Ikea-style furnishing, but there’s quite a bit of decent tech hidden under the hood. Other pieces of furniture with built-in wireless charging surfaces usually make do with one or two charging coils, meaning you have to put the device down on a certain spot. But the Ebörd packs in more than 50 coils, letting users charge up to four devices anywhere on the top.

The Ebörd uses the Qi charging platform, meaning it should work with the last few generations of iPhones and Samsung Galaxies, as well as the Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL and flagship phones from Sony, Nokia, LG and others. Major smartwatches, tablets, earbuds and other devices all use Qi as standard too. And for devices that aren’t directly supported, the table comes with two adapters.

A new Kindle Oasis has arrived for 2019, and Amazon’s top-of-the-line ereader features one big upgrade from its predecessor: a display that can change its color temperature automatically throughout the day to reduce the strain on your eyes.

The new color-adjustable front light lets readers change the screen tone from cool to warm, either manually through the settings, or automatically to fit in with the sunrise and the sunset. It’s like a basic version of the color-adjusting True Tone displays we’ve seen on the newer Apple iPads.

“Kindle is designed to create a sanctuary reading experience, and the all-new Kindle Oasis exemplifies this – whether you’re reading poolside on vacation or in the comfort of your bed,” Amazon’s Kevin Keith said in a press statement.

Despite that “all-new” label, nothing else has changed from the 2017 version of the Kindle Oasis. It still boasts a 7-inch screen running at a resolution of 300 dots-per-inch, it’s still waterproof, and it still comes with Audible support so you can switch between the ebook and audiobook of the same title seamlessly.

That IPX8 waterproof rating equates to being able to survive in up to two meters (6.6 ft) of fresh water for up to 60 minutes – handy if you happen to drop it in the pool while on vacation. As with the previous version, Amazon promises “weeks” of battery life.

Mimic Go might look like a bubbly, chubby-version of a tracking tag (which it is) but that’s only one of the tricks it has up its red, plastic sleeve. Not only can you track stuff around the world thanks to GPS, LTE-M & eSIM connectivity, but the Mimic Go can help prevent things from going missing in the first place. It can even alert you if someone approaches a room you’d like to keep secure. And light up your ride.

San Francisco-based Smart Mimic has dabbled in this area before, in fact using pretty much the same enclosure design and color, but this iteration of its IoT (Internet of Things) technology – launched this week on Indiegogo – sets itself apart from other offerings with its customizable triggers – or “Skills” as the team from Smart Mimic calls them.

You can use these Skills to set up a number of desired security scenarios, all powered by a smartphone-based (iOS/Android) app. You can also design your own Skills within the app and share these with the broader community of Mimic Go users. If you’ve ever used IFTTT (If This, Then That) or Zapier, then you’ll know how intuitive – and easy – this method of task-based, layperson’s programming can be.

Being able to fine-tune the Mimic Go opens up some interesting possibilities. You could, for example, put it inside your backpack, and set it to alert you if it’s moved. That’s fine if your pack is stationary, but what if you’re walking in a crowd and want to know if someone’s unzipping your pack while you’re wearing it? In that instance, you’d set up a different scenario (or Skill), where the Mimic Go becomes heat-sensitive instead of vibration-sensitive and you’re all set. The Mimic Go will now ignore your (and its) movement and will instead alert you when the bag is opened.

It could be attached to a bedroom door and set to wake you if someone opens it; placed in your car to get an alert when the interior becomes too hot; popped into a drawer so you know when the kids are trying to swipe your stash of chocolate or just used as a nightlight while camping.

The Mimic Go’s advanced sensor algorithms pick up vibrations, temperature and human motion (it’s reported smart enough to tell the difference between a thief and your cat walking into your study). The alarm options are equally diverse, from phone alerts and a piercingly loud (120 dB) alarm, to a range of illuminated responses up to 100 lumens.

The Mimic Go has some interesting features for bike owners too. In conjunction with the optional (Kevlar) Street Safe bike mount, Mimic Go goes a little further than just detecting theft and tracking your bike. If the unit’s in bike-mode, it knows if it’s “you” riding off on the bike or a thief (via proximity between the device and your smartphone). And when you set off on your ride, Mimic Go automatically becomes a tail-light. Nice touch.

The unit is 1.85 in (47 mm) square, weighs 1.4 oz (40 g), is dust-proof and water-resistant, and the battery is said to last three-months on a single charge. In addition to the GPS, LTE-M & eSIM connectivity (covering 100+ countries), Smart Mimic says the Go has a 2,000-foot (600 meter) Bluetooth 5.1 range.

“We are partnered with Nordic Semiconductor,” comments Noyan Berker on the Indiegogo campaign page. “Mimic Go has Bluetooth 5.1 long-range technology. On top of that, we have an advanced antenna and software for the Bluetooth. This allows us to achieve 2,000 ft in the open-field.”

eSIM support is via an optional monthly subscription of US$3.99-per-month (or free for the first year for all Indiegogo backers).

For some, the ability to simply and quickly protect your laptop in a cafe while you debate with the barista about Arabica vs. Robusta may be enough to justify buying a Mimic Go. For others, the ability to design more complex, task specific Skills could make it a must-have gadget. Either way, the campaign already looks like it’s hit the right note with the marketplace, having achieved 155 percent of its $30,000 goal in the first three days.

Pledges start at $69 (a saving of 56 percent off the RRP) for a single Mimic Go. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to begin in January 2020. The pitch video from Smart Mimic can be seen below.

Programmable Mimic Go tracks your stuff, can be a handy bike tail-light too [New Atlas]