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26 Mar

No, the recent news announced by LEGO does not mean that its famous plastic building bricks are now edible, despite the tendency of some toddlers to test those hazardous waters.

Instead, the company says, "botanical elements such as leaves, bushes and trees will be made from plant-based plastic sourced from sugarcane in the future and will appear in LEGO boxes already in 2018."

The decision to construct fake foliage out of real plants is part of the company's commitment to make use of sustainable elements in core packaging and materials by 2030.

Tim Brooks, Vice President, Environmental Responsibility at the LEGO Group, said, “At the LEGO Group we want to make a positive impact on the world around us, and are working hard to make great play products for children using sustainable materials. We are proud that the first LEGO elements made from sustainability sourced plastic are in production and will be in LEGO boxes this year. This is a great first step in our ambitious commitment of making all LEGO bricks using sustainable materials."

24 Mar

Soundscape, an iPhone app from Microsoft, helps create a three-dimensional map for blind people in the United Kingdom, providing directions and offering descriptions of local areas.

Users simply need to designate a beacon at their eventual destination; this in turn triggers 3D sound cues that give users clues as to their immediate surroundings. The app also interacts with global map services in order to describe the names of streets.

Connecting to a stereo headset allows users to independently explore the world around them. The app's 3D audio gives the impression that sounds are being transmitted from the area of interest. This way, the user can construct a mental picture of what’s nearby from ambient sounds and the Soundscape app.

22 Mar

For the many patients who are rendered paralyzed at some point, the loss of simple functions like hand movements can be debilitating. But a new wearable robot can restore that mobility, allowing someone who has paralysis due to a stroke or other event to grip items, lift objects, and even use a toothbrush.

The robot, called the Exo-Glove Poly, is made of a polymer that is both comfortable and easy to clean. The wearer merely slips the glove onto the affected hand, hooking it over a thumb, index finger, and middle finger, and an internal motor moves wires in the glove for maneuverability.

20 Mar

Just when you think every type of watercraft has been imagined, creators come out with something new. An upcoming bicycle from a New Zealand startup called Manta5 has the ability to transport riders completely on top of the water.

The water toy is made using a product called hydrofoil, which is a foil used to lift watercraft so that it can ride on top of the water’s surface. Manta5’s creation is called the Hydrofoiler XE-1, which has electric power that supplements a rider’s own pedaling to keep it moving forward.

18 Mar

The small land area available to residents of the Netherlands means that expanding into the surrounding ocean is necessary in order to support a growing population.

The Dutch have done this throughout history by building dikes to reclaim land. However, that model of land reclamation might not be viable nowadays.

One possible contemporary solution: The building and maintaining of floating islands, as envisioned by the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN).

The organization's artificial, floating island consists of sizable triangles that interlock in modular ways. In terms of structure, the MARIN islands function along the lines of Italian Floating Piers and walkways, albeit on a huger scale. According to MARIN, its version of floating islands could wind up covering areas as much 3.1 miles (5 km) wide. They could also be used for many different purposes, including fishing and seaweed-harvesting facilities, renewable energy configurations, docks for the loading and unloading of ships, and public spaces.

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