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Innovation Lab: Dancing Light, Robot Lawyers and Bomb-sniffing Locusts

Tim Maytom

At Mobile Marketing we're proud to help tech companies showcase their cutting-edge solutions, whether it's on our website, in our magazine or at our Mobile Marketing Summits. Giving a platform to companies that are breaking new ground in their market brings audiences one step closer to the ideas and developments that will shape tomorrow.


In that spirit, our Innovation Lab feature takes a step beyond the world of apps, ads and handsets with slightly bigger screens, in order to share some of the tech world's innovative ideas. They might be interesting, disruptive or just outright strange, but these are the stories that have caught our eye over the past week.

3D Printed Zoetrope Creates Dancers in Light


Media artist and director Akinori Goto has displayed a unique form of zoetrope at this year's Spiral Independent Creators Festival, taking inspiration from the pre-film method of animation and combining it with modern techniques of 3D printing.

The creation, which won both the runner-up Grand Prix and the Audience Award, takes a looping animation of someone walking or dancing, then breaks it down into constituent images, which are printed out in a connected loop.

Once finished, a thin beam of light is projected onto one section of the circular structure, illuminating a single captured frame. As the circle is rotated, the lit section creates the illusion of a moving image in a similar fashion to a zoetrope, but in a way that would have been virtually impossible before the creation of 3D printing.

The device can even use multiple beams of light to create images at different spots around the circle, all in different stages of the looping animation. The project demonstrates the flexibility of 3D printing, which has expanded beyond its initial use to create bespoke components, to a whole range of industrial and design based applications, driven by creative individuals such as Goto.

us parking ticketsChatbot Lawyer Helps Overturn 160,000 Parking Tickets
A chatbot created by a 19 year-old that provides straight-forward legal advice on a number of matters has successfully contested 160,000 parking tickets across London and New York for free.

Dubbed "the world's first robot lawyer" by its creator Joshua Browder, DoNotPay uses a simple chat-style interface to help users contest parking tickets, working out whether an appeal is possible through a series of questions then guiding users through the process.

Browder, a UK-born second year student at Stanford University in California, built the bot after receiving 30 parking tickets in and around London. In less than two years, the bot has taken on 250,000 cases with a 64 per cent success rate, saving users in excess of $4m (£3m) in combined fees.

The process for appealing parking fines is relatively formulaic in most cases, and suits AI perfectly, sparing users expensive lawyers fees on top of any potential fine. Browder has plans to expand the service to Seattle next, as well as looking at services to help deal with flight delay compensation, aid HIV-positive people in understanding their rights, and guide refugees through foreign legal systems.

Robotic Salamander Aims to Help Spinal Injuries


Most engineers would be happy if they'd managed to make a robot that could both swim and crawl along the ground, but the researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland are also hoping that their work could end up transforming human lives.

The robot, Pleurobot, is modelled on a salamander, and the researchers used X-ray video footage to understand how the creature's bones supported its movements both in and out of water, then recreated them with the fewest number of motorised parts possible.

The scientists hope that studying the way the robot moves will lead to similar insights into the human spinal cord, which is still relatively poorly understood compared to other parts of the nervous system, and could even have implications for neuroprosthetics further down the line.

Barani Raman LocustCyborg Locusts Could Sniff Out Explosives for Navy
You may have heard of sniffer dogs, or even sniffer rats, which are used in Africa to detect landmines, but are you ready for sniffer locusts? New biorobotics systems could see the insects deployed for homeland security purposes.

Biomedical engineers at Washington University in St. Louis have received a three-year, $750,000 grant to use locusts' highly sensitive sense of smell as the basis for a bio-hybrid nose that could detect explosives and other chemicals, bridging neuroscience and engineering.

The research will see locusts equipped with sensor backpacks that give the engineers access to the bug's brain, as well as using lasers and special "plasmonic tattoos" to steer the insects towards particular areas.

YouTube Personality Builds Laser Bazooka


23 year-old YouTube personality Drake Anthony – aka Styropyro – has constructed what he believes to be the most powerful laser ever created by an amateur. The 200W 'laser bazooka' is around 400 times more powerful than the average laboratory laser, and a direct hit to your eye would be 33m times more intense than staring directly at the sun.

The bazooka was constructed from spare parts and scrap metal in Anthony's garage, and uses four 50W laser projectors, combined using optical components called 'knife-edgers' and a focusing lens.

Luckily, Anthony is far from a bumbling amateur. He has a degree in chemistry and maths at Southern Illinois University, has spent two years working in a research lab on enhancing MRI techniques using lasers, and is now pursuing a PhD in (of course) optics.

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