Innovation Lab: Robot Giraffes, Invisible Fences and Electric Highways

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.

Boston Dynamics Unveils Robot Giraffe

Google-owned robotics experts Boston Dynamics have revealed their latest design, a smaller version of its Spot bot fitted with an extendable arm that makes it resemble a bizarre robotic cross between a dog, a giraffe and a dinosaur.

The SpotMini weighs only 65lbs, or 55lbs without the arm attachment, and abandons the hydraulics of the larger model for electric motors that can run for around 90 minutes before needing to recharge.

The robot comes packed with a variety of sensors, including depth cameras and a solid state gyroscope that enables it to move it's body around while keeping the robotic arm static in one position. The SpotMini also has proprioception sensors in each limb, enabling it to maintain its balance when many other robots would tumble, and navigate stairs with reasonable ease.

The team at Boston Dynamics have clearly put the robot through its paces, with the released video showing the SpotMini sorting dishes and recycling, navigating under tables and slipping on banana peels before righting itself.

Invisible Fence Stops You Colliding with Furniture While Using VR Headset
vr guardian
As virtual reality becomes increasingly popular and VR makes the transition from high-tech boondoggle to household gadget, new challenges are presenting themselves, such as the dangers of running into your sofa while avoiding a virtual hazard.

In order to prevent a drastic increase in bruised shins and stubbed toes, gaming company Nyko Technology has developed a system that enables users to map out a suitable safe area for VR play and be warned if they risk existing it.

The VR Guardian system uses four wireless positional sensors that are arranged in a square up to 20ft by 20ft, while a pair of vibrating wristbands warn users whenever the cross the line, stopping them from colliding with objects without overly distracting them from their VR experience.

The sensors are designed to stack together and charge via a single cable, with a battery life of 25 hours, and 11 hours for the vibrating wristbands, so they should last you much longer than you can tolerate leaping around your living room in a VR headset.

Google Celebrates Pride with 360-degree Global Tour

To coincide with Pride Month, Google has launched a new project that aims to bring Pride parades from around the world to people who can't physically be there. Called #prideforeveryone, the centrepiece of the initiative is a 360-degree video that captures events from 25 countries around the world.

The project also aims to highlight the discrimination and violence that LGBTQ people still face around the world, from the more than 70 countries where homosexuality is illegal, to unfair marriage, healthcare or employment laws elsewhere.

"This year, we gave it a lot of thought how we bring Pride to people who can't physically attend or are not really that comfortable in attending Pride," said Arhan Dijk, vice president of growth marketing at Google and executive sponsor of Gayglers (a group of LGBTQ employees within Google), speaking to USA Today. "We are bringing Pride to millions of people who can march in a virtual way and be part of it all."

swedish electric highwaySweden Creates World's First 'Electric Highway'
Technology firm Siemens and haulage company Scania have teamed up with the Swedish government to trial what's being called the world's first "electric highway", a 1.2 mile stretch of road with series of wires overhead that can be used to power trucks.

The road functions much like an electrified railroad, with the trucks connecting using a rig called a pantograph that enables them to switch from fuel-burning engines to electric while they are on the road, and back again once the wired section stops.

"by 2030, we will have a vehicle fleet that is independent of fossil fuels," said Anders Berndtsson of the Swedish Transport Administration. "We need to ensure that freight traffic worked once this has happened, so we can get the goods we need for a functioning society and a good life. We must liberate trucks from their dependence on fossil fuels."

london rising 3d printProgrammer 3D Prints Scale Model of London
We've seen some ambitious 3D printing projects in the Innovation Lab before, but recreating an entire city to scale in 3D is something new. The piece was created by Andrew Godwin, a British programmer working in San Francisco, using light detection and ranging (LIDAR) data that had been released by the government.

The data, gathered by low-flying aircraft using a laser ranging system, had to be cleaned up to reduce the level of detail and shrink the file size. Once this was done, Godwin broke the map up using a grid and printed out the resulting 48 sections on 7.5cm square tiles, with each one taking between one and four hours, depending on the level of detail.

In the end, the 90cm by 30cm map cost less than $50 (£36) of materials (excluding the price of the 3D printer), a remarkably low price for such a unique artifact. Godwin has plans to produce similar maps of San Francisco and Oxford, the two other cities where he has lived, and has made the data for his London map available for other who want to construct their own mini-capital.

Don’t forget to enter the Effective Mobile Marketing Awards. Early Bird deadline: 22 July. More details here.