It’s time for another future roundup: my review of the smaller, more whimsical bits of innovation on my radar. These harmless bits of science serve as a kind of mini-vacation from the soul-rattling “humans will no longer be human” stories I sometimes traffic in on this blog.
Not everything in the future has to be scary. Plenty of it is pointless, silly, and sometimes smelly.
1) Scientists Build a Robot Venus flytrap
I kept several Venus flytraps when I was little, feeding them captured houseflies and even little bits of hamburger. That green skin and bright red mouth? Magic.
Since everything living must eventually become robot (apparently), scientists have used the Venus flytrap as a model for a new machine that can pick up and grasp objects.
Next steps? Car-sized robots that pick up, consume, and digest humans. Probably.
But really, if I can get a robot Venus flytrap that will eat the fruit flies buzzing around my kitchen counter, I’m all in.
2) “Living” Clothing
Scientists have developed a new workout suit that breathes when woven microbial cells respond to moisture—your sweat—and expand to create vents in the fabric. When you cool down, they contract, saving body heat.
Wanna guess what the cells are a strain of? E. coli.
Nothing gets me more excited to hand over my hard-earned cash than a mix of E. coli, sweat, and workout fashion.
This tech actually seems like it could be a precursor to Frank Herbert’s stillsuits from his novel Dune—a suit designed for desert wear to preserve the bodily moisture of the Fremen. If we see people jogging through the Sahara in these, we’ll know it’s coming.
3) TRON in Real Life
Would I work out more if I could do it inside a sci-fi movie?
Nike’s new LED running super track looks like it came right out of the movie Tron. But is there more to it than giving the fitness-minded a futuristic neon glow?
Yes, though it feels like overkill. The track, among other things, lets you run against yourself. After making one full loop, a virtual replay of yourself will repeat that performance right beside you as you run your second loop. You compete against yourself to find out whether you run slower, faster, or just look really goofy while exercising.
I think this kind of tech will be short lived—we’ll all be working out inside augmented reality/virtual reality landscapes soon, which will limit the need for physical, external design. But for now… it’s pretty.
Now bring on the light bikes.
4) Buying Luxury Cars Through a Vending Machine
Yes, I also thought the title was a joke, or a metaphor, or anything other than what it appears to be. But it’s real.
Autobahn Motors built the first luxury car vending machine in Singapore (of course). Take a look:
This will be very helpful for those who sometimes decide to buy a luxury car on the fly, choose it from the vending machine window, and have it delivered to them on the street.
That’s most of us, right? It’s certainly me. I definitely didn’t stress out over the fact that my cable bill went up by $8 a month yesterday. Not one bit.
5) Jeremy the Left-Handed Snail Has Been Twice Rejected and LOVE IS DEAD
Oh, sweet Jeremy.
I last talked about this lovesick British snail with the counter-clockwise shell mutation in November 2016. The shell orientation is one in a million, and it made him incapable of mating with any other snail he was likely to come in contact with.
But things were looking up. Nottingham University Geneticist Angus Davidson decided to play matchmaker for Jeremy (and bring diversity to the snail gene pool) by seeking help through Twitter. It worked! With the hashtag #SnailLove and a little media attention, two different mutant snails were found as possible mates.
And now both potential mates have rejected Jeremy. Even worse, they mated with each other right in front of him and had little snail babies.
Is there no hope? Is love dead? An entire country rallied for this poor mutant snail, and it still didn’t work.
Fine. I get it, universe.
Table for one, please. No, I’m not expecting anyone else. I’ll have the grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup with a side of room-temperature water.
Have a good week, all. Be kind to snails and don’t get too close to deer.