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Could a solar-powered airplane be commercially viable?

This week's Question: Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered airplane, completed a risky, 62-hour flight across a wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean. According to pilot and Swiss engineer Andre Borschberg, the plane now has the ability, in theory, to fly for an unlimited period, with only the human factor limiting how long the plane could potentially stay on the air. What do you think? Could a solar-powered airplane be commercially viable?  

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Will you wear “e-textiles”?

This week's Question: Researchers at The Ohio State University have embroidered circuits into fabric with 0.1-mm precision — an ideal size to integrate electronic components, such as sensors and computer memory devices, into clothing. With the advance, the team has taken the next step toward the design of functional textiles — clothes that gather, store, or transmit digital information. The development could lead to shirts that act as antennas for your smartphone, workout clothes that monitor your fitness level, a bandage that monitors your health, or even a flexible fabric cap that senses brain activity. What do you think? Will you wear “e-textiles”?  

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Will 'smart glasses' catch on?

This week's Question: A recent patent application from the South Korean electronics giant Samsung revealed a new concept for smart contact lenses. The eyewear includes a built-in camera, sensors, and a display that can project images directly into a wearer’s eyes. The smart lenses can be controlled using eye movements and blinking, potentially allowing users to take photos with the miniature camera simply by winking or blinking. According to the 29-page application, however, the image quality of smart glasses is limited, and the technology does not provide a natural interface. What do you think? Will 'smart glasses' catch on?  

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Are cars set to be the next 'ultimate mobile device'?

This week's Question: As companies like Google and Apple lead self-driving car efforts, Hyundai Motors America CEO David Zuchowski expects the bridge between Silicon Valley and auto companies to narrow. In a recent interview with CNBC, Zuchowski suggested cars could replace mobile phones as the next big smart device. The CEO expects alliances to form between automakers — potential "hardware builders" — and technology companies that supply the software. "[Consumers] want an Apple experience," Zuchowski told CNBC. "The car is the ultimate mobile device, right?" What do you think? Are cars set to be the next 'ultimate mobile device'?    

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Will self-cleaning laundry catch on?

This week's Question: Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have developed a cheap and efficient way to alter fabric so that stains disappear after a few minutes of sun exposure. When the nanostructures are placed in light, the materials receive an energy boost that creates "hot electrons." The "hot electrons" release a burst of energy that enables the nanostructures to degrade organic matter. The researchers, however, are challenged with how to build the nanostructures on an industrial scale and permanently attach them to textiles. What do you think? Will self-cleaning laundry catch on?

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Do you feel safe in a "connected" car?

This week's Question: According to a public service announcement last week from The FBI, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Department of Transportation, vehicles will be increasingly subject to cybersecurity risks as they become more automated and less controlled by drivers. In the advisory, the Bureau reviewed recent hacks that security researchers have been able to perform: shutting down the engine of a low-speed vehicle, disabling brakes, and controlling door locks, GPS, and turn signals, for example. While identified vulnerabilities "have been addressed," according to the announcement, the FBI suggests taking precautions, including staying aware of recalls, confirming software updates, and exercising discretion when connecting third-party devices. What do you think? Do you feel safe in a "connected" car?   

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Should we establish a colony on the moon?

This week's Question: NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay recently edited a special issue in the journal New Space, publishing papers that came out of a 2014 meeting with scientists and space business professionals. The goal of the 2014 meeting was to explore and develop low-cost options for building a human settlement on the moon. Establishing a colony on the moon could open up opportunities for research and deep space travel to Mars. The bigger question, however, is cost and whether the project could still be done in addition to the Mars exploration missions. The New Space papers concluded that a small lunar base could be constructed for $10 billion or less, and could be done by 2022. Many of the proposed technologies that could be used to lower the costs of a moon base include virtual reality for planning efforts; 3D printing to replace components; and flexible living modules that fit into a rocket's cargo bay.   What do you think? Should we establish a colony on the moon? 

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