Articles

2014 Create the Future Design: Sustainable Technologies Category Winner

ecovent Systems — Make Every Room the Right Temperature Dipul Patel, Yoel Kelman, Nick Lancaster, Shawn Rose, and Brian Bowen ecovent Systems Boston, MA Most homes have only one thermostat, so they operate like a house with only one light switch — everything is either on or off. That leaves some rooms boiling hot while others are freezing cold. It’s uncomfortable, and it’s inefficient.

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2014 Create the Future Design Contest

The 2014 Create the Future Design Contest – sponsored by COMSOL, Inc., Mouser Electronics, and Tech Briefs Media Group (publishers of NASA Tech Briefs) – recognized innovation in product design in seven categories: Aerospace & Defense, Automotive/Transportation, Consumer Products, Electronics, Machinery/Automation/Robotics, Medical, and Sustainable Technologies. In this special section, you’ll meet the Grand Prize Winner, as well as the winners and Honorable Mentions in all seven categories, chosen from more than 1,000 new product ideas submitted from 61 countries. To view all of the entries online, visit www.createthefuturecontest.com.

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Infrared Cameras Enhance Productivity and Safety at GM

Nearly all electro-mechanical equipment becomes anomalously warm before it fails, making infrared (IR) cameras extremely effective diagnostic tools in the manufacturing environment. Inspections using infrared cameras can find many problems before failure occurs. In many cases, the time to failure can be projected, enabling the most convenient scheduling of proactive or preemptive repairs. This practice, called “predictive maintenance” (PdM), enhances both productivity and safety.

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Micro-Accelerometers Monitor Equipment Health

MEMS-based accelerometers used on the International Space Station to control the microgravity environment are also used to monitor industrial machinery. Objects that orbit the Earth, such as the International Space Station (ISS), provide a unique environment called zero-g, or more correctly, microgravity. All objects in orbit are pulled by Earth’s gravity, but they achieve the lack of gravity when they move at just the right speed (in the case of the ISS, around 17,500 miles per hour) so that the curve of their fall matches the curve of the Earth. The result is a perpetual freefall, creating weightlessness.

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Prepping Advanced Driver Assistance for Mainstream Vehicles

Forward-facing cameras, integrated with vehicle controls, are being used to recognize pedestrians, signs, and other cars and motorcycles. Automatic brake mechanisms — often connected to a combination of radar, camera, and sensors — can halt a vehicle as it approaches an object ahead. New mounted cameras have the ability to register road markings and keep drivers within their own lanes.

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Products of Tomorrow: September 2014

The technologies NASA develops don’t just blast off into space. They also improve our lives here on Earth. Life-saving search-and-rescue tools, implantable medical devices, advances in commercial aircraft safety, increased accuracy in weather forecasting, and the miniature cameras in our cellphones are just some of the examples of NASA-developed technology used in products today.

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Robots are (Almost) People, Too

Biologically inspired robots have been an ongoing fascination in movies for years. We know that robots can’t cry, bleed, or feel like humans can, and that’s what makes them different. But what if they could think like humans? Biologically inspired robots are being realized by engineers and scientists all over the world. While much emphasis is placed on developing physical characteristics for robots such as human-like faces or artificial muscles, engineers in the Telerobotics Research and Applications Group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, are among those working to program robots with forms of artificial intelligence similar to human thinking processes.

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