Caught our eye

Good friends, a thinking e-bike and Lego as a prototype



The robots are taking over

Self-driving cars are just the start. Soon robots will be capable of building bridges by themselves or independently assembling computer boards, as the examples of the flying drones at ETH Zurich and the nimble minirobots from SRI International show.  At ETH Zurich's Flying Machine Area, autonomous drones fix ropes independently and

weave net-like structures. The flying robots also work excellently as a team. The latter is also a speciality of the microrobots from SRI International, which developed Apple’s Siri voice control, among other things. Dozens of little robots with speeds of up to 35 cm per second can be controlled independently of one another and incredibly precisely on a magnetic circuit board, allowing them to implement multistage production processes from A to Z together. The aim of the research projects supported by the research institute of the American military, DARPA, is to create fully automated, flexible microfactories, for example in the fields of computer electronics or chemical, medical and biological analytics.

The flying  ETH quadcopters in actionThe minibots work quickly and precisely

“Here we have the Stromer ST2 and the app that is used to control it. So, what can you do with it?” – “Well, everything really – find out how your bike is doing.”

«eBike News» Fahrradschau Berlin (youtube)



The friends from next door are taking over

Swisscom Friends is an exciting project in several respects. The crowdsourcing platform shows how companies can use the knowledge of a broad population to provide its customers with optimal support from the neighbourhood for small operating and repair problems. In addition, it is a perfect example for cooperation between an innovative start-up and a future-oriented large enterprise. The community marketplace Mila, which Swisscom Friends is based on, was founded by Manuel Grenacher, who was honoured as Newcomer of the Year at the last Swiss ICT Award, among other things. In the current pilot phase, the Friends offering concentrates on the wider Zurich area. As of autumn, it is to be extended to all major urban areas. Fast expansion will be ensured not least by word of mouth, as the customer reactions have all been positive and enthusiastic up to now.

The Swisscom Friends help with everyday ICT problems


User interface

The screen is taking shape

Will 3-D always remain just an optical effect on a flat screen? MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) demonstrates – in an admittedly still roughly pixelated resolution – how computer displays could become truly three-dimensional and above all interactive. With the system, which is known as inFORM, you can use the Internet to balance balls, model designs or spatially present and modify complex data. 900 dynamic, height-adjustable plastic rods provide the third screen dimension. The screen information is projected onto the rods using a projector. Spatial information is collected using a Kinect sensor. The result is a fascinating rod ballet. Once the resolution is increased and the device dimensions made suitable for the desktop, such screens could conquer more than just the gamer world. For example, with this highly flexible user interface, teams could also refine designs together via the Internet or instructors could literally help learners grasp the function of virtually generated objects.

The 3-D rods dance here



The e-bike that thinks in the cloud

With the ST2, Swiss e-bike manufacturer Stromer has created a worldwide innovation, in collaboration with the Swisscom M2M (machine-to-machine) Collaboration Center. The electric racer is networked with a mobile communications module and uses cloud intelligence for monitoring and control via smartphone. With an app, you can, for example, check the condition of the battery and motor, show the location or activate theft protection remotely and – if you want to release the bike for a friend – deactivate it again. And that’s just the start. Using the cloud, app and bike can continuously be upgraded with additional functions and new applications..

How to control the ST2 by mobile phone



Cooling the cloud with rain water

Computers get hot. Everybody who occasionally uses their laptop on their lap knows this. In conventional computer centres, cooling the computers consequently uses almost as much energy as the computers themselves. This means that for every watt of computing power, around 2 watts of electricity are required. With the new computer centre in the Wankdorf district of Berne, in which cloud services, among other things, will be operated as of the coming autumn, Swisscom is setting new benchmarks when it comes to energy efficiency – instead of 2, only 1.2 watts of electricity will be required per watt of computing power. This is made possible with innovative cooling technologies. For example, instead of using power-hungry cooling machines, the computer centre will be cooled using ambient air, which will be directed precisely to the heated areas of the computer infrastructure. On hot summer days, the innovative “free-cooling procedure” works with additional hybrid recoolers. These evaporate rain water collected in a cistern to cool the heated air.

Construction of the computer centre in the Wankdorf district of Berne in time lapse


3-D printing

A Lego turbo for 3-D printing

Today, 3-D printers can produce almost any object in almost any degree of accuracy. The major disadvantage: the more accurate the print, the longer it takes. The layered construction of even small components can take hours. A project at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam promises massively reduced printing times – with the help of Lego. Putting together the basic structure using the toy blocks means only the specific elements of a shape now need to be printed out. Of course, the concept can also be implemented using other construction elements in place of the studded plastic blocks. Such hybrid approaches are interesting for rapid prototyping, in particular.

     3-D-Printing meets Lego