HOW IT WORKS
The US military’s amazing new inventions allow soldiers to climb walls made of nearly any material, without the need for ropes or ladders.
To print a recipe, you load ingredients into the machine’s syringes, then use software to tell the printer how to assemble the food. For example, you might tell it “Lay down a base of pizza dough, then top with sauce and cheese.” The machine picks up syringes using electromagnets and deposits them according to the recipe. An infrared spotlight located behind the syringe cooks ingredients as they print.
Three-hundred-and-sixty-degree cameras have dropped to Gopro prices. (The 360fly is only about R4 000.) The only real issue is editing. In terms of field of view, you’re looking at six to ten times more raw footage with a 360 camera. As with drone footage, unless you do something truly Vr-worthy – tour an Air Force base, dive with sharks, visit a cat café – only a portion of what 360 cameras capture is worth looking at. For now, the final video won’t be as focused or compelling as a tight 2D clip. It can’t be. Especially if the person you show the video to doesn’t have a VR headset or Google Cardboard. But this is about looking forward. Not to a day when everyone is using Youtube 360, which, honestly, will always be pretty fun to play with. To a day when we all have VR set-ups in our houses, hooked to our phones (or directly to our brains or souls, or whatever happens in this future world; we aren’t there yet, so we don’t know). That day will come in part because of 360-degree cameras. And we’ll get better at editing.
Earlier this year, when Tesla’s Autopilot gained the dubious distinction of being the first driver-assistance system to be implicated in a fatal crash, it was tragic, to be sure. But is it enough reason to abandon a promising technology? The systems haven’t been around for very long and you need a whole lot of data to paint a picture of accidents that don’t happen. And early studies suggest that, yes, smarter cars can help save us from our own imperfect driving.
It’ll be a long time before a car can drive you anywhere you want without human intervention, but for the moment, the questions are pretty simple. If you start to drift into the wrong lane, would you like the car to steer you away from the oncoming traffic? If there’s an oblivious guy stepping into the crosswalk, would you prefer not to hit him? And if you’re about to reverse into the path of a school bus, would you like your car to automatically hit the brakes? All of those systems – laneassist, pedestrian-detection, crosspath-detection – are available already, and, yes, you want them. The car isn’t yet ready to take over your whole commute. But that doesn’t mean it can’t save you somewhere along the way.
There are a lot of kinds of beer. Take India Pale Ales, for example. There are Belgian IPAS, rye IPAS, double IPAS and at least four colours of IPA: black, brown, red and white. It can start to feel a little overwhelming. To keep track of it all there is an aide: the cicerone (Sis-uh-rohn). Cicerones are the sommeliers of the beer world, only they have less clout and don’t get to wear that sipping dish around their neck when they work. They go through official training and ordination and, upon graduation, they help us drink.
Started in 2008, the Cicerone Certification Programme offers anyone with tuition money and a bottle opener four increasingly sophisticated titles (beer server, cicerone, advanced cicerone, master cicerone). But what it offers to the world is a sign that we’ve gone too far. Beer can be complex in its flavours and preparation. We appreciate that. It’s why we have favourites and why we’ll spend more time at restaurants reading the beer menu than pondering the day’s specials. But we don’t necessarily want help. Although it may be a complicated drink, beer is a simple pleasure. Let’s keep it that way. Besides, we already have a name for cicerones: bartenders.
Dakine, the surfboard accessories company, has always been better known for outfitting its packs and bags to best accommodate things like surf leashes and helmets. Now, it’s focusing on transporting easy-access soda and beer in what is clearly the mullet of backpacks. Up top, it’s all business: 28 litres of storage capacity for your regular gear plus a protected pocket for sunglasses and your phone. Down below, it’s a party with a separate compartment that holds 12 cans and ice packs. The best part, though, is a zippered side dispenser. You can pull out a drink without having to take off the pack. Take into account the three insulated cosies and bottle opener on the shoulder strap and you’re a roving, unencumbered good-time Charlie.
Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos set a 2016 original content goal at 600 hours; 25 uninterrupted days’ worth of acclaimed, binge-worthy series like House of Cards, Narcos, and Stranger Things. If the deepening butt craters in our couch cushions are any indication, the challenge was accepted. Lost in the unquestioned success of Netflix’s content boom, however, is its shaky history with original films. Since late 2015, Netflix has offered up a trial-and-error mix of indies (Indian comedy Brahman Naman), sequels no one was really hoping for ( Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny), and heavily streamed but critically panned Adam Sandler “comedies” like The Ridiculous 6. It was a slow start. But there’s hope for Netflix movies, as the saviour of art-house fare and the medium-budget films that major studios ignore for reboots and superhero franchises. Netflix’s theatrical originals are getting better, with upcoming titles like Christopher Guest’s Mascots; Death Note, a supernatural horror movie from buzzy director Adam Wingard; and Will Forte’s A Futile & Stupid Gesture, about a cofounder of National Lampoon.
The surest sign that Netflix films are improving is upcoming collaborations with bold-face names whose sole interest isn’t getting David Spade much-needed work. The company paid R830 million for the rights to Brad Pitt’s War Machine. It invested another R700 million in Okja, a South Korean action flick with Jake Gyllenhaal.
Theatregoing may never go out of style completely, but as long as Netflix is willing to pony up for projects while charging its 83 million subscribers less than R150 a month, the success it has enjoyed with original series is easily and inevitably repeatable. Consider using the money you save on a new couch. – David Walters
I’m dangling near the top of six-metre plate of glass. All 90 kilograms of me. On land, I can’t do a single pull-up – not even if you held a doughnut over the bar. But I got up here using my own strength and if it weren’t for my nerves, I wouldn’t have broken a sweat. The suction-cup paddles in each of my hands are harnessed to my waist. Stirrups loop around my feet. As I shift my weight off my right leg and on to my left, the pneumatic fingers on the paddle in my right hand release the pressure holding the seven suction cups above them to the wall. My body weight moves to my left leg, pulling down the fingers in the paddle in my left hand. The suction cups of the left paddle push into the wall, forcing microscopic silicone ridges against the glass for maximum surface contact and hold. When I reach the ceiling, I linger, feeling more than a little like a superhero, but also wondering how I’m going to get down.
Those loops around my feet are very important. If I lean too far back or to the side – the vector of my weight no longer directly beneath the paddle – that suction will quickly release. I know this because it’s exactly what I do. In my excitement to move from the glass wall and try the device on a painted surface, I stretch the paddles too far apart. With my foot and my weight no longer aligned below the paddles, I slide down the wall and crash to the ground in a tangle of devices and – luckily – backup ropes.
The idea for this equipment – called Z-man, named for the third-dimensional, or Z axis – came about ten years ago at DARPA, a group whose mission is to protect the US defence establishment and the nation from technological surprise. Two programme managers, John Main and Morley Stone, were discussing the urban battlefield. “We were in the thick of the Iraq war and a lot of activities taking place were urban, and the urban high ground is the top of buildings,” says Main. “We were trying to get people safely to the top of a building.” A study at Stanford suggested that mimicking gecko skin could help small robots climb, and Stone and Main wondered if the same type of technology would work for humans. “Stone shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘I think so,’ ” Main says. “And I shrugged my shoulders and said, ‘I think so.’ That was the genesis of the whole programme.”
For the past decade, DARPA Z-man scientists have struggled with a challenge that has perplexed scientists since Aristotle: how the hell does a gecko run up and down a tree? And how do we replicate that ability on humans? There were many theories and, in desperate times, the sug-