The term “smart home” seems to turn up in tech circles every so often, only to fade into the background again without much sign of ultra-connected dwellings becoming a reality. Honda’s at least putting one foot forward, with a just-unveiled test house in Saitama, Japan featuring a system for controlling and monitoring energy usage. The Honda Smart Home System (HSHS) consists of thin-film solar cell panels, a rechargeable home battery unit, gas and hot water supply systems and the Smart e Mix Manager. The latter is the central part of the energy-control system, and it keeps track of all the other components in addition to monitoring the home’s use of power supplied by the grid. In emergency situations, it can also provide electricity via the home battery unit. On the day-to-day level, however, the system is there to let home owners know what sources of power they can kill. Honda also integrates its Japan-only Internavi system for controlling home appliances remotely. The car maker hopes to use the house for extensive demo testing, with an ultimate goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 50 percent. No word on how many decades till we actually call this sort of place home, though. Click on past the break for a look (in Japanese) at the test home’s features.
Sammy’s transparent OLED displays may not be the freshest piece of tech at CES, but its still pretty dang awesome. We first saw Samsung’s 46-inch 1920 x 1080 digitally augmented window back in March, but dropped by its CES booth for a second look. Although the touchscreen window still teases to fulfill our fevered sci-fi dreams, not much has changed — it’s still clear, it’s still loaded with widgets, and it’s still not anywhere near being installed in your home. Samsung told us this was still a concept device, although they did mention that the technology could be scaled down for use in military visors and heads up displays. Hit the break to see a video demo of a few new apps, including a rather slick set of digital blinds.
Motocross riders, go electric and the wildlife will love you for it. In fact, equip yourselves with second-generation e-Moto-CRF250R from EVDrive and human onlookers will love you too, because the 80 horsepower Honda electric motor is plenty sufficient for catching high altitudes and hurtling between trees at 70MPH. It should run for up to 110 minutes on a charge and perform much like its fossil-fueled equivalent, while also being less expensive to run and a heck of a lot quieter. How much quieter? Click past the break for a video of the previous e-Moto in action — and honestly, there’s no need to adjust your volume dial.
Technology wired the human body in incredible new ways this week as Inhabitat reported that a paralyzed Japanese man embarked upon an adventure through France with the aid of a robotic exoskeleton. We also watched NASA launch a pee recycling bag that turns urine into a sports drink, and we spotted a pair of bionic eyeglasses that could help the blind see. On the other hand, robots are getting more and more creative – check out these psychedelic LED light paintings made by Roomba vacuums. We also saw a new study show that kids are predicting the future of technology, and Toysmith gave ordinary cardboard packaging a fun robot reboot.
Futuristic aviation made major headwinds this week as the European Union invested $6.2 million dollars to develop a new breed of “myCopter” flying cars. We also watched as the eGenius airplane shattered a world speed record and Thomson Airways launched the UK’s first airline powered by cooking oil. Green machines hit the streets as well as BMW unveiled its blazing Motorrad E-Bike and Pope Benedict XVI scored an M-Class Mercedes hybrid Popemobile.
In other news, alternative energy gained major ground as a report revealed that America now receives more power from renewable sources than from nuclear plants. Meanwhile, we set sail for the world’s first renewable energy island, and we dug up a deserted tin mine that has been transformed into a 1.4 MW solar plant. We also explored the greener side of technology in our Ask a Tech Geek series as gadget expert (and Engadget founder) Peter Rojas explained ways to cut your laptop’s power consumption, the key to energy-efficient gadget charging, the intricacies of your laptop’s sleep mode, and the best way to recycle your old cables and chargers. Finally, as summer hit its peak we took a look at a few fresh new designs for fun in the sun – check out this incredible grass globe illusion that popped up in Paris and this beautiful wind chime bridge that sings with the forest winds.
Modern day solar bags are more about looks than utility — the energy conversion rates on those things aren’t exactly jaw-dropping — but if it comes between a generic satchel and one that’s Ma Earth-approved, well… you know what to do. Element5′s Swiss Made Mini L Solarbag is tailored to fit your iDevice of choice, but it’s fairly obvious that the iPad line will be most at home here. We’re guessing that the company’s taking a few liberties with that “mini miracle” tagline, and we aren’t exactly thrilled with the lack of information surrounding charging time, but those who value form over function can get their order in now for 348 Swiss Franc (or $412 in actual money).
Inhabitat's Week in Green: transparent airplanes, photovoltaic subdivisions and a wind-powered yacht
Green transportation soared through the skies this week as Inhabitat reported on Airbus’ plans for a transparent airplane, and we showcased a crazy working hover bike capable of flying up to 10,000 feet. We were also excited to see China begin to roll out high-speed rail across Asia and we spotted several out-of-this world Frankenstein vehicles — a Mercedes-Benz bus train in Bolivia and a wind-powered yacht that doubles as an airplane.
It was a momentous week for energy news as well, as Italians voted to end the use of nuclear power, and we took a look inside Germany’s Wunderland Kalkar Amusement Park, which is built inside of a decommissioned nuclear plant. Solar power also had its moment in the sun as Enfinity unveiled two gorgeous photovoltaic-laden landscapes in Les Mées, France and Bangladesh announced that one million of the country’s homes are powered by photovoltaic panels. We even spotted a new type of flexible generator that could be built into shoes to produce power as you walk.
This week we were also excited to unveil the winners of our Bright Ideas Lighting Design Competition — the elegant geometric Tetra Pak Lamp, the gorgeous glowing Nourishment Lamp, and the cute cork Pinha Pendant Light. We also launched our new Ask a Tech Geek Series where gadget guru extraordinaire Peter Rojas answers your questions about green technology, and we reported on one Japanese researcher’s dubious plan to create an artificial meat substitute from poop. Finally, we shared an awesome steampunk rotary smartphone and a set of fun foldable Paper Punk robots that are perfect for terrorizing your coworkers’ cubicles.
Inhabitat's Week in Green: hydrogen-powered space plane, Japan's solar surge and urban farms of Ze Future
Green transportation took off for the stars this week as Inhabitat reported that the European Space Agency has approved of a new hydrogen-powered “Skylon” space plane, and we spotted a hot Star Wars-inspired electric chopper that wouldn’t look out of place on the Death Star. We also learned that NASA plans to rejoin the space race with a new MPCV craft fit for deep space flights, while here on Earth we saw GE harness the power of the sun to charge Volt EVs before they hit dealerships.
Speaking of solar power, Japan unveiled plans to construct 10 new solar power plants in the wake of the Fukushima Nuclear Crisis, while Switzerland announced that it will completely phase out the use of nuclear power. We also showcased a stunning chandelier made from 500 fluttering photovoltaic butterflies, and we saw Nevada kick-start construction on the US’ first molten salt solar plant, which will generate energy long after the sun has set.
We also brought you several incredible feats of architecture this week, from a restaurant made from a recycled Soviet airplane in Zurich to an innovative cocoon-like building made from sugarcane that recently won an AIA competition. We also showed how Plantlab is making vertical urban farms a reality, and we spotted a sky-high proposal for an energy-generating city on stilts that would hover over Manhattan. Finally, this week we rounded up some of our favorite eco apps and services that can help you green your consumption.
The biggest problem with electric bicycles? All of that pesky pedaling. Thankfully, some of the world’s top engineering minds are innovating all sorts of ways to lighten that load. Like Yamaha Motors, whose new PAS CITY-X, PAS CITY-C, and PAS Compact feature amped up batteries that can be charged twice as many times as their predecessors. You’ll get somewhere from 10 to 15 miles on a charge, depending on the setting — unfortunately not quite far enough for us to ride one back home to the States. The models will hit their native country on May 20th, at ¥106,800 ($1,299) for the CITY-X and ¥103,800 ($1,262) for the City-C and City-Compact models. Between the improved battery life and all of that artificial intelligence though, these things clearly won’t have much use for us in the near future.
What’s fast, electric, and made in Canada? No, not the latest Rush record, it’s the P1, a new electric motorcycle prototype from Quebec-based Amarok Consultants. The company — named after the Inuit word for wolf — unveiled the bike this week, announcing plans to enter it in this year’s TTXGP, an international racing series for electric vehicles. The 75 horsepower two-wheeler was designed with a laser-focus on lightweight construction, squeezing a 7.5-kilowatt-hour battery and two Agni 95 electric motors into a bantam 325 pound body — making for one of the lightest electric racing motorcycles around. The company’s not stopping there, however, shooting for 275 pounds for the second generation of the bike, putting it more on-par with gas-powered counterparts.
You may live your life a quarter-mile at a time, but let’s face it — you still care about the environment. To that end, you’ve patiently awaited Audi’s hybrid Spyder, even with the company playing coy about electric vehicles in general. Its latest tease is a far cry from the aforesaid ghost, but the A3 e-tron — an entry-level Sportback begging to be modified — is certainly sexy in its own right. Not exactly Fast and Furious material, given that it needs 11 seconds to reach 60mph and tops out at 90mph, but still — a pair of lithium-ion batteries should give it 90-mile range per nine-hour charge. We’d take the Roadster S’ 165-mile ride if given the choice, but we’ll confess to confessing as much prior to consulting our practical side. No hard word on availability or pricing — the company likely wants it on the streets by 2013, but don’t go changing your name to Vin Battery just yet. Or Vin Anything, for that matter.
Looks like “Team 250″ is primed to add a few new members now that the EPA has revealed its official MPGe ratings for Smart’s Fortwo EDs. Rated at 94 miles-per-gallon in the city and 79 on the highway, the car takes motorists 63 miles per charge — making it slightly less able than Nissan’s Leaf with its 73 mile range, 106 MPG in town, and 92 MPG on the open road. Now that the Fortwo ED has its governmental blessing, interested parties can lease one from selected dealers — sorry folks, buying’s not an option — for a hefty $599 per-month, which seems staggeringly high compared to the $349 monthly lease rate for the larger, more capable Leaf. Perhaps the Smart squad won’t be getting many new teammates after all.
Battery power gets a lot of publicity these days, what with YikeBike and Yogo EVs tooling around. However, that doesn’t mean other kinds of ecofriendly propulsion, like fuel cells, won’t be part of our transportational future. Suzuki, for one, is betting on hydrogen power — its Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter just became the first fuel cell vehicle to receive Whole Vehicle Type Approval (WVTA) from the UK’s Department of Transport. Having the WVTA stamp of approval means that the scooter meets EU performance standards and can be sold in Europe — setting it free to frolic hither and yon on the cobblestone streets of the old country. No word on plans to bring it to the US, but a boy can dream, can’t he? PR’s after the break.
Wirelessly-powered TVs are nice, and transparent displays are cool and all, but what about an ambient light-powered transparent LCD? Well, that’s nothing short of awesome. Samsung showed off just such a device at CeBIT 2011 last week — a prototype 46-inch display with 1920 x 1080 resolution and ten-finger touchscreen capability. We aren’t sure what kind of black magic Sammy put in this thing, but it’s an incredible feat of engineering to make such a large display — and its accompanying solar cells — efficient enough to run exclusively off the juice it pulls from surrounding light sources. No word on how the photon-powered LCD compares to existing HD monitors in terms of brightness, refresh rates, or color reproduction, but a muted picture is a small price to pay for cutting the electrical cord forever.