Sure, modern cars have a plethora of snazzy features and tooling under the hood, but if you’re truly looking for a vehicle that’s more than meets the eye, you may want to check out the real-life Transformer being built by a research and development startup in Turkey.
Called Letvision, the company is assembling transforming robots out of brand new BMWs. Best of all? Not only can they be transformed with the touch of a button, but they’re also as articulated as the Optimus Prime and Megatron action figures we grew up with.
“They can move their head, neck, wrists, fingers, and so on,” Turgut Alpagot, Letvision’s sales and marketing director, told Digital Trends. “You can even operate their lights and a camera in the chest plate. They’re pretty cool.”
Alpagot explained that the project started out as a conversation between the three company co-founders, all of whom wanted to create something eye-catching. “The three co-founders were brainstorming,” he said. “We wanted to do an extraordinary project, and something that would get great exposure for us around the world. I think we succeeded.”
The process to transform a new BMW into a Transfor… — we mean a “Letron” — currently takes the Letvision team around 90 days to complete, although Alpagot said he hopes this time frame should decrease to 30 days within the next several months. As to how much it costs, “it’s a commercial secret,” he noted, but acknowledged that the project was achieved on a somewhat “restricted budget.”
Well, currently two things: functionality and availability. “You can’t drive the cars after we’ve converted them,” Alpagot said. “It’s just an exterior. Inside, it’s been totally modified by our machinery. There are no seats, no cockpit, no gears, nothing that would let you drive it at present.”
Right now, it’s also not available to your average customer.
“For now, it’s not designed for the retail market,” he said. “It’s more for corporate clients to use as a business showcase — for an advertisement, for example. But in the near future, we’re planning to develop Letrons for individuals. If we have the time and budget, we think it would be possible to make these available for sale over the internet.”
When that happens, it would almost be worth the cost of taking out a second mortgage just to see our neighbors’ reaction!
December space launch could make Israel 4th country to land on moon
In an age in which the high-profile space stories and competition typically involve companies like SpaceX, Boeing, and others, it’s easy to forget that it used to feel like more of a national rivalry — summoning memories of the U.S. and Soviet Union from the height of the Space Race. One country which clearly hasn’t forgotten those halcyon days? Israel, which announced its intentions to be the fourth country to land a mission on the moon — after the U.S., Russia, and China.
With this goal in mind, it’s planning to launch an unmanned spacecraft in December as a collaboration between Israel Aerospace Industries and the nonprofit organization SpaceIL. The launch will take place from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The two companies behind the launch have raised $88 million from private donors to fund the project over the course of the past eight years. Their diminutive craft is a little over 5 feet in height and tips the scale at 1,322 pounds. It will take around two months to reach the moon, with a target date of February 13, 2019. No launch date has yet been announced.
“The launch of the first Israeli spacecraft will fill Israel, in its 70th year, with pride,” said SpaceIL President Morris Kahn. “It is a national accomplishment that will put us on the world’s space map.”
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SpaceIL was previously part of Google’s Lunar XPrize competition, which promised a $20 million prize for any non-governmental organization able to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon by 2014. Ultimately, no organization was able to achieve this, although clearly, SpaceIL was not ready to throw in the towel just because it had missed Google’s deadline. Half a decade later, it may well claim the moral victory, if not the financial one.
If the group’s spacecraft does successfully reach the moon, it will be the smallest craft to have done so in history. On the moon’s surface, it will take assorted videos and photographs, as well as measuring the moon’s magnetic field using a magnetometer.
Israel Aerospace Industries hopes that the space mission will trigger an “Apollo effect,” which captures the imagination of kids and gets them inspired about the possibility offered by STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) subjects.
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new laser eye surgery fixes vision without any gnarly eyeball slicing
As someone who wears glasses, the idea of corrective laser eye surgery is certainly tempting. But then you start reading about how the invasive surgery is actually performed, along with some of (admittedly rare) risks, and suddenly glasses don’t seem so bad. Things could change, however, thanks to research coming out of Columbia University. Researchers there have developed a new noninvasive laser eye surgery which could permanently correct vision — minus any of the less pleasant-sounding aspects of regular laser surgery.
“The main difference between our approach and commonly used refractive surgeries is that in our method there is no flap cutting and no ablation,” Sinisa Vukelic, a researcher on the project, told Digital Trends. “Patients with thin corneas and other abnormalities that make them ineligible for refractive surgery could be treated with the proposed treatment, which in turn increases the population of eligible patients.”
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The new methods involve something called a femtosecond oscillator, an ultrafast laser capable of delivering pulses of low energy very quickly. Using this laser, it’s possible to change the biochemical and biomechanical properties of the eye’s corneal tissue. Unlike laser-assisted corrective surgeries like Lasik, this can be done without thinning — and thereby potentially weakening — the cornea. Instead, the procedure involves using the laser to ionize the water molecules within the cornea. This creates a reaction oxygen molecule which interacts with collagen fibrils to selectively form “crosslinks” or chemical bonds that change the eye’s properties. Doing this can alter the overall corneal curvature of the eye, modifying its refractive power in order to correct the patient’s vision.
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