NASA Mars rover tour: Batmobile-like concept vehicle aims to inspire next-gen designs

It looks like a Batmobile – and now it’s headed to a city near you.

A NASA Mars rover concept vehicle akin to something out of the caped crusader’s universe is embarking on an educational tour this month aimed to inspire the public about potential manned-missions on the Red Planet.

“Experts believe the first person to step foot on Mars is already born,” Rebecca Shireman, assistant manager of public relations for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, told Fox News.

The 5,000-pound solar and battery-powered vehicle will be on display in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Jersey City and New York City. It is made of aluminum ad carbon-fiber and can split in two pieces, with one half being a laboratory and the other being used for scouting purposes.

It was designed by SeaDek and Parker Brothers Concepts with the help of NASA Subject Matter experts and a former astronaut. The vision was to create a vehicle that would be “as realistic as possible given the challenges of traveling on Mars,” Shireman said.

One feature on the vehicle, Shireman said, are wheels designed to let the sands of Mars slip through.

The rover will not actually touch down on Mars and parts of it were built only for appearance, but NASA hopes some of its characteristics could be incorporated into future designs.

“We would love for [the public] to be inspired to be part of the next generation of space explorers, whether that is as an astronaut or engineer or any other type of person that would be working on or with this journey to Mars,” Shireman told Fox News.

The rover will return to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida after the tour to be featured in a new exhibit opening this fall.

NASA said their next robotic rover will land on Mars in 2020 to search for signs of past life and collect geological samples.

The space agency’s Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars in 2012, is currently beaming pictures of the Red Planet back to Earth with the help of artificial intelligence that helps it pick its targets.

Chinese firm unveils giant ‘Monkey King’ gladiator robot

Visitors look at a giant robot named The Monkey King at the G Festival, part of the Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC) in Beijing, Saturday, April 29, 2017. The GMIC features current and future trends in the mobile Internet industry by some major foreign and Chinese internet companies. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Visitors look at a giant robot named The Monkey King at the G Festival, part of the Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC) in Beijing, Saturday, April 29, 2017. The GMIC features current and future trends in the mobile Internet industry by some major foreign and Chinese internet companies. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

The battle of the megabots just got a little more mega. What the world needs now is gladiator robots, so make room for Monkey King.

For a couple of years, the geek world has been salivating over a potential battle to the death between a couple of metal monsters — California-based MegaBots’ Mark III and a Japanese contender named Kuratas, from Suidobashi Heavy Industries.

But wouldn’t you know it? Just as the mean, not-so-lean fighting machines are gearing up for their last-bot-standing melee in August (date, time and location still to be determined), there’s a new bot in town. And this town ain’t big enough for the three of us, pardner.


Enter Monkey King, from the Chinese firm Greatmetal. As reported in Digital Trends, not a lot is known about it, but a promo video shows it isn’t monkeying around. This big baby would make any rival quake with fear, if megabots only had feelings and could actually quake.

But it will have to wait at least until fall. Right now, Mark III, which weighs 12 tons and stands 16 feet tall, and Kuratas are getting fine-tuned and greased up for August. Their makers, meanwhile, are doing what they can to make sure their human operators don’t get killed in the fight.

“We have about 3,000 wires on the robot, around 300 hydraulic hoses, 26 of the fastest hydraulic valves in the world, and a 430 horsepower gas engine that wants to be in a car and not a robot,” MegaBots co-founder and CEO Gui Cavalcanti told Digital Trends in April.


Pshaw, says Suidobashi’s Kurodo Kurata. “Just building something huge and sticking guns on it — it’s Super American…. “If we’re going to win this, I want to punch them to scrap and knock them down to do it.”

Them’s fightin’ words. Monkey King will just have to wait.

Second Arctic ‘doomsday’ vault will store the world’s data

 Literature will be protected from apocalypse in artic facility in Norway

NOW PLAYINGWorld’s most precious books to be stored in ‘Doomsday Vault’

Who says there’s no good news? It just so happens that if all of humanity is wiped out in a nuclear holocaust, the people of Earth will leave behind a record of their existence in two “doomsday vaults” on the frozen island of Svalbard, halfway between Norway and the North Pole.

Svalbard’s first doomsday vault was built into the side of a mountain in 2008. Known as the Global Seed Vault, it stores duplicates of seed samples from across the globe. They’re essentially backups, stored at half a degree below zero Fahrenheit. If every kernel of corn in the world is wiped out by the unthinkable, there’s a backup in Svalbard waiting to be withdrawn.

The Seed Vault, which currently holds more than 880,000 samples from almost every country in the world, is big enough to store 2.5 billion seeds — an average of 500 seeds from 4.5 million varieties of crops, according to The Crop Trust, an international nonprofit dedicated to preserving global food security.


And now the vault has a sibling — a second doomsday vault designed to ensure that the world’s most important books, documents and data are preserved much more carefully than the people who wrote them.

Launched last week, the Arctic World Archive is a place where governments, research facilities, companies and private individuals can store their information for 4,000 generations, according to a report in Science Alert.

“We believe that we can save the data using our technology for a whole 1,000 years,” Katrine Loen Thomsen of the Norwegian technology company Piql told local broadcaster NRK.


The data — “basically big QR codes” — is being stored in analog form, not digital, which could be vulnerable to cyberattacks and hacking, Piql founder Rune Bjerkestrand told Science Alert. When the data is physically etched into reels of film, it’s as if it were “carved in stone,” he said.

The new vault already contains the National Archives of Brazil — “…different kinds of documents from their national histories, like, for example, the Brazilian Constitution,” Bjerkestrand said. It also now holds materials from Mexico — “important documents, even from the Inca period.”

As for the people responsible for all these crops and data, no third vault for humans is planned, but Svalbard sounds like a nice, safe place to live. As reported in Science Alert, the nations of the world have agreed to keep it free from military installations and occupation, making it close to a demilitarized zone.


“We can be reasonably confident that no military attack will happen,” Pål Berg, of the Norwegian coal mining firm SNSK, told NRK.

You’ll want to pack an extra sweater, because it gets a bit chilly at night — especially in the winter, which lasts about half a year.

But that’s the price you pay for safety. And if the unthinkable happens, you’ll have more than enough seeds and books to last you a lifetime.

Here’s how ‘invisible armor’ could defeat bullets and blades

The NRL-developed transparent polymer armor consists of alternating layers of elastomeric polymer and a harder material substrate. Very small crystalline domains, which also provide rigidity, give the polymer its transparency. (U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)

The NRL-developed transparent polymer armor consists of alternating layers of elastomeric polymer and a harder material substrate. Very small crystalline domains, which also provide rigidity, give the polymer its transparency. (U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)

Ever wonder if there was such a thing as transparent armor? It sounds like something straight out of a comic book, but it’s something the Navy has actually created.

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) scientists have created a remarkable transparent armor that is lightweight and still provides excellent protection.


Nearly as transparent as glass, the armor is essentially invisible protection from bullets. And if the armor surface is damaged, warfighters could fix it on the fly with something as simple as a hot plate and the armor will meld itself back together.


Think about how “bulletproof glass” (a misnomer since it is often only bullet resistant) works – you can see through it and it stops bullets.

Now what if you could do that for body armor and helmets? That’s the idea here.


This next-generation armor advance could also amp up transparent bulletproof walls to protect tourist attractions from the attacks we’ve seen in Paris and most recently, in London.

What’s the armor made of?

The transparent polymer armor gets its transparency from something known as tiny crystalline domains. The armor itself is made up of alternating layers of elastomeric polymer combined with a harder material substrate.

NRL scientists conducted tests using polymeric materials as a coating to try to enhance impact resistance.

By applying layers of the special materials to body armor and helmets, the result was better protection for warriors against bullets.


The armor also helped reduce the impact of blast waves caused by something like an IED explosion, which could potentially help prevent brain trauma.

When a bullet hits the armor

If you picture a windshield that has been struck by a rock kicked up while driving, the rock’s impact may cause damage that makes it difficult to see through the windshield.

One of the amazing things about this see-through armor is that when it’s struck by a projectile, such as a bullet, it still retains its lucid nature. There’s virtually no impact on visibility and the damage is limited only to the spot where the bullet connected with the armor.

Repair vs. replace 

The possibility exists that this futuristic body armor could be ironed back into shape after it sustained some hits, because of the material used to create it.

The material needs to be heated to around 100 degrees Celsius, which then causes it to become hot enough to melt the tiny crystallites. By heating the material, any impact from the bullet can be melded back together and returned to its normal state. Scientists believe that this sort of repair will not impact how the armor performs.


Easy, fast repairs can be a great advantage for warfighters operating in remote locations and it can save money by repairing rather than replacing.

Implications for protecting against global terror attacks

In a scenario like the recent London attack, lightweight body armor approaches like the aforementioned can be very useful to protect armed officers from bladed weapons, bullets and other threats while the reduced weight can improve their speed, agility and flexibility of response.

Like the Capitol building in the US, armed officers protect the building and those working in and visiting the building. Based on the information provided publicly thus far, the terrorist wielded a bladed weapon and attacked British officers. One officer was tragically killed.

Guns and explosive devices are not the only methods of attack used by Islamic extremist terrorists. In Europe, terrorist plots and attacks have increasingly involved bladed weapons on foot as well the weaponization of vehicles.

Islamic extremist groups such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State group have been actively promoting these sorts of attack methods.


Just last month in Paris, a terrorist tried to launch an attack with machetes at the popular tourist site of the Louvre museum. A French soldier stopped him before there were any casualties.

In 2013, two terrorists drove at British Army soldier Fusilier Lee Rigby, who was walking a street in England. The terrorists then exited the vehicle, attacked him with blades and murdered him by hacking him to death.

Invisible Walls?

Ultimately, advances like NRLs in transparent armor could play a vital role in amping up “invisible” walls could be used to stop both people and vehicles from storming sites and areas. By enhancing protection, it could help prevent attacks and casualties.

Paris recently announced they are building an eight-foot bulletproof glass wall around the Eiffel Tower. Why? Tourist sites are attractive targets for terrorists. The goal is to stop not just bullets but prevent vehicles loaded with bombs from gaining access.

Transparent armor-ed up walls mean tourists can still enjoy an uninterrupted view while benefiting from enhanced protection.

Advanced armor like this can also become a deterrent to future attacks.



Allison Barrie consults at the highest levels of defense, has travelled to more than 70 countries, is a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees and now the author of the new book “Future Weapons: Access Granted”  covering invisible tanks through to thought-controlled fighter jets. You can click here for more information on FOX Firepower columnist and host Allison Barrie and you can follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie.

US Army asks for biodegradable ammo

File photo - Spc. Ethan Esposito, Joint Multinational Training Command, fires his M4 carbine rifle during United States Army Europe's Best Warrior Competition in Grafenwoehr, Germany, July 31, 2012. (U.S. Army)

File photo – Spc. Ethan Esposito, Joint Multinational Training Command, fires his M4 carbine rifle during United States Army Europe’s Best Warrior Competition in Grafenwoehr, Germany, July 31, 2012. (U.S. Army)

The U.S. Army gets through a lot of ammunition thanks to the amount of training it carries out. But that ammunition doesn’t come without waste which slowly degrades over hundreds of years polluting whatever ground (and nearby water sources) it happens to fall upon.

So the Department of Defense (DoD) decided to do something about it, and is requesting environmentally friendly ammunition for use during training exercises.

The request was made via the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Specifically, the DoD wants “biodegradable training ammunition loaded with specialized seeds to grow environmentally beneficial plants that eliminate ammunition debris and contaminants.”

The ammunition the DoD wants to replace with biodegradable alternatives includes “low velocity 40mm grenades; 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm mortars; shoulder launched munitions; 120mm tank rounds; and 155mm artillery rounds.” There’s also cartridge cases and sabot petals, which can either lay on the ground or end up buried beneath it.

Sourcing the seeds for use in this new ammunition won’t be a problem as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) already bioengineered them so as not to germinate for several months, allowing time for the materials containing them to sufficiently biodegrade. The seeds can then take up any remaining contaminants as they grow, further reducing harm to the environment.

As for what materials could be used to form the ammunition, the DoD points to materials used for manufacturing water bottles, plastic containers and other composite plastics already on the market today.

Any contractor attempting to produce these bullets for the DoD will need to progress through a three phase SBIR process. Phase one involves demonstrating a production process for the biodegradable materials for 40mm-120mm training rounds. Phase two involves proving the fabrication process and passing government ballistic tests. Finally, phase three will involve working with ammunition contractors to turn the tech into a supply of training ammunition.

If successful, the use of biodegradable ammunition will lead to less ground contamination while at the same time ensuring anywhere training exercises are carried out will be left rich in plant life.

This article originally appeared on

Richard Branson unveils supersonic ‘Baby Boom’ passenger jet with Boom Technology

Boom Technology says its XB-1, nicknamed the “Baby Boom” will be the world’s fastest civil aircraft.

Boom Technology says its XB-1, nicknamed the “Baby Boom” will be the world’s fastest civil aircraft.  (Boom Technology)

Need to get to London in less than four hours?

Virgin mogul Sir Richard Branson is one step to closer to bringing the next generation of Concorde-style jet engines to the masses– or at least travelers who can afford a $5,000 ticket.

On Tuesday, Branson and Denver-based Boom Technology unveiled a new prototype for a supersonic passenger jet that can take passengers from New York to London in just 3.5 hours, reports The Guardian.

“I have long been passionate about aerospace innovation and the development of high-speed commercial flights,” Branson said Tuesday at the prototype’s unveiling ceremony.

“As an innovator in the space, Virgin Galactic’s decision to work with Boom was an easy one. We’re excited to have an option on Boom’s first 10 airframes. Through Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing arm, the Spaceship Company, we will provide engineering and manufacturing services, along with flight test support and operations as part of our shared ambitions.”


Blake Scholl, Boom’s founder and CEO (who happens to be a former pilot and executive) is ready to bring supersonic jet travel back into the mainstream.

Test flights will begin next year in southern California, Scholl said, with plans to launch the first commercial departures in 2023. he also said he’s confident that these flights will be different than the Concorde due to advances in technology and lighter materials. The company plans on fabricating the planes with lightweight carbon fiber composites– which it says makes it a quieter and more fuel efficient jet.

The XB-1, nicknamed the “Baby Boom,” has a cruising speed of Mach 2.2– 1,451 miles per hour– which is 10 percent faster than the  Concorde’s previous speed of Mach 2. It’s also 2.6-times faster than the average commercial airliner.

At $5,000, tickets on the Baby Boom jet would cost “about the same as tickets in business class,” Scholl says.

“I don’t know a single person who wouldn’t want to get there in half the time, rather than have some free champagne,” he said. “It won’t be a bucket-list purchase any more. There is a huge market and the margins are enormous.”


The Baby Boom will have around 50 seats, whereas the Concorde had 92 to 128. Boom says it plans to initially fly from London to New York, San Francisco to Tokyo and Los Angeles to Sydney.

The Concorde, a British-French supersonic jet operated commercially from 1976 to 2003.

This new superyacht looks like a UFO on the water

Glider Yachts

Glider Yachts

If zooming over the waves in a sleek high-end vessel that looks right out of a science-fiction movie is your idea of fun, then London-based firm Glider Yachts has the answer: the Super Sports 18, a futuristic-looking luxury craft that can reach speeds of up to 64 miles per hour.

The high-performance sports day boat—as the company describes it—boasts a striking minimalist design, with an open cockpit with room for five atop a pair of innovative hulls devised to cut smoothly through the water, even at high speeds. The 60-foot-long hand-built boat, powered by four 270-horsepower supercharged engines, is capable of traveling from Monaco to Saint-Tropez or Miami to the Bahamas in just 45 minutes.

“We are absolutely thrilled to finally show off the first Glider to the world,” Glider Yachts managing director Robert McCall said in a statement. “The SS18 is unlike any other yacht seen in the market today, with unparalleled design and technological capabilities—we’re sure she is going to be a real game-changer.”

Along with its streamlined exterior, the SS18 features a smart tailored interior anchored by custom-made luxury leather sports seats by Corbeau and chrome detailing, adding to the overall polished feel.

The yacht, fitted with a specially engineered audio system by JL Audio and a bespoke Garmin dashboard with a state-of-the-art navigation system, is priced around $1.3 million. For more information, visit

A new combat vehicle that swims for the Marine Corps

(BAE Systems)

(BAE Systems)

A nearly 34-ton armored fighting vehicle– that swims? Marines will have a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle to storm the beaches in future battles.

Unveiled this week at the Modern Day Marine, the Amphibious Combat Vehicle, or the ACV 1.1, was created by BAE Systems and IVECO Defence. The vehicle combines a high degree of protection with amphibious and land capabilities.

The new armored assault vehicle can launch from a ship at sea and then travel by water, ready to launch attacks on the shore. Once it reaches ground, it can chase enemy forces at 70 miles per hour and unleash some serious firepower.

Currently, the Marines use options like the AAV-7A1 amphibious assault vehicle to move from ship to shore. The AAV-7A1 has been in service for about 45 years, and has undergone upgrades, but there is room for improvement and a new vehicle to meet the current and future requirements of today’s Marine Corps.

The ACV 1.1 could join the Marine Corps’ Assault Amphibious Vehicle fleet in the future.

What can it do?

Based on a platform developed by IVECO Defence Vehicles, the ACV 1.1 leverages a new 6-cylinder, 700HP power pack. This approach aims to equip the Marines with even more power than the current Assault Amphibious Vehicle.

The ACV 1.1 is big enough to carry 13 Marines plus a crew of three. It’s about 29 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 9 feet high.

In practice that would mean that it could launch from a ship and “swim” about 12 nautical miles through the ocean to reach the shore. While out on the water, it can reach speeds of six knots. Once on land, it could travel about 250 miles at a maximum speed of about 70 mph. It has a total range of approximately 350 miles.

Surf? Not a problem for this vehicle. The ACV 1.1 can continue to charge forward in spite of nine-foot plunging surf.

On land

A ship-to-shore assault force often encounters tough conditions like surf, wet sand, soft soil, and steep inclines among others. Helpful in tackling these sorts of challenges, this 8×8 leverages all-wheel drive for traction, more power and torque for the land and surf areas.  It also uses 16R20 tires, a type used on other Marine Corps’ vehicles.

There is a special H-drive system on this vehicle. You won’t find any axles– instead on each side there are three drive shafts.

In response to feedback from Marines, BAE System also built more stowage and enhanced seating into the design. The instrument panel for the driver was also adapted for better ease of use. For the gunner, the controls will incorporate advances like enhanced automation with easy push-button approaches.


The ACV 1.1 aims to provide Marines with far better protection against IEDs and mines beneath the vehicle, as well as protection from threats above.

The design for this assault vehicle includes integrated armor for MRAP-level protection.

For further enhanced safety, there are energy-absorbing seats in addition to an optimized blast-resistant hull.


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Last year, the U.S. Marine Corps awarded two contracts to BAE Systems and SAIC for the Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development phase of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle 1.1 program. SAIC is working on their version, called the Terrex 1.

During this current phase, BAE Systems will produce 16 prototypes that the Marine Corps will test. The Marine Corps will decide whether to proceed with the ACV 1.1 or the Terrex 1 in 2018. Within two years after the decision, the goal is to have more than 200 of the new amphibious assault vehicles to join the force.

Allison Barrie consults at the highest levels of defense, has travelled to more than 70 countries, is a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees and now the author of the new book “Future Weapons: Access Granted”  covering invisible tanks through to thought-controlled fighter jets. You can click here for more information on FOX Firepower columnist and host Allison Barrie and you can follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie.

Armed MUTTs: Self-driving vehicles could boost the military’s arsenal

NOW PLAYINGSelf-driving car? How about a self-driving machine gun

Self-driving cars are grabbing headlines lately, and the military is also making inroads with similar tech— but these vehicles are mounted with weapons like machine guns.

General Dynamics created MUTT, aka Multi-Utility Tactical Transport, to help dismounted small units. This is a smart robot designed to help lighten the load for Marines and other warfighters.

MUTT looks like a futuristic spin on the sort of quad you might have fun driving around your farm. Rectangular shaped, it is 5 feet long and 4.5 feet wide and weighs 750 pounds.

The vehicle drives on tracks or wheels, and there are two wheeled variants: 8×8 and 6×6. War zones are unlikely to provide convenient flat, easy surfaces, so MUTT is designed for high performance mobility in tough terrain like mud, sand and steep inclines.

And MUTTs can also be amphibious. They tackle water with gusto.


What sort of weapons can it carry? The robot can be mounted with a range of different machine guns on top. One option is a Browning M2 .50 caliber machine gun that weighs about 84 pounds. In this scenario, forces can harness the power of this weapon without having to lug around the weight themselves.


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Other options could include the belt-fed fully automatic FN Hershel 240B medium machine gun and the classic SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon M249). Beyond machine guns, they’ve also been successfully kitted out with options like 60mm mortars.

Rather than warfighters having to deal with the weight, MUTT can carry heavy weapons that provide even more serious firepower.

Lightening the load

What else can MUTT do? It can carry about 600 pounds, so that U.S. warfighters don’t have to carry that weight themselves. It’s handy for forces on the move, as carrying less weight means warfighters can move faster while reducing fatigue and improving force protection.

There’s a platform on top to load gear, which could be 600 pounds worth of ammunition, supplies, gear, communications equipment, weapons, counter-IED tech, micro UAVs, batteries and more.

In the event of a firefight, MUTT can also help evacuate wounded warfighters.

Teams can harness MUTT as a travelling source of power and to recharge batteries. This is another way that it can help lighten the load for dismounted forces, since batteries are not light.

How do they work?

To travel directly into a warzone, MUTTs can hitch rides on aircraft like the MV-22 Osprey. Once there, they can be powered by an electric hybrid fuel cell.

How does it drive? MUTT isn’t a one trick pony. It can be operated by a remote control up to about 100 meters.

It can also obey a leash. That’s right, this robot has a sort of robot leash. Instead of relying entirely on sensors and computers to navigate, there’s a tether built into the robot to connect it to its human.

MUTT’s master takes the tether and can attach it to his or her belt, rucksack or wherever is convenient. By hooking it up, the tether becomes hands-free, which is very important for ensuring that soldiers’ hands are available for weapons and other tasks.

Once the tether is pulled out to two meters, MUTT will automatically begin to follow its human.

There’s also a wagon mode – think Conestoga wagons—  where a MUTT can follow vehicle tracks in front of it, or reverse and follow its own tracks to its last rally point – all by itself.

Or you can instruct them to be a convoy. You can link them up and the MUTTs will follow each other as a convoy.


Last month, MUTTs were part of the US Army Pacific Manned-Unmanned Initiative that tested new advances in robotics to see how they integrated into missions. The 25th Infantry Division put various tech including the MUTT through its paces.

Also a few weeks ago, the Marine Corps included MUTTs in an exercise in California to try out new gear in consideration for potential future use. Next week, MUTTs will be making a guest appearance at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia at an event where more Marines can check out the MUTTs.

Allison Barrie consults at the highest levels of defense, has travelled to more than 70 countries, is a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees and now the author of the new book “Future Weapons: Access Granted”  covering invisible tanks through to thought-controlled fighter jets. You can click here for more information on FOX Firepower columnist and host Allison Barrie and you can follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie.

‘Magic’ picture frame slows time — or so it seems

Can a picture frame slow time? This one appears to.

Can a picture frame slow time? This one appears to.(Jeff Lieberman)

Have you ever wished that you could speed up time, slow it down, or stop it entirely? Maybe we all have, but unless you have Hermione Granger’s Time Turner, the ability to control the clock’s hands is probably not in your toolbox.

However, an invention called the “Slow Dance” frame opens a window into what it might look like to see things move in slow motion in the real world.

When you place them in the frame, delicate objects such as leaves and feathers quiver and undulate, as you might expect them to when they’re stirred by a gentle breeze. But there’s a subtle difference — the movements appear to happen at a fraction of their normal speed, taking place right in front of your eyes. [The Most Amazing Optical Illusions (and How They Work)]

Let’s do the time warp

Jeff Lieberman, the creator of “Slow Dance,” is no stranger to slow motion. He formerly hosted the Discovery Channel program “Time Warp,” a science-themed show that used high-speed cameras to film everyday actions, capturing up to 40,000 frames per second (a normal camera’s shooting rate is typically 30 frames per second). Using extreme slow motion, the show explored dynamic physics principles that were demonstrated by a diverse range of activities — from explosions to body piercing.


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Lieberman recognized that watching things happen in slow motion creates a sense of wonder, and allows the viewer to appreciate the beauty of movement — something that they might miss if they were watching it in real time, he said in a statement.

But could he take that sense of wonder from watching slow motion on a screen, and recreate it in reality? Lieberman decided to find out.

Building a mystery

Lieberman unlocked the secret of the slow-motion illusion he created in “Slow Dance” by using strobe lights that blink at a rate that’s too fast for the human eye to register. The pulsing lights flicker on and off 80 times per second, and are synced to vibrations that animate whatever object is suspended within the frame. While the light pulses are too fast to see, they combine with the high-speed vibration to imperceptibly vary the sequence of moving images, changing how they reach the eye and creating an illusion of movement that seems to be happening more slowly than normal.

“It creates a weird juxtaposition where everything in front of your eyes confirms the reality of this thing, but every other experience in your life has said that this is impossible,” Lieberman said in the statement.

Lieberman crafted the first version of “Slow Dance” as a wedding gift for two friends who happened to be dancers; they inspired him to create an object that captured the feeling of paired, graceful movement in a shared space. Enthusiastic responses from people who saw it in action prompted him to make the frame more widely available, through a campaign on Kickstarter.

The “Slow Dance” wooden frame measures 12.5 inches wide by 14.5 inches high. Lightweight objects can be attached to springs within the frame, and are illuminated by recessed lighting. Variable controls allow users to cycle between different “frame rates,” changing the motion patterns of the objects as they move.

“This piece is a metaphor for all the unseen aspects of reality” that are affecting us all the time, Lieberman said in the same statement. “It expresses a desire to remind myself, and anyone who uses it, that there is something beyond what we see with our senses” he added.

The Kickstarter campaign for “Slow Dance” launched on Aug. 15 with a goal of raising $70,000, and backers have been anything but slow in their response. As of Sept. 7 — with six days to go — total pledges amounted to more than five times that original amount, reaching over $440,000. The product is expected to ship in early 2017, with “Slow Dance” slated to appear in stores by late 2017 for $299.

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