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     Volume 7 Issue 27 | July 4, 2008 |

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Imran H. Khan

We tend to see a lot of daring structures nowadays titled 'modern structures'. Architects and engineers are always striving to take the building to the next step, one brick at a time. Italian architect David Fisher is building his first skyscraper, the Dynamic Tower, and it happens to be one of the most ambitious construction plans every laid. Each and ever floor of the 80-story self-powered building rotates according to voice command. Costing nearly $700 million to build, the driving inspiration behind the building is that the architect “loves the idea of seeing the sun rise and set in the same room. Time is always changing the shape of the building." The rotation takes up to 3 hours (so that your files don't fall while you are on the move), and uses solar cells and wind turbines to generate the building's energy requirements. The system is meant to create enough energy to power the entire tower and still have juice to spare for some surrounding buildings.

Two such buildings are planned to sprout up in Dubai and Moscow. The only part of the tower built on site will be the skinny center core. It is strong enough to hold the floors in place, and will contain the building's elevators, which transport people and cars right to their door. Each floor will be made piece by piece in a factory in Italy and placed onto the main core. The construction should take six days to complete for every floor, while traditional ground-up methods used to take about six weeks per floor. Dynamic Towers in Dubai and Moscow are expected to reach completion by the end of 2010.

Before the world of video games took over the recreational lives of children, there was another world, the world of LEGO. For many boys and girls, it was one brand name that they became familiar with long before Pepsi and Microsoft entered their vocabulary. I still remember the excitement of my Castle, Space Shuttle series and Pirate series. One set dovetailed into another, an amalgamation of space shuttle landing on a boat and little Lego people with their C shaped claws sticking out. I can also remember the desperation when one or two of the intricate pieces got lost and there was no spare to be had. Also available were the Technique series, where one could make helicopters and cars and power them with batteries and motors. For others like me who hold such fond memories, we're in luck the Lego is back -- with a vengeance! It's back in the form of The Thriller Automatic and Thriller Compact, slide action crossbow pistols with cocking and chambering mechanisms that are almost completely made out of LEGO. The pistols come complete with instructions on how to become your own LEGO arms dealer in a book, LEGO for Adults. The book features construction plans for the two weapons, detailed operating instructions, and a Thriller Automatic mini poster. The German designer who is responsible for this amazing monstrosity is Martin Hüdepohl. According to the website, only 1,050 copies of the book were made because of LEGO's rules against using their trademark in connection with guns. A Lego gun may sound like an oxymoron but in a world where wars are fought for peace and nations invaded to free them, it might find a niche.

To move to something less volatile let's look at the Mirage 3D DaVinci Driving Simulator. This "realistic" driving simulator from Mirage3D enables you to take the driving seat or even the passenger's seat for that matter in all the racing games that you play. I mean, why else would this thing have a passenger seat? Riding shotgun for a video game? I for one would just stick to watching from the floor. Nonetheless, this contraption does recreate the extreme driving experience with roll bars, realistic working gauges and Dolby 5.1 surround. To put the icing on the cake, the item comes packed with seat belts. If you can swallow your pride and get ready to be blasted with puns and banters for a week, good luck fastening your seatbelts while playing Need for Speed Carbon.

Now for one of my favourite topics: 'football'- or rather, the armchair version of it. Some students from Georgia Tech have built an Autonomous Foosball Table, quite a revolutionary step to replace human actions in the game with robots. Interestingly, this isn't just a gimmick; it may soon become a decent foosball opponent. The table system costs about $500 to build, and combines a webcam, an 800MHz Pentium PC and servo-controlled paddles to move, twist, and kick. Here's how it works: The computer runs a Java Media Framework app that tracks the ball as well as the human opponent via webcam. The PC then issues commands to a PIC microcontroller across a serial line, based on the information it is receiving. From there, the microcontroller tells the servos to either move or kick the ball. In addition, the table can predict the trajectory of the ball, lifting its midfielders in time to set up a clear shot. Sounds awesome, doesn't it? However, it has yet to be perfected. The inventors would like to improve the moving and kicking speeds, a task which would simply require larger (and more expensive) gears not to mention increase the fps of the camera. The bar for foosball tables gets set higher and higher.

So there you have it for this week, a rotating apartment complete with robotic foosball and driving simulator. And if something still seems wanting, thrill yourself to bits with a LEGO automatic.

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