Infrared Vision, Advertising for Good, and Jetpack Awesomeness

This week, we have electronic implants for infrared vision, a billboard that helps the community it’s in, and jetpack madness!

Rise of the Cyborg Rat Armies

Cyborg rats are real. Credit: MJF Robinson.

In another step towards the cyberpunk future we all dream about (you guys do dream about that stuff, right? Anybody?), scientists have given rats an implant which grants them infrared vision. Basically, electrodes were implanted into the sensory cells at the base of their whiskers, and linked to an infrared camera. The rats were trained to recognise that LED lights meant food, then the LEDs were swapped out for infrared lights, and after a little while, the rats started approaching the infrared lights for food. Thus, the rats could detect the signals from the camera. Amazing stuff, if you ask me. From here, a leap to enhanced senses for humans is not so far. I really, really want Predator vision. I’m just saying.

A Billboard That Actually Serves a Purpose

As part of an advertisement for an engineering and technology university, this billboard was designed and installed to harvest water vapour from the air and provide drinking water to the poor and thirsty citizens of Lima, in Peru. Lima is an extremely dry city (usually receiving less than 5cm of rainfall annually), but has very high humidity because it is on the coast. Poor citizens rely on infrequent and polluted well water for their daily water needs. The billboard uses a system called reverse osmosis to condense water vapour into clean drinking water, which is then stored in freely accessible tanks. The system has already produced thousands of litres of water, and the university is planning to erect several more around Peru. It’s so great to see an advert that provides some value to those that view it – far too often, advertising represents greed and exploitation, and nothing else.

You can watch a video about the project here.

Personal Jetpacks. And Soon, Too!


The Martin Jetpack prototype P12. Credit: Martin Aircraft.

New Zealand’s parliament recently made the news for breaking into song in response to the passing of a gay marriage bill. If that wasn’t crazy enough, they have just allowed personal aviation company Martin Aircraft to start testing a personal jetpack. Yes, really. While the first flights will be limited in terms of height and distance, the company thinks it will have a commercial model available by 2015. At around $200 000 a pop, the jetpack won’t exactly be replacing cars any time soon. But still, jetpacks! Fuck yeah!

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