ALAVs, by Jed Berk and Nikhil Mitter, are 3 flocking blimps (Bubba, Flipper, and Habib) which continuously search for networked activities in their environment. Each piece of information they pick up from the networked environment triggers certain actions like: propelling the vessel, transmitting a sound, lighting blue or red.

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Each ALAV has little lights that indicate its hunger level. Blue means hungry. Red means full. People can "feed" the blimp by holding out a plant-like structure to it. The embedded sensor transmits info to the ALAV (successful feeding makes the plant vibrate.) The AVAL quickly "digests" the information and then moves on.

Due to their unpredictable roaming behavior, ALAVs might occasionally stray from the flock. However, an ALAV cannot remain far away for long for it is constantly seeking out companionship. They find this via communication with their outside environment (mobile phones, laptops, sensors, other ALAVs.) This information in turn helps them make decisions, choosing directions to propel into. Besides, when an ALAV strays too far away for too long, its flock calls out to it with an animal-like chirp, or calling sound.

The ALAV exhibit behaviors that relate to semi-domesticated animals (through their calling sounds, and the way they nudge people.)

The importance of this system is about using the technology’s unpredictability and limitations to the advantage of the design.

PDF of the project and plenty of videos.

Via the new ecology of things < del.icious.

Related: Powermoon, the Mascarillons.

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Ford will unveil his new inflatable safety belt at the 2006 North American International Auto Show.

The tubular-shaped inflatable bag for backseat passengers can deploy inside a shoulder belt in the event of a crash. The expected result is a further reduction in head and neck injury risk.

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The company will also present at the Detroit show the second-row BeltMinderâ„¢ technology that will alert the driver when second row passengers have not buckled their safety belts.

Via Caymag, autoblog and La Repubblica.

Powermoon is a balloon light for road infrastructure, outdoor events, search and rescue applications, etc. Packaged in a small, portable unit, it can be quickly inflated.

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Powermoon HQI lamps produce five times more light than traditional tungsten halogen lamps for the same power rating, and last from two to fifteen times as long (depending on the model). The white permeable textile of the envelope distributes light evenly around the light source (so no harsh shadows).

Via Transmaterial.

When in Wales a couple of weeks ago, i had the chance to meet Glenn Davidson and Anne Hayes from ArtStation.

I totally fell in love with their projects, in particular, the computed architectural installations. Along with mathematician Joachim Mowitz, they wrote Splicer, whilst fellows at Amsterdam University in 1988. Splicer is an "unwrapiing" software the artists use to create virtual works which are brought to life by a drawing robot.

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3D models of the space and of the installation are first drawn on a computer. The computer model is then used to find a series of co-ordinates, which are then turned into patterns to be cut out of paper. These are joined together to create the installation. Once assembled and filled with air by means of a fan, people can walk around in them. The structures also "breathe" as the inflation slightly ebbs and flows.

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Pictures above show Immaterial, installed at the Royal Festival Hall in 2000. The labyrinthine structures, made from white paper and brown parcel tape, curve and sweep in and out of the pillars and steps and inflate with air.

More info in the PDF describing another of their installations in Brighton.

Rania Ho's Fatso installation consists of inflatable fat suits and a wrestling ring controlled by motion sensors.

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Each of the suits are linked to leaf blowers through an umbilical cord-like system. Audience members are encouraged to don the suits, enter the ring and wrestle each other. Any action in the vicinity of the installation is detected by the motion sensors and initiates the inflation of the suits and the wrestling ring. If there is no one in the ring, the blowers stop and the installation slowly deflates.

In 1999, Rania Ho worked on a project i've always liked: Free Range Appliances in a Light Dill Sauce.

This robotic project explores the anthropomorphic qualities of household appliances, and inspires a moment of reflection on the role of "smart" devices in our homes.

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Toasters, blenders and other kitchen appliances were equipped according to their personality with mechanical and sensor technology. This allows them to live out their repressed desire to wander and seek out human companionship by reacting to light and warmth. If you shine a flashlight on one of the appliances, it will move toward the light. If the light source disappears, it will turn away and look somewhere else. If the appliances are in an especially good mood, they may start dancing for joy.

Image 1. Image 2: Otto Saxinger.

More inflatable garments: Uniblow Outfits, Wearable crisis management, Inflatable robot suit, Modes for Urban Moods, Aeolian Ride.

Penelope Boston and Steven Dubowsky have received a grant from NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts to work on tiny hopping robots. An array of the microbots could be deployed on Mars, coordinating with one another like a swarm of insects to search for life below the surface of the planet.

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The spheres would store up muscle energy, and then boink themselves off in various directions.

The researchers have calculated that about a thousand of the robots could be packed into a payload mass the size of one of the current Mars Exploration Rovers. That would give them the flexibility to suffer the loss of a large percentage of the units and still have a network that could be doing recon and sensing, imaging, and perhaps even some other science functions.

A fleet of these little spheres would be sent to some promising landing site, exiting from the lander and then making their way over to some subsurface or other hazardous terrain, where they deploy themselves as a network. They create a cellular communication network, on a node-to-node basis.

Some of the units could be fitted with magnification capability, so one could look at the textures of the materials that they are landing on. Some would also have chemical sensors to sniff and sense the chemical environment.

Via robots < Universe Today.

Couldn't help but think of this 2001 article about an inflatable, two-story tall beach ball. Equipped with scientific instruments, the "tumbleweed ball" conceived by JPL researchers could potentially explore vast tracts of Mars terrain, blown by the wind.

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A scientific payload, carrying instruments such as magnetometers or water-seeking radar, would be held in place by tension cords at the tumbleweed's center. Cameras mounted inside the ball would peer out at the local terrain. When scientists identify a promising spot and want the tumbleweed to put down roots and sit for a spell, the ball could be partially deflated. Then, when it's time to move along again, the ball could be reinflated.

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