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Four wheels fast; two wheels catching up!

27 September 2010

Last week, the IMechE’s imposing headquarters on London’s Birdcage Walk played host to the curiously named Angelic Bulldog Project, which presented the latest ambitious bid by a British team to reclaim a Land Speed Record long held by the Americans. This vehicle, however, runs on two, not four wheels.

Angelic Bulldog hopes to smash the Motorbike Land Speed Record in either 2011 or 2012, but is currently seeking to plug a £100,000 hole in its project funding. The beautifully streamlined bike must break the 400mph barrier if it is to be successful and return the land speed record on two wheels to the UK for the first time since 1937. The current record holder is Chris Carr who – almost exactly a year ago today - achieved 367mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats, in (or should I say ‘on’) the BUB 7 Streamliner.

The British record attempt will be made by project chief, Gabriel Uttley in a machine driven by a Dantec square eight, based on Twin Honda Blackbird Turbo powered 2,272cc engines, delivering 700bhp. Performance projections indicate that the bike will cover six miles from rest in 95 seconds to attain the target speed of 400mph.

The project will utilise British design, manufacturing, engineering, products and services, and its aim is to restore Britain’s heritage of outstanding engineering achievements. And, like the four-wheeled, 1,000mph Land Speed Record hopeful, Bloodhound SSC, Angelic Bulldog is also out to inspire the next generation of engineers.

Small companies ‘hot’ - smaller gadgets ‘not’
Back in May I posted an item on the DPA website inviting responses to Cambridge Consultants’ 50th Anniversary survey, which aimed to gain insights into public perceptions of past, present and future technologies. Well, the results from more than 1,000 responses have now been analysed and made public, and they make for interesting reading.

The research revealed two out of three people believing that small, fast-growing companies will be responsible for the most influential technologies in the future, putting them way ahead of large, multinational companies. Meanwhile, being small isn’t necessarily important in terms of gadgets. Reducing the size of devices was a priority for less than 2% of respondents, and making gadgets faster was also a surprisingly low priority for consumers, with less than 5% indicating that it was of high importance. Instead, gadget users would prefer to see technology products capable of solving new problems (with over a third of votes) and become easier to use (27%).

Other findings showed that almost two thirds of respondents consider the Internet to be the most life-changing invention of the past 50 years. Cambridge Consultants chief executive, Brian Moon says the Internet, although seen by many as a maturing technology, is actually still in its infancy and we’ve only really scratched the surface on what it can do. The next phase, he says, will see the convergence of objects, devices and systems with the internet – a blurring of the lines between online and offline worlds.

Cambridge Consultants made a donation of £1 for every completed survey to the Macmillan Cancer Support charity, and healthcare figured prominently in the survey analysis. In fact, some 43% of people believe that new technology in healthcare will be more influential than technological advances in any other area of our lives. Second to healthcare were developments in wireless communications, and it seems that an alignment of the two areas could prove most powerful as the survey also revealed that, of all future healthcare developments, technologies to monitor patients remotely are expected to have the greatest impact.

A museum of digital curiosities?
On October 6 you will be able to gain access to the Adobe Museum of Digital Media (AMDM), described as a one-of-a-kind online museum that presents and preserves groundbreaking digital media works. Artists and designers are apparently finding it hard to resist the lure of the Internet and these, together with other ‘cultural producers’ are flocking to digital media to explore its possibilities.

The AMDM will feature programmes and works in fields as diverse as visual art, film, performance, design, architecture and social media, and will engage a wide range of curators and cultural luminaries to develop the content. It will echo the sensory experience of a traditional, physical museum, yet be contained entirely online. Visitors will have a three-stage encounter with the museum’s virtual structure: its exterior, interior and a viewing pod from which to experience the exhibits. It is free and it will all be available 24/7.

Adobe’s vice president of global marketing, Ann Lewnes says her company works with a wide range of creative professionals every day and it sees extraordinary digital projects that take advantage of current technology and point to where creative minds are likely to take digital media in the future. The museum was inspired by them and is a tribute to their talent and innovation, she says.

AMDM’s inaugural exhibit, ‘Valley’ is by American artist Tony Oursler and is a reference to Oursler's fascination with roboticist Masahiro Mori's 1970s theory, which proposes that the closer machines come to resembling real humans, the more psychologically disturbing they become. There’s a sneak preview of the exhibit on the museum website and “psychologically disturbing” is a bit of an understatement, in my opinion. Weird, but wonderful seems to sum it up and I, for one, will log on to see the full show in ten days time.

Les Hunt


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