SCIENCE

Festo 'SmartInversion:' German Firm's Self-Propelled 'Kite' Flaps Through Space (VIDEO)

04/24/2012 01:13 pm ET | Updated Apr 24, 2012

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a…shape?

The incredible video above shows what looks like a floating geometry problem. It’s actually the “SmartInversion” Future Concept—a remote-controlled levitating object created by the German automation firm Festo, Wired reported.

The helium-filled carbon-fiber device, which is on display at the technology trade show Hannover Messe until April 27, moves through the air by repeatedly turning inside out--a process Festo dubbed 'inversion kinematics.' It's controlled by a smart phone.

The object's designers drew on a geometrical band shape first described by Paul Schatz (1898-1979), a German mathematician and sculptor. Schatz divided a cube into two star shapes and an invertible belt.

Festo’s version of Schatz’s band uses six identical sides that continually detach themselves and transform into different geometrical shapes, according to Popular Science.

“We are constantly seeking out new or relatively unknown motion and drive concepts," said Festo's Dr. Heinrich Frontzek in a written statement.

While engineers and gadget fanatics may appreciate the innovation, a practical use for the technology is still just a dream. The company is launching a "Principle to Product" challenge in May for contestants to come up with the most useful way to apply geometrical inversion in industry.

The company's website says the contest will provide "an ideal starting point for encouraging engineers and inspiring the development of future applications."

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