LOS ANGELES (AP) — Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk urged the public to polish sketch plans he released last week for a "Hyperloop" that would shoot capsules full of people at the speed of sound through elevated tubes connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco.
From tinkerers to engineers, the race is on.
A Utah firm hustled out a model using a 3-D printer. A Pennsylvania company is testing a virtual Hyperloop with sophisticated computer software. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants ad space inside capsules, and in San Francisco, enthusiasts interested in "making Hyperloop a reality" will meet over beers.
Meanwhile, Musk himself has shelved the project and returned to his established future-is-here transportation ventures: luxury electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. and the rocket-building company SpaceX.
In principle, the Hyperloop is doable.
The concept pulls together several proven technologies: Capsules would float on a thin cushion of air and draw on magnetic attraction and solar power to zoom through a nearly air-free tube. Because there would be so little wind resistance, they could top 700 mph and make the nearly 400-mile trip in about half an hour.
Actual construction would hinge on challenges far more complex than advanced engineering — those involving money and politics.
The $6 billion Musk projected as the cost was a terrific lowball to some. Others suggested his timeframe of a decade to completion was naive — that getting political backing and environmental clearances, much less land to build the tubes on, would be hugely time-consuming.
Conspicuously absent was a commitment that Musk would sink substantial money into the project anytime soon — if ever. On a call with reporters, Musk suggested he might build a "subscale" test version in a few years if the idea was floundering.
One thing Musk was clear about: The public should participate in questioning, modifying and, ultimately, perfecting his proposal (http://www.spacex.com/hyperloop).
And in that respect, there has been no lack of enthusiasm.
At the computer simulation software firm ANSYS, engineers are designing and testing a virtual model.
The goal is to get a "quick and dirty" sense of how much wind drag a capsule would encounter, and thus how fast it could go, said Sandeep Sovani, the company's director of Global Automotive Industry.
Sovani said he has long been intrigued by tube travel (an idea that predates the Hyperloop by a century), and wanted to do a model both out of intellectual curiosity and on the chance that Musk does eventually go looking for partners.
"What I want to do," Sovani said, "is live in Florida and work in Michigan and go back home every day."
At 41, he figures it just became a realistic dream.
Corning's 'A Day Made of Glass...'
Corning makes the super-strong "Gorilla Glass" that might cover your smartphone's touchscreen. (The company's customers include Samsung, Dell, Sony and LG). No wonder, then, that the glass manufacturer's vision of the future involves a lot of glass, and a lot of touchscreens on that glass. All touchscreens everywhere, shouts Corning! We shout: "Cool!"
Nokia Kinetic Device
Though <a href="http://events.nokia.com/nokiaworld/" target="_hplink">the Nokia World 2011 Conference</a> was held to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/26/nokia-lumia-800-videos_n_1032335.html" target="_hplink">announce the Finnish handset-maker's new Windows Phones</a>, a lot of the conversation from bloggers centered on Nokia's Kinetic Device, a prototype of a smartphone that was operated by bending and twisting (rather than pinching-to-zoom, which dominates today). <a href="http://www.engadget.com/2011/10/30/samsung-to-offer-flexible-displays-in-2012-challenges-nokia-to/" target="_hplink">Samsung recently announced</a> that it is preparing to release flexible devices in 2012; so, if you're in the market for a smartphone, get ready to twist again, like we will next year. Worth watching, if only to hear the adorable Nokia engineer proclaim, "I'M FROM FINLAND, AND WE HAVE LONG, CHILLY WINTER."
While we wish this video had been <a href="http://youtubedoubler.com/?video1=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch?feature%3Dplayer_embedded%26v%3Db3txQs7jEJ4&start1=&video2=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch?v%3D3ArhZPYplFk&start2=&authorName=gilbertjasono" target="_hplink">synced up with a certain unforgettable Ludacris single</a>, this concept laptop can roll out like paper towels, power supply and all.
After showing off that Kinetic Device at Nokia World 2011, Nokia <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/10/nokia-humanform-future-smartphone-video_n_1086517.html" target="_hplink">followed up with this thought-piece</a> of a video, which displayed a graphically-rendered futuristic smartphone called "HumanForm." Like the Kinetic Device, it emphasizes bends, twists and touch buttons all over the place (on the front, on the side, on the back -- <em>everywhere</em>).
Microsoft's 3D HoloDesk
This video has no sound, but it doesn't really need any: Just LOOK at what's going on inside Microsoft's prototype HoloDesk, which, besides being a great tool to practice juggling, also looks like a neat way to learn physics and work on on tactile projects with remote collaborators.
Paper-Thin Concept Smartphone
In May we got a glimpse of this paper-thin concept smartphone, which through the use of bending and a nifty printed circuit board was able to act simultaneously as mp3 player, cell phone and, with its thinness, bookmark.
Vision Of The Future From 3M
3M's vision of the future includes a flexible and transparent gaming device, a really cool-looking washing machine and even a Connect Four made of clear glass. No, don't drop that red piece there! Ah, shoot. Too late.
OmniTouch With Touchscreens On Any Surface
Using technology from the Kinect gaming system, a research team made of developers from Microsoft and Carnegie-Mellon University revealed in October that they've come up with a system that can turn virtually any surface into a touchscreen. <a href="http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/38933/" target="_hplink">Per MIT's Technology Review</a>: <blockquote>OmniTouch works by bringing together a miniature projector and an infrared depth camera, similar to the kind used in Microsoft's Kinect game console, to create a shoulder-worn system designed to interface with mobile devices such as smart phones</blockquote>
Smartphone With Pico Projector
This one is a little more imminent and much more realistic, as it actually exists. Check out this smartphone rigged up with a pico projector that puts your Android or iOS interface on any surface you please. Right now the thing is a little bulky to jam into your jeans pocket (especially if you're wearing skinny jeans) but <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/18/apple-patents-concepts-designs_n_925401.html#s328317&title=3D_Holographic_Projector" target="_hplink">if Apple's 2006 patent proves fruitful</a>, this one could be right around the corner.
Microsoft Future Vision
Microsoft is not shy about releasing its vision of a techie future, and this Future Vision might be its most grandiloquent statement yet. Behold this seamlessly edited look at how the company envisions its products to evolve in the office, in the home and on the go. <em>Minority Report</em> comparisons abound. I, for one, can't wait to get my multilingual eyeglasses.