Here’s a pair of intriguing engineering designs, one for a basic need and the other for a true luxury.
In the basic need department, we have a little device called the GravityLight, currently an indiegogo project in the middle of raising its startup funds. It’s designed to use inexpensive components and good old people power to provide a light source — a potential game changer in poor areas where electricity is scarce, unreliable or unavailable, and kerosene is expensive (and dangerous).
I’d note that the explanation is a bit misleading — the light is not powered by gravity. It’s powered by spring tension, which is released by gravity. But the tension, the energy potential, is put into the spring by people power. Essentially it uses the same tech as ye olde fashioned chain-winding grandfather clocks; the ingenious part is in using a bag of gravel or dirt for the weight.
On the luxury end of things, we have the first cool RV design (that’s “caravan” for European readers) since the old silver Airstream. I have never figured out why so many RVs are rectangular blocks, shoving their way through air resistance via massive quantities of fuel. Those things are the antithesis of aerodynamic. (They are also the antithesis of attractive.)
This one is not. The Romotow is a sleek, airy design that pops out into a different configuration, much like a flash drive. It’s still in the prototype stage, but the designers at the New Zealand firm W2 are hoping to have it on the market by 2015. Too bad it will only be available in New Zealand and Australia, though — other than an Airstream, this is the only RV I wouldn’t mind being stuck behind.