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How Much Weight Soldiers Carry, and Incredible POV Footage of a Massive Paratrooper Drop

An old Army saw has it thatThe General asks, "What does it do?"The Senator asks, "How much does it cost?"The soldier asks, "How much does it weigh?"We think of soldiers as warfighters, but for even the most combat-hardened vet, the amount of time spent in firefights is a fraction of the time spent hauling their gear around. And that gear adds up: A soldier on the march might be saddled with an assault rifle, a sidearm, ammunition for both, a knife, smoke grenades, flashbang grenades, rations, water, medical supplies, tools, body armor, a flashlight, communications gear, extra batteries, night vision goggles, et cetera. (Members of crew-served weapons teams, i.e. mortars and machine-gun squads, have it even worse.)All told, a soldier might be carrying anywhere from seventy to over 100 pounds of gear. Watch this soldier in Afghanistan step onto a scale while loaded up with "everything I go out with every day:"What's even crazier is that sometimes soldiers with this amount of gear on are dropped out of airplanes—which can add another 53 pounds to the load. (The U.S. Army's T-11 parachute and harness weighs 38 pounds and the reserve chute adds another 15.) A veteran of the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade based in Vicenza, Italy writes that "Gear weight of a paratrooper…hits up to 160 lbs out the door!"To give you an idea of what this looks like, check out this footage of members of the 82nd Airborne Division, all wearing the T-11 rigs, jumping out of a C-17 over New Mexico. Be sure to watch for the guy on the far right of the screen around the 55-second mark:It's strange how amazingly peaceful it looks—on a training mission, anyway—when the guy with a GoPro on his helmet jumps out of the plane. To give you a more visual idea of where all of that weight comes from, here's footage of a soldier at Washington state's Joint Base Lewis-McChord being kitted out for deployment:Even more illuminating is this footage shot in the field, in Afghanistan. Here Specialist Craig Brown points out the design features of the initial layer of clothing, then explains the locations and functions of each successive piece of kit he straps on:Kind of puts things into perspective, doesn't it? I'll never complain about not having a MacBook Air again.Title Image courtesy of U.S. Departement of Defense. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Casey Neistat on What Kind of Camera to Use

Years ago someone saw some photos I had taken and said "Wow, your camera takes really good photos." I thought that was like saying to someone "Wow, your pot makes really good stew." And it struck a chord with me when sketchmaster Spencer Nugent told me that students always ask him what kind of pen/pencil they should use; there seems to be this notion that in certain creative fields, it is the specific brand of the tool of expression that provides the results, not the person wielding it.So it's unsurprising that a question Casey Neistat gets asked a lot is what kind of camera to use. Well, here's his answer, along with some excellent explanations and demonstrations:In another recent video, Neistat attempts to hack a GoPro Hero4 Session in order to correct the ergonomic setback that occurs when the camera is used without a protective case. (Warning: There is some disturbing footage at the end, when Neistat happens to capture a commotion outside of the window that appears to involve animal abuse. Stop watching at 8:00 if you don't want to see it.)Finishers among you, what would you have done? YouTube commenters insist he should have primed it first, but I don't know of any primer that would stick to a waterproof, presumably rubberized surface, do you?

Evolution of the Windcheetah

I am a big fan of Mike Burrows, and have mentioned his work quite a few times over the years at Bicycle Design. In 2012, lifelong "cycling fanatic" and engineer Karl Sparenberg of Advanced Velo Design took over production of Burrows' Windcheetah recumbent trike, and has been working on improving the materials and manufacturability of the original design. I think it's a pretty interesting story, so I am letting Karl tell it to you directly in the guest post below. Having taken over the production of Windcheetah a couple of years ago, the design and manufacturing has taken a different tack. Many people are already aware of Windcheetah, "the ultimate recumbent tricycle", so I've decided not to rattle on with all the historic detail… but it goes without saying that Mike Burrows did a pretty good job 30 or so years ago when he designed it!The modern iteration of Windcheetah is now a more cutting edge speed machine, incorporating advanced materials including Carbon composites and Titanium that were still prohibitively expensive in years gone by and with that, we have to move with the times and produce a 'better' machine.When I took over the manufacture of Windcheetah, to my alarm there was an Achilles heel, not with the design but the castings. These are the components that make up the frame, by bonding the aluminum and carbon tubes together onto spigots, these sand cast aluminum components could come from the foundry with flaws or voids in them.If you could imagine ordering a 'set' of castings to make a Windcheetah frame and then having to go through the whole long winded process of post casting heat treatment, machining, drilling, tapping, powder coating and then the final finishing to only then proceed onto the bonded assembly with the tubing. At any stage in this manufacturing process, from the rough sand castings to the finished component, the dreaded 'flaws' or 'voids' be discovered. Even worse, if the frame has been fully assembled and the sand casted part fails during testing, not only would the whole frame have to be scrapped, but it would also take out any of the other perfectly good components and tubing to the scrap bin with it. A very expensive and time consuming process as I'm sure you could imagine…there had to be a better way to manufacture these components!?You may be interested to know, why the sand castings were failing at such an unacceptably high rate. Well, a few things really, but predominantly the foundries in the UK had to compete with the far east for business. As a consequence, many of them had to shut down, leaving in short, foundries that were not tooled up for small production runs or with the necessary skills to cast such intricate shapes as you find on a Windcheetah. The foundry would simply credit the customer if any of the components failed. But this gesture didn't really help, when what is required is a full set of components to build a machine, not the hassle and cost implication of trying to manage the ongoing balance of the failure in certain components, while the 'perfect' odd parts sat on the shelf.The solution became apparent after considerable research into an alternative method of manufacturing and with massive investment into the tooling for a process known as 'lost wax' or 'investment casting'—the two terms are interchangeable but in essence the same thing.CAD model screenshot and a 3d printed part (used to produce the soft mold needed for wax production). What you see below is the result of numerous hours of redesign and CAD drawing to be able to 3D print the parts ready for soft mould production that manufacture the waxes. Now that we can produce waxes, this opens up the possibilities of alternative materials to aluminum. Soon we will be bringing to market a magnesium version as soon as beta testing is completed. The advantages of magnesium or aluminum are instantly a weight saving of a third the weight.Wax parts for aluminum investment casting So watch this space for an even quicker, lighter and more performance orientated Windcheetah. For further detail contact me directly karl@windcheetah.co.uk This post originally appeared on Bicycle Design.

Skybuds Wireless Earbuds Are a Clever Solution for Storage and Charging 

It's been a long road to arrive at truly wireless earphones, but a new crop of products entering the market are finally ditching that clumsy, behind-the-neck connective wire. Among these, Skybuds—the result of a collaboration between ECCO Design and Alpha Audiotronics—takes things a couple steps further than just delivering great sound, by incorporating the earphones into a storage and charging system aimed to "seamlessly fit into a user's existing behavior," as co-founder Jamie Robert Seltzer notes. The evolution of Skybuds through many rounds of prototypes. In order to create an earbud flexible enough to fit a majority of ear shapes, the team started the project with extensive analysis. They conducted hundreds of studies to map out different ear geometries, which they 3D modeled and used to explore possible ergonomic iterations for the Skybuds tip shape. In its minimalist design, the Skybuds system combines four everyday products: wireless earbuds, a bluetooth headset, an extra battery for both your phone and the earbuds and a protective case for your phone. Skybuds live in the accompanying, patented phone case and can be removed from the bottom with a simple push, like clicking a pen. The buds begin charging as soon as they are securely docked and have a 3-4 hour battery life. The case itself has an embedded battery pack, so a welcome side effect of using this system is that your phone will be recharged throughout the day. Through dozens of iterations, the team pared down the sleek case so that it's not too bulky on the bottom to make room for the earbuds. The final design features a slight taper, allowing the case to lie flat and the screen to be fully visible in a resting position.The focus throughout the entire design process was on minimizing bulk and hassle while creating a tool that addresses multiple modern-day needs. "The work of good design is to simplify complex issues so people can readily enjoy everyday experiences," explains ECCO Design President Eric Chan. "The most challenging aspect is to negotiate space between EE components, antenna design and performance and battery capacity, while getting the most comfortable and compelling form factor, all in a very small earbud." The earbuds include a set of useful functions: Buttons on both buds let users play/pause music and also answer, ignore or hang-up phone calls. The system uses a combination of wireless technologies but is really freed up by the use of Near Field Magnetic Induction (NFMI)—a technology previously only used in hearing aids—to send signals to both buds without needing to connect them through a wire. The benefits of magnetic induction are numerous—it is an efficient, low-power system that overcomes many of the drawbacks of radio frequency systems, like interference and security concerns. One of the frustrating aspects of wireless earphones is how easily they can be lost, but Skybuds has considered those of us who are prone to misplacing things. Though the case itself already helps prevent lost buds, they also created an app that contains a tracking feature—for those inopportune moments when you're searching for your earphones as you're running late to work. Though some will be disappointed to know that (for now, at least) the case is only compatible with iPhone 6 and 6s, there is a lot of enthusiasm for this clever, compact product—just a little over a day into their Kickstarter campaign, the project is already almost half-way funded.

A Desktop Robotic Arm That Can 3D Print, Mill, Plot, Carve, Etch, Assemble and More

The prevailing form factor for consumer-level 3D printers and CNC mills is a box, dictated by the axial/gantry-style mechanisms of these machines. But entrepreneur Zaib Husain and engineer Azam Shahani were thinking outside of the box, literally, when they devised their Makerarm prototype. An articulated arm is cantilevered off of a column mounted to a worksurface; the arm has a 180-degree sweep, ten inches of Z-travel and a maximum reach of nearly 16 inches. So what does this arm do? Well, everything. The creators have designed a series of interchangeable tool heads that can hold an almost absurd variety of: Cutting heads for milling and engraving, nozzles for 3D printing either FDM-style or resin-based, a laser cutter, a soldering iron, a pen plotter, and even a series of pick-and-place tools like a claw gripper, an electromagnet and a suction cup. Check out its range of operations: I found the auto-leveling feature shown in the video the most fascinating, where the head tracks the slanted surface of the workpiece. The sensors that must be contained within to perform such a feat make me wonder if the arm can also automatically index off the corner of the workpiece. Holddown–not to mention bolting the arm's base to your worksurface–is presumably still the user's domain.Unsurprisingly, the $999 early bird special is already sold out on Kickstarter. That was for just the Makerarm and a single head pack including the electromagnet and pen plotter. The fully-loaded version that ships with all of the heads (see below) is going for $2,199.Though they've still got a long way to go, it seems certain the project will be funded. Though the campaign is only in their first few days, they've already raised $145,653 of a $349,750 goal, and there are still 28 days left to pledge. And assuming they do make it, they're planning on shipping by October 2016.

Parking As a Transformative Act

Parking cars today means putting them out of the way while they are not being used. It is a necessary evil in our ever-growing, auto-centered cities and the cutting-edge of parking technology does little to revolutionize our strategy. Advancements have primarily focused on two things: parking more cars in a given space and being able to put car parks in places where they might otherwise not be possible. Conventional automated parking technology does have a number of good—but relatively limited—benefits, including increased security, decreased damage to cars, and reduced space requirements. When done correctly, there is also additional efficiency in getting cars in and out a car park or garage. But the time has come to start thinking about parking as more than storage for automobiles, and start considering its potential as a culturally transformational act. This shift is made possible by autonomous driving technology, smartphones, thoughtful data analysis, and inexpensive, ubiquitous sensors. These enablers highlighted below can facilitate a number of changes in the near term, especially when coupled with public/private partnerships. All illustrations by Eli Myers. IMPROVE THE WORLDIn North America, a quarter of cars cause 90 percent of automotive air pollution. Badly tuned cars pollute the environment and expose people who live near multiple roads to as much as 10 times more pollution than the average citizen. City and local governments could use passive-emission detecting technology in parking lots to sniff out offending vehicles as they enter and leave. Those owners could then get an offer for coupons to get their emissions checked and systems fixed or updated. Parking lots are ideal places to install these services; cars are in relatively controlled environments, where data can be collected from a large sample of vehicles over time, easily identifying those in the top quartile of polluters.SAVE TIME AND MONEYMaintaining cars saves gas and makes them safer. While today's parking lots provide basic valeting services, including car wash and oil change, the abundance of applications that use the on-board diagnostics (OBD2) port built into most cars since 1996 (such as Voyo) allow service people in parking garages to do more than just check the tire pressure and clean windows. Drivers can opt to have their cars run through suites of diagnostics to make sure they are working optimally and to identify possible problems before they happen. While drivers are at work, shopping, or watching a sporting event, they could get an alert that says their timing belt needs tightening and elect to have a technician fix it right away.MAKE PEOPLE SAFER AND HAPPIERWhat if your car could be where you want it to be, when you need it? Even before autonomous cars are available, tomorrow's parking facilities could be the place where your car starts a journey to where you need it, whether you drive it there or not. Maybe traffic is crazy, or you had one beer too many, and you take the train home after the game? No worries, because the service you signed up for will make sure your car gets where it needs to be, well after peak traffic is over.CHANGE THE EXPERIENCE OF CITY LIFEWhile we are reinventing driving and parking, we should change the essential definition of parking itself; why does an autonomous car need to stop moving? Need to go to the store for five minutes? No problem. Just hop out of your self-driving car and let it be parked in motion, circling the block for a fee until you are finished. The same principle applies if you are late for a concert. Simply jump out and let the car go where you want it to be when you are finished, based perhaps on the outflow of the venue or where you plan to go after the concert. Maybe your car parks itself in someone's driveway during the show — we could call it Airbnb for parking — and you pay a small fee. Imagine the reduction in uncertainty. You would only need to know how long it would take you to travel to a venue in order to arrive on time — no longer would you need to anticipate the parking situation in order to determine the amount of travel time required for important events. This article appears as part of frog's 'The Ride Ahead' collection, which focuses on the future of personal transportation.

This Terrifying Mobile Tree-Harvesting Machine is Like a Robot Koala Bear with Chainsaw Limbs

Earlier we saw that loading logs into containers is still a primitive process. But thanks to Finnish forest machinery company Ponsse, the process of creating those logs is super high-tech.Ponsse's Scorpion King is an eight-wheeled monster designed to "endure tropical heat and arctic cold, travel without destroying the terrain and briskly climb the steepest slopes." That's because it's designed to get to and cut down trees down in tricky areas. And Ponsse has developed a "cut-to-length" method whereby the trees are stripped of their branches and cut into logs of precise length on the spot.To achieve this, they designed a fairly terrifying saw-wielding robot koala bear suspended from the end of a massive boom arm. Watch as it outstretches its greedy little arms, eagerly embracing and mutilating one arboreal victim after another:Ponsse's official product video for the machine, below, gives you a better idea of the design work that went into it. The hydraulically-balanced cabin self-levels, and the articulated chassis can handle challenging terrain. Especially cool are the in-cabin shots, where you can clearly see how well the machine has been designed for panoramic visibility and see the digital readouts used by the operator. It's also amusing that, from the operator's perspective, it kind of looks like the koala bear is defecating, well, logs:

Strange, Experimental Phone Designs from China

Are phones designed for users, or for the companies that produce them? What features might you design into a phone that didn't have to pass Apple or Samsung's strict internal guidelines? Those are questions posed by MIT Media Lab and production company mssngpeces, who teamed up to create this video look at phone production in China. On the ground in Shenzhen, the production crew found a bewildering array of locally-designed devices with features meant to appeal to the local market. What if a cell phone had a built-in telescoping reading light, for those living in areas with spotty electricity? What if a phone could be used to charge another phone? Or how about a phone with multiple SIM-card slots, so the traveling user can switch to whatever carrier they'd like? MIT Media Lab Knotty Objects: Phone from m ss ng p eces on Vimeo.However weird, unlovely or downright tacky we Westerners might consider some of these, we think China should do more to promote this kind of local-targeted design work. They've got the consumer base to support it, and trying to solve users' needs that have been passed over by the big dogs is a sure path to innovation. That would go a long way towards repairing their piracy-riddled reputation, and perhaps even help to stamp it out.

Vertically Parked Cars, Sauna-Equipped Motorcycles and Self-Shortening Coupes: Hilarious Vehicle Concepts by Steven M. Johnson

The brilliant cartoonist/inventor Steven M. Johnson has been dreaming up kooky product concepts for 40 years. Luckily for us the man saves his work, and this year he released a new book, "Patent Depending: Vehicles," that rounds up four decades of his automotive concepts. The $19.95 book contains over 400 drawings of "ludicrous, whimsical or marginally-plausible inventions relating to the automobile, as well as to vans, motorcycles, bicycles and unique personal conveyances," and I really wish some car company would hire him. (He actually worked for Honda R&D for nine years!) Here's a sample of what's in the book:Ooh—maybe VW is now in such dire need of distraction that they'd consider taking Johnson on?Via PrintMag & The Atlantic

Derek Hugger’s Stunning Kinetic Sculptures

Artist Derek Hugger has "a passion for mechanisms and an insatiable urge to solve mechanical puzzles." He's also apparently got a woodworking shop, judging by what he's created: A series of intricate, complex kinetic sculptures dreamt up with a Wacom and then crafted primarily out of wood.Hugger's pieces are a far cry from what you might expect from the material, almost eerily combining the organic and the mechanical via cams, cranks, gears and linkages. Have a look at his Colibri, which faithfully recreates a hummingbird in flight:Fancy something more abstract? Perhaps his Merlot sculpture—so named because for a brief moment in their rotation, the components resemble wine glasses atop their stems—will float your boat:Or maybe you'd prefer something that incorporates marbles, like his Kinestrata:While creating these pieces is Hugger's hobby, he hasn't built a website around them merely for show: "[The website] is intended as a means for sharing ideas, spreading knowledge, and inspiring creativity," he writes. "With this site, I hope to get people designing, building, and playing in sawdust." At the links above you'll find he's selling plans for each piece.Check out more of Hugger's creations here.Via Colossal