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Shark Cam Captures Mysterious Great Whites

Buick is back in the convertible biz, silicone-rubber the future of non-rigid rovers, and a camera prototype designed to follow the great white to undiscovered depths.

Buick Back in Convertible Biz

Buick is back in the convertible business. The price tag for the new Buick Cascada is appealing, you can pick up one starting at $34k with a 200-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Really, it's a good first attempt after a quarter century out of the game.

The Cascada was built in Poland, and according to JD Power it’s really just a version of GM Europe’s Opel Cascada.

According to the Associated Press, the convertible has power seat belt presenters, an interesting design element that pulls the front-seat belts forward to help you buckle up. It has standard safety features, including metal pop-up bars that automatically deploy behind the rear-seat headrests during a rollover crash to help minimize head injuries. But the Cascada is missing some safety features many have become accustomed to, like blind spot monitoring and rear, cross traffic alerts.

With a 1.6-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine, the fuel economy is only rated for 20 miles per gallon in the city, 27 mpg highway. Maybe the nearly 4,000-pound design has something to do with that.

Prototype Camera Records Mysterious Great White Shark Behavior

Every winter, great whites head to the White Shark Café halfway between California and Hawaii. The males will dive hundreds of feet, up to 150 times a day, but scientists still don’t know why.

Researchers at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute wanted a new camera designed to capture the males’ odd behavior. Now, attaching cameras to sharks isn't new, but they wanted a camera tag that stayed on for months, a concept most engineers found to be pretty fishy.

The tag had to be small, programmable, easy to attach, and it had to stay on the shark for up to nine months, survive dives 1,000 meters deep, and bursts of acceleration to 25 miles an hour. All to record 10 hours of footage.

The Café Cam prototype is currently undergoing testing, primarily on how to fasten it and find a way to keep it in sleep mode until the sharks start diving. In theory, the tag would automatically release from the shark's fin once they return to the coast and send a satellite signal so it could be recovered.

Once they have proof-of-concept, the researchers plan to make their design open source,.

Soft-Bodied Rover Built Without Any Rigid Parts

Rutgers engineers built a soft-bodied rover using silicone rubber. The vehicle doesn't have any rigid components, and is actually pneumatically propelled using the same process we use to push food through our esophagus.

The engineers have designed unique elastomeric rotary actuators based on pneumatically driven peristaltic motion. It's a new class of soft locomotion that can withstand impact, traverse irregular terrain and even work underwater.

Now, the 20 cm long vehicle is not exactly setting any land speed records yet, the rover kind of juts forward at 3.7 cm/s which is just a smidgen over .08 mph. But if you think about it, NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars needed a flat surface to top out at .09 mph, just over 4 cm/s. So it’s in good company.

The elastomeric wheels and components help the rover stand up to mechanical impact. In a drop test, engineers dropped the rover from 8x its height and it didn't cause any damage to the body or actuators, just took the impact and crept along. 

This rover tech could be deployed in search and rescue missions after disasters, or even sent into deep space to explore planets.

Actually surprisingly cool for something classified as a soft, squishy robot.

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