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Army Flies Hoverbike Prototype

Hoverbike resupplies soldiers. Also, heart sleeves keep you alive, and Japan fixes toilet troubles.

Japan Fixes Toilet Troubles

The Japanese tourism industry has a toilet problem. Or rather, it had a toilet problem. According to Gizmodo, a 2014 survey revealed that more than 25 percent of Japanese tourists didn't know how to use the country's complex bidets.

So a consortium of companies known as the Japan Sanitary Equipment Industry Association, which includes Panasonic and Toshiba, came together to depose the design challenge with unified bidet buttons ... all eight of them.

Now, when you are confronted by a complex toilets on your next trip to Southeast Asia, you'll easily understand the symbols, many of which are not much of a departure from previous iterations.

According to The Verge, toilet manufactures will begin to use the new icons this year. The effort is part of a country-wide push to make Japan more accommodating to tourists before the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. 

It's times like these, when a nation can come together, and rally around a single critical issue. For that, I am truly inspired.

Robot Heart Sleeve Keeps You Alive

Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard University have developed a soft robotic sleeve that can be slipped around your heart and mimic its twists and compressions to keep you alive.

While 2,100 patients are lucky enough to receive a heart transplant every year in the U.S., this proof-of-concept is an interesting new development that could help the other 5.7 million who suffer from heart failure.

The disparity is actually what motivated the clinicians and biomedical engineers who have spent years developing a potential mechanical alternative.

A device that has a similar purpose has existed for years. It’s a mechanical pump, known as a ventricular assist device, that attaches to the heart and uses pumps and rotors to pump blood in and out of the heart. But the problem is that the medications associated with VAD devices increase your chances of having a stroke by 20 percent, and you also have a high risk of serious infection.

This sleeve, hugs your heart, and never comes in contact with your blood. And it mimics the heart's natural compression motion using only non-rigid, biocompatible materials.

Initial tests on pigs, which have a heart that is similar in shape and size, show that the sleeve restores hearts to 97 percent of their original cardiac output.

The sleeve uses pneumatically-powered air muscles to make the device bend and flex via remotely-controlled actuators.

According to the researchers, the soft robotic actuators, or sleeves, are essentially artificial muscles. And one day they could help failing hearts work well enough to even restore a previous quality of life. 

Army Flies 'Hoverbike' Prototype

Last week, members of the Army Research Lab and its industry partners traveled to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland for a demonstration of the new JTARV hoverbike.

The joint tactical aerial resupply vehicle may look familiar. The original design was built by Australian Chris Malloy back in 2011. Malloy set up his own aeronautical firm, Malloy Aeronautics, which has partnered with the Army to bring these quick little hoverbikes to the battleground.

The Army wants to soon see these autonomous JTARVs flying 60 mph or more on rapid resupply missions. Associate chief if the Army Lab's Protection Division Tim Vong even went as far to say that the JTARV could work like "Amazon on the battlefield," in which soldiers can get resupplied in 30 minutes or less, no matter where they are positioned.

The current prototype is electric; however, researchers are looking at a hybrid propulsion system that would give it a range up to 125 miles, and a payload capacity to 800 pounds.

Given that this partnership didn’t start until the summer of 2014, the hoverbike, sorry JTARV, is proof that agencies across the private and public sectors can actually work together to quickly bring a new concept to fruition.

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