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China's New Bullet Train Could Go from New York to Chicago in 3.5 Hours

It tops out at 372 mph. Also, a robot sloth designed to be slow and 3D printed artificial corneas.

SlothBot is Slow & Deliberate

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology created a robot designed to be slow and deliberate, like a Sloth.

Modeled after the slow, tropical mammals, the SlothBot is a wire-riding, solar-powered robot designed to monitor the environment. 

The SlothBot is powered by two photovoltaic panels and designed to continuously measure environmental changes, like the weather or chemicals in the area. It could also be used for infrastructure maintenance, precision agriculture and security applications.

The SlothBot consists of 3D printed gears as well other components that it uses to cling to wires. It uses these parts to complete basic maneuvers, like switching from wire-to-wire or hanging on in the event of a malfunction.

The robot has two bodies connected by an actuated hinge. Each body has a driving motor connected to a rim on which a tire is mounted. According to the researchers, the wheels are not only simple, but more efficient and safer than other types of wire-based locomotion.

While robot technology has continued to push for faster, more agile and more extreme robots, SlothBot was designed based on the team's "theory of slowness." After all, slow and energy efficient means less down time spent recharging.

The proof-of-concept was presented at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Montreal, and could soon be found hanging above the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Next, the team plans on creating a new 3D-printed enclosure that will not only help protect the onboard camera and other components, but also make it look more like a sloth. I just hope they make sure to give it a creepy smile.

Researchers Create 3D Printed Corneas

Researchers from POSTECH in South Korea have 3D printed artificial corneas, and they are dangerously similar to human corneas.

A recent study found that more than 184,76 corneal transplants were performed in 116 countries in 2012. The corneas came from 742 eye banks, and yet about 53% of the world’s population still doesn’t even have access to the technology.

About 35% of the corneas in storage were deemed unusable, and 12.7 million people are still waiting for a transplant with a median wait time of 6.5 months.

Until now, artificial corneas were made with recombinant collagen or synthetic materials, and they didn't have a high success rate. One of the biggest problems is that the artificial corneas weren't transparent.

The POSTECH team 3D prints its artificial corneas using the bioink made from corneal stroma, or the supportive and connective tissue around the cornea combined with stem cells. Because these implants are made of corneal tissue-derived bioink they are biocompatible; and by regulating the shear stress during the 3D cell printing process, the researchers were able to replicate near-human cornea transparency.

This research was recently published in Biofabrication.

The 3D printed corneas are a significant advancement in corneal tissue engineering, and I can think of about 12.7 million people waiting to see how the human trials go.

China’s Bullet Train Goes 372 MPH

China has unveiled a new bullet train prototype that, if everything goes well in tests, could be in service as soon as 2021.

The magnetic-levitation (maglev) train was developed by a state-owned company, China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC). It reportedly tops out at about 372 mph (600 km/h), and while that is no 633 mph like we saw three years ago, people are actually going to ride this one.

The world record for a maglev train is currently held by a Japanese company that set the mark in April 2015 at 603 km/h (375 mph).

Maglev technology takes the friction out of the equation by using magnets to push the train off of the track and propel it forward.

According to CRRC's deputy chief engineer, via CNN, the bullet train will be faster than flying. Right now, to go from Shanghai to Beijing, it takes 5.5 hours by rail or 4.5 hours by plane. With this new bullet train, it will take about 3.5 hours.

To put that in perspective, that's like going from New York to Chicago in 3.5 hours.

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