These transport, energy and technology innovations – some far-sighted, others just pipe dreams – have popped up on the MS Amlin radar.
New oil rig theme park
Saudi Arabian authorities have announced plans to convert a disused oil rig located in the Arabian Gulf into a 150,000-square-metre theme park and resort called The Rig. They promise it will feature waterslides, bungee jumping, submarine adventures and the world’s fastest roller-coaster ride. There will also be three hotels with a combined 800 rooms, 50 marina berths, a helipad and eleven restaurants, including one with undersea dining.
The attraction is all part of Saudi Arabia’s plan to diversify its economy away from oil production in favour of tourism. The Middle Eastern nation hopes The Rig will help it compete with tourist-friendly Dubai, and attract some 100 million visitors a year by the end of the decade.
JCB gambles on green hydrogen
Earlier this year, heavy equipment manufacturer JCB said it planned to invest £100 million to develop a super-efficient hydrogen engine. Now, the British firm, best known for its bright yellow excavators, has signed a multi-billion-dollar deal to import green hydrogen. The deal will see JCB and Ryze Hydrogen team up to buy 10 per cent of Australia-based Fortescue Future Industries’ green hydrogen output.
“It’s fine having an engine powered by green hydrogen, but no good if customers can’t get green hydrogen to fuel their machines,” JCB chairman Anthony Bamford said. “This is a major advance on the road towards making green hydrogen a viable solution.”
There’s no doubt that a move to hydrogen-powered engines could bring huge benefits, but it could also bring huge challenges. Making green hydrogen requires vast amounts of renewable electricity, which isn’t cheaply available right now. Just last month the head of Siemens Energy said there was “no commercial case” for green hydrogen as things stand.
New robot performs needle-free injections
The fear of needles is a common phobia. Patients will therefore be delighted to learn of a new robot capable of administering vaccinations without the use of needles; or doctors, for that matter.
Cobi, it is claimed, is the world’s first autonomous injection robot. Instead of a needle, it uses a high-pressure fluid jet that passes through an opening in the skin the width of a human hair. Cobionix, the Canadian company developing it, says its robot can map a patient’s arm using 3D sensors and select the best spot for injection, before administering a vaccine or other medicine.
“Autonomous solutions such as Cobi could protect healthcare workers, reduce healthcare costs, and improve patient outcomes,” said Cobionix co-founder Nima Zamani.
Musk revolutionises rural internet
For a while now SpaceX, the space company founded by US billionaire Elon Musk, has been constructing an ultra-fast, satellite-powered broadband internet system aimed at the world’s rural and remote regions. Called Starlink, it uses the private networks of more than 1,800 satellites in Earth’s orbit and will eventually bring low-cost, high-speed internet to every corner of the globe.
“Starlink is ideally suited for areas where connectivity has been unreliable or completely unavailable,” says the company, which is currently testing in 14 nations across the globe.
[image credit: Starlink]
The ultimate guard dog?
Pennsylvania-based Ghost Robotics, makers of four-legged robots, has unveiled a robotic dog armed with a sniper rifle. The gun itself is the brainchild of arms manufacturer SWORD International, which says its Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle is designed to fire accurately from moving unmanned platforms. The slightly creepy electronic canine uses sensors to operate in all conditions, day and night.
Customers may take some convincing that robots with rifles are ethically responsible. However, Ghost Robotics is quick to point out that its sniper robots don’t feature any artificial intelligence technology, and must be controlled by a human operator at all times. It’s not yet clear if the armed robo-dogs are available for sale to the public. However, in May 2021, the US Air Force revealed it was testing an unarmed version at Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base.
Japanese company A.L.I. Technologies has unveiled a US$680,000 hoverbike it says can fly for 40 minutes at speeds up to 100kph (62mph) on a single charge. The XTurismo Limited Edition – essentially a flying motorbike – is fitted with a conventional Kawasaki engine and four battery-powered propellers. The company recently demonstrated the bike at the Fuji Speedway racetrack in the Japanese town of Oyama and announced plans to make 200 units in a limited-edition run, which it hopes to deliver in the first half of 2022.
In Japan’s capital city Tokyo, hoverbikes, jetpacks and flying taxis are currently prohibited from flying over public roads. For now, it seems the XTurismo will be confined to the racetrack.
Jeff Bezos’s business park in space
Blue Origin, the spaceflight company founded by Jeff Bezos, has unveiled plans to launch a private space station between 2025 and 2030. Orbital Reef is billed as a “mixed-use business park” that will offer companies the chance to establish an address in orbit – in return for providing Blue Origin with services such as training, transportation, data analysis and security. Orbital Reef's targeted users include space agencies, technology giants, travel companies and nations which do not have space programmes of their own. NASA is tipped to be their first tenant.
However, there’s no guarantee the plan will ever get off the ground. Blue Origin might be backed by the second-richest man in the world, but building a space station will likely cost hundreds of billions of dollars.