Quantcast
Latest StoriesFeatured
    OverDrive: The Flying Car on Kickstarter

    Over the years, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected from my friend and former NASA colleague, Fitz Walker. I’ve long been aware of his engineering and fabrication talents from projects that I have collaborated with him. Fitz has a secretive side too. The true depth and breadth of his skills always seem to be revealed through random, casual conversations: “That thing? Oh, that’s my RC submarine…I’ve been building them for years.” “What? I didn’t tell you that I built an electric motorcycle?”

    Fitz’s most recent bomb was borderline atomic. He confided that he has spent years working with a team to create an honest-to-goodness flying car--which many consider to be the holy grail of engineering challenges! I was able to get him to divulge a few details, and later met with the project’s originator and driving force, Mitchell LaBiche. I caught Mitch just as he was preparing to launch a Kickstarter campaign for his project. He provided deep insight into his design as well as the regimented approach that he has taken to avoid the pitfalls that foiled so many other flying car entrepreneurs.

    The LaBiche Automotive OverDrive is a flying car project that looks more like an Italian supercar than airplane. Attractiveness was one of the development team’s primary design requirements.

    Tested: You call your flying car design “OverDrive”. How did the concept develop?

    LaBiche: During my early years of flying, I became stranded or delayed at a few destinations on multiple occasions. One such event was when I became stranded at an airport for three days and could not take off. However, just 50 miles away, the weather was clear. If I could have moved my plane down the road to the clear weather, it would have turned my disastrous weekend into a mere inconvenience. That event got me to start thinking of a better way to own, use, and integrate civil aviation/personal aircraft into everyday life.

    During that time, I was employed as an engineer working on the Apache helicopter program and had envisioned that what I (and others) wanted was some sort of vertical takeoff, personal air vehicle. The plan changed when I took a friend’s suggestion to ask a few people what they wanted…and possibly turn my personal project into a money making venture. I invested three years and lots of money in marketing questionnaires which produced over 3,000 data points. From that, I found that what most people actually wanted was a not a vertical takeoff machine, but a personal travel vehicle that could both fly fast and go down the road. That changed everything.

    OverDrive's proposed conversion from car to plane. (Click to play)

    The original R&D project (named the FSC-1, for Flying Sports Car #1 under the LaBiche Aerospace banner) was started to see if a marketable flying car could be designed and built. After nearly 20 years of continuous, low-level development, it was deemed ready to move on to the next phase as a real product in 2012. A new sister company was formed (LaBiche Automotive) and the FSC-1 became “OverDrive” to sell the vehicle under a new name indicative of a product for the advanced automotive market.

    Tested Builds: Quadcopter Drone, Part 3

    It's day three of the quadcopter build already, but for some reason it still feels like day two. Still, much progress is made and some things are done better the second time around. Those of you who've been following along know what we're talking about. To watch and follow along with the build, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here. Post your comments and questions about the build below!

    The Computer's First Song

    The 1956 composition "Illiac Suite for String Quartet" is a pleasant enough sounding piece of music – for the first three movements, that is. It's when you get to the fourth and final movement, that things get...weird. The notes sound random and dissonant. It doesn't sound much like music at all. But the peculiarity of "Illiac Suite" makes a little more sense when you realize how it was composed. This was the computer's first algorithmically generated song.

    Programmed in binary by Lejaren A. Hiller, assistant professor of music at the University of Illinois, and Leonard M. Isaacson, a former research associate on the school's Illiac computer, "Illiac Suite" was nevertheless a revelation. That a computer might one day compose music indistinguishable from that of a human artist became an irresistible pop culture trope – for better and for ill. In his New York Times obituary, Hiller is said to have joked that "he would have computers compose all possible rock songs, then copyright them and refuse to let anyone perform them."

    Luckily for us, computers are nowhere close to realizing that humorous albeit dystopian vision. And yet "Illiac Suite" remains an impressive feat, even today.

    Photo credit: University of Illinois

    We can actually trace the beginnings of "Illiac Suite" back to none other than the British mathematician and computing pioneer Alan Turing. In 1951, Turing published a book on programming for an early computer known then as the Ferranti Mark I*. The machine had a loudspeaker, sometimes called a "hooter," that was used primarily to issue warnings or during debugging. But Turing found that the loudspeaker could also be used to produce solid tones – notes, if you prefer.

    It didn't take long before programmers began to exploit this functionality to playback simply melodies and songs. But two programmers by the name of David Caplin and Dietrich Prinz decided to take things a step further.

    The Influence and Legacy of Artist H.R. Giger

    It will make a great question on a game show one day: What never-released movie had ambitions to be over ten hours long, star Mick Jagger and Orson Welles, feature a screenplay by the writer of Alien, and production design by H.R. Giger? Jodorowsky’s Dune of course, and the recent documentary on this unmade epic is a remarkable effort--probably the best movie about an unmade movie I've seen yet.

    All filmmakers have dream projects that for one reason or another, never get made, and Dune was a real heartbreaker for writer Dan O’Bannon. He eventually rebounded with Alien, and brought the late Giger along with him to be the production designer. The rest, as you know, is sci-fi history, as Giger's designs for the creature and sets revolutionized the monster-movie genre. As Ridley Scott said in a statement after Giger's recent passing, the swiss surrealist was “a real artist and great eccentric, a true original, but above all he was a really nice man.”

    Most people know Giger’s work from Alien, yet he created a large body of work in his lifetime. Whether you know the name or not, his artwork is unmistakable and unforgettable. It's art that you can both fall in love with and get terrified by at the same time. Giger was a fearless artist who looked deep into the abyss, and found it a great landscape to capture in his work.

    We asked Frank Pavich, the director of Jodorowsky’s Dune, how important he felt Giger’s work was to the history of sci-fi. “I think he’s incredibly important,” Pavich tells us. “Let’s say we take the timeline of films, and let’s say we remove Alien from the timeline. There were so many films that directly or indirectly took influence from that film. If you compare Star Wars and films before that to the aesthetic of Alien, they’re completely different. Alien is, as he put it, a biological mess. It’s dirty, it’s messy, it’s gross, it’s disgusting, and I don’t think science fiction had that kind of horror. I think he really created that fear in us.”

    Tested Builds: Quadcopter Drone, Part 2

    The quadcopter build moves briskly in the second day of building, but Will and Norm run into a hiccup by the end of the session. To watch and follow along with the build, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here. Post your comments and questions about the build below!

    The Comic-Con 2014 Cosplay Gallery (750+ Photos)

    Every year, we attend Comic-Con to celebrate our favorite parts of popular culture. We meet amazing artists, storytellers, toymakers, and of course, cosplayers. Adam walks the floor incognito in one of his new costumes, and I get to spend my free time roaming the convention hall meeting and taking photos of people who embody their favorite characters through cosplay. (It's a great photography exercise, too!) The cosplayers of Comic-Con never cease to impress me with their creativity and enthusiasm, and I'm pleased to share with you my favorite photos from this year's convention. Know who these cosplayers are? Email me at norman@tested.com with "Comic-Con 2014 cosplay" in the subject line to help me credit these awesome cosplayers. Thanks!

    Tested Builds: Quadcopter Drone, Part 1

    The month of building continues, Comic-Con and travel be damned! This week's project challenges Will and Norm to assemble a quadcopter kit, something neither have done before. To watch and follow along with the build, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here. Post your comments and questions about the build below!

    Tested Builds: Japanese Papercraft, Part 7

    It's the final episode of the papercraft kit build! The end is in sight as Will and Norm add the finishing details to the Hotel Adriano from the film Porco Rosso. To watch the epic finale, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here! Tomorrow, another project begins!

    So, We Had a Little Comic-Con Party...

    To the Tested community members, new community members, and to all of the makers in general who were at our party last night at Comic-Con.

    Thank you.

    For those who might not be at the Con this year, Tested, AOL, our sister site Mandatory, and I threw a party for a few hundred people in San Diego, featuring about a dozen of my costumes and constructions on display, along with work we've commissioned for Tested. We called it Incognito.

    I think it was a pretty good party.

    I had an awesome time. I've never had that many of my costumes on display all in one place like that and seeing them together was amazing. I've had many of them set up in my Cave, to be sure, but not like this and not for hundreds of people to appreciate at once. It was real, to see how much time and energy and love and obsession each represented to my past. I have deep and fond memories of every problem solved, every hurdle jumped, and it was lovely to share that with people who were able to attend.

    The best part about hosting a Comic-Con party is that I get to see so many of my favorite people all at once. That's pretty much the purpose of any party, right?

    I got to talk to dozens of makers of every stripe, skill level, and inclination. In addition to my friends and loved ones, we opened the party up early to Tested Premium members and anyone who was in San Diego last night--cosplayers and makers and tinkerers. I took a lot of pictures with a lot of people last night, and I tried to talk to as many people as I could.

    The sheer breadth of experience, enthusiasm, diversity, passion, and talent I encountered among the crowd was stunning. Humbling. Thrilling. I heard stories of tiny shops in the corner of apartments. Of projects tackled, difficulties overcome, and obsessions indulged. My favorite kind of conversations. Over and over attendees told me about their work, their lives, and their tools and materials.

    I found every interaction inspiring. Everyone in the room shared interests, and I caught some wonderful meeting-of-the-mind moments, where people were trading their hard-earned lessons. It felt that the broad community of Comic-Con was well represented at our shindig. And I'm grateful to be a part of that community.

    Thank you.

    Tested Builds: Japanese Papercraft, Part 6

    The papercraft build extends into a sixth day--happy Saturday! But now it's time for the really awesome detail and finishing work. We're talking about scale model foliage! To watch and follow along with the build, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here. Post your comments and questions about the build below!

    Tested Builds: Japanese Papercraft, Part 5

    It's Friday, and the papercraft model isn't anywhere close to being finished! How much can Will and Norm get done before the week is out? Just look at how much detail the designers have put into things like the window sills of the chateau. To watch and follow along with the build, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here. Post your comments and questions about the build below!

    Tested Goes to Comic-Con 2014!

    We've arrived at San Diego for Comic-Con! Will and Norm rush to pick up their badges and then hit the convention floor for Wednesday's preview night. We give you a preview of what to expect on Tested this week--let the geeking out commence!

    Tested Builds: Japanese Papercraft, Part 4

    Those infernal stairs to the model are finally done! It's now time to assemble the actual chateau, which is a beautiful piece of papercraft engineering. The amount of detail put into the design of this kit is just amazing. To watch and follow along with the build, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here. Post your comments and questions about the build below!

    Tested Builds: Japanese Papercraft, Part 3

    While Will and Norm are at Comic-Con this week, the build of the Japanese papercraft model continues! Progress is made to the foundation of the chateau, but the pace needs to quicken if the project is going to finish by week's end. Just look at how many tiny pieces have to be cut out and individually glued! To watch and follow along with the build, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here. Post your comments and questions about the build below!

    Hands-On with Nvidia's Shield Tablet

    Nvidia's first Shield was a dedicated gaming handheld, but its new model is a high-end tablet with gaming accessories. We spend a little time with Nvidia's new Android gaming tablet, compare it to the original Shield portable, and give our thoughts on this device's appeal to PC and mobile gamers.

    Tested Builds: Japanese Papercraft, Part 2

    Will and Norm continue to build the Porco Rosso Japanese papercraft kit, and the details of the structure they're constructing being to take shape! We only got through one page of the instructions in the first episode, so this next one is extra long at over an hour to catch up and keep page. To watch and follow along with the build, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here.

    Tested Builds: Japanese Papercraft, Part 1

    The month non-stop of Tested Builds continues! This week, we embark on a whole new kind of project: an intricate Japanese papercraft scale model from a classic animated film. It's an ambitious model kit that neither of us have attempted before, so join us for the fun! To watch, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here.

    Tested Builds: $540 3D Printer, Part 5

    Our build of the Printrbot Simple 3D printer is finally complete! Time to calibrate it and set it up for a first print. Will and Norm go over the software, load up a model, cross fingers, and test the new printer! Thanks for joining us this week through our build, and hope you learned something about 3D printers along the way. (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    Tested Builds: $540 3D Printer, Part 4

    Our build of the PrintrBot Simple Metal 3D printer is almost complete! After some unexpected setbacks, we continue piecing together the Z-axis of the printer, attach all the components of the plastic extruder, and get all of our wiring done. It's really coming together! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us with memberships!)

    Animating Robocop 2's Cain Robot with Phil Tippett

    One of science fiction film's most memorable and menacing creatures is the Cain cyborg from Robocop 2. Cain was brought to life with a full-size robot prop and several intricately machined stop-motion puppets, all which have survived and live at Tippett Studio. We get up close with these iconic props and chat with legendary special effects animator Phil Tippett about the process of designing and animating Cain.