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This week, big space on a small budget. Small hairdryers on a big
budget, and the big camera on no budget at all, because it is not for
sale. Our dreams of exploring the great
beyond have always been governed by very earthly concerns. Things like
resources and safety. I want to go there, actually I think that is a
dead pixel. The problem of course with sending stuff into space is
that it is exceedingly expensive. Since Nasser was founded in 1958,
they have spent more than 800 dollars on it. One of the reasons is
that most things space related get sent up, then either stay up or burn
up. If we ever want to get out here, things are going to have to get a
lot cheaper, for a start. One way to make things cheaper is to reuse
them. NASA had a go at this with the shuttle programme. The idea was to
get it down to tens of millions per flight, but you know how these
things go. The shuttle programme was retired in 2011, and now the
gauntlet has been passed to the commercial act, Spacek. They have
been trying to make their rocket reusable for some time, but it has
not been without its challenges. In April this year, they finally did
it, succeeding in touching down on their autonomous drone ship, of
course, I still love you. That is the name of the ship, by the way.
But I do still love you. The challenge was to reuse the ship,
something Elon musk said they plan to do in the future, if it passes a
battery of tests. But what if you didn't care if your spacecraft
broke? Well, that is the driving force behind an idea recently backed
by a host of very smart mines, including Mr Mark Zuckerberg and
Professor Stephen Hawking. It is called the Star shop project, and
the plan is to launch thousands of tiny spacecraft that are little more
than circuit boards. If one of them breaks, that is fine, there are
plenty of others that can still do the job. Even better, the hope is
that because they are each so tiny, we can propel them to extraordinary
speeds, possibly as fast as a quarter of the speed of light. That
is more than a thousand times faster than the fastest spacecraft there
has ever been, that we know of. The universe is a big place, so if we
are to have any chance of understanding it it may be that
swarms of miniature craft like these are the only realistic way to do
it. But before the swarm can set sail there is still plenty of
research to be done. One sort of diminutive spacecraft we have talked
about before our each as big as a feast. LJ Rich has been to is Urich
to find out how research could make them even cheaper.
The recent manufacture of cheap electronic components has made
high-speed travel much more viable. ETH Zurich is building a system to
observe the ocean's surface, using cheap mobile phone chips. The first
will be launched in 2017, and eventually a whole grid of these
cubes will circle the earth. One doesn't
But one doesn't simply fire cheapo components up into space
This lab tests all kinds of equipment for space worthiness.
There are tanks and dials and bargain components everywhere.
This is how you can tell it is a working lab, and not just
The equipment is literally tied to the area where you most need it,
in case somebody walks off with the screwdriver.
Each of these containers contain a little bit of space.
OK, here on earth we can't get rid of the gravity.
But we can make vacuum chambers by sucking most of the air out
We can make things very hot, then very cold inside a container.
Unsurprisingly, electronics really hate that sort of thing,
so this is why lab techs try to break them before they launch them.
We chose these ones because they have a really, really
low power consumption, so it is, like, less than two watts we have
for the whole satellite, and for this we can only use 200 milliwatts,
When one component fails, the next one simply takes over.
This is a one-to-one model of the cube sat that will eventually
It has ten GPS chips on there, diagnostics, equipment,
The outsides will be mainly covered in solar panels,
and there will be antennas that will spring out once it is launched.
And of course, once this thing is launched, that is
This model of a Galileo global positioning satellite is what
Ten of these are operational right now but it takes a lot
This small satellite cannot fly on the rocket on its own.
These are some 80 million euros or so.
The professor's made a model cube sat on the same scale at the Galileo
satellite model to help us get our heads round the size difference.
I bet he's glad he didn't have to carry the big one!
Observation satellites, or navigation satellites, also need
a precise position and orbit, so we try to show that on the smallest
satellite available we can really get a position on the level of one
to two metres, with equipment that is low cost, very cheap, not using
Most tech trends show components getting cheaper or more
user-friendly, followed by more people accessing the technology.
It will be interesting watching legislation catch up with our
increasing ability to put things into orbit ourselves, and if the
democratisation of space travel, like much tech before it, is
inevitable, perhaps we might all get to send our
own project into space one day, even if we can't boldly go ourselves.
That was LJ, and here is one man that really
We first met him back in 2014, when we followed his project to send 100
Well, since then, he has been busy working with Imperial College
London, on the next wave of crowd-funded space exploration.
I can't ignore the fact I am leaning on an
Look, there is proper science on this desk.
Look, we have flashing stuff, we have -
I am afraid it is South Kensington's finest builders' sand, and I threw
away the genuine fake lunar dust, which was the cement, because I
What that is, that is our cheapskate Mars yard.
So we are working on a Mars lander concept.
So this is a mixture of thin film devices,
so basically a Mars weather network, so try and drop a few hundred
By weather stations, you are talking about a variation
on your pocket spacecraft idea, thin film printable circuits.
This would be about 20 microns thick, so that is
Onboard, they would have the radio, the computers, temperature sensors,
humidity sensors, all the bits and pieces you would have
Cube sats are relatively cheap to make, but you still have to put them
on a rocket and get them into space, but you have
a plan to make them up there, rather than down here, don't you.
So depending on where you are going, it can take from a couple
of years to a decade to reach another planet in the solar system
What we would like to do is take the spacecraft
printers that we currently have in the lab, put them in cube sats,
and you can print the spacecraft in orbit around Mars or around
That means if you want to design a new space mission,
rather than waiting for several years you can go file, print on your
laptop, and then a few minutes or a few hours later, out pops a new
You are printing spacecraft in orbit,
It will take a while, but we will have our first
prototypes flying hopefully towards the end of this year.
Why are we seeing so much activity round small
So, up until ten years ago, when you bought a launch
for a spacecraft, you actually designed your spacecraft go to be
And then along came the cube sat standard, which
suddenly decoupled the shape of your spacecraft from the type of rocket
So you can go shopping to lots of different launch providers and see
what is offering the best deal, who is going in the right direction.
I am going to play with your little Mars yard for a bit.
Sticking with galactic fancies, Spacex announced
its partnered with Nasa in a mission to Mars, which boss Elon Musk says
If all goes to plan, it will be the first ever interplanetary mission
And it was a week full of bad news for Apple and Twitter, as they
announced their financial results for the first quarter of this year.
On the other hand, it was a triumphant week
for Facebook as the social network tripled its profits, compared to
It was the week that Stanford University's Ocean One robot
explored a 17th century shipwreck at the bottom of the Mediterranean.
The humanoid sub-bot is powered by artificial intelligence and haptic
feedback systems, and its creators hope it will eventually be able to
And not to be outdone in the robot stakes, China unveiled one that
The self-charging anbot is a human-hunting, pain-inducing
droid, designed by the military's National defence University.
Capable of speeds of up to 11 mph, the fearsome beast intends to zap
citizens partaking in any lewd behaviour.
This week saw the release of a brand-new product by British
I was invited down to its HQ in advance to find out just what it
I had a feeling it might have something to do with air.
Because from innovation in the field of vacuum cleaning -
sucking, if you will - Dyson has moved on to blowing, with hand
driers and those fans with the whole load of nothing in the middle.
Something that still weirds me out, if I am honest.
Well, it turns out the next logical frontier to air is hair.
Welcome to Dyson's hair laboratories.
They have spent ?50 million on this set up.
And they have on site 1,010 miles of hair.
Not all of it from the same person, I hasten to add.
The result is something called the Dyson Supersonic.
So take a few seconds to think about what
Five years in development, and after a lot of work with all that
hair, Dyson believes its offering can overcome what it sees as the
Ones that I, for one, had not noticed as being problems but then
The Supersonic's temperatures is regulated 20 times a second,
which should mean your hair can't be damaged by overheating.
Something that cheaper models are apparently guilty of.
The device is said to be quieter, lighter, and crucially,
it claims to offer more powerful and more controlled airflow,
Most of these advantages come from the motor technology at its heart.
This is a conventional hairdryer motor, so it is big, heavy,
This is the new Dyson supersonic motor.
So it is as small as a two pence piece.
That is so small we have been able to put that inside the handle.
So it sucks in air there at the bottom.
Because it is small, it can be located in the handle,
Because it is small, it can be located in the handle,
That is weird, you can do that with a hairdryer.
What is happening, how it works, this motor generates
We are getting that air to blow round that channel there, and that
When it accelerates, it sucks in a load more air
On average, there is about three times more
airflow coming over the outside of this and through the middle.
That then, as they say, is the science bit, but what you really
want to know is does any of this make a blind bit of difference?
Well, meet Lily, who has kindly volunteered to get her air done, all
in the name of science, and George, hairdresser to the stars, with
Kirk Douglas, who I was very keen to talk to, about Spartacus, Ulysses,
He was much more interested in the hairdressing business than
Let me know when you are ready to dry, George.
Now George reckons it would normally take about 30 minutes to dry Lily's
hair with his normal hairdryer, so certainly long enough
What is your first impressions about it?
It is much lighter than a conventional hairdryer.
Airflow is good for what I am doing now, which is just taking most
It is a lot more expensive than the most expensive conventional
Possibly double the price, if not more, but - hey.
Is it worth several times the cost of a salon-quality hairdryer?
Yes, we all spend, I don't know, 20 or 30 minutes a day doing
Every morning, you use it an awful lot.
Beauty is very important, doing your hair so it is glossy
and smooth and undamaged, and done quickly, because this is
Yes, I believe people will pay for that.
Next week, we will hear more from Sir James Dyson and his lovely hair.
Last week, the broadcast industry gathered in Las Vegas for NAB
On show there were loads of 4k cameras, loads of VR cameras,
loads of high dynamic range cameras, as you would expect,
but there was one piece of kit there that really did stand out.
We think it could change the way that films are made in the future.
A camera from a start up called LightO, which housed some quite
Instead of taking a flat 2-D image, it captured a scene
You could change the focus after you had taken the shot or
It did this by taking in so-called light rays on the sensor
Clever as it was, LightO's consumer camera and subsequent
Proving too pricey to tempt shutter bugs away
Well, now from the ashes a new Phoenix has arisen.
A beast of a camera, giving movie makers a new palette
LightO Cinema, capturing a staggering amount of information
It has millions of tiny lenses inside, sucking in
The end result is in fact more like a 4k image,
using the same core light field technology as the still cameras.
Knowing the distance of objects or people in front of the lens means
they can be isolated and replaced more easily than with today's blue
Of course, as with the original cameras you can decide
where to focus the shot in the footage after you have captured it.
Or change the perspective on a scene.
But doesn't this new-found creative palette mean the director's vision
In fact what we do is record as meta data what the decision was
made on set, and that is the first thing that we render out.
We also record a whole lot of other aperture views,
which means different perspectives, and we offer up that array
of different perspectives in a whole range of refocus range,
to make your shot different from when you originally controlled it.
It should enable creativity in film making, rather than remove it.
Saying we can lock it, this is one thing, and achieving it
Somebody, anywhere in the path, an editor - editors do
fantastically important things for movies, but they are not the people
LightO has one eye on the next generation
of film-makers - those producing content in virtual reality.
It has developed a light field VR rig called the Merge.
Content made with this camera would let you move around live action VR
environments, something impossible today, where you are rooted to
This kind of so-called computational imaging
technology might be compelling, but of course, it is not cheap.
Renting the cinema rig starts at $125,000.
Right now, it is aimed at the pros, but who knows,
a few years down the road we may see it re-emerge as a creative tool
Now, summer is on the way, and that means
if you a biker it is time to dust off the leathers and hit the road.
It can be exhilarating if you are of that persuasion,
but it can also be a long and lonely road if you have an accident.
It could take a while before the emergency services are
Well, Kate Russell has been for a spin with a piece of tech that
could speed up the response time and potentially save lives.
Just you, the road and 1200cc of pure power.
A motorbike isn't just a vehicle to move you from place to place.
It is an adventure every time you ride it, and wide-open spaces,
with sweeping curves and corners like this, bring body and bike
It is hard to beat once you have experienced it.
70% of all accidents on bikes happen on rural roads.
If you are on your own, that could be a real problem.
If you are out by yourself - I mean we ride together quite a lot, if you
are out by yourself, if you fall off, we have technology that tells
the emergency services where you are and sends medical information.
It is about keeping riders safe but still having fun.
To ensure pinpoint accuracy during a crash,
the app using downstream satellite data to locate a fallen rider.
If you are in an open space, where there is no blockages to the
signal, then you can be located down to a metre accuracy very reliably.
The really good news is there are more satellites going up every day,
including the European Galileo system,
which means the more satellites, the better quality signals, and that
accuracy is coming down to sub-metre level in the years to come.
We are protecting against the worst case scenario, when you
If you hit something, you are carrying a lot of speed.
They knew roughly the route he was taking, but not exactly.
And it was 12 hours before they found him.
But the bike could also be, you know, over a hedgerow or
You might not be visible from the road.
The alert is triggered by the smartphone app,
which is then connected through to BT, like any other 999 call.
That is presented to our 999 call handlers, with some enhanced data.
Call handlers continues with triage, by attempting to call
If they are unable to get in contact with the patient, then
It is the first app in the UK to gain DCMS certification, allowing
it to route activation directly through the emergency services.
Giving riders peace of mind that, should the worst case scenario come
to pass, they have the best possible chance of surviving.
That was Kate, and that is it from Dyson's HQ.
If you are wondering what this is, this is what the engineers got
I would be rather annoyed if they did this to my car.
That is from us, @BBCClick on Twitter throughout the week, please.