Science Scope

Japan earthquake and tsunami inspire disaster-fighting tools

Posting in Energy

From a floating pod called "Noah," to an exoskeleton that walks for you, new Japanese inventions are cropping up to help in the event of another disaster.

After the horrific dual disasters of an earthquake and a tsunami in Fukushima Japan last March, the country's inventors have come up with several novel solutions to help protect people during the next major disaster.

Where to wait out the tsunami

One is the Noah, a tsunami-proof pod that looks like a giant tennis ball, is four feet in diameter and holds up to four people. Made of fiber-reinforced plastic, it can survive a drop of 33 feet as well as the blows of a sledgehammer, and it will automatically make itself upright in water.

Built by Cosmo Power, it features small air ducts that make it possible for the inhabitants to breathe, plus a small window so the riders can look outside. It costs about $3,800 and has already been purchased by more than 1,000 people.

What to wear when working with radiation

The second is HAL, or Hybrid Assistive Limb, a robotic exoskeleton that could further the endurance of radiation workers. Such workers have to wear anti-radiation tungsten vests weighing up to 132 pounds, limiting how long they can work in a single stretch.

HAL picks up signals sent by the brain to the muscles and then walks for the worker so that he or she does not have to use energy and strength to do so. HAL keeps the worker from feeling the weight of the vest.

HAL has been around since 2008 in a different form, and the new version targeted to radiation workers is still in prototype. It won't be available commercially for another half year or more.

Where to get the latest disaster updates

Another invention was built to address the communications breakdown that occurred during the disasters, making it impossible to get the latest disaster information.

The system, Aerial 3D, is a 3-D display that could broadcast important information message. Created out of of tiny dots created by laser beams, it can currently project images up to 16 feet by 16 feet, but its makers, Burton Inc., plans to double that by year's end.

The importance of the 3-D display is that it increases the number of people who can see it. As chief executive Hidei Kimura told The New York Times, “A lot of people can actually see [3-D],” Mr. Kimura says. “If it’s only 2-D, you can only see it from one direction.”

If you want to see what Aerial 3D looks like, you can download this video of Aerial 3d.

Watch a video showing Cosmo Power's Noah pod being dropped into the water three times and easily bouncing back up each time:

photo: screenshot of Noah pod on Cosmo Power Web site

via: The New York Times

Share this

Laura Shin

Features Editor

Laura Shin has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times, and is currently a contributor at Forbes. Previously, she worked at Newsweek, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and LearnVest. She holds degrees from Stanford University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure