There are currently more than 60,000 taxis cruising around Japan, a number that accounts for 20 percent of the country's CO2 emissions. To promote environmental health, the Japanese government has joined with Better Place, a US firm specializing in electric vehicle development, to come up with a solution: electric taxis powered by replaceable batteries. Today, three of the taxis will begin their circuit during a 90-day experiment funded by Japan's energy agency.
Comic book-inspired technology tends to be awesome, and Shigeo Hirose's pneumatic grappling hook doesn't disappoint. Inspired by Batman's wonderful toys and the way Spiderman swings from web to web, Hirose designed the hook so that a series of them could work together to allow robots to navigate difficult terrain.
A winch launches the hook, which then orients itself to grasp whatever rests below it, thanks to an offset center of gravity. A braking spool keeps the line from knotting up, and pneumatic pressure controls the opening and closing of the grappling hook spikes.