Is the United States the least futuristic post-industrial country? Every week we hear about cool robots playing soccer and musical instruments in Japan, or the Tron-looking Pad building in Dubai (see photo.) Meanwhile, the U.S. is retiring its space shuttles and has the slowest broadband in the universe. What's going on? Five futuristic inventions from a world that has left the U.S. behind, after the jump.
The 2007 Robot Of The Year awards featured a Japanese surgical bot that can operate while the patient is inside an MRI. Photo by Junko Yagami, Getty Images.
Architecture is so much more radical in places like the United Arab Emirates, which is developing the next generation of sleek towers. Look at the mixed-use Tameer Towers, which uses locally cast light concrete and natural shade. The UAE recently came up with the idea of a "Cool City," which would use 60 percent less energy than other cities using renewable power and efficient waste management. Then there's that giant sail-shaped building. And The Pad, featured up top, just won Best International Apartment for 2007.
Maglev trains now link Shanghai's subway with its airport, and Mumbai is considering spending $7.56 billion to build 16 to 30 miles of high-speed maglev tracks linking the city with its suburbs. A maglev train uses magnetism to lift the train a small distance above its elevated track, and they featured prominently in the 1950s scifi comic Magnus Robot Fighter. Nowadays, when Mumbai imagines becoming a futuristic city, it looks with envy towards Shanghai. And so does Paris Hilton.
Maglev train outside Shanghai.
European fashion is coming up with designs that can keep you safer as well as looking studly. Just check out this solar-powered ski suit, which uses a special thin film technology to power "Golden Dragon" LEDs that light up at night. It should reduce collisions as well as making you look like a raver on ice.
And then there's stem cells. While the U.S. government continues to try to baptize the little fellers, leading researcher Alan Colman just announced he'll divide his time between cutting-edge stem cell facilities in London and Singapore. Colman, of course, is the man who cloned Dolly the Sheep.
So the U.S. really needs to step up its game. We should be putting people on Mars, creating robot break-dancers and pioneering new green cities linked by high-speed rail. Otherwise, we're collectively going to turn into that old guy who wears his pants under his armpits and shakes his head at all this new fancy whiz-buggery. And nobody wants that, except a handful of armpit-pants fetishists.