Charlie Sorrel, the guy at Wired magazine responsible for many of the product reviews in Wired's Gadget Lab blog, is obsessed with bicycles. I know this because in my search for inspiration, there is usually a bike in some form or another that seems a little out of place in amongst the state-of-the-art digital wotnots. Enter the Copenhagen Wheel, a device that at last marries mechanical and digital on two wheels. The wheel, developed by researchers at MIT, attaches to any bicycle and stores the energy you lose when you brake so that you can access it when you need a boost. "When you brake, your kinetic energy is recuperated by an electric motor and then stored by batteries within the wheel, so that you can have it back to you when you need it," explains professor Carlo Ratti, Director of the MIT Senseable City Lab. The wheel is also equipped with a series of sensors and a Bluetooth connection to the user's iPhone, which is mounted on the handlebars. Using the phone as an interface, the wheel can monitor speed, direction and distance, collect data on air pollution and connect with friends. Bike riding citizens of Copenhagen will be able to join an incentive scheme whereby they can clock up so-called green miles – similar to air miles, but good for the environment – although it is not yet clear what the reward will be. The wheel was unveiled this week at the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change.
A shift in refrigeration
I like the Shift fridge not only because it is a clever design-meets-concept take on the age-old problem of food preservation, but because it illlustrates how minor lifestyle modifications can make a difference. The idea is simple. The Shift refrigerator has a small door that opens to a compartment where the most commonly used grocery items are stored: milk, cheese and the like – so you don't have to open the big door, which allows a lot of cooled air to escape. Opening a smaller door means that less energy needs to be spent on replenishing cooled air.
Five year phone
Cell phone manufacturers and service providers do their damndest to get you to throw your "old" phone away. If you are a contract customer you will be badgered constantly until you take delivery of your "upgrade". If you are a lowly pay-as-you-go client you will be nagged by advertising that will convince you that you need to purchase the latest, slimmest, smallest camera-video-music player phone if you intend to make friends, business or love any time in the near future. James Barber's very green Nokia means to challenge all this. His phone is made to last at least five years and, once it does give up the ghost, is 85% recyclable.
Bag a bunny
The Picnica Tote Bag takes the reusable shopping bag to the next level. While most bags of this kind crumple into a ball, this bag is stuffed into a bunny-shaped nylon bag and becomes a soft toy that you can whip out to distract a distraught toddler. In its bag form, the bunny is displayed on the outside. It is available from aplusrstore.com and costs around R250.
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