Edge of Innovation

Beautiful things in tech: 3D-printed ribs, NASA and this sweet Mercedes-Benz boat

We normally think of technology’s power to delight and wow us in terms of its practical advances — the microsecond speed improvements and transformative functionality. But it can just as easily astound us in a mere aesthetic capacity.

Technology is often drop-dead gorgeous, even at its most pragmatic.

You only need to look as far as the new Dyson Supersonic, which transforms the humble hair dryer into a high-­tech fashion accessory. The Dyson digital motor V9 is a thing of beauty on its own.

So is the old vaccum tube. Audio hardware veterans McIntosh have resurrected it for their stunning MC75 vacuum tube amplifier, which stylishly blends pre-1970s design with modern controls and connectivity.

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Spot the retro vacuum tubes on the McIntosh MC75.

You can find beauty in other practical gadgets too, such as Nest’s unassuming little third-generation learning thermostat. This now lights up its minimalist but elegant display when it detects movement from across the room.

Minimalist is the approach that Sony seems to have taken with its Huis universal remote controller. Like the company’s eye-catching FES Watch, it forgoes a full-colour, high resolution screen in favour of an e-paper touch display. Combined with an ergonomic white body, it makes every other remote look needlessly awkward and complicated.

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The Sony Huis universal remote controller has a striking e-paper display.

On the less practical side, Samsung’s Serif TV adds the grace and aesthetic statement of a great typeface (it follows the shape of a capital ‘I’) to the ‘barely-­there’ profile of today’s ultra­ thin HDTVs. The Serif’s beauty lies in its determination to make a statement — to interact with other objects in the room rather than hide against a wall.

Scientific advances are bringing some stunning tech to the fore, too. For example, you can’t deny that there’s a rugged splendour to the 3D­-printed titanium sternum and rib cage that CSIRO made in collaboration with medical device company Anatomics for a Spanish cancer patient.

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A 3D­-printed titanium sternum and rib cage.

The human brain has never looked so beautiful as in the visualisations of neural pathways coming out of the Human Connectome Project — which aims to make a wiring diagram of the whole brain.

While this time-lapse video of Mercury’s transition across the face of our sun is… Well, why not why not watch it for yourself below. It’s an astronomical event that only occurs about 13 times every 100 years.

There is beauty to be found in today’s smallest wearable technologies. Intel made the brain inside the luxurious Tag Heuer Connected smartwatch, which adds the extensibility of Google’s Android Wear to the sophisticated design that the Swiss watchmaker has built its reputation on.

Getting bigger, did you know that Mercedes-Benz also builds boats? Specifically, the Arrow460-Granturismo. This 14-metre long, 706 kW (960 hp) ‘Silver Arrow of the Seas’ combines the performance and slick design of Mercedes-Benz sports cars with unique innovations from the boat industry.

At the enormous end of the scale, you’ll find the breathtaking 110 megawatt Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant in Nevada. Seen from a distance, the glittering solar farm (which uses 10,347 heliostats to heat molten salt in a 540-foot-high solar power tower) looks like an enormous disco satellite dish.

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The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant produces over 500,000 MW per year.

There are breathtaking views to enjoy in the virtual world too — from the jaw-dropping high resolution landscapes of Uncharted 4 to the epic, VR space battles that play out in EVE: Valkyrie. Meanwhile, the new Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst game is set in the impossibly clean City of Glass, a futuristic parkour playground for its gusty female protagonist, Faith.

At a time when many of us are obsessed with speed or storage upgrades and of functionality over form, it’s comforting to know that there’s a beauty in some technology that always shines through. If you’d like to see more of it, including the BMW i8 and Liverpool’s Everyman Theater, then click here.

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