Thursday, 28 February 2013


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3-D Printed Car Is as Strong as Steel, Half the Weight, and Nearing Production
By Alexander George,
Wired, 27 February 2013.

Picture an assembly line that isn’t made up of robotic arms spewing sparks to weld heavy steel, but a warehouse of plastic-spraying printers producing light, cheap and highly efficient automobiles.

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Engineer Jim Kor and his design for the Urbee 2.

If Jim Kor’s dream is realized, that’s exactly how the next generation of urban runabouts will be produced. His creation is called the Urbee 2 and it could revolutionize parts manufacturing while creating a cottage industry of small-batch automakers intent on challenging the status quo.

Urbee’s approach to maximum miles per gallon starts with lightweight construction - something that 3-D printing is particularly well suited for. The designers were able to focus more on the optimal automobile physics, rather than working to install a hyper efficient motor in a heavy steel-body automobile. As the Urbee shows, making a car with this technology has a slew of beneficial side effects.

Jim Kor is the engineering brains behind the Urbee. He has designed tractors, buses, even commercial swimming pools. Between teaching classes, he heads Kor Ecologic, the firm responsible for the 3-D printed creation.

“We thought long and hard about doing a second one,” he says of the Urbee. “It’s been the right move.”

Kor and his team built the three-wheel, two-passenger vehicle at RedEye, an on-demand 3-D printing facility. The printers he uses create ABS plastic via Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). The printer sprays molten polymer to build the chassis layer by microscopic layer until it arrives at the complete object. The machines are so automated that the building process they perform is known as “lights out” construction, meaning Kor uploads the design for a bumper, walk away, shut off the lights and leaves. A few hundred hours later, he’s got a bumper. The whole car - which is about 10 feet long – takes about 2,500 hours.

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More images and videos:

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Video 1: Urbee Promo

Video 2: Urbee - First 3D Printed Car Body Goes For A Test Drive

Top image via Urbee homepage


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Making It: 10 (More!) Futuristic Materials That Exist Today
By Delana,
Web Urbanist, 27 February 2013.

The materials we use to create consumer products and infrastructure objects are constantly evolving as technology advances. The futuristic materials of a generation ago are commonplace today, just as the most amazing of new materials today will be completely familiar a generation from now. But right now, these 10 materials are some of the most fascinating and newsworthy substances in the world.

1. Gallium, the Metal that Melts in Your Hand

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Although the above image looks like it’s been Photoshopped, it’s completely real. Gallium is a chemical element with such a low melting point that it turns to liquid in the human hand. It shatters like glass and breaks down other metals, but it’s non-toxic to humans.

Given its bizarre properties, gallium is understandably a favourite of scientists, science teachers and their students. The above videos show some of the most popular experiments using gallium, including one in which a spoon made of gallium melts in a cup of 85 degree (F) water.

2. Self-Healing Concrete for Smarter Streets

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Repairing or replacing damaged concrete creates a financial and environmental burden. Smart materials which can repair themselves seem to be the future of construction technology, but most of those invented in recent years have required the addition of an outside material or stimulus to activate their healing properties. The smart concrete developed by University of Rhode Island engineering student Michelle Pelletier has microscopic capsules of a sodium silicate healing agent embedded in it. When a crack appears in the concrete, the sodium silicate acts with other components of the concrete to fix the cracks, sometimes making the structure even stronger than before.

3. BAM!

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Like many important materials, BAM was discovered accidentally. The combination of boron, aluminium, magnesium and titanium boride was discovered in 1999 by scientists at the US Department of Energy Laboratory in Ames, Iowa while they were looking for a material that generates electricity when heated. BAM is among the hardest materials in the world, surpassed only by diamond and cubic boron nitride. But perhaps even more impressively, BAM is also incredibly slippery, outperforming even Teflon. Coating industrial machine rotors with this wonder alloy could save U.S. industries upwards of $179 million a year in operating costs thanks to the resulting reduction in friction.

4. Temperature-Reactive Tiles

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These colour-changing glass tiles that are activated by temperature changes have the potential to turn every part of our world into a hyper colour dream. The tiles, made by a company called Moving Color, are already being used in showers but could also be used in kitchens, cars, appliances and cookware - just to name a few.

5. What a Robust Web They Weave…

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It’s difficult to judge scale from the above photograph, but trust us: that is one massive spider web. It was made by a Darwin’s bark spider, found only on the island of Madagascar. These surprisingly small spiders (none over 2 centimetres or .78 inches have ever been observed) make some of the largest webs in the world. Even more impressive is the material of which the gigantic webs are made. The Darwin’s bark spider uses silk that is astonishingly strong: about 10 times stronger than Kevlar, in fact, making it the world’s toughest known biological material. The spider’s extraordinary natural silk is being studied so that we can someday create a human-made material that is nearly as tough.

6. To the Moon, ALICE!

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This unassuming cylinder of grey stuff could change the way we go to the moon - and beyond. It’s a new type of rocket fuel made of aluminium and ice, ingredients which earned the fuel the name ALICE. The spacecraft fuel is being developed by researchers at Purdue University as a more environmentally friendly way to send Earthly machines into space. Current methods of propelling spacecraft put an enormous amount of pollutants into the atmosphere, but ALICE is kinder to our home planet. Researchers hope that the new fuel could even be made on the moon or Mars - or anywhere else water can be found - for a manned return flight, meaning that the outbound flight would not have to carry enough fuel for the return flight.

7. Starlite, Star Bright…

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There is an amazing material that was invented way back in 1986 but still has not been widely used by any industry. Starlite is a plastic-like material that can withstand a nuclear blast or temperatures hotter than those on the surface of the sun. It was invented by a former hairstylist named Maurice Ward who was trying to develop an insulation material that would not emit toxic fumes in case of a fire. Instead, he came up with the miraculous Starlite - but he never commercialized his invention. Rumours about the fantastic material and its enigmatic inventor abound, but no one seems quite sure about why the material has never been put into widespread use. Sadly, we may never see Starlite reach its full potential; Ward died in 2011 and he was one of only two people on Earth who knew how Starlite is made.

8. Changing Phases

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Scientists at the Technical University of Hamburg and the Institute for Metal Research in Shenyang, China use the example of cooking a breakfast egg to explain their research. The firmness of the egg can be adjusted just by changing the amount of time it is boiled. However, when an egg gets too firm, the cooking time can’t be reversed to make the egg softer again. Their research makes it possible for metals to change between hard and soft states with the touch of a button - a button that triggers an electric signal. This alone is an exciting development, but the scientific community is, as usual, looking ahead. They envision materials that can heal their cracks autonomously. They predict that in the future, “smart” metals and alloys will exist that can selectively become stronger when they sense an impact, thereby preventing damage.

9. Improving Your Lot in Life

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Parking lots are disgusting, dirty places - largely because of the pollution inflicted by thousands of cars every day. The fluids that leak from cars onto the pavement are often washed right onto surrounding soil or nearby bodies of water. The Environmental Protection Agency wants to make parking lots a lot cleaner in the future, so they are studying an absorbent material that will soak up those vehicle fluids. Rather than being washed into the environment by rain or snow, the fluids flow through the permeable parking lot and into special collection tanks to be disposed of responsibly.

10. This Ship Has Sailed

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International trading means that plenty of consumer products and materials are sent from one country to another on cargo ships. While this is an important part of global commerce, it is bad news for the environment since said cargo ships cause a huge amount of pollution. European Union researchers created a unique material meant to make super-light cargo ships possible. Aluminium foam, pictured above, is lighter than water and is very stiff. Sandwiched between two sheets of steel, the aluminium foam can withstand enormous force while allowing for an overall lighter ship and, therefore, lower fuel consumption. Tests indicate that the aluminium foam can cut down on ships’ weight by 30 percent, which could reduce CO2 emissions equivalent to 60 trucks’ worth for every super-light ship.

[Source: Web Urbanist. Edited.]

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5 Ridiculously Expensive Restaurant Menu Items
By Danny Gallagher,
The Week, 25 February 2013.

Starbucks may hold the unofficial record for world's most expensive cup of coffee, but it is fortunes away from being the most expensive food or drink item on a menu. Here, a five-course meal that could send your blood pressure rising for more than one reason.

1. The Cary Arms' US$61 baked potato

In 2010, this British hotel served a very decadent potato, called the "tuxedo spud" because it looks like it's dressed up to go to a fancy ball. It's also a reference to the nickname Brits have for the baked potato: the jacket potato. The tuxedo spud is prepared like a normal baked potato, then loaded with chives, spring onions, and creme fraiche. Then it gets expensive when the chef tops it off with a generous portion of $60-per-pound caviar. It also comes with vine ripened tomatoes, a salad, and a glass of champagne.

2. Nino's US$1,000 pizza

This pricey main course - offered by a New York City eatery in 2007 - was just a 12-inch pizza. Why so exorbitantly priced? Because it was topped with six varieties of caviar and fresh lobster. Customers even had to order their pie 24 hours ahead of time so the restaurant could get the caviar.

3. 666 Burger's US$666 burger

Last year, New York City's devilish 666 Burger food truck began offering the "Douche Burger," named for the kind of person who would buy a a $666 burger. The bank-account-busting sandwich comes with a kobe beef patty wrapped in a gold leaf, and stacked with foie gras, caviar, lobster, truffles, and imported aged gruyere cheese. It's seasoned with Himalayan rock salt, and the cheese is melted from the steam of boiled champagne. And it's literally wrapped in three greasy $100 bills. 666 Burger owner Franz Aliquo said the person who eats it may not enjoy the taste combination, "but it will make you feel rich as f---."

4. 230 Fifth's US$2,300 hot dog

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The famous rooftop lounge in Manhattan offers customers a super expensive hot dog that has thousands of dollars on your typical ballpark frank. This foot-long marvel is made from marbled Wagyu beef that takes 60 days to dry. It's smothered with white truffle butter, French-imported mustard, and saffron ketchup, then covered in champagne cooked onions, homemade sauerkraut, and (what else?) caviar. Then just sprinkle on some gold leaf. Fortunately, those who buy this expensive wiener won't just be stuffing their wealthy faces with decadent food. They will also be making a sizable charitable donation to a local food bank with their purchase.

5. Serendipity 3's US$25,000 frozen hot chocolate

The only way to end this meal would be to just eat a gold brick for dessert, right? Well, you're half-right. This Washington eatery offers one of the most expensive items on just about any menu: a $25,000 bowl of frozen hot chocolate. Just about every ingredient that goes into making this dessert could rack up some serious debt. It's made from 14 of the world's rarest cocoas - imported from Africa and South America - and shavings from the $2,500-per-pound La Madeline au Truffle. Then the dessert is accented with edible 24-carat gold and served in an edible gold goblet. The most expensive part is the silverware: a jewel-encrusted spoon worth $14,000.

Top image: Cary Arms' US$61 baked potato. Image via Daily Mail.

[Source: The Week. Edited. Top image and some links added.]


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7 unconventional cruises for your bucket list
Mother Nature Network, 25 February 2013.

Nature's finest

Not all cruise ships resemble floating amusement parks, with swimming pools, water slides, tennis courts and climbing walls. Plenty of ships provide a relaxing, classic cruise experience without all those extra diversions - and some keep the focus on nature. Expedition-style cruise ships (still large, but smaller than their mainstream kin) seek out beautiful natural shores in places like Alaska, Antarctica and Scandinavia. Some cruise lines take passengers along traditional warm-weather routes, stopping to visit national parks, off-the-beaten-path cities, and marine sanctuaries instead of beaches and shopping streets.

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Here are some offbeat cruise destinations and the companies that can take you on the sailing adventure of a lifetime. (Text: Josh Lew)

1. Indonesia's many islands

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Indonesia is one of the most diverse nations, culturally and ecologically, on Earth. Its thousands of islands, each with its own unique natural elements, make it an ideal place for a nature- or culture-themed cruise. Several companies offer trips to the more far-flung of the archipelago’s islands on classic cruise ships that resemble the wind-powered schooners that once sailed these waters, carrying spices and other goods. Other companies, such as SeaTrek Sailing Adventures, offer excursions to places like Bali, Lombok and Komodo (home of the famous Komodo dragons). SeaTrek even has a history-themed trip that follows the route of naturalist Alfred Wallace, who was one of the first people to raise the issue of conservation in Indonesia.

2. South to Antarctica

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Antarctica isn't the first place that comes to mind when people dream of cruising. However, this unpopulated and icy continent is a great destination for anyone who wants to see nature at its harshest and most beautiful. For some people, a cruise to Antarctica is part of their bucket list goal of setting foot on every continent. Cruisers can see massive icebergs, glaciers, penguins, seals and other cold-climate wildlife, and also experience the kind of adventurous vibe not available at other destinations. The expedition experts at Abercrombie & Kent offer attractive cruise packages to the Antarctic that feature a strong educational element, with naturalists and scientists on-board to offer insights into the amazing landscapes, animals and ice formations nearby.

3. Galapagos Islands

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The Galapagos Islands have been enchanting nature-lovers since they gained notoriety thanks to famed naturalist Charles Darwin. Celebrity Cruises, known for its bigger ships, also offers a smaller-ship cruise to the Galapagos Islands. The Celebrity “Xpedition” offers a classic cruising experience, and its smaller size makes for a more social, quiet and comfortable cruise. There is still plenty of pampering on this expedition cruiser (think gourmet meals, spa treatments, and health and fitness facilities). It also offers regular lectures and information sessions by on-board naturalists. But the star of the expedition to the Galapagos is the unique wildlife that has so enthralled nature-lovers and biologists. Onshore excursions offer the chance to view penguins, sea birds, seals, iguanas and giant turtles.

4. Luxury and wildlife in Southern Africa

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The Silver Wind, part of the Silversea line, has one of the most interesting annual itineraries of any passenger boat that sails the world's oceans. Each year, it spends time in the nature-lover's haven of Madagascar before heading to Cape Town, South Africa (shown here), and up the little-cruised shores of southwestern Africa. The Silver Wind is a good choice for people who want a luxurious cruise experience, but also want a chance to explore natural areas. The type of expedition cruise ships that specialize in nature-themed excursions are often quite luxurious, but unable to offer a full menu of “big ship” amenities because of their smaller size. The Silver Wind is a large vessel with salons, spas, shops, casino and several eating options. Unlike many large ships, though, the Silver Wind's optional land-based excursions are often focused on wildlife, with trips to Phinda Game Reserve and Gorah Elephant Camp, both in South Africa. The Silver Wind also stops in exotic ports like Dakar and Maputo, coastal African metropolises rarely found on cruise ship itineraries.

5. Alaska's glaciers

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Alaska is one of the most interesting destinations for nature cruises. With thousands of miles of untouched coastline, forests, mountains and bays, the 49th state certainly has lots of places to explore. One of the best ways to see the wilderness up close is to join a weeklong voyage by Princess Cruises. The ship journeys through the Inside Passage, so cruisers are almost always within eyeshot of Alaska's starkly beautiful coastline. On-board naturalists give presentations about marine and terrestrial animals found in Alaska. The highlight of this journey is the glaciers, which are found in abundance in Glacier Bay National Park. A cruise is a practical way to see Alaska since passengers can travel more comfortably and safely than they would if they had to travel overland or in bush plane.

6. Beyond the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and West Africa

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Variety Cruises is a small Athens-based company that offers cruises that start in the Mediterranean and end up in exotic locales like the Seychelles and Senegal. This company's ships are smaller than the industry's resort-like giants, but they are still quite luxurious, with swimming pools and large staterooms equipped with minibars and flat-screen TVs. Even with these extra luxuries, the most attractive aspect of a cruise with Variety is the far-flung ports that passengers get to visit. Most cruise ships stick to the heavily travelled waters of the Med, but Variety takes it a step further to the beautiful, often-deserted beaches of the Seychelles, a paradise for nature-lovers and sun-seekers alike. One of Variety's most interesting trips is a seven-night expedition-style cruise that visits cities like Dakar, Senegal, and continues to some of the most important rivers in West Africa, including the wildlife-rich River Gambia (shown here).

7. The amazing Amazon

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A small expedition-type vessel can provide a great Amazon cruising experience. Sure, it is possible to go for cheaper on a spartan local boat, but 150-person ships like the Iberostar Grand Amazon offer a bit more comfort, meaning that cruisers can relax and focus on taking in the sights and experiences of the Amazon. This river-worthy ship has a classic feel, with multiple decks and plenty of places to gaze at the greenery on the riverbanks. The Grand Amazon has plenty of chances for trips to the shore, where cruisers can see the rain forests and their inhabitants up close. With expensive land-based travel the only other real option for Amazon visitors, this type of cruise is actually one of the most practical ways to see the remote lands of the world’s largest rain forest.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Edited.]

Wednesday, 27 February 2013


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25 Innovative Alarm Clocks Designs
By Naaz,
Designs Mag, 16 January 2013.

It can be a daily struggle to get out of bed in the morning. Most of us will hit the snooze button a few times before we manage to get up which can often make us late for work and in a bad mood. However, a collection of designers have solved the answer to your problems and come up with this range of truly innovative alarm clocks. Whether you want to be woken up gradually in a soothing manner or to be woken up abruptly you will find an alarm clock suited to your needs. These designs are highly creative and this article showcases the best of the most innovative alarm clocks around.

1. Clocky

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This is a great idea for those who really struggle to get out of bed in the morning. Clocky has a set of wheels, which means that when it goes off, you will have to chase it around your room to make it stop.

2. The Wake Up Light

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For those who enjoy a gentler wake up, this Wake Up Light alarm clock from Phillips will gradually increase the light in your room for 30 minutes before you wake up. The natural light positively affects your energy hormones. It has been clinically proven to give you a more positive feeling when you wake up. It also uses an energy saving lamp and includes natural sounds to wake you up.

3. The Carpet Alarm Clock

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Another alarm clock designed to force you out of bed. This Carpet Alarm Clock will only stop once you apply full pressure to it by standing on the mat. The LED system will also activate to tell you the time.

4. Swan Teasmad

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One for tea-lovers, this Swan Teasmad alarm clock comes in-built with a kettle so you can enjoy a hot mug of tea the moment you wake up. Simply place your tea bag in the pot the night before, and fill with cold water and you will have a fresh brew to start off the day right.

5. Puzzle Alarm Clock

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The Puzzle Alarm Clock could be seriously annoying in the morning! When the alarm goes off, pieces of puzzle will shoot out of the clock which you have to put into the correct slot in order to turn it off. Sound very frustrating, but guaranteed to wake you up especially when the pieces land far away.

6. IQ Alarm Clock

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Only recommended for the brainy, this IQ Alarm Clock will test your IQ levels when you wake up. Get ready to be asked a series of three questions in order to shut it off. It also includes a tamper resistant battery case which proves very difficult to open for those trying to cheat the alarm!

7. The Snoozster

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For those of you who are used to staying in hotels and enjoy a wakeup call, the Snoozster is the alarm you need in your life! Just register online and schedule a call for the morning. You can select from a range of ‘friendly voices’ who will ring your phone until you wake up and answer it.

8. Wake N Bacon

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A must have for all the hung over students out there, the Wake N Bacon will fill your room with the delicious smell of bacon. Simply place some strips of bacon in the Teflon coated pan the night before, and the halogen bulb in the clock will light up to heat the bacon.

9. Lark Alarm Clock

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Constantly waking up to the sound of your partner’s alarm? Connected wirelessly to your iPhone, the Lark Alarm Clock is a sleep sensor that you can wear around your wrist. It silently vibrates when it’s time to wake you up, so it doesn’t disturb your partner. The vibration pattern changes every day and accordingly to experts means you won’t crash later in the day as you won’t experience the adrenaline rush given from a loud alarm clock.

10. SnuzNLuz

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Pay the price for not getting out of bed! Every time you hit the snooze button on this SnuzNLuz alarm clock, you donate money to a charity that you hate. The clock is connected up to your bank account and you can choose out of 6,200 charities to support. Choosing your least favourite charity will give you more motivation not to hit that snooze button.

11. OK to Wake!

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This OK to Wake! alarm clock handily tells your kids when it’s ok for them to wake you up! The light will change from yellow to green, to let them know when they can come to your room. Kids will take pride in waiting until the green light is on, and you will get some well-deserved rest.

12. SleepSmart

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Users wear a monitor that tracks your brain waves, and SleepSmart will wake up when you are in the lightest point of your sleep cycle. This will leave you feeling less groggy and tired than if you were woken up from a deep sleep. This in turn will hopefully make you more alert and have more energy for the rest of the day.

13. The Smile Alarm Clock

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Start the day off with a smile! The Smile Alarm Clock has facial recognition software which means you will have to smile at it to turn it off. Half smiles do not count!

14. glo Pillow

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This glo Pillow clock uses an LED system in your pillow to help to wake you up. The pillow will glow lighter as it gets closer to your wake up time. This is another natural way to wake you up that should leave you feeling refreshed. It also handily shows the time on the pillow surface.

15. Sfera Retracting Alarm Clock

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Attached to your ceiling, the Sfera clock is positioned just above your head, so it will be in easy reach when you wake up. However, every time you snooze it retracts further away and eventually you will have to stand up to turn it off.

16. iSleep Pillow

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Ever fallen asleep at your desk? The iSleep Pillow will inflate a pillow from your laptops exhaust vent to provide comfort and making sure you don’t crush your laptop when you fall asleep. It has an integrated speaker with an alarm sound to wake you up when you need. Although it’s a great idea it is only a concept at the moment so you won’t see it in the stores just yet.

17. Rubik’s Cube Alarm Clock

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This Rubik’s Cube Alarm Clock is based on the classic game, the Rubik’s cube. Putting a different spin on it, you have to twist the sides to change settings such as time, calendar and temperature.

18. Nobby

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This one-eyed alien is the Nobby, an interactive alarm clock that will speak back to you. You can ask him what time your alarm is set for and he will let you know. When it’s time to get up, he will wake you up with a nice message, before getting more aggressive as you keep hitting that snooze button. To stop him, ring his neck!

19. Fred-O-Vision Retro Alarm Clock

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This Fred-O-Vision retro alarm clock wakes you up with all the sounds from your favourite, classic TV shows. It also displays colour-changing patterns on its screen, designed to wake you up.

20. Voco Alarm Clock

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Be woken up by the classic sound of Stephen Fry. The Voco Alarm Clock, a typically British clock with a classic design, will ask you nicely “Excuse me Sir, I’m sorry to disturb you, but it appears to be morning…”

21. Radio Projection

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This design from Philips will project the time on the ceiling for an easy view. You can project the time anywhere around your room and it comes with a choice of alarm sounds to wake you up when the morning comes.

22. On-Off Alarm Clock

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A simple but effective design, this On-Off Alarm Clock is really easy to turn off. Tilt it one way to turn it on, and the other to turn it off. Comes in a range of colours.

23. The Zen Timepiece

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This Zen Timepiece is one for those who enjoy a tranquil environment. The brass bowl gong mechanism will fill your room with meditative sounds that will increase in frequency until you turn it off.

24. Genuine Hotrod Hardware

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Any motor racing fans out there will love this design. The Genuine Hotrod Hardware clock is shaped like a dashboard and when the alarm goes off all the coloured lights will lit up your room. As the lights countdown to green, the sounds of the racetrack come to life and will give you a noisy wake up call!

25. Peaceful Progression Wake Up Clock

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Exactly as the title suggests, this alarm clock wakes you up slowly and peacefully from your slumber. This involves increasingly light, stimulating aromas and nature sounds 30 minutes before you wake up. Then, gentle chimes will play and gradually get louder till you are fully awake.

Top image: IQ Alarm Clock

[Source: Designs Mag. Edited. Top image added.]