Yesterday we attended NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program Spring 2008 show, where graduate students were exhibiting dozens of fascinating and forward-thinking projects. There were far too many new inventions and computer programs to feature them all here, so we'll be posting about just a few of our favorites over the next couple of days.
Above is Oscar G. Torres's Helios Power Tree. Its leaves are made from thin solar cells that are linked, through the branches and trunk, to a large battery at the tree's base. That battery, which relies only on solar power to charge, powers blue lights that shine around the tree. More importantly, the tree is meant to sit in a public space so that you can use the solar energy that it collects to charge any of your USB-powered gadgets via a hub at the tree's base.
The pictures above and below are of a small-scale but fully-functional model, made in Styrofoam. When you touch one of the branches, you feel feedback in the form of a charge that runs through the tree (yes, we tried it and no, it doesn't hurt). Torres hopes to build full, tree-sized models of Helios out of more sustainable materials and put them in urban parks, where they'll serve as attractive but also very useful public art.