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What Happened to Ford's Magic Skyway?

From the Ford Mustang to "It’s a Small World," the 1964 World’s Fair in New York was home to many attractions whose legacies would extend far beyond the Fair's gates. One that didn’t: Ford’s Magic Skyway.

Designed by Disney Imagineers, the ride entertained visitors while simultaneously exposing them to new vehicles fresh off the Ford assembly line. The cars were affixed to a track which took riders on a journey through time, all the way back to the age of the dinosaurs. After watching dinos peacefully graze on vegetation and witnessing a battle between a stegosaurus and a tyrannosaurus, riders saw humans create fire and invent the wheel. This, of course, is where Ford comes in. From the invention of the wheel, folks aboard the ride traveled along the “Highway in the Sky” to “Space City,” a futuristic town full of Ford creations.

At the end, Walt Disney himself appeared via voiceover to give Ford a little plug, saying,

“This is Walt Disney speaking. Our Space City is a distant dream. But all such dreams must begin in the minds of men. Men like the scientists, engineers and automotive designers of Ford Motor Company. I hope you enjoyed our show and your ride on The Magic Skyway in a new Ford product as much as I've enjoyed the Fords I have driven through the years. Now step out and see a world where tomorrow is being created today."

As the largest Disney-designed attraction at the Fair at 273,000 square feet, and also one of the most popular, Disney expected Ford to have plans for the Magic Skyway after the Fair, whether it was at Ford headquarters in Michigan or as a sponsored pavilion at Disneyland. The Sherman Brothers even wrote a catchy song for the brand:

But Ford executives passed on moving the Magic Skyway to Dearborn, choosing only to keep “The Auto Parts Harmonic Orchestra,” a collection of real, working musical instruments made from Ford parts and pieces.

And though the pavilion at Disneyland didn't pan out either, Disney did salvage two things from the ride: The dinosaurs found a new home in the Primeval World diorama along the Disneyland Railroad, and the track system concept was used to create the WEDWay PeopleMover ride at Disneyland just a few years later.

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Courtesy Umbrellium
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Design
These LED Crosswalks Adapt to Whoever Is Crossing
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Courtesy Umbrellium

Crosswalks are an often-neglected part of urban design; they’re usually just white stripes on dark asphalt. But recently, they’re getting more exciting—and safer—makeovers. In the Netherlands, there is a glow-in-the-dark crosswalk. In western India, there is a 3D crosswalk. And now, in London, there’s an interactive LED crosswalk that changes its configuration based on the situation, as Fast Company reports.

Created by the London-based design studio Umbrellium, the Starling Crossing (short for the much more tongue-twisting STigmergic Adaptive Responsive LearnING Crossing) changes its layout, size, configuration, and other design factors based on who’s waiting to cross and where they’re going.

“The Starling Crossing is a pedestrian crossing, built on today’s technology, that puts people first, enabling them to cross safely the way they want to cross, rather than one that tells them they can only cross in one place or a fixed way,” the company writes. That means that the system—which relies on cameras and artificial intelligence to monitor both pedestrian and vehicle traffic—adapts based on road conditions and where it thinks a pedestrian is going to go.

Starling Crossing - overview from Umbrellium on Vimeo.

If a bike is coming down the street, for example, it will project a place for the cyclist to wait for the light in the crosswalk. If the person is veering left like they’re going to cross diagonally, it will move the light-up crosswalk that way. During rush hour, when there are more pedestrians trying to get across the street, it will widen to accommodate them. It can also detect wet or dark conditions, making the crosswalk path wider to give pedestrians more of a buffer zone. Though the neural network can calculate people’s trajectories and velocity, it can also trigger a pattern of warning lights to alert people that they’re about to walk right into an oncoming bike or other unexpected hazard.

All this is to say that the system adapts to the reality of the road and traffic patterns, rather than forcing pedestrians to stay within the confines of a crosswalk system that was designed for car traffic.

The prototype is currently installed on a TV studio set in London, not a real road, and it still has plenty of safety testing to go through before it will appear on a road near you. But hopefully this is the kind of road infrastructure we’ll soon be able to see out in the real world.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Hoversurf
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technology
Dubai Plans to Outfit Police Force With Hoverbikes
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Hoversurf

Dubai is home to plenty of flashy fashion and architecture, and it has over-the-top police gear to match. The department already is outfitted with some of the fastest cars on the streets, including a Ferrari and a Lamborghini. Now, Autoblog reports that police officers in the United Arab Emirates city are getting hoverbikes to access hard-to-reach places.

The bikes, which were developed by the Russian startup Hoversurf, debuted in early October at the Gulf Information Technology Exposition (GITEX) in Dubai. Like Hoversurf’s Scorpion-3 hoverbike, the police version is battery-powered and uses propellers at each corner to float like a drone. The newly-released model can reach maximum altitudes of 16 feet and move at speeds of up to 43 mph. Though the quadcopter can only carry one passenger at a time, it can withstand weights of up to 660 pounds. A fully charged battery is enough to fuel a 25-minute ride.

The futuristic addition to the force’s fleet of vehicles isn’t designed for chasing bad guys. Rather, the city hopes to use it to reach out-of-the-way spots during emergencies. If there’s a car wreck at the end of a traffic jam, for example, the Scorpion hoverbike could simply fly over the congestion and reach the scene faster than the department could with cars on the ground.

While cities around the world are still figuring out how low-flying drones and vehicles fit into pedestrian areas, Dubai has been quick to embrace the technology. In 2015, the city invested in jetpacks for first responders. While it's still unclear when the gadgets will be used in an official capacity, the CEO of Hoversurf has confirmed that mass production of the bikes is already underway.

[h/t Autoblog]

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