Marvelous multitasking gadgets, the sequel (pictures)

A dress that flies, a road that charges electric buses. Part two of Crave's series on multitasking gear digs up more examples of design versatility -- some practical, and some all-out weird.

Leslie Katz
1 of 10 Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Volantis dress

Why wear a plain old dress when you can wear one that doubles as a flying machine? We had so much fun putting together our collection of favorite multipurpose products last week that we decided to round up some more multitasking marvels.

Lady Gaga, she of the subtle fashion taste, demonstrated her Volantis flying dress earlier this month in Brooklyn, where assistants strapped her into the white, six-rotor "dress-copter" and sent her hovering a few feet above the ground. While the Volantis might not be the most practical (or comfortable) frock to wear into a packed nightclub, it might be the perfect outfit for a singing performance in space.

2 of 10 Fraxinus

Play a game, save a tree

Play the Facebook puzzle game Fraxinus, and you're not just matching colored shapes. You're helping scientists save endangered ash trees.

Chains of colored, leaf-shaped "letters" represent the nucleotides of both the trees and the chalara fraxinea fungus that's killing them at an alarming rate. By helping to sort the data into genetic sequences, you're doing your part to identify genetic variations that could hold clues to why some trees are vulnerable to the fungus.

"Each play of the game will contribute a small but useful analysis," said the UK Sainsbury Laboratory's Dan MacLean, one of the scientists who thought up the game.

Fraxinus, a puzzle game for the green set.

3 of 10 Smart PJs

Smart pajamas

"It's time for bed, Tommy. Brush your teeth, put on your PJs, and let's scan you."

Smart PJs don't just keep tykes warm. They keep them entertained. Called the world's "first and only interactive pajamas," the PJs require downloading a free app for iOS or Android and scanning one of dozens of codes from the Smart PJs with a smartphone or tablet. The device then reads aloud a story, sings a lullaby, or broadcasts pictures of animals or other bedtime-appropriate cuteness.

4 of 10 AIO Robotics

Zeus printer/copier

AIO Robotics' Zeus all-in-one 3D scanner, copier, and printer topped its $100,000 Kickstarter goal last month and will soon be available for preorder. Place an object inside Zeus, and the machine scans it and creates a copy. The $2,500 multitasking machine also has a fax function that lets users send a design from one Zeus to another. It's all controlled via a 7-inch touch screen that AIO Robotics says gives the device a "consumer friendly" look.

5 of 10 Lernstift

Lernstift pen

The Lernstift, another product now up for preorder, looks like a regular enough pen (remember those?), but it uses sensors and handwriting recognition software to catch spelling and grammatical errors and vibrates when it finds them. The little Linux-driven Lernstift will even shimmy if a calligraphic letter is written incorrectly or illegibly.
6 of 10 KAIST

Electric road

This South Korean road acts like an average thoroughfare -- except when it senses an Online Electric Vehicle (OLEV) overhead and turns into a vehicle charger. Electric cables under the road's surface create electromagnetic fields, while a receiving coil on the bus' underbody tuned to that frequency converts it to electricity, storing it in a small battery about a third of the size of a regular car battery.
7 of 10 Beauty Technology

Blink to charge

False eyelashes can really make the eyes stand out, and metal false eyelashes that work with conductive eyeliner can make things happen with the blink of the eye. Blinklifier, by Brazilian computer scientist Katia Vega, tracks the contraction of the eye muscles and the movement of the eyelid when a wearer blinks. "When the eyelashes touch each other, they close the circuit, sending the activation or deactivation signal," explains Crave writer Michelle Starr.

Blinklifier is one of several electronic-makeup creations by Vega, who has also embedded RFID tags and magnets into fake fingernails to enable gesture control with the wave of a hand.

8 of 10 Aerb

Mouse speaker

The Aerb Bluetooth Speaking Mouse isn't content just moving your cursor around. It doubles as a portable speaker, and triples as a speakerphone. And it comes in your choice of colors.
9 of 10 SWNS

Phone-holding prosthetic

Trevor Prideaux of the UK came up with the ultimate multitasking idea a couple of years back when he had a phone dock embedded right into his prosthetic arm. Thanks to his custom-made left forearm, it's much easier for him to text now that he no longer needs to balance his smartphone on his prosthetic arm or put the device on a flat surface.
10 of 10 Woven

Garb as gaming platform

Who needs an Xbox when you can just put on a sweatshirt and thrash your arms around? That's the idea behind Woven, a wearable gaming platform by Dutch designers Christiaan Ribbens and Patrick Kersten. They embedded a sweater and pair of jeans with a small Bluetooth module, speakers, motion sensors, shake motors, a three-color LED screen, and other gizmos to create their concept gaming platform. A trio of LilyPad Arduino microcontrollers process the data and operate the LEDs (and are, incidentally, washable).

A smartphone running the game/app wirelessly connects to the garb via Bluetooth and the speakers plug in to the phone's jack, with gameplay broadcast on the 12x12-inch LED belly display. Yeah, expect a few curious stares if this thing makes it into production.

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