Among the other green furnishings on display in Kortrijk was Marjan van Aubel's solar panel-clad table, which delivers power to an integrated USB charging port. Etienne Reijnders took upcycling to a whole new level by transforming a pair of shopping carts into a sofa. In wearable tech news, a team of researchers developed a $60 wristband that enables blind people to navigate using sonar. Watch company Sprout launched a new line of eco-friendly watches that are made from corn resin, bamboo, cork, organic cotton, mother of pearl and conflict-free diamonds. And in a not-so-subtle statement about air pollution, fashion designers in China have begun incorporating gas masks into their designs at China Fashion Week.
It was a long time coming, but lower Manhattan's $1.4 billion Fulton Transit Center finally opened to subway passengers last week. The LEED-seeking structure features a giant glass oculus that draws daylight into the building. In other transportation news, Swiss daredevil Francois Gissy broke the bicycle speed record by hitting 207 MPH on a rocket-powered bike. There's nothing fancy about the bike (other than the rocket strapped to the back, of course) -- it's just a bicycle with a saddle to keep the rider from flying off. Speaking of bikes, the Netherlands just launched the world's most beautiful bike path -- a swirling, glow-in-the-dark road that sparkles like Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night paintings. Air travel currently produces about 5 percent of all CO2 emissions, but the geniuses at NASA are working to develop new technology that could reduce that figure. NASA scientists recently tested new shape-shifting flaps for airplanes that appear to be more aerodynamic than conventional aluminum flaps.
London's River Thames could soon see a 1,200-foot-long, garden-filled pedestrian bridge. The "Garden Bridge" is a planted promenade with winding pathways elevated atop two fluted piers. The lush bridge was recently given the green light by London's Lambeth Council, but it's still awaiting approval from Westminster City Council. In other green design news, a team of students recently built a cloud-like translucent treehouse in southern Germany. The structure is made of breathable white polyester, and at night it's illuminated from within. Libraries should be places that kids associate with fun, and in that spirit the design firm Anagrama recently built a new children's library in Mexico with bookshelves that double as climbing structures. In Australia, designers from Neon recently installed a temporary art installation called the House of Mirrors, which is designed to disappear into the environment. The installation uses reflective surfaces to blur the line between the built and natural environment. And in San Francisco, Interstice Architects transformed a former auto-repair garage into a flexible, sunlit space that is any maker's dream workspace.
In Japan, the tech industry is turning over a green leaf as flourishing indoor farms sprout in former factories. So far, farms have popped up in Sony and Fujitsu buildings, and now Toshiba is getting on board with a factory farm that can produce 3 million bags of lettuce every year. Love gardening, but cursed with the brownest of brown thumbs? Thanks to the folks behind the world's first socially operated, indoor greenhouse, you may never have to lift a finger. The automated greenhouse lets you control all the key parameters recommended for plant growth, such as light cycles, ventilation, temperature, irrigation and soil pH. Continuing with the agriculture beat, European leaders have voted to allow individual nations to ban GM crops, even if they're approved by the European Union. Things are moving in the opposite direction in the US: Last week, the USDA approved a genetically engineered potato, known as the Innate Potato. The new GM potato has "40 percent less bruise" than regular potatoes, and it doesn't turn brown after it's cut. And in some lighter news, people are getting so lost in the world's largest corn maze, they're calling police for help. The maze, located between San Francisco and Sacramento, spans 63 acres -- and it normally takes four hours to complete.