Austrian researchers broke the world record for quickest printout of a three-dimensional object in the fast-evolving field of 3D printing.

Smaller than a grain of salt, 3D replicas of cathedrals, national landmarks and race cars were printed out layer by layer in about four minutes. Looking at the photo of the blown-up replicas (see video above), it’s hard to imagine these intricate details are on a nano-scale and not full-sized.

“Until now, this technique used to be quite slow,” said Professor Jürgen Stampfl from the Institute of Materials Science and Technology at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna). “The printing speed used to be measured in millimeters per second – our device can do five meters in one second.”

The researchers at TU Vienna used a process called two-photon-lithography. The technique utilizes plant resin that turns into a solid after being glazed over by a laser. The race car was made by placing 100 layers on top of one another.

The researchers say 3D printing is a product of mechanics and chemistry. A team of chemists at a lab developed the materials needed to activate the special resin.

The research team plans to take these innovations and hopefully use them in hospitals. Researchers want to apply the two-photon-lithography print process to make biological tissues.

Other 3D print-out innovations in recent months have included models of chocolate, a jawbone and miniature dinosaurs.

Would you use biological body parts or organs developed from 3D printing technologies? Tell us in the comments.

Image courtesy of the Vienna University of Technology

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Since 2010, New York City has strived to become a global digital leader. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and commissioner Katherine Oliver announced NYC Digital last July, with the mission to create a better civil society and stronger democracy with the use of technology – engaging, serving and connecting New York.

Rachel Sterne is the city’s first chief digital officer. Her goal at NYC Digital is to use technology and digital media to improve communication with residents and business and enhance government transparency.

Alongside Bloomberg, Sterne created Road Map for the Digital City, which outlines plans to make New York the world’s leading digital city.

“The state of the digital city was strong in New York when we began developing the roadmap,” says Sterne, who credits Bloomberg’s administration with digital development supporting efficiency, transparency and public engagement.

“But we are New Yorkers, and we don’t rest on our laurels. That’s why the Mayor decided we need a holistic digital roadmap to help New York City realize its full potential and raise the bar even higher.”

The road map is split into four strategic categories: Access to Technology, Open Government, Engagement and Industry.


Access


This year, Digital NYC provided Wi-Fi to more parks and public spaces across the five boroughs. It also strengthened support for more broadband choices. In September, for the first time ever, six different subway stations began to offer cellphone service.

According to the road map, the next steps will be providing education and outreach. Linking with NYC Connected initiatives, the city hopes to provide high-needs individuals with federally funded broadband.


Open Government


Initiatives for the Open Government platform were fully completed in 2011. NYC Digital developed an OpenData API platform, which supplies hundreds of sets of public data produced by agencies and organizations. You can find visualizations and datasets on New York at the NYC Digital Tumblr.

In addition, nine official NYC apps were created for iOS, including NYC 311, NYC City Hall and NYC Media. This year, the Department of Transportation will release an Android version of its official app, which provides New Yorkers with safe transportation choices.

“The mobile web will be a very strong focus for 2012,” says Sterne, “as it is not specific to a platform and helps us to reach even more New Yorkers.”


Engagement


“Reinvent NYC.gov,” the city’s first-ever hackathon, was attended by developers and designers from across the U.S. Since then, there has been an independent hackathon nearly every week, led by experts at the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

According to Sterne, this was one of the biggest milestones in the process of the roadmap.

“As powerful as the digital medium is, there is something special about getting together in the same place with a shared mission. In the case of the Reinvent NYC.GOV hackathon, that mission was to imagine the future of how city government can engage with the public through its website.”

Over the past year, more than 250 social media channels were created, resulting in more than 1.5 million followers. When Hurricane Irene hit the east coast in August, the city responded in real time with emergency alerts on Facebook, 311 tweets and live video streaming. During the hurricane, an unprecedented amount of traffic throttled the city’s servers, a range of third-party apps became vital for those in need of locating an evacuation zone.

“By opening up its data, the City enabled developers around the world to help us serve the public, and the results were that we served 10-20 times as many people than we would have otherwise.”


Industry


One of the biggest announcements this year was the partnership between Technicon and Cornell. Together, led by deputy mayor Robert Steel and Seth Pinksy of the New York Economic Development Corporation, a new engineering campus will be built on Roosevelt Island. Sterne says this will be “powering innovation for generations to come.”

Mayor Bloomberg also introduced new immigration services for startups in October at the New York Tech Meetup. The city is currently judging entries from software developers for the best new apps that utilize the city’s open data to help residents, visitors and businesses.

Lastly, NYC Digital forged partnerships that serve the public with Bitly, Buddy Media, Facebook, Foursquare, General Assembly, Google, Tumblr and Twitter.


What the Future Holds For NYC Digital


According to Sterne, the roadmap (as it currently stands) is on schedule to meet all of its goals by mid 2013. However, NYC Digital will continue to introduce new goals as existing ones are achieved, so the timeline will evolve.

The city is starting off 2012 with a comprehensive redesign of NYC.gov, working alongside the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

“We see an opportunity to completely re-think the way New Yorkers interact with their government online, and we are thrilled that we were able to kick off the process in an open, participatory way with the Reinvent NYC.GOV hackathon we hosted with General Assembly in August.”

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, rabbit75_ist

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The future of books may be here. Augmented reality book Between Page and Screen is an innovative art project that seeks to renew the reading experience by combining the physicality of a printed book with the technology of Adobe Flash to create a virtual love story.

To see the technology in action, you simply lay the 44-page hardcover across a laptop with a webcam and words will suddenly appear, spin and rattle. Turn the page to experience the wordless book of poems and see the future of interactive reading.

Poet Amaranth Borsuk and developer Brad Bouse, creators of Between Page and Screen, started exploring augmented reality after seeing a business card developed with similar technology. A simple geometric pattern on the card once held up to a camera would turn up the card owner’s face.

SEE ALSO: Augmented Reality Business Card Comes to Life [VIDEO]

Borsuk, whose background is in book art and writing, and Bouse, developing his own startup, were mesmerized by the technology. The married duo combined their separate love of writing and technology to create this augmented reality art project that would explore the relationship between handmade books and digital spaces.

The book is full of wordplay between the characters P and S. Expect a lot of movement and the fun of a pop-up book designed for adults.

“It is actually pretty fun,” said Bouse, who described seeing people experiencing augmented reality with a book for the first time. “Amaranth has been invited to do presentations. When she opens the book and people see the letters pop up [on screen] for the first time there’s always a initial gasp.”

People shake the book, turn the page and appear to really enjoy the experience, said the authors.

The book’s animation, which helps propel the written love story along, was written in Flash. Between Page and Screen uses FLARToolKit to project images from book, using Robot Legs framework, 3D-effects of Papervision, BetweenAS3 animation and JibLib Flash.

Any computer with a webcam can play the book, which will be published in April. However, the augmented reality book is ready for pre-order at SiglioPress.com.

The authors created this book as an art project, but we’re wondering if you’d be interested in a broader augmented reality book selection. Let us know in the comments.

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The future of manufacturing and design relies on a printer that costs up to $60,000. MIT Media Lab professor Neri Oxman and materials science professor Craig Carter have created machinery that makes 3D printing of buildings and other structural prototypes a reality.

One of the latest examples of 3D printing is a 6-inch cube sculpture that says “Making the Future.” Check out the process in the Mashable video above. The inkjet hovers over a flat surface and creates the cube from the bottom up, layer by layer. The biology-inspired printer consists of mounted inkjet heads that deposit plastic layers to form an object. Another laser-based model uses metal powder to make durable airplane creations.

SEE ALSO: Will 3D Printing End Mass Manufacturing? [PICS]

The result of these 3D processes is better design, because it allows for the stretching of one’s creative mind. Designers can go from working with hard plywood, sheets of glass, steel beams and concrete to working with materials and molds that are 100% malleable.

So, what’s the science behind these printers of the new age? These machines rely on algorithms that make shapes with the “unmixing of two fluids” — a combination of thermodynamics and material kinetics. The lab continues to develop new kinds of 3D printers and perfect these models.

What do you think the effect of these new printers will be? Are you an artist or designer willing to use 3D printing?

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