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A Look Back at the Future: This Week in Tech - April 15, 2016

The New Shepard coming in for a landing

The VOA science and technology team is always on the lookout for the coolest newest 'stuff,' be it the products, video or just something that caught our eye we want to share.

This week we want to show off four things that made us stop and look, scratch our heads, say 'wow' and then look again.

It's Got a Motor, Don't Tell Anyone:

Vanmoof's new series of electrical assisted bikes don't look the part. They're part of a new generation of electric assist bikes that add some push to your pedaling as you work to get around on two wheels.

But this new bike, which comes in 7 'series' - from no gears to 8 - and a few styles, has some bells and whistles that deserve a mention.

First, they have included what they call an "integrated chain lock" in partnership with Abus that lives inside the frame of the bike. There's also an app you can incorporate into your smartphone that can lock and unlock the chain, based on fingerprint recognition.

Finally, it's just cool-looking, with a light built into the frame, and sturdy stainless steel construction.

The specs say you can get an electric assist to travel up to 60 km on a fully charged battery, which we sincerely hope is beyond the range of anyone's daily bike commute.

Never Go Thirsty

And while you're riding, take a swig of water from your new Fontus Ryde water bottle (see the video here).

This amazing little gadget literally sucks the water out of the air and fills itself as you ride.

It's solar powered, looks great, and the company says under the right conditions, it can harvest as much as a half liter of water every hour.

There's also a version for hikers.

It's an amazing little device.

Cool for hikers and bikers, but the real game changer may be its use in the growing areas of the world that are feeling the pinch of water insecurity.

Plus, can anyone say 'stillsuit'? ( for non-geeks it's from DUNE, do yourself a favor and go read it.)

Wait! That's Not On the Ingredients List

If we are what we eat, then we owe it to ourselves to know what we're eating, right?

That makes sense, but what if you REALLY want to know what you're eating? Well then, we've got the tool for you.

It's a tiny little optical sensor that you can hook up to your smartphone and from there, simply point and shoot for more information than you ever imagined.

It's called a SCiO and it's really incredibly simple. The handheld sensor built by a company called Consumer Physics shoots a beam of light onto an object, sends the info up from the beam into the Cloud, which sends you back its chemical composition and a whole host of interesting - and even useful - factoids.

Point it at an apple, and it will give you the calorie count. Point it at a plant in your garden, and SCiO will tell you if it's watering time.

Point it at your double latte espresso mocha, and you'll know how much fat is in that grande.

But SCIO isn't stopping there. The company plans on using the information gathered by SCiO's around the world to develop what they call a "Database of Matter," which sounds a bit sinister but we're sure it will only be used for good.

What Goes Up

Finally, let's just stop and take a look at the New Shepard spacecraft as it makes an on-the-dime landing in the West Texas Badlands.

The Shepard is the rocket designed by Blue Origin, the aerospace manufacturing firm funded by founder Jeff Bezos.

The goal, according to Bezos, is to dramatically lower the cost, reliability and accessibility of space travel.

But as we've learned through spectacular failure, shooting something into the air isn't so hard. Getting it back to earth safely? Very hard! Especially if, like Bezos, you want your rocket to be reusable.

But his New Shepard spacecraft is getting the job done.

Most recently, on April 2nd of this year, the team launched the Blue Origin and then forced it into a quick re-entry, firing the landing rockets just a bit over 100 meters above ground.

As you can see, it looked a bit wobbly for a moment but then landed like a champ.

If you want to hitch a ride to see the big blue ball we call home, get in line. Bezos says space tourism is a big part of his plan, but when you'll be able to buy a ticket... well, let's just say there are lots of potential spacepeople who are hoping for sooner rather than later.