Anyone who has been to Festo's stand at the Hannover Fair in Hannover, Germany knows to expect an amazing, technological "wow factor" combined with a certain, well, silliness. From pneumatic-powered "moon boots" to a bionic hand with realistic, articulating fingers that you can shake (watch the grip!) to a series of automated mops sweeping furiously like something out of Disney's Fantasia, the show that Festo engineers put on is always entertaining. The company's recent press conference was no exception either. It was the venue for the reprise of the "Airfish," a helium-filled, remote-controlled, dirigible-like flying machine that Festo first introduced a few years ago. Designed by the firm Effekt-Technik, the unmanned, 7.5m-long airfish employs a series of remote-controlled fans that can be oriented accordingly for lift, pitch, yaw, and roll control. In this way, inventor (and engineer) Rainer Mugrauer could control what is essentially a helium-filled balloon with at least a modicum of precision. For effect (or maybe by accident, who could tell?), he sent the airfish into a Kamikaze-like dive onto the stage, prompting Dr. Eberhard Veit, director of product and technology management, to recoil in mock horror at the attack. Festo engineers promise more merriment—and some pretty cool serious stuff as well—at their stand at this year's Hannover Fair (April 11-15, 2005). Check out the show details at www.hannovermesse.de.
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