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From space suits to sci-fi suburbia: the future, in photos

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Sometimes photos can tell stories that words fail to express. Here is a handpicked collection of The Verge's favorite photo essays depicting the future and the future's past.

  • Jacob Kastrenakes

    Mar 18, 2014

    Jacob Kastrenakes

    A closer look at Google's gorgeous smartwatches

    Google is finally ready to say what a smartwatch should look like. Earlier today, it gave a first peek at Android Wear, a version of its mobile operating system designed specifically for wearable devices. So far, Google has shown quite a bit of what shape the OS will take when it comes to watches in particular: it imagines Android Wear running on both square and circular displays, and it relies heavily on Google Now to augment the simple swipes that control it.

    In Google's vision, a smartwatch is focused on a single task at once, but is often displaying two different things. Critical information is placed on the bottom of the screen, while a contextual background usually appears above it. In some cases, rich information appears in the background too: when using a map, Google Maps will appear in the background while route information is shown on the larger bottom portion of the display.

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  • Dan Seifert

    Mar 11, 2014

    Dan Seifert

    Finding the perfect mirrorless camera in the Fujifilm X-T1

    The Fujifilm X-T1 is a mirrorless camera built with the serious photographer in mind. It has a compact body with lots of physical controls and the best electronic viewfinder ever built. It also takes some killer photos.

    With a $1,299.99 starting price, the X-T1 isn't the camera for the casual photographer. But for the discerning and demanding type, it's hard to beat. Be sure to check out our full review for more, and scroll down to see the X-T1 up close and personal and some of our favorite shots taken with it.

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  • Moon shots: the far-out space suits of past, present, and future

    Space suits have come a long way since they were first used to protect pilots venturing just outside the earth, but they still have quite a ways to go. For decades now, the American and Russian space programs have been improving astronauts' suits little by little, making them safer, more maneuverable, and better equipped for emergencies.

    But they're still far from perfect: no suit is truly easy to put on or move around in, and that's something that space agencies and private institutions will have to contend with if they really want to give astronauts the chance to explore the moon or Mars. From some of the first suits to an almost science-fiction dream of the future, here's where the space suit started and where some of the most incredible experiments show that they’re going.

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  • Aaron Souppouris

    Feb 21, 2014

    Aaron Souppouris

    'Tron' designer creates a real-world superbike

    Lotus has a new superbike called the C-01. Designed by Daniel Simon, whose work you'll know from Tron: Legacy, Oblivion, and Captain America, the bike balances the Lotus form of old with a decidedly modern finish.

    Although Simon is better known for his concept work, and the C-01 certainly looks like a designer's wild fantasy, the bike will actually go on sale: the British company plans to produce 100 in partnership with German manufacturer Kodewa. Previously, the two companies worked together on a number of auto-racing projects.

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  • Sean Hollister

    Jan 26, 2014

    Sean Hollister

    BlueShark: where the US Navy dreams up the battleship interfaces of tomorrow

    Yes, the US Navy has an Oculus Rift. More than one, in fact. In Washington, DC, and Marina Del Rey, CA, two parallel laboratories are using virtual reality headsets to help the Navy dream up the next generation of interfaces. With them, future war-fighters could drive a ship with full three-dimensional awareness of their surroundings, or repair high-tech ship parts while collaborating with their designer in real-time, thousands of miles away.

    But BlueShark, a joint initiative between the Swampworks division of the Office of Naval Research and the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, isn't actually about virtual reality per se. According to Mark Bolas, one of the USC project directors, VR is the place where the Navy can reach out and touch user interfaces which might not be practical to build this decade, let alone this year, because technologies like holographic displays and augmented reality windows don't yet exist at scale. "But we can mock them all up in the head-mounted display," says Bolas.

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  • David Pierce

    Jan 24, 2014

    David Pierce

    The Mac turns 30: a visual history

    In addition to everything else, the first Macintosh was funny. On January 24th, 1984, 30 years ago today, Steve Jobs first revealed the computer he’d been talking about so much onstage at the Flint Center at DeAnza College in Cupertino, and he let it speak for itself.

    27-year-old Jobs was all but unrecognizable from the turtleneck-wearing, polished presenter he would become. With long black hair, a gray suit that appears too large, and a green bow tie, he looks like a hippie dressed up for a relative’s wedding. As he unzips an odd, cooler-sized bag and pulls out a Macintosh with one hand, he appears less confident than relieved. Even moments before he took the stage, then-CEO John Sculley told CNET, Jobs was panicked: “I’m scared shitless,” he told Sculley. “This is the most important moment of my life.”

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  • Alexander Thompson

    Jan 14, 2014

    Alexander Thompson

    How to build the world's most amazing space telescope

    The Hubble Telescope has given us astonishing images of distant stars, but despite its accomplishments, it has a limited view of the heavens. Scientists and engineers are hard at work on a larger, more powerful successor — the James Webb Space Telescope. Hubble has had an impressive run — it’s been used to detect clouds on distant planets, find evidence of planets with glass rain, and image a star near the end of its life — but the Webb will be able to do more. The researchers behind Webb hope to probe the early universe by gathering some of the earliest, most distant light. And engineers building the telescope have recently completed a major milestone: finishing and delivering the mirrors that will be pieced together for Webb’s huge primary mirror.

    That mirror will be a stunning a 21 feet high, made of 18 smaller hexagonal mirrors. It’ll be used to help the telescope capture images of the night sky and also break down the spectrum of the incoming light to analyze properties of galaxies, stars, and even exoplanet atmospheres. The Webb venture isn’t just an American endeavor, but is part of an international collaboration that includes NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency.

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  • Adrianne Jeffries

    Dec 22, 2013

    Adrianne Jeffries

    Tomorrow's robots drive, climb, and drill through walls at DARPA trials

    This weekend 17 teams headed down to Homestead, Florida to compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials, a gauntlet of eight tasks designed to test robots that could aid after natural disasters.

    The tasks included driving a vehicle, traversing uneven terrain, climbing a ladder, clearing debris, opening a series of doors, drilling through a wall, opening a valve, and reeling a hose. Teams either built their own robots or wrote software to run on a Boston Dynamics Atlas robot.

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  • Nov 28, 2013

    Vlad Savov

    Shenzhen's new airport terminal puts the wonder back into flight

    Located just to the north of Hong Kong, Shenzhen enjoys the rare status of being a Special Economic Zone in the People's Republic of China. Holding that designation for over three decades now, the area has become a breeding ground for small electronics businesses and a big attraction for foreign investment. With its rapid growth comes the need for improved infrastructure, which is why China is today inaugurating a third terminal to the local Bao'an International Airport.

    Designed by the Italian Studio Fuksas, Terminal 3 has been shaped to look like a manta ray, "a fish that breathes and changes its own shape, undergoes variations, [and] turns into a bird to celebrate the emotion and fantasy of a flight." That theme of breathing and openness is carried on by a honeycomb of skylights perforating the new terminal's steel skin and a set of stylized "trees" that disguise the air conditioning apparatus. The hexagonal shapes and honeycomb theme are then subtly reiterated throughout the three-floor, 500,000-square-meter facility.

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  • Sam Byford

    Nov 21, 2013

    Sam Byford

    The far-out concepts of Tokyo Motor Show

    Every two years, the automotive world descends on Tokyo to present its vision for the vehicles we'll be driving in years to come. 2013 is the 43rd Tokyo Motor Show, and a host of carmakers from around the world such as BMW, Tesla, and Mercedes-Benz joined the likes of Honda, Toyota, and Nissan on their home turf.

    Perhaps not surprisingly, there has been a heavy focus on electric vehicles at this year's show, with most manufacturers having some form of hybrid or electric model on hand. And, with eyes firmly looking forward, some companies have used the opportunity to show off some of the most unusual designs we've ever seen on ostensibly road-legal vehicles, such as Nissan's BladeGlider (above). Read on to see these, along with some traditional supercars, unorthodox farm equipment, and a few nods to the past.

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  • Dante D'Orazio

    Oct 19, 2013

    Dante D'Orazio

    Eight miles of water: underground with Manhattan's new aquatic lifeline

    New Yorkers will proudly tell you that the city has some of the finest tap water that you can find. But for nearly a century, all of Manhattan has been served by a single water tunnel that hasn’t been shut down for maintenance since it first opened in 1917. That’s no longer the case. The city has finally completed work on a water tunnel designed to provide some redundancy to Manhattan’s lifeline.

    The tunnel runs 500 feet below the surface and is 12 feet in diameter. The section activated this week runs for 8.5 miles, serving all of Manhattan below Central Park. Ten separate shafts, each about a mile apart, use pressure alone to bring the water up to local distribution systems closer to the surface. Meanwhile, an earlier stage of the water tunnel completed in 1993 brings water 13 miles down from Yonkers, which lies just north of the city limits. In all a total of 82 million cubic feet of soil and rock has been removed from under the city — enough to fill Madison Square Garden 200 times. An astounding 30 million cubic feet of concrete has been poured to line the tunnels. A total of 24 "sandhogs," the term given to the men behind many of the city's legendary urban mining projects, have died to complete work on the latest tunnel.

    Construction on this massive project to build Water Tunnel 3 (Tunnel 2 serves outer boroughs Queens and Brooklyn) has been underway, in fits and starts, since 1970. A total of $4.7 billion has been spent to bring a second water tunnel to Manhattan, with $2.7 billion of that funding coming under Mayor Bloomberg’s administration since 2003. That makes it one of the city’s largest public works projects ever.

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  • Chris Ziegler

    Sep 29, 2013

    Chris Ziegler

    The amazing products of Weird Sony

    For all its successes (and failures) over the decades as a mainstream consumer electronics company, Sony has always cultivated an alter ego — a weird place where crazy, off-kilter designs and product ideas have been allowed to come to market, even when they're anything but a guaranteed commercial success. This is Weird Sony.

    To commemorate the launch of Weird Sony's latest products — the QX10 and QX100 lens cameras — we wanted to take a walk back through some of the most amazing, bizarre, and unlikely devices that the company has ever made. Some have helped shape the industry, some have helped shape Sony, and some have simply come and gone. All, needless to say, are weird.

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  • Jacob Kastrenakes

    Sep 20, 2013

    Jacob Kastrenakes

    Alien frontier: see the haunting, beautiful weirdness of Mars

    Mounted to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as it floats high above the red planet is the HiRISE telescope, an imaging device capable of taking incredibly high-resolution photos of the martian landscape. It's sent back nearly 30,000 photos during its time above the planet, which have been used by NASA to find clear landing spots for rovers, and by researchers to learn more about the features of Mars' surface.

    The stunning views captured by HiRISE have inspired a book from the publisher Aperture, called This is Mars, which includes 150 of its finest looks at the planet. The entire collection is in black and white, however, as that's how HiRISE's images naturally turn out.

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  • Adi Robertson

    Sep 19, 2013

    Adi Robertson

    Even the trees are watching: collecting the Stasi's hidden cameras and secret radios

    In January of 1990, demonstrators stormed the headquarters of East Germany's secret police, the Stasi. Breaking into the building, they recovered reams of documents detailing the agency's extraordinary surveillance of citizens, though many had already been frantically shredded by Stasi officials. The new government declared that the sacked Stasi headquarters should be renovated as a memorial, and the center now known as the Stasi museum opened its doors not long after German reunification. In a fascinating photo essay, programmer Egor Egorov captures the spy technology preserved in the museum, from camera-filled watering cans to hastily smashed hidden microphones — all meant to be used alongside the Stasi's meticulous disguises. A few of the many photographs have been reproduced below, all courtesy of Egorov.

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  • Dante D'Orazio

    Aug 27, 2013

    Dante D'Orazio

    Incredible paintings of sci-fi suburbia will make you wish you were Swedish

    Welcome to rural Sweden, sometime in the late '80s. Citizens go about their mundane lives and children explore the countryside. But something isn't quite right. Robots and hovercrafts are commonplace, and decaying science facilities sprout from the harsh Scandinavian landscape. There's even a rumor circulating that dinosaurs have returned from the dead after some failed experiment.

    This is the world that exists in artist Simon Stålenhag's mind, and it's only accessible through his paintings. The alternate universe he's created is inspired by the sci-fi movies he watched as a kid growing up in the rural areas around Stockholm. As he explains to The Verge, "The only difference in the world of my art and our world is that ... ever since the early 20th century, attitudes and budgets were much more in favor of science and technology." So boxy Volvos, Volkswagens, and Mercedes share the landscape with robots. But science has lost some of its luster. In Sweden, a massive government science facility (equipped with an underground particle collider, of course) is long past its glory days in the field of "experimental physics." Despite developments in robotics and "anti-grav" technology, the difficulties of the modern human experience haven't changed.

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  • Jun 19, 2013

    Vlad Savov

    The Large Hadron Collider in pictures: using big technology to investigate tiny things

    "You're pushing the Higgs too much."

    Such has been Peter Higgs' admonishment to the CERN communications department in recent times. The British theoretical physicist, who has contributed both his work and name to the prediction of an elementary particle called the Higgs boson, is unhappy to have the Large Hadron Collider so closely associated with the search for it. Having now established that particle's existence to a high degree of certainty — there's only a one in 10 million chance that CERN’s observations are not the result of the Higgs boson — the LHC is running the risk of being perceived as an expensive one-trick pony that's already completed its objective.

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  • Sam Byford

    Jan 28, 2013

    Sam Byford

    NASA's Space Food Systems lab shows what astronauts really eat in orbit

    NASA's Space Food Systems Laboratory is where the agency researches, tests, and produces food fit for consumption outside of the Earth's atmosphere. Everything from the packaging to the menu has to be meticulously evaluated; the food must balance nutrition, flavor, and safety with more practical concerns such as preparation time, size, and a shelf life of three to five years.

    Space food plays another role, too — according to NASA, it "not only provides nutrition for astronauts, but also enhances the psychological well-being of the crew by establishing a familiar element in an unfamiliar and hostile environment."

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  • Jan 4, 2013

    Laura June and David Pierce

    Incredible photos from the CES vault: 1967 to 2014

    In 2013, the official attendance numbers for CES – the Consumer Electronics Show – were just over 150,000, down from 2012, which saw the highest ever (156,000) according to the Consumer Electronics Association, the professional organization that produces CES. Behind the scenes of the massive, multi-day show held every January in Las Vegas, though, many industry insiders and media have been whispering of the “death of CES” – and large tech trade shows in general – for several years now. Less hyperbolically, the industry is certainly undergoing a lot of changes, and huge shows with dozens of major product launches can seem less important than they have in years past. Many companies have scaled back the number of products they launch each year, and often have their own launch events to maximize attention and press coverage. Over its 46 year history, however, CES’s attendance numbers have grown steeply, and this year’s CES, will likely be attended in larger numbers than ever before. As we move toward CES 2015, we decided to take a retrospective look at the history of the industry’s largest trade show. Here are some fantastic and weird photos of CES through the years.Editor's note: Originally published in January of 2012, this feature was updated on January 3, 2015.

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  • Dec 3, 2012

    Jeff Blagdon and Sam Byford

    Iron Giant: Up close with Kuratas, the $1.4 million, 4-ton mech robot

    "When I was a kid, I thought there were going to be giant robots in the future. But no matter how long I waited, people were only able to make small robots, like Asimo. Eventually, I thought ‘I can’t wait anymore,’ and set out to make one myself." Kogoro Kurata is the designer and blacksmith behind the gargantuan 4-ton mech standing in front of me. Named after its creator, Kuratas is the product of nearly three years of forging, hammering, and coding. The robot’s expressionless face towers over the crowd atop its 13-foot frame. I picture its diesel-powered hydraulic arms ripping apart the building’s steel girders.

    Steel is Kurata’s specialty, both for his day job as a blacksmith, and for his "hobby." Inspired by the plastic models from a 1980s anime series called Votoms, he initially got noticed for building a life-sized steel model of one of the program’s Armored Troopers. His next project was a natural extension. "I made Kuratas wondering ‘what would it be like if this thing actually moved?’"

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  • Oct 17, 2012

    Verge Staff

    Behind the mask: being yourself as someone else at New York Comic Con

    One of the best parts of any New York Comic Con is the walk to the Javits Center, when hundreds of people dressed as superheroes, alternate universe Victorians, and anime characters descend on Midtown Manhattan. For a few days, the blocks around Penn Station come alive with color, playing host to interactions between costumed attendees and the baffled or intrigued locals and tourists who no longer own the streets.

    After a while, the lines between cosplayer and civilian start to blur: when enough people are in costume, everyone is. When enough people have thrown off the conventional wisdom dictating that clothing should be merely utilitarian, decorative, or indicative of who you are in real life, it’s easy to start picking it apart to look for a story.

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