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Photos: Mini skyscraper flexes its muscles

On the campus of MIT, a nearly 40-foot tower features inflatable tubes designed to help offer stability--or some interactive fun.
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Topic: CXO
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1 of 3 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Mini tower

This nearly 40-foot, 800-pound tower on a lawn at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology isn't doing much in this picture, but check out the builders' video for what an engineer with a remote control can make it do. Called WhoWhatWhenAir, it was the winner of an MIT competition to design a mini skyscraper.

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2 of 3 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Tower flexing

The tower can flex up to 8 feet in any direction through the use of "pneumatic actuators"--inflatable tubes designed to work like muscles. If translated into an actual skyscraper, the notion goes, the system could help the structure deal with destabilizing environmental forces such as wind; in this project, the goal was to make instability part of the fun. There's even a plan to let the public interact with the tower by using bicycle pumps to trigger "unexpected motions."

The WhoWhatWhenAir team labored through the spring to turn their design into reality, documenting their progress along the way. One team member told the publication LiveScience, "It's not a subtle thing at all."

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3 of 3 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Tower close-up

A close-up of the tower's tubes and frames. The WhoWhatWhenAir team built their structure on a budget of just $7,000.

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