Begin your odyssey at the dawn of life as a simple microbe just trying to survive, then use the fun, intuitive Editors to evolve the creature from its microscopic origins into an intelligent, tool-using race. Guide your species as it builds (and the player designs) villages, buildings, cities, and vehicles. Along the way to becoming a global civilization you can choose whether to hunt or forage, attack or trade, be nice or play rough!
All the action takes place in a huge, lush world populated with creatures evolved by other players and shared over SPORE’s central servers. When it’s ready, your one-time pond scum launches into space in its UFO on a grand voyage of discovery, planet forming, or destruct-ion! As you explore and play in this limitless universe of unique worlds, your personal Sporepedia tracks all the creatures you’ve met and places you’ve visited.
Spore is being honored for its revolutionary procedural animation system, joining the ranks of such ground-breaking innovations such as affordable cancer detection tests, renewable diesel fuel and a transparent-wall camera.
Popular Mechanics will announce the winners of its fourth annual Breakthrough Awards at a ceremony at Hearst Tower in New York City. Sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb, the Breakthrough Awards celebrate innovations poised to change the world, and the personalities behind them.
“The Maxis team is honored to be recognized for Spore's procedural animation system by Popular Mechanics,” said Lucy Bradshaw, general manager, Maxis Studio. “We're in great company with the other recipients of the Breakthrough Award. Procedural animation helps to bring Spore players' creations to life through intuitive, realistic movement and we look forward to continuing to push the limits of this system in future Spore projects."
The winners of the 2008 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards are:
Breakthrough Leadership Award
- Amy B. Smith, senior lecturer, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: A visionary who designs practical, affordable technology to address challenges in the developing world, Smith has won multiple engineering awards for her work on ways to purify water, improve medical care and ease the workload of rural women. An inspiration to students and volunteers who dedicate their time to improve the standard of living in Haiti, Ghana, India and other countries, she is leading a movement to tackle complex problems with simple technology. Smith will deliver the keynote remarks at the awards ceremony.
Next Generation Award
- Rudy Roy, Ben Sexson, Daniel Oliver, and Charles Pyott, recent graduates of the California Institute of Technology and the Art Center College of Design: These undergrads have transformed inexpensive bikes into wheelchairs for people in the developing world. The four students created a prototype wheelchair from two recycled mountain bikes. The result is a chair that is practical, durable and affordable and—unlike most wheelchairs donated overseas—repairable at any local bike shop.
Breakthrough Innovator Awards: Celebrating Innovation in Science and Technology
- Jack D. Newman, Kinkead Reiling, Neil Renninger, scientists and founders of Amyris Biotechnologies: Clean, renewable diesel fuel from microbes can alleviate the dual problems of global warming and petroleum shortages. Amyris has doctored the genetic makeup of garden-variety microbes to create new microorganisms programmed to churn out hydrocarbons that are chemically identical to diesel fuel.
- Greg Allgood, Director of the Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program, Procter & Gamble public-health specialist: P&G’s miracle powder, PUR, creates clean and clear water by removing silt and other solid contaminants, as well as killing bacteria and viruses. The inexpensive powder, which is delivered in business-card-size packets, is saving lives in poor countries around the world. Now it is being introduced to the United States for use by emergency response professionals and individuals.
- Lonnie Johnson, Johnson ElectroMechanical Systems: Johnson, the inventor of the Super Soaker squirt gun, has created a revolutionary prototype that uses heat to generate electricity employing hydrogen and an ion-exchange process. Unlike conventional engines, Johnson’s prototype has no moving parts, which means no friction and fewer mechanical failures—and the hydrogen doesn’t need to be replenished. His concept provides hope for a major advance in sustainable generation of electricity.
- Barry Goldstein, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Ed Sedivy, Lockheed Martin Space Systems; Peter Smith, University of Arizona: In 2008, the Phoenix Mars Mission established a momentous milestone in exploration, confirming the presence of water on another planet. The discovery made future human exploration of the planet far easier to contemplate and plan for.
- Steve Fambro and Chris Anthony, founders of Aptera: Aptera is introducing a line of ultra-high-mileage eco-cars to be priced around $30,000. The company radically reduced weight and drag, turning to a three-wheel design to create comfortable, real-world vehicles—ones that pass standard car safety tests. The all-electric Typ-1e has an estimated 120-mile range, while the plug-in hybrid Typ-1h will get 300 miles per gallon on trips of 100 miles or more, and should always stay above 130 mpg.
- Mehmet Toner, biomedical engineer at Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology: It is extremely difficult to detect a metastasizing tumor before symptoms show up—and that seriously delays treatment. Toner has designed a new device for detecting circulating tumor cells (CTC). The business-card-size silicon chip is coated with antibodies that attract CTCs. In the short term, the chip will give doctors instant feedback on their patients. In the future, it may lead to a cheap and simple cancer-screening test for the general population. The chips currently cost about $250 to produce; the future mass-produced version could cost as little as $5.
- Charles E. Andraka, engineer at Sandia National Laboratories; Bruce Osborn, president of Stirling Energy Systems: A million homes may be powered by solar thermal technology by 2015. A system developed by Stirling Energy and Sandia uses mirrored dishes measuring almost 40 feet across to concentrate the sun’s heat onto a Stirling engine and generate grid-ready power. The team set a record of 31.25 percent efficiency in 2008, and now SES has begun building 70,000 dishes in California. The installations will nearly double the amount of commercial solar power generated in the United States.
- Andrew Tschesnok and Jonathan Rand, founders of Organic Motion: Organic Motion’s technology enables computers to see people and understand human motion without requiring subjects to wear tracking devices of any kind. The system digitizes the exact motion to within sub-millimeter accuracy and at a speed of 120 frames per second, fast enough to recognize the movements of professional athletes. Organic Motion’s advancement in computer vision has extensive impacts for medicine, sports, security, and certainly for a new generation of interactive video games.
Breakthrough Product Awards: Setting Benchmarks in Design, Creativity and Engineering
- M-Spector Digital Inspection Camera: Home repair has never been so easy. Instead of cutting walls open to diagnose a problem, a DIYer can use the camera’s 17-mm-wide 2x zoom lens, which beams behind-the-wall reconnaissance to a 2.5-inch LCD. The camera provides 15 hours of battery life to find leaks, trace wiring and more. $259, milwaukeetool.com
- Spore: From the mastermind behind EA’s The Sims comes one of the most widely anticipated video games ever, one that traces the evolution of a species from single cell to the conquest of space. Spore relies on a process called procedural animation to allow players’ creations to interact in utterly fresh and unpredictable ways. $49, spore.com
- Livescribe Pulse Smartpen: An integrated microphone and a revolutionary method for audio retrieval make this pen a productive way to digitize penmanship for PC perusal. To play a clip back, the user simply taps the written notes and the pen automatically cues up the appropriate audio. It can even take on complex tasks such as language translation. $149, livescribe.com
- Potenco PCG1 Power Generator: A pull-cord power generator, the PCG1 creates electricity for portable gadgets with far greater efficiency than hand-cranked devices. It weighs 14 ounces, has an internal mini-USB output jack, and can convert 2 minutes of effort into 40 minutes of cellphone talk time. $99, potenco.com
- Intel Atom Processor: Brilliantly efficient and a marvel of miniaturization, Intel’s new low-power Atom processor brings PC-like capabilities and an uncompromised Internet experience to a new class of handheld Mobile Internet Devices, as well as simple, affordable mobile and desktop machines known as netbooks and nettops. intel.com
- Craftsman Nextec Multi-Saw: Taking power tool versatility to a higher level, the Nextec Multi-Saw is a 12-volt lithium-ion battery powered hybrid of a jigsaw and a reciprocating saw. It is small enough to get into tight spots, but powerful enough for tough cutting, with an adjustable speed of up to 2000 strokes per minute. $150 (kit includes: a drill, two batteries, a charger, two blades, a drill bit and a work light) craftsman.com
- Microsoft Photosynth: This free, remarkable software analyzes a multitude of photos to create a browsable 3D model by identifying overlapping points in the images. The result is a fresh way to organize and share photography – opening up new possibilities for a 180-year-old art form. photosynth.com
- Amazon Kindle: This e-book reader proves that digital paper can be a real alternative to the printed page. The Kindle can be read for hours without causing eyestrain—or running out of batteries. And it has a built-in high-speed EVDO antenna. The Kindle connects itself to Sprint’s high-speed network to download books, blogs or digital versions of newspapers wirelessly from nearly anywhere. $359, amazon.com/kindle
- Infiniti Around View Monitor: A new level of automotive safety has appeared, as the Around View allows drivers to see 360 degrees around their vehicle while they park. With multiple ultra-wide-angle high-resolution cameras, the images are synthesized for the driver to provide a “bird’s-eye view” on the navigation screen. This advanced system will likely save lives, especially those of young children. It is optional on new Infiniti models, such as the EX35 and the FX35/FX50. Included in packages from $1950, infiniti.com
- Caroma Profile Smart Dual Flush Toilet: Graywater systems can sharply reduce water usage in the home without any sacrifice in convenience. This clever system elegantly routes sink water used when washing hands into the tank of the toilet. It’s a way to bring smart, green design into everyday life. Currently available in Australia only. $409, caromausa.com
In selecting the candidates and winners of the 2008 Breakthrough Awards program, the editors of Popular Mechanics (PM) canvassed a large range of experts and academics to come up with a list of worthy nominees. Members of PM’s Board of Advisers reviewed the nominations to help the editors of Popular Mechanics choose the winners.
A complete report of the Breakthrough Awards will be published in the November issue of Popular Mechanics (on newsstands Oct. 14, 2008).
Spore is currently available worldwide on PC and NDS.