British inventor sends smartphones into the stratosphere

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

What does a guy who has already created bicycle wheels out of ice, developed a steel suit capable of withstanding fireworks and crafted a giant metal rear-end to fart at France do for an encore?

He sends smartphones into the stratosphere.

Colin Furze, a self-described British garage inventor/video maker, has reportedly attached two-to-four HTC smartphones to each of 12 balloons and send them into the air. The mobile devices recorded the experience as the balloons reached heights of more than 100,000 feet.

According to Mashable, the phones were placed in specially designed boxes so that they could survive the subzero conditions of the stratosphere. Furze claims that the devices all survived the trip, delivering what could be the first phone camera footage from such a high altitude.

On his website, Furze explained that HTC asked him to use their phones in a project as part of its “creatography” campaign. He said that he had recently learned that someone sent a high-altitude balloon and mini-camera to the edge of space, and decided to put his own spin on the stunt.

An online search revealed that there had already been several similar projects similar had already been attempted, so Furze upped the ante by setting off some fireworks to make the ascent more interesting. As the phone climbed, he remotely triggered the explosives from above the clouds at heights of up to 20,000 feet (the maximum altitude at which the fireworks would go off).

Furze, whose website said that he was a plumber by trade, told Mashable that he is now able to fund his unique work thanks to the large following of his videos (for the record, he was compensated by HTC for this most recent project). “It used to be a hobby,” he said, “but now I earn enough from YouTube. Now I do this all day – it’s much more fun than plumbing.”

In August, he developed a “safety suit” out of steel by using the process of hydroforming, which requires water pressure and metallic sheets. This allows the material to bend, allowing him to create body and limb armor independently, according to Design Boom. The inventor managed to craft a final product that vaguely resembled the that could withstand extreme heat and pressure.

Before that, the Huffington Post notes that Furze (who the publication also credits with making the world’s fastest toilet), created to gigantic metal set of buttcheeks and fitted it with a pulsejet. He was reportedly inspired by the discovery that the jet sounded like a belch, and decided to make a contraption loud enough to carry the sound of gaseous emissions to mainstream Europe.

Also over the summer, the New York Times reported on Furze’s efforts to make real-life versions of items found in the X-Men series of comic books and movies – including Wolverine’s claws, cuffs that shot out flames like the character Pyro, and magnetic shoes that allowed him to hang upside-down from the ceiling ala the supervillain known as Magneto.

“Sometimes, you’ll come out of a film and you think, ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome to have that thing or to do that thing?’ With ‘Back to the Future,’ it’s hover boards and time travel; with ‘X-Men,’ it’s obviously claws and superpowers,” Furze said.

He added that the purpose of his videos is to inspire other would-be inventors to fully realize their creative potential: “If you ask somebody, ‘Do you want to make a magnet?’ they’ll probably be like, ‘No I’m not really that interested.’ But if you ask someone, ‘Do you want to make some magnetic shoes and walk upside down?’ More people will be like, ‘Yeah, that sounds cool.’ ”

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