In addition to Time Warp, the Discovery Channel has another new show called Prototype This. Although you definitely get the impression that Discovery is trying to ride the Mythbusters wave a bit with these new shows, this one features an interesting balance of mechanical and electrical/computer geeky hosts.
This week's prototype, a truck that could navigate above a traffic jam and slide sideways into an occupied parking space, featured a bit of technology that I've seen in action before: Mecanum wheels. Rather than try to explain how they work, a short video:
(Check out the new TechTV player!)
These pretty cool sideways-action wheels have been gaining popularity in the FIRST competition for some time. So, if you don't have the budget of a Discovery Channel prime-time show, you can obtain a set of these wheels at reasonable cost from FIRST supplier AndyMark. They only have small robot versions for now, but are working on a 21" version which I think would suffice for making your car slide into a parking space.
Most of my projects fall squarely in the "prototype" category - the first take at something or other. After that is the "beta" phase, which is an interesting in-between ground for working out the finishing touches. Then, the final mass-manufactured product release. I've seen a bit of the whole sequence, but most of the time I enjoy working in the early "whiteboard" stages.