Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson climbs aboard the Hyperloop

Hyperloop One test
Hyperloop enthusiasts may be finding it a challenge to convince everyone that the ultra-high-speed transportation project is for real, but entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson is clearly convinced.

The Virgin Group founder has announced his company is investing in L.A.-based Hyperloop One, one of several outfits that has been making significant progress in developing the technology. Billionaire Branson has snagged a seat on the board, too, and the company will soon re-brand to become, what else … Virgin Hyperloop One.

Describing the Hyperloop system as “the world’s most revolutionary train service,” Virgin said it was “incredibly excited about the technology … and the way it could transform passengers’ lives.”

The Hyperloop, if you didn’t already know it, was dreamed up by SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, a man so creative that he would likely self-combust in disgust were his brain ever to present him with an idea considered by the general population as “old hat.”

Having put the Hyperloop concept out there around five years ago, Musk decided to take a back seat with that particular project and instead concern himself with all of his other extremely ambitious plans, which include building a city for humans on Mars, a rocket-based travel service that would fly you from New York to Shanghai in 39 minutes, and a vast subterranean network of transportation tunnels with high-speed “car sleds” to ease road congestion in busy cities.

The Hyperloop would use propulsion technology to push passenger-filled pods through elevated tubes at speeds of up to 750 mph. At that kind of speed, a ride between L.A. and San Francisco would take just 35 minutes instead of the usual six hours by car. U.K.-based Virgin offers up another example, saying the Hyperloop could run you between London and Edinburgh in around 45 minutes. Anyone that’s driven that route knows it can take forever on a congested highway, and even longer if you take one of Branson’s Virgin trains and it gets delayed along the way.

Yes, Virgin already has plenty of experience with more conventional forms of transport. Besides its U.K. train service, it also operates an international airline. At the more ambitious end of the spectrum is Virgin’s space plane that could one day give moneyed tourists the ride of a lifetime.

Although Branson has declined to reveal just how much cash Virgin will be pumping into the project, Hyperloop One is known to have so far received nearly $250 million in funding — including a recent injection of an additional $85 million — from a range of interested investors since the firm was founded in 2014.

The involvement of a global brand like Virgin is a real boost for Hyperloop One, with development cash and wider exposure helping to propel the project forward, hopefully to a point where we can finally discover if the extraordinary plan is truly viable.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: DIY smartphones and zip-on bike tires

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Tesla keeps promise with more affordable Model 3 with midrange battery pack

Tesla is keeping its promise of making the Model 3 gradually more affordable. The company released a new variant of the car with a mid-range, 260-mile battery option that's priced under the $50,000 mark.

These are the best Xbox One games out right now

More than four years into its lifespan, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.

‘Bloodhound’ rocket car needs a speedy cash injection to survive

The rocket-powered Bloodhound car has driven into difficulties, with the company behind the project needing a multi-million-dollar cash injection to save its dream of attempting a 1,000 mph land speed record.
Emerging Tech

Ekster 3.0 lets you ask, ‘Alexa, where did I leave my wallet?’

Ekster's newest smart wallet is its best yet. It's slimmer than ever, boasts a neat card-dispensing mechanism, and will even let you know where it is, thanks to smart speaker integration.
Emerging Tech

Johns Hopkins’ lab-grown human retina could lead to big insights

Scientists from Johns Hopkins University have successfully grown human retina tissue from scratch in a lab. The work could help with the development of new therapeutics related to eye diseases.
Emerging Tech

Light-swallowing room promises Call of Duty fans the blackest of ops

What's it like to be in a room fully painted with the world's darkest material, Vantablack? The makers of one of the year's top video games teamed up with Vantablack scientists to find out.

Skydio’s self-flying drone now has an Apple Watch app for flight prep

Skydio's clever R1 autonomous drone now has its own Apple Watch app, making flight preparations simpler than ever. The $2,000 flying machine is now also selling at its first retail outlet — Apple Stores in North America.
Emerging Tech

Are e-cigarettes safe? Here’s what the most recent science says

Ecigarettes are widely regarded and advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for people who are trying to kick the smoking habit. How safe are these cigarette alternatives? We went deep into the recent scientific literature to…
Emerging Tech

Scientists created a condom that self-lubricates during sex. You’re welcome

Researchers from Boston University have invented a special coating for condoms which make them respond to bodily fluids by becoming more slippery. Here's how their new breakthrough works.
Emerging Tech

You’re so vein: Palm-based biometric system could help confirm your identity

Move over, Face ID! The next biometric security systems could rely on analyzing the unique vein patterns in your palm print. Here are some of the ways the technology could prove useful.
Emerging Tech

For only $4,950, you can get jetpack lessons from the world’s only instructor

Have you ever dreamed of flying using a jetpack? JetPack Aviation founder -- and the world's only qualified jetpack teacher -- David Mayman is now offering a day of flight instruction.
Emerging Tech

Biologists have found a hormone that could make space farming possible

Researchers have shown how space farming may be possible. By encouraging plants to excrete a certain hormone, they’ve demonstrated that crops can thrive despite challenging conditions, such as low-nutrient soil and microgravity.
Emerging Tech

Keep your holiday gift list high tech and under budget with these gadgets

Modern technology doesn't always come cheap, but there plenty of premium devices that don't carry a premium price. Whether you're looking for a streaming device or a means of capturing photos from above, our list of the best tech under $50…