#345: Locaticons

Long numerical domain names defeat their purpose -you might as well try to remember ip addresses?…well, perhaps not. The boy’s own book of internet facts tells me that domain names like this are perfectly legitimate:



So anyone with a domain name can, using today’s invention, provide people with an image-based way to access their web content (using an in-page widget to record mouse movements in pixels and translate that into a url).

In practice, since people have trouble drawing accurately and there are 2^(14*14) binary variants on the above ‘image’, this scheme would probably need to be limited to a 5*5 grid. It’s surprising how many shapes can be represented recognisably within only 25 pixels.

A clever implementation would involve also mapping near-miss drawings onto the correct url.

#344: Double gazing

For those of us condemned to wear two pairs of spectacles (perhaps because bifocals induce motion sickness), life can become complex. The house-wide search for one’s other pair can be time consuming -just when you need to read that small print.

Today’s invention is a double pair of spectacles: two pairs joined together at the ‘legs’. When one pair of lenses is in use, the other pair is worn on the back of the head.


When the user needs a change in refractive power, they are simply swapped over. There would probably need to be two springs connecting both pairs of legs, in order to enable this swapping in a comfortable way. This would also work, of course, for sunglasses as the secondary pair.

#343: Daylight discs

Twice a year, “when the clocks go back -or forward” I’m hassled by the need to reset more than 25 domestic timekeeping devices.

Given that they aren’t networked (several are mechanical chronometers), it inevitably takes several days, sometimes a few weeks, to get around to adjusting them all.


In the interim, I’m faced by a variety of timepieces reading different times. Since the error is only an exact hour, you’d think this wouldn’t cause much of a problem but some devices (eg the oven, central heating) require fairly significant reprogramming…so I have to maintain mental correction factors for a number of them. When in a rush, it’s easy to arrive an hour early for that crucial meeting.

Today’s invention is a stack of small diameter self adhesive discs, in two, alternating colours. Each clock has a stack applied to the front surface. When its time is adjusted, the current disc is removed, leaving one of contrasting colour to indicate that it is now in either daylight saving mode (eg yellow) or not (eg blue).

#342: Dashpot wrap

Bubble wrap is such a cool material. It would be even better if it combined increased durability with improved energy dissipation.

Today’s invention is a new form of impact-absorbing sheet, with integral springs and dampers, which might be used on everything from car bumpers to boxing gloves.


Imagine taking a sheet of conventional bubble wrap and coating it on both sides with a layer of high modulus (springy) rubber. Each bubble would then be pierced using a needle.

The thickness of the coating determines the amount of springback which each bubble will now provide when impacted. The number of piercings in each determines the amount of dissipation which occurs on impact (Air is forced out under pressure so that the impact is transformed into low-grade thermal energy. The springiness of each bubble then allows its shape to be recovered, drawing air gradually back inside, ready for the next collision).

#341: Change discharger

That clanking and jangling coming from your pockets is probably loose change. Guess what? Like a lot of other things, loose change drives me slightly nuts. It’s just a hugely costly way to weigh the world down. We should switch at once to card or phone-based micropayments…can anything that costs less than a pound actually be worth buying anyway (e.g. tabloid newspapers?)

Until that day, we will still have to cart around fragments of cupro-nickel. The brown stuff is particularly galling, since it’s worth so little that even children won’t bend down to pick it up off the street. Banks won’t turn it into notes and it probably costs charities more in transporting change about than they gain when you drop into into their collecting tins.


Today’s invention is a way to rid ourselves of the damn stuff. Take a 20m section of flexible pipe or conduit and gradually fill it with brown change (so that each coin lies flat on the next). Then run it from the top of your roof to the ground.

This ersatz lightning conductor should cost less than £100 (using 1p’s) and be almost as effective as a high-spec, pure copper version. When the storm strikes, you will have removed a great deal of excess baggage from circulation.

#340: Sweepsonance

I’m convinced that the success of all things Dyson is down to a combination of entertainment value and the ability to view the result of one’s virtuous efforts, rather than any particular technical merit (nobody pays £200+ for a vacuum cleaner just because it suffers ‘no loss of suction’ -please).

It’s partly, too, the nursery colourschemes but mostly the secret behind their sales has to be that swirling-dirt movie which comes with every product.


Today’s invention is a way to equip all such cleaners with a soundtrack -even if they don’t benefit from a bagless, supersonic swirl chamber and a filing cabinet full of patents.

Think how satisfying it is to hear a stream of grit and dust being removed from your carpet/ bed /pet. Now imagine fitting the hose of a cleaner with a small microphone, amplifier and loudspeaker.

Suddenly your device feels so much more effective and this add-on also drowns out the other noises it makes -to an extent.

#339: Thermalarm

People living in a climate involving sudden drops to sub-zero temperatures overnight know the annoyance which having to scrape ice from their vehicle causes.

It’s especially true if you have a demanding early morning schedule to meet.


Today’s invention is an alarm clock with a thermouple attached. This detects freezing temperatures outside and automatically adjusts the alarm sound to occur a few minutes earlier than normal getting-up time.

It might even change the indicated time in order to encourage a more urgent start to the day -and the windshield scraping.

#338: Timeline

It seems there is an almost insatiable desire to create novel wristwatches. I can’t imagine that any of these ever sells more than a few wristfuls in total but, since novelty is at such a premium in this area, I thought I’d give it a whirl too…

Today’s invention is a digital watch display which consists solely of a straight line joining what would be the endpoints of the minute and hour hands (on an analogue watchface).


I obviously mean the ‘pointy’ endpoints -near the numerals, not the central axis).

As time passes, the length and orientation of this line changes. Our experience of the movement of conventional hands allows us to determine when we need to run for that train or grab lunch.

It might be a nice, geeky touch to update the display only when the time corresponds with endpoints lying at exact pixel locations. I’ve just had a request in fact for one of these with the end of the second hand forming a triangle with the other two ends.

#337: Soccer handsocks

Not that I care much for football, but I do get disproportionately annoyed by ‘professional’ footballers who are allowed to break the rules by tugging at each others’ shirts.

Nothing at all wrong with shouldercharging, but dragging back a player because he’s beaten you, should really be a sending-off issue.


Today’s invention is a way to overcome this form of cynical rule breaking. All professional (outfield) soccer players would be equipped with a mandatory pair of mitts before each match. These would be stretchy and breathable but would restrict the fingers and thumbs into a loosely-closed fist, enveloped in a continuous fabric sheath. It would be like wearing several very thick socks on each hand -thus preventing them gripping anything.

Players could still lift the ball (using spherical, apparently thumbless hands) and perform throw-ins but without the ability to impede the opposition.

The name of the game is football, after all.

#336: Piloteye

You can buy a radio controlled aircraft with an onboard camera for a few hundred dollars (they seem to be exclusively used for inspecting the ground, rather than looking where the plane is going). You can get hold of very credible flight simulator program for next to nothing.

Today’s invention combines these two elements to create a laptop based, radio-control interface. As you watch the real cockpit view from the aircraft, displayed on the screen, standard flight sim controls, superimposed on the image, allow you to alter course and see the view change, almost in real-time.


These days, when one fighter jet can control a small fleet of pilotless planes in parallel, the proposed system might have all sorts of military applications.

It now seems that someone has made a credible attempt at implementing the guts of this idea.