#615: Piranhalarm

Expert opinion, I understand, is that people who are being attacked need to do one thing: run. Forget pepper sprays, electronic stun guns and all those judo lessons. The first line of defence is to get moving away, fast.

Today’s invention is a second line of defence, when one’s exit route is blocked and you are too numb to undertake any violent self-defence moves. It consists of a conventional rape alarm, but modified to enable it to be attached, immovably, to the body of the would-be attacker.

When confronted by someone blocking your path, or otherwise within your personal space, whip out the device. This comes equipped with a set of open jaws, like a big bullclip, strong enough to grip someone’s clothes, but not sharp enough to be considered an offensive weapon. Smack this against the arm or chest of an attacker. This activates the usual, startlingly loud alarm, whilst also causing the jaws to snap shut and stay put.

You can now make an easier, high-speed escape whilst the low-life’s attention is distracted both by attempts to disengage from the source of the aural pain and to become less conspicuous.

#614: Barcomb

In Japan, apparently, men who wear their hair streaked across from one side to the other of their otherwise bald heads are known as ‘barcodes’.

Today’s invention is simply inspired by that thinking: it’s a comb the teeth of which are arrayed to form a barcode. The code might actually stand for the name of the owner or act as some kind of advert for other haircare products.

#613: Nestboxes

Today’s invention is a collection of nested enclosures, which slide into and out of one another like drawers in a cabinet. A telescoping action is envisaged which would allow the formation of zigzag or spiral machines which could be squeezed into the volume of the original drawer.

The sliders could be made robust and lockable, in order to make the extended structure rigid or motorised so as to allow the whole system to propel itself across terrain or through water.

The drawers need not be rectilinear of course, resulting in interesting geometrically irregular, compressible machines.

As to applications…well I guess robot limbs or staircases or movable bridges are all possibles.

#612: Reverseat

I’m no great lover of air travel…let’s forget, if we can, about having to publicly undress before boarding and about the distant prospect of retrieving any luggage at the destination…I just don’t much enjoy being spam in a can.

It is apparently established as fact that, in the event of a crash landing, many more people survive if they are facing backwards…but who wants to fly in that vulnerable-feeling orientation? By the way, if you are over six feet tall and with a longish back, have you ever had a quiet practice at adopting the ‘brace position’? On many commercial flights it’s just not possible without having some vertebrae removed first.

Today’s invention is therefore a reversible airline seat. They are just like the old tram seats I remember seeing in an ancient transport museum that could have their backrests flipped at the terminus to let passengers always face forward (because the vehicles themselves couldn’t be turned around).

In the event of some emergency landing procedure, everyone would simply shuffle from their seat to the one ahead of them, turning to face the rear of the plane as they did so and strapping themselves in again.

#611: Commandwriting

How great would it be to be able to label things by hand -legibly?

Today’s invention is a stylus at the ‘writing’ end of which is a small dot matrix-type array. The user can specify what font is required and even perhaps the ink colour verbally…a mic in the stylus picks up the instruction and adjusts the internal settings accordingly.

Then the user places the stylus on some paper, a piece of fruit or whatever and says “The quick brown fox…” The stylus then propels itself along the surface (driven by a motorised internal wheel and still loosely held by the user, or not).

Beautifully printed text can thus appear on command.

#610: Blowbalance

In olympic sprint events, the long jump and the triple jump a tailwind of greater than 2.1 meters per second (4.7 mph) will overturn an apparently record-breaking performance.

Today’s invention is a large fan which can be used to blast air towards the athletes, creating a synthetic headwind. This could be used to generate a uniform velocity profile across the track, by blasting turbulent air through a horizontal array of ducts.

Measurements, in realtime, of the natural local windspeed would be used to drive the fan speed so as to exactly counterbalance any tailwind at all times and thus render world records possible at every meet, irrespective of the weather conditions.

#609: Odoureading

Smells create and retrieve memories very effectively (as do books).

Today’s invention is a scented strip of paper that is sewn into a book so that the reader comes to associate the smell with the story. Expensive hardbacks e.g. might have the unique odour of ancient libraries built into them.

Each chapter might have a different scent, enhancing the value of the physical book in this digital age.

#608: Collabcubes

I was talking to a University Professor recently who was seeking ways to ensure that his super-smart but notoriously uncommunicative students would interact and generate more creative research.

Today’s invention is a way to promote that.

Students (or other creative types) would each have a cubicle as usual but these would actually be mobile boxes, capable of being loosely hitched together for a few days and then decoupled and moved around the office space (perhaps being motorised).

‘Collisions’ between cubes, determined either by management or by semi-random automatic movements, would ensure that much more interaction between workers occurs. When joined, there would be only one entry/exit to each pair. Groupings of greater numbers of people (using hexagonal cubicles eg) would also create a ‘cool’ environment in which people could sense that collaboration was a requirement.

Cubes could also be rotated, to shake up people’s perspectives, whilst preserving their own little territories.

For groups not wanting to invest in all this mechanisiation, it would be possible to have fixed cubes with a maze running in the spaces between them that could be varied, forcing people to take new routes between their colleagues.

#607: Corkpump

Some people take enormous exception to finding bits of cork in their wineglass.

One way to avoid this is to use today’s invention: a vacuum corkscrew.

A rigid cylindrical tube is placed on the neck of a wine bottle. A rubber seal on the flat face of one end of the tube is pressed into contact with the bottleneck (whilst avoiding touching the cork). The tube is then evacuated, using a handpump, which causes the cork to be sucked from the bottle…without generating any fragments.

#606: Comedicanned

I can’t bear canned laughter. Even modern ‘situation comedies’ on tv often rely on having some laughter recorded -in order to inform the audience of when they have been amusing (allegedly).

If tv producers are going to resort to this, then today’s invention is a way to avoid whipping some studio audience into a frenzy (usually a false and costly process). This merriment would instead be provided by a series of software agents (just like those which act together to simulate eg a herd of wildebeest in the Lion King).

Agents would be programmed to simulate an individual laughing. In concert, each agent would be triggered by a different background level of laughter, resulting in a realistic wave of tittering after each ‘funny.’ The volume and duration could be set by some simple rules which would be activated according to whether a given line was rated as ‘hilarious’ or just ‘mildly amusing’ by the producer.