Big parts of that place called The Built Environment are equipped with electrical wall sockets.
Today’s invention is a portable laptop stand which consists of two electrical plugs, each of which is attached to a carbon fibre strut. The struts are entwined and attached at the other ends to a small plate which allows eg a laptop to rest securely on it.
One of the struts contains an electric cable which allows the laptop to be both supported mechanically (via the sockets) and provided with power in rooms which would otherwise be inhospitable work/entertainment environments without much spare floor space (eg hospital corridors).
Augmented reality is beginning to take hold.
Today’s invention is to use an application like this, running on eg an iPhone, to recognise eg a number of simple shapes in the real world which the user has specified (eg ‘+’ or ‘#’ etc, etc).
Each shape, once recognised, would trigger the software to paste in to the moving view of the current scene some graphic element.
A user could thus point the device at a list of names and have their faces displayed nearby.
This has already been done for words in complex scenes. Each word can now be replaced by a corresponding image pulled from eg Google image search.
I’ve been reading about the explosive booby traps in Afghanistan which these days are called IEDs. Detecting them often relies on spotting minute changes in a regularly patrolled section of territory.
Today’s invention is a reuse of the idea behind IOTD #46:
“…to detect the almost imperceptible differences between two ‘alike’ images, all you have to do is ‘fuse’ these’ by crossing one’s eyes a little and visually superimposing them. Areas of disparity then all stand out simultaneously as twinkling regions.”
A troop would record a number of movies of their patrol using a robot cart carrying several cameras and following a preprogrammed path.
The next day this would be repeated with one or two soldiers viewing today’s and yesterday’s scenes through a stereoscope. Any disparities would be immediately visible and highlight possible hidden bombs.
Today’s invention is a synthetic biometric system which takes the form of a pair of false eyelashes.
Each of these has its high-contrast lashes distributed so as to act as a barcode.
This can be recognised within a digital image, allowing non-contact identification of the wearer in high-convenience/low-security scenarios (two sets of lashes would provide a greater level of assurance than many existing face recognition systems).
Most spectacle lenses are now made of plastic for weight and cost reasons, but it’s still damn hard to find a pair which a) fit and b) look sensible.
Today’s invention is to make both the lenses and frame of spectacles in a single piece, by rapid prototyping techniques (which are already used to make stand-alone lenses).
There would be a standard, integral hinge formed between the legs and the front section holding the lenses. Dyestuff could be added to the non-lens areas and filter particle material to the lens regions.
This approach would allow consumers to design their own frames online (including a sizeable variation in bridge width) and superimpose the result on their facial image before ever ordering the glasses.
I love mechanical clocks. Their ticking is for me reassuring but I know people for whom the opposite is true of certain clock sounds.
Today’s invention is an MP3-based sound generator module + speakers for digital (or quiet mechanical) clocks. The sounds would be either digitally generated or recorded direct from historical clocks.
This type of unit could be placed discreetly behind any timepiece allowing a variety of different ticking sounds to be selected (as well as chiming the quarter-hours, if you really fancy it – although chimes would need to be electronically adjusted to match the digital time displayed with any ancient sounds).
Naturally, the volume would be controllable remotely (and programmable so that all the sound effects could be muted at night).
The design of tyre treads, so that they shed water effectively and maintain grip in the wet, is something of an art.
Today’s invention takes a new approach to the problem in the form of an air blade for tyres.
Cars would have a series of nozzles located across each wheelwell. These would be supplied with compressed air so that, in rainy conditions, jets of air would be blasted onto the tyre surface (especially into and around the grooves) in order to detach water from the surface so that the treads have an increased opportunity to grip the road surface.
As a student, I would sometimes start a stampede in the underground simply by gradually starting to run. All it takes is a couple of other people to follow suit and some crowd instinct kicks in so that almost everyone suddenly feels late and left behind.
Moving walkways, of the type used in airports, apparently cause people to take fewer paces per second than when walking normally -they get a rest but the flowrate of people is only very slightly increased over the case in which there is no walkway at all.
Today’s invention is therefore a way to get crowd volumes moving faster. Travelators would have walls fitted on either side onto which images of people walking in the same direction would be projected. The speed of the projected walking would be fast but not so fast as to look incredible.
This would encourage passengers to up their pace, so as not to be left behind.
I remember reading, in one of Orwell’s books I think, about how buskers make more money if they maintain a small number of coins in the hat on the ground.
This seems to cue people to follow suit and make a donation (online donation buttons might therefore be equipped with a numerical feed from the target paypal account, indicating how much had been given by the last donor).
Today’s invention takes this to a new level by creating public waste bins which have some prominent items of rubbish manufactured into them and rendered highly visible through the basket mesh.
I’d suggest luminescent orange Lucozade bottles and Subway sandwich wrappers since these are a) prominent and b) everywhere underfoot.
Having recently been impressed with a laser system which shines on the road and delineates a safe zone around a bicycle, today’s invention is of a similar ilk.
It consists of a laser which is fitted to a motorcycle and which flicks backwards and forwards on the road ahead.
The laser is driven by a microcomputer on the bike which knows about the dynamics of the machine and its exact position on the road (via cameras which detect the central white line).
This allows the optimal racing line to be illuminated so that an inexperienced rider can steer the machine as would a professional racer (or a police rider).
Given that the average rider will be in the wrong gear to adopt this line most of the time, the onboard processor might be called upon to illuminate the best possible line ie -considering the current position, gear, speed etc.