#1463: BumperBuoys

Inspired by Eureka Magazine’s coffee-time challenge, today’s invention is a system for making sure that fenders are at the right height when a boat is brought into moor on a choppy sea.

This is apparently a particular problem for small boat owners who don’t want either to damage their vessel or clothe it in a huge area of impact-absorbing bumpers.

It takes the form of conical, hard foam deck seats which nest into one another for storage when not being sat upon. Half the seats contain a little sand, making them just heavier than sea water (the other half are just less dense than sea water).

On approaching a jetty, one of each type can be slotted together to form a pair and tipped overboard, attached by a cable.

These devices stay upright, floating on the water, and guarantee that the boat will avoid above and below water impacts.


Happy New Year readers (and very many thanks for the comments and donations towards InventorCentre in 2010 ).

I’ve made a list of the ideas that I most enjoyed having (140 ish -the ‘aha moment’ juicy stuff). That’s about 10% of the total. Of these, I guess about 10 have some commercial potential (I’m determined to make some money from one of them in 2011, despite having no ‘protection’).

I’ve added some pictures and fixed some typos, identified a couple of inadvertent reinventions (via the comments) and calculated that about 97% of the days since November 2006 have seen me inventing something. It’s still important to post daily, even if the idea is not very good. Maybe it will spark a better invention in your own mind.

If you discover any additional errors or omissions please let me know via pra@patrickandrews.com -all suggestions are very welcome as usual.


#1462: Audioence

Whether a cinema audience is captivated by a test screening of a movie is often a multi-million dollar issue. Such audiences are carefully grilled afterwards about which bits they liked but it’s hard to get objective measures of moment-by-moment engagement (certainly if a major re-edit is required).

Today’s invention is a way to detect signs of distraction among audience members.

Some microphones are placed under seats in a cinema (any voice recordings made would be distorted to protect identities of viewers). Since the sound field created at each showing of a given movie is largely repeatable, it would be possible to subtract the local background rustling, muttering, crunching, giggling noises from the film soundtrack (even if it was set to the earsplitting levels of “Revenge of the Mechanoid Zombies II”).

Just the total volume of noise would provide filmmakers with a second-by-second insight into whether a movie was grabbing attention (people sit very still when paying close attention).

It would be particularly good for assessing adverts (I would be easily detected saying “ohmygodhowcrass” in response to most of these).

#1461: TwinTills

Queueing in supermarkets is a source of stress that no customer should have inflicted on them.

Today’s invention is a stupidly simple way to alleviate the problem.

Customers can pick up a sign in-store which they attach to the front of their trolley. This enables them to enter a fast aisle in which every trolley is dealt with by two checkout staff.

Their tills communicate to form a single combined bill, so that the escape from the shop is accelerated (by a factor approaching two).

The charge made for this service would be included in one’s bill and would be adjusted so as to control the queue lengths at these double tills.

#1460: Magazegun

Soldiers can sometimes find themselves with ammunition in magazines but without weapons into which to insert them.

Today’s invention is a magazine which comes equipped with an integrated barrel and manually-operated hammer mechanism.

These would be very cheap, are designed not to obstruct the normal function of the main weapon and yet, in its absence, would still allow rounds to be fired direct from the magazine.

#1459: FocalDepth

Divers’ watches can be beautiful examples of precision engineering but they are also subject to damage, malfunction and misreading under pressure.

Given that their main function is to alert a diver to the need to surface, today’s invention achieves this in a simpler, cheaper way (and might be used as a low-tech backup).

Before descending, a diver would strap to his wrist a watch case containing an old-style 35 mm film cartridge. The film would lie over a high-contrast image of a downwards pointing arrow.

The diver would select a number of light filters to insert over the film, corresponding to the planned depth and duration of the dive. When the light available at depth had exposed the film enough to obscure the arrow, it would be time to surface again.

#1458: PetPortal

It’s cold here in Scotland at the moment and yet the various domestic animals that have taken over my household still need to get in and out.

Today’s invention is a catflap which limits the coldest, ground-hugging air from entering every time the cat does.

Located high in the door, and reached by a series of footpegs attached to the surface (cut so as to limit to door opening angle as little as possible), healthy cats can easily use the new facility and get some extra exercise in the process.

#1457: DeepFryer

The Royal Navy is soon to be equipped with submarines which are limited in the duration of their undersea operations only by the food on board (and the mental attitude of the crew, but I’m assuming that’s pretty much unbreakable).

Today’s invention is a large scoop which acts like a whale’s mouth filters, periodically catching enormous amounts of sea life, both animal and vegetable.

This would be pumped inside via a pressure lock, cleaned, microwaved and automatically processed into various, food-like forms by a special machine. By the addition of small amounts of flavourings, and mixed with existing food stocks, these might be made sufficiently attractive to sailors to prolong their missions significantly if required.

#1456: WalkInWash

I came across a question recently which was whether anyone knew of a way to have a walk-in bath and how that might work.

Today’s invention is one possible solution, which takes no account of the costs involved.

A large tank in the shape of a trough is bent around in a circle and rotated about a central horizontal axis. This axis acts as a conduit for water which is fed into the trough. it is held there as a layer by centripetal acceleration.

A bather can climb up a ladder and walk out on a gantry into the flowing water. This can be arranged so that the drag of the water exactly equals his weight and thus a bath can be taken in an upwardly moving stream.

#1455: Plugroup

I try to backup my laptop to a big capacity thumbdrive every morning when I power up the machine.

It’s easy to forget, though, so today’s invention is something I’ve actually made: a clip which holds the power cable in one end and the thumbdrive in the other.

This makes it difficult to connect the power without also inserting the memory stick in the adjacent slot.

A more advanced version would allow the clip to deal with power and USB connections at varying distances apart and might even include a way to attach to a security cable…which is usually a nuisance to lock and therefore easy to overlook.