#1170: Sparrobot

Boxers seem to do a lot of damage to themselves simply when sparring. Today’s invention is an upgrade to the standard springloaded punchball.

In addition to the floor-mounted punchball, two other such balls on springy stalks would be provided -each the size and colour of an opponent’s glove. The boxer would attempt to land punches on the main ball, in lieu of an opponent’s head, by avoiding the two smaller balls.

Instead of rebounding predictably, these smaller balls would each be driven by a computer in patterns which were like normal defensive moves -and with an element of unpredictability. This would mean that a boxer could be hit by them pretty forcefully but not so as to sustain unnecessary damage. (Actually it might be possible to have a camera in the main ball with face recognition software driving the ‘gloves’ to hit the boxer back).

The main ball could also be wired to record the number of on-target shots automatically.

#1169: Foamuscles

Today’s invention is a coat with variable thermal insulation. Sponges are great at containing static air, which in turn is great for holding in heat.

The idea is to make a number of sponges roughly in the shape of muscle groups in the torso (different coats would be needed for males and females as usual). These sponges would be placed in airtight (metallised) bags which would then be joined to form a liner for the coat. Each bag would have a simple valve (making them a bit like wine bags).

When wearing the coat on a cold day which warms up, the user simply presses on some combination of bags so as to squeeze the air from them and flatten the sponges. Each bag’s valve seals again and the coat has become much less insulating in a number of places -depending on personal preference.

When it gets cold again, the valves are squeezed briefly, allowing air to be sucked back in by the elasticity of the sponges themselves.

#1168: ShellShed

Today’s invention is a cheap form of disaster relief shelter which consists of two lengths of reed-type matting; one inserted inside the other and sewn together.

This can be made in double thickness and coated with mud for extra weather protection.

It is intended to provide a family unit with a rapid, structurally tough way to stay warm, dry and as clean as possible.

#1167: KeyKeep

Today’s invention is an Allen-type bolt which incorporates its own key.

This is normally stored within the core of the bolt (without greatly reducing the strength of the fixture).

When the bolt is to be tightened in place, the key is slid out, held captive in its slot, and rotated to give some mechanical advantage.

#1166: SkinScan

Today’s invention is an iPhone app (or equivalent) which provides the user with a visual explanation of the innermost workings of any device against which the phone is held.

This would work only for devices which contained some kind of RFID tag. The phone would sense this and be informed about the relative position and orientation of the two devices.

The phone would then play on its screen an X-ray movie of the guts of the system directly beneath the phone itself -as if a real-time local X-ray were being taken.

#1165: RaysUp

Today’s invention is a streetlamp which has the light located at the base of the internally polished shaft.

This arrangement is topped by a lightweight, aerodynamic, curved mirror onto which the light is shone, so that the area around the base is illuminated.

Using this approach, lamps are less vulnerable to vibration and vandalism but the main benefit is a saving on wiring and maintenance costs, since the lamps can be replaced at ground level, without recourse to a ‘cherrypicker’.

#1164: Barrelroll

I’m afraid it’s back to weaponry.

I was thinking about how rifling is a fairly inelegant solution to the problem of maintaining the accuracy of a bullet’s flight. Today’s invention is therefore an alternative mechanism to promote greater accuracy.

A round is injected into the (unrifled) barrel of an automatic weapon -but the whole barrel is spinning (powered either by an onboard motor or by the exhaust gases from a previous round).

The round seals in the barrel and spins with it. A firing pin acts in the usual way and the propellant drives the bullet down the spinning bore -expelling it with an optimal rotation rate determined by the distance to the target, the windspeed, the cartridge size, etc.

#1163: Speedskirt

I’ve seen the owners of cars like Lamborghinis graunch large sections of their plastic bodyshell to crumbs during accidental contact with a kerb or a pothole.

Today’s invention is a road-car body skirt which moves up and down automatically in response to the ups and downs of the road surface immediately in front of the vehicle. These irregularities could be detected by some kind of idler wheel but, more elegantly, by a small scanning laser beam (We already have acoustic parking detectors but there is a need for more than beeping when travelling at speed).

This would allow a car to travel rapidly on a motorway, with the skirt fully down (reducing both drag and road noise significantly -the skirt would cover most of the wheels themselves, when in the lowest position).

Encounter a brick or a speed bump and the skirt would rise to accommodate the obstruction.

#1162: Faucetfacets

Today’s invention is a simple distraction from the normal irritations of kitchen life.

It comprises a stainless steel kitchen sink, the base of which has carefully flattened facets, just like those in the drums of a Jamaican steel band.

Water from the tap can be directed, using a small hose, onto different areas of the sink, and a tune played. The timbre of the notes can be varied by altering the water flowrate.

#1161: Spidershield

I’m told by various family members that in Australia, car crashes sometimes happen because the large and aggressive Huntsman spider likes to hide under the sun visors of vehicles. These crevices resemble the bark of trees: the spider’s natural habitat.

Driving along a freeway on a sunny day, it’s possible to see a 10cm creature drop and scuttle across one’s lap. Forget texting, this has to be the most dangerous distraction ever.

Today’s invention is a simple solution, consisting of a sheet of magnetised steel which can be bonded direct to the back of any sun visor.

Each time the visor is folded back and stowed, the magnet presses the visor hard against the roof of the vehicle -making ingress, by even the most tenacious invertebrates, impossible.