#1557: FiShine

Keeping any animal in captivity is potentially a cruel thing to do. I’m therefore very keen to maximise the health of domesticated creatures.

Many fish have very advanced colour vision, so today’s invention is aimed at preserving what might be thought of as their mental health, by giving them some control over their environment.

It involves fitting their tank with a number of coloured lights. Each is wired to illuminate locally as a fish approaches. Fish will tend to congregate at positions which are lit in their preferred shade(s).

Each light in the tank could be placed opposite a simple photocell. The signal from each of these would depend on the number of fish occluding the lamp.

This could be used automatically to infer the distribution of fish and then to control which colours should be ‘on’ most frequently. This would enable the tank’s occupants to customise their own visual environment.

(It would interesting eg to see what spatial distributions developed within different subspecies and whether colour preference varied with the time of day).

#1556: Indicaturn

It can sometimes happen that, due to driver distraction or inexperience, a car indicates that it is about to move left and then turns right.

This is obviously a dangerous situation.

Today’s invention is therefore an electrical link between angle of the steering wheel and the indicators.

If there were a mismatch between the indicated and actual directions, an alarm would sound so that the driver could become aware of the impending problem and correct it.

An obvious extension to this system would be to have an alarm sound when turning without first indicating.

#1555: Gnawicker

Young dogs seem to chew anything within reach. In particular, they seem to like to gnaw on their bedding and, if not closely supervised, their baskets. This has some benefits though for their teeth and jaw muscle development.

Today’s invention is a puppy basket in a woven construction. The upper layers of the weave are made not of wicker, but of rawhide strips impregnated with a dental disinfectant.

The action of chewing the basket focuses the dog’s attention on this object, rather than other, more valuable, furniture.

Since the animal will soon grow out of both this bad habit and the basket itself, it might as well contribute to the pup’s health.

#1554: CornerCoil

Steering wheels in in Formula1 are becoming highly elaborate, almost organic designs. They have paddles, levers and buttons appearing each season in a variety of different locations (Outside racing, the biggest design changes I can remember were the squarish one they fitted to the ancient Austin Allegro and the airbags which are now fitted everywhere).

On the track though, airbags are thought to be too hard to make work effectively. Given the massive accelerations and occasional bumps which cars sustain, the last thing you need is a driver suddenly blinded at high speed behind his own barrage balloon.

Drivers’ bodies are held in pretty tightly by five-point harnesses, but their heads and necks can still come to grief.

Today’s invention is steering ‘wheel’ which doubles as a safety head restraint for racing drivers. It takes the form of a tube of metal which is springloaded and latched into a flat spiral (This also allows drivers to vary the torque they can apply to the wheel over a bigger range).

When colliding with something in front, the spiral is released, approximately maintains its outer diameter and springs towards the driver, forming a springy cone into which his helmet is guided and which gently arrests the dangerous acceleration of the cranium relative to the car.

This is achieved without obscuring the driver’s vision, so that he can, if he chooses, re-latch the spiral into its flat plane and continue racing.

#1553: HoldingTanks

Fighter planes used to carry drop tanks…fuel-filled underwing cylinders which, once exhausted during a long-distance mission, would be jettisoned to allow greater manoeuvrability during an attack.

Now that aerial drones or UAVs are becoming commonplace, today’s invention represents a way for airforces to undertake their missions with greater flexibility -and without having to tie up massive aerial tankers which are themselves pretty vulnerable.

Each fuel tank, in additional to the internal ones, would be a UAV in its own right.

On reaching a target area or when under attack, a military jet would release the tanks which would adopt a randomised holding pattern in the sky until docked again with the original plane or with another emitting a recognised callsign.

This would allow the parent craft to be a much less vulnerable target and offer the chance for different planes to rendez-vous with fuel in an emergency.

#1552: RhinoDayglo

Rhinoceros horn sells, as a constituent of traditional medicine on the black market, at up to $54,000 per kg. Poachers are gradually driving all the subspecies to extinction.

Many Rhino have their horns removed but this influences their natural mating behaviour and is difficult and costly to apply to even the small numbers of animals that remain.

Todays’ invention is an self-driving solar-electric vehicle which patrols rhino territory quietly and which emits the smell of an invading male rhino (ie has a pile of dung on board).

This will attract rhino and often cause them to attack. The vehicle is equipped with protection panels which are heavily painted with a bright coating which is both colourful and mildly poisonous if ingested. This contaminates the horns of the animals on impact (but since it’s dead keratin, it doesn’t get metabolised by them).

The coloration is visible to poachers, saving the lives of any creatures which are thus marked, since it’s hard to remove without mechanical damage, visible to a buyer.

By undermining confidence in the supply chain (including manually spraying any rhino that are encountered by eg tourist buses), poaching can be seriously disrupted.

#1551: Sshellphone

The streets are full of people with cellphones pressed to their ears.

Their other hands are usually employed in covering their other ears, in order to avoid distraction by the background hum of traffic and chatter.

Today’s invention is a flexible, sound-insulating back for one’s cellphone.

In a noisy environment, this cup can be unclipped and placed over the non-listening ear whilst taking a call. The cup has a soft outer ridge which forms a good seal against the skin around one’s ear, when pressed into place, thus freeing-up one of the user’s hands.

The cups could be made in a skin tone to match the user’s own (or moulded into a quirky, Vulcan version).

#1550: RetroRound

Non lethal weapons are often a misnomer. Nonetheless, I’d like to give armies the option of scaring their opponents rather than annihilating them.

Today’s invention is a bullet which is actually an explosive shell. This allows it to be fired over a huge variety of distances with high accuracy.

On impact, a percussion cap in the nose fires the internal charge which explodes in the forwards direction through a small array of ports in the nose. The bullet is stopped in its tracks by this retrorocket effect before it can cause serious injury

The target individual would feel this blast and no doubt have his/her uniform charred. Whilst remaining unwounded, this would greatly lower morale and the will to continue fighting.

#1549: FaceMove

Facebook profile pictures are so boring. Half the time people use an image of their horse or their favourite footballer. If you post a lot, then the screen fills with multiple copies of the same shot -which seems rudimentary and uninspired.

Today’s invention tries to inject some animation to Facebook.

Everyone would have the option to upload several images of themselves eg a sequence of them turning to the left, or just their eyes moving or pointing…five or six shots should be enough (without greatly increasing the demand on the servers).

Your posts would then be emphasised by having you apparently turn towards the text and point (or wave and beckon, roll your eyes, whatever).

An elaboration of this scheme would be to have a small set of these sequences…eg one you could choose to tag happy, one angry etc. Each of your posts would then offer the option to tick a box corresponding to the relevant mood sequence in your personal set.

This would offer much more involvement, competition for attention and personality.

#1548: Securitycheque

Banking is not really an industry and certainly not one with much interest in innovation. Today’s invention, however, attempts to provide some extra security for those still insisting on using those dreadful, old paper cheques (or money orders/traveler’s cheques).

When someone wants to make a purchase, they pull out a chequebook-shaped, tamper-proof box. It contains some paper blanks and a small printer.

A keyboard allows entry of relevant data and there would be a screen to allow a signature (if an ink one was not required).

This system allows only the user to access the cheques, using their fingerprint and/or a passcode (but anyone stealing the device could not misuse the owner’s funds as they could with a current book of cheques).

All of this process would occur under the watchful eye of some seller (the accountholder could press a button on the device to have the bank send the seller a photo of the account holder -for additional confirmation of a large financial transaction).