#1860: WiltLimiter

Houseplants always die when left in my care. When looking wrinkly,droopy,yellowish or shedding, they receive the same treatment: a good watering.

Today’s invention tries to overcome my horticultural ineptitude.

A webcam watches each bank of houseplants. This can be made to detect any difference between frames taken at the same time each day.

Progressive shape or colour changes are relatively easy to spot using image processing software and, when found, would alert my smartphone.

A smarter version would attempt to diagnose the problem, based on a small expert system (+ barcodes on the pots), and suggest remedies like ‘move this one out of the sun and give this other one a good pruning’ (or whatever).

#1859: OdDie

Today’s invention is a new form of die (inspired by this and this).

Conventional dice are open to the accusation that they are unfair -due to the inbuilt moment-of-inertia asymmetries of different faces (eg six recessed dots don’t rotate in exactly the same way as two). This new die attempts to avoid that problem.

The design consists of a dished cube set within an outer,transparent cube. The inner is fixed within the outer by thin arms at the 8 corners.

The space between inner and outer contains 42 identical spheres.

Each of the dishes is made to accommodate up to six of them when the die is tossed (there is a gap between inner and outer which is just a little more than one sphere-diameter deep, so that spheres can only form a monolayer).

The remaining spheres crash to the bottom of the die each time.

#1858: Pianotation

I’m always frustrated by my inability to map finger movements onto those required by almost any musical instrument (yes, even the tambourine).

Today’s invention is a screen fitted to a piano which, instead of all that squiggly symbolism from left to right, shows ten finger positions above the keys that need pressed to make the right noises.

The screen would animate these positions by scrolling them towards the player (as if printed on a roll of paper). This would aid development of some anticipation of where the fingers need to move to next.

…Necessarily rudimentary for those of us excluded, neurologically, from any conventional music theory.

#1857: Torquefork

When attempting to dig heavy (or partly frozen) soil, some technology (beyond that of the spade) would be useful. This assumes that you don’t want the expense and effort of hiring a fullscale rotovator.

Today’s invention is a fork with three or more conical, screwed tangs. These are chain-driven by a motor in the shaft, so that they drill into the earth.

When they are fully embedded, the user leans on the shaft and the soil yields, allowing it to be dug up by more conventional means.

#1856: Endicator

When I drive down a motorway I’m always irritated by the fact that strings of giant lorries (ie trucks) occlude my view of upcoming roadside signs.

Those mounted on overhead gantries are fine, but I often miss turnoffs, because either the sign or the road itself are hidden behind a nose-to-tail fleet of freight-filled behemoths.

Today’s invention is a simple solution.

Tall lorries would be required to have a uniform road turnoff sign painted on their rear face.

Besides the turnoff symbol, an illuminated screen would be attached as shown.

This would be activated by a wireless signal from the real, hidden sign (or via GPS) so that the last truck would always be showing me the name of the town to which the next slip road leads (as well as its distance away).

#1855: SpinSign

Astronauts on the space station have to live with no real definition of ‘up‘.

Today’s invention is to replace each of the many signs on board by a small, square electronic display. These displays would have a camera on board with face detection capability.

On spotting the face of an astronaut, a sign would be able to orientate its text and graphical message to match the crew member’s current alignment.

#1854: SawSled

If you are felling trees in a remote wilderness and your truck breaks down, it can be life-threatening.

Today’s invention is an emergency vehicle designed to be formed from a small wooden platform and two (or more) chainsaws.

The saws are therefore designed to accommodate a steel band which fits over each set of teeth, transforming them into a passable caterpillar track.

They can then be clamped, using their integral fittings, onto any board (if necessary, one cut from a big tree) and the resulting vehicle used to get eg an injured person back to base safely, using the remote throttle cable controls shown.

#1853: JogHug

When running, I notice that if I take off my outer, waterproof jacket, I have no option other than to wrap the arms around my waist and tie a knot in them,

This is a bad way to treat the garment and tends to destroy the waterproffing in the area that is repeatedly knotted.

Today’s invention is therefore a running jacket whose arms have corresponding long strips of velcro on the outside of one and the inside of the other.

This would allow them to be wrapped about my waist, adjustable in a continuous way, and held there firmly, without having to pause in my already slow, barefoot progress.

#1852: LightLines

I object to the fact that huge acreages of the UK’s roads are now bounded by painted no-parking lines. They are truly ugly and don’t seem to have that much effect on people who are too thick not to understand if they are causing an obstruction.

In addition, the cost of maintaining millions of metres of road paint is enormous.

Today’s invention is to have any such parking restriction symbols projected onto the road surface by streetlights which are almost always overhead in such urban zones.

Each streetlight could be fitted with a lens and some computer-controlled, coloured filters.

This would allow parking regulations to be timed more flexibly and the symbols would be visible even on snowy days.

The extra cost of running the lights during daylight hours could be minimised by using high efficiency lamps and projecting eg a row of bright blobs rather than continuous lines.

No more road closures would be required for the endless task of paint burning and upgrading.

#1851: SkinThinner

Many industries rely on being able to abrade or erode large areas of material in order to prepare for coating or to reduce weight by thinning.

Today’s invention is a small robot device consisting of a mobile milling head on the outside of a skin or bulkhead and a mobile ultrasound sensor, moving in step with it, on the other side.

This would allow material to be removed in an automated but controlled way so that the sensor could determine the remaining local thickness and instruct the mill head when to move to the next target area.

There would also be a narrow vacuum hose to remove the abraded particles.