#2276: PackAging

It’s one thing to put unhealthy products like cigarettes in ugly packaging, but today’s invention seeks to get the message across in a more personal way.

When someone buys a pack of cigarettes from a vending machine, a photograph would be taken of them, by the machine.


This would then be processed in realtime to simulate the aging effects of tobacco usage and the resulting image printed onto the package.

A more positive marketing message might be used on healthy products, except that the image there would show some automatic wrinkle removal, eye whitening etc.

#2275: Stellaugmentation

There are lots of clever apps out there that will allow you to point your GPS-enabled smartphone towards the sky and see a detailed map of what celestial bodies are where.

None however, that I can find, offers the functionality included in today’s invention.


Instead of doing the standard thing of compressing stars into meaningless, 2-D constellations, the app which I envisage would portray the stars as dots with different diameters.

Closer stars would have a larger diameter.

This would also allow stars at a common radius to be shown on a translucent sphere (perhaps with different colours for each).

It would then be easy to animate the simulated movement in a given direction from sphere to sphere (and thus backwards in time).

#2274: ShiftKeys

Today’s invention is yet another attempt to alleviate my difficulties with the infernal interface known as the keyboard.

Imagine if the keys were attached to an underlying steel plate by magnets and were each fitted on a tiny cart so that they were capable of being driven rapidly to different positions on the plane (perhaps by altering the magnetic field in the plate).


The keys would move from their default qwerty layout, driven by a predictive-text spellchecker algorithm.

In this way, if my fingers are about to eg end the word ‘unlikely’ with a ‘t’ instead of a ‘y’ the y key could physically push its way under my erring finger, instead of the t.

#2273: TabletTear

I hate having to faff about with dishwasher tablets (although they seem to be the only way to get dishes clean, without doing the work manually).

It’s bad enough having to use that caustic chemistry, but getting it routinely on my skin has to be a bad idea.


Today’s invention is a small modification to a dishwasher which might help the situation.

The tablet is placed in the housing and the lid closed by sliding as usual.

As the lid passes over the tablet, a spike on the underside of the leading (orange) edge ruptures the plastic bag.

This allows water to flush through without ever having to handle the contents.

When the cycle is complete, open the housing and throw the (clean) packaging away.

#2272: Surf-ace

Today’s invention is a training aid for surfboarders.

When the weather is too fierce, the surf’s not up or experience is lacking, it offers a ‘dry-slope’ for exponents of this sport.


A cylinder of carpet-like material with a low-friction coating on the outside is supported in a base shaped as shown.

An internal drum rotates, moving the carpet so that it flops inwards on the upper surface, to a degree.

This allows surfers to place their board on the crest of the wave and surf continuously as the carpet rotates.

#2271: NeckWare

Have you ever found yourself going for a picnic or some other outside event and bringing a bottle only to remember that swigging the contents by the neck might not appeal to all participants?

Today’s invention tries, as ever, to uhold standards of decorum.


Each bottle would have a few plastic ‘glasses’ fitted around its neck.

The glasses would need to be moulded carefully so as to nest tightly but still allow air flow inside when you want to separate them from each other and make a toast .

#2270: PuppetPlane

I always liked to suspend my model planes from clear threads hanging from the ceiling.

Technology has moved forward a lot since I was a boy modelmaker, though.


Today’s invention is a quadrocopter which can support a model aircraft (say 1/72nd scale) via a few fishing lines.

This can be programmed to skim the ceiling in a preset flight pattern, bringing to life such models in a way that no static stand or display case can…especially if the model has a motor-driven propeller.

A more advanced version would involve two such ‘copters whose aircraft would chase each other overhead.

#2269: Avalauncher

Skiers and mountaineers are often at the mercy of avalanches.

Today’s invention provides wthem with a NASA-specification escape technology.


In the same way that space vehicles usually carry an escape rocket on the nose, people in the mountains could take poles each of which contain a small hybrid rocket motor.

In the moments that they sense an avalanche has begun, each user would plant one pole in the ground and stand on the disk at the base, holding the handgrip which houses the rocket start button.

The motor could be fired when an acoustic sensor detected the onrush of snow from above, but manual firing would probably be preferred.

This would lift the user say 10 metres into the air so that they could avoid the vast majority of the wall of snow and ice. They would land on softer material and be less likely to be submerged.

The rocket motor could then be used as both a lance with which to melt any surrounding snow and a signal when they emerged from the drifts.

#2268: Containair

According to the BBC, At any given moment about 20% of all containers on the world’s seas are empty.

If this is correct, then this extreme economic imbalance offers some opportunities for rationalisation.


Today’s invention represents one of the simplest possible approaches.

Containers are stowed on deck and contribute significantly to the drag on ships and thus their running costs -even when empty. A small saving on fuel would be enormously valuable.

The smallest possible modification would be to equip containers with ends which both open.

This would allow containers to be on deck with their doors folded back and the airflow passing through the resulting corridors.

Although the drag would be cut by much less than 20%, it could still represent a very big saving.

Of course this design of container would also work well if being driven, empty, on the back of a truck.

#2267: Gestalteration

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of consciousness and its inconsistencies (which we call illusions).

One of these is the Ebbinghaus illusion in which the apparent size of an object is influenced by the size of objects around it.


It seems that this effect plays a role in causing the Moon Illusion (in which the Moon sometimes looks enormous when viewed near the horizon). Take a picture of this though and the effect is much diminished.

Today’s invention is a camera app which detects an isolated circle and, if it is near other objects, distorts the image so as to make the circle actually larger within it.

This idea could be extended to a suite of other geometry-based illusions, so that impressive perceptual phenomena could be captured photographically.