#1400: Flashare

When people take photographs using their cellphones eg at a concert, those cameras on board which have flashguns greatly deplete battery reserves because the cameras work independently.

Today’s invention is a way for such cellphone cameras to cooperate and share their flash illumination, so that everyone has enough light to take their shot.

When many people are poised to take a photo at the same venue, with their fingers on the shutter release at the same time, their cellphones could communicate this fact and calculate how much flash energy should be supplied in total. This would then allow the devices to share the load and individually produce only a small amount of light.

A more advanced version of this could, using GPS, take the relative positions and even orientations into account to create a well lit scene from almost all shooting positions.

#1393: Meshh

Today’s invention is a refinement for noisy, networked office machines.

A device on the network detects when a telephone (mobile or wired) is answered in the vicinity and pauses its activity so that the ensuing conversation won’t be disturbed by the noise of printing, shredding or blowing air.

Similarly, if there are active phones in the room, any ringtones emanating from additional incoming calls will be automatically told to mute themselves somewhat.

#1356: QuailMail

Now that we have GPS and relatively cheap UAVs, today’s invention is to unite these technologies to provide peer-to-peer package post.

Fire up your personal UAV quadricopter, and supply it with your friend’s address. Attach a package and the UAV will travel straight to the target postcode using GPS (avoiding trees, buildings and paragliders).

On nearing the destination, it will detect the wifi generated by the recipient’s hub and travel along a line of increasing signal strength until it messages the receiver who will emerge to collect the package.

#1345: EmbedCred

Crowdsourcing product design is pretty much flavour of the month…or it will be as soon as manufacturers start taking it seriously. Similarly the urge to own personalised products is increasing.

I watched my daughter selecting mobile phone designs at the weekend…not only must the touch and feel of the interface be crisp, the colour striking but not ridiculous, she wants the whole thing to be unlike anyone else’s device.

Today’s invention is a website for the most ardent customers for tech products on which they can specify such wants/ innovations.

If their idea gets adopted, a small CV file of theirs is embedded in the device, indicating what they contributed and thus providing them with a small claim to fame and access to many new potential business partners/clients who need to access such creativity.

These buyers also get the added value of knowing a little more backstory in connection with their new design classic.

#1337: Wirewords

Today’s invention is a flexible, cheap way to make large-scale written notices.

Units such as those on the left of the diagram can be attached to a pegboard-type background in a variety of layouts (including that of the seven-segment arrangement shown on the right).

A wire, cable or tube is looped around these units, either through the hidden or visible side of each.

This allows words to be spelled out using a continuous section of high contrast rope etc. (much more convenient than searching in a box of preformed characters for that missing ‘X’).

#1326: Digityping

So, just type in ‘ colondoublebackslashwww.domain.nnn ‘ after the prompt; obviously without including the quotes and stuff

This is the kind of instruction which tech support geeks give to newbie customers, and which usually results in great frustration at both ends of the phone line.

Today’s invention is a browser plug-in which shows an animated finger moving slowly across a keyboard illustrating exactly the correct sequence of keystrokes and without any possible alternative interpretations.

This would require that an image of a finger was stored hovering over each key and that a realtime image interpolation be constructed of the movement between eg A and B.

(It just occurred to me that a keyboard which could be remotely controlled in player piano mode, the keys being depressed in sequence by internal magnets, as if by some ghostly hand, might also help avoid misunderstandings when illustrating keyboard techniques).

#1312: PostView

When using a networked printer, that ‘page preview’ thing never works well enough to be relied upon. Inevitably the printer is located half a day’s walk away from your desk, so you will make a print, trek, gasp in surprise at the ugly errors it contains, bin it and repeat a few times.

This wastes time and paper.

Today’s invention is a network printer which scans what it has just printed and sends you a copy electronically. You will almost certainly want to improve on the first version, so it will then offer you the option of feeding the paper back through the machine for another print on the other side.

#1287: Showheels

Trade shows and exhibitions are so last-but-one century.

People pay vast amounts to have ‘stands’ so that many more folk can pass by semi-somnolent and maybe pick up horrible free pens and product literature.

Today’s invention is to have an exhibition space filled with ‘stands’ which are free to move very slowly from place to place. These would each be mounted on an electrically-driven trolley and allow anyone to hop on and off (or wheelchairs to roll on roll off).

Just having stands appear next to each other in interesting juxtapositions would be exciting and thought provoking, but I’d also suggest having stands of differing sizes so that many people (eg startups) might have one that was like a powered shopping trolley.

How about stands which could be directed by delegates’ mobile phone messages?

#1283: Camouflag

Military vehicles often need to carry various electronic self-identification technologies on board to ensure that they are not accidentally attacked by their own side’s missiles.

Today’s invention is a simpler, less costly version of this approach, applicable to every vehicle, in which a 2-D barcode (eg QR code) is carried on a pull-out, printed panel (as flags are traditionally used).

This ensures that optically guided missiles will not engage with friendly vehicles marked in this way and it also allows the code to be almost indistinguishable (to human eyes) from the background camouflage pattern applied to the vehicle in question.

This makes it hard for enemy spies to copy the code and use it to protect their own tanks (especially since a new code panel could be printed out daily).

#1270: HueView

This questionnaire in which people were asked to name colours takes no account of eg the adjacent hues or edge conditions, but it’s fascinating, nonetheless.

The map at the bottom was surprising, since you might expect a more uniform, rays-of-the-sun distribution within RGB space. Instead, it seems many more shades are labeled red than blue, for example.

If it’s true that we can discriminate many fewer blues than reds, then this immediately offers a new colour image compression algorithm.

At its simplest, each pixel in an image would be assigned a certain colour ‘depth’ in terms of bits. Fewer bits could be assigned to local shades of blue than to shades of red, for example, in proportion to the areas indicated on the XKCD map.

This could be extended to optimise discrimination at the boundaries between adjacent regions of the map (so that more bits could be allocated to emphasise the difference between eg a yellow and an orange).