Today’s invention makes use of the Brazil Nut Effect in which a jar containing a range of different-sized nuts will, when agitated (in a gravitational field), end up with the biggest nuts on top
Instead of nuts, we use large beads with a specially streamlined shape, together with spherical small ones.
Each of the large beads contains a reel of thread or tape which unwinds as its bead is propelled upwards relative to the small ones. This results in a thread running vertically downwards beneath each of the large beads on the surface. Turn the container through an angle and repeat the agitation. A new set of parallel threads will form.
Manipulating the container in 3-D can drive the large nuts under and over existing threads, forming a warp and weft structure.
When this is sufficiently dense, the small beads can be allowed to flow out of the container -leaving a self-organised fabric behind.
I was reading about this uninspired piece of robot research, when it occurred to me that there is an opportunity in the no-holds-barred business of advertising.
You have probably seen that old prank in which a person stares into the sky, at nothing, yet who then gathers a crowd staring in the same way. Well, today’s invention is based on a similar approach.
A webpage, or electronic billboard, has simulated pairs of eyes peppered around it between the content items. Advertisers can pay to have the pairs of eyes appear to move so as to look at their ad (drawing the attention of viewers).
Pay more and the eyes spend more time moving towards your advert.
(For a conventional hoarding, you might have robot mannikins in a nearby shop window shift their gaze towards them).
It seems the guidelines for optimal placement of one’s speakers in a room are reasonably straightforward.
Today’s invention is a pair of speakers which are set on movable stands. The speakers can be driven vertically upwards and downwards and the stands are also mobile, being driven across the floor by onboard motors.
The system comes equipped with a remote control unit (containing a wifi transmitter). Sit down, holding this facing the speakers, in your listening chair and they will automatically dispose themselves adaptively to suitable positions and heights (relative to the corners of the room, the listener and each other).
The remote allows the selection of different test music and also fine tuning of speaker location/orientation.
Today’s invention is an autonomous central barrier on a motorway -except that it’s not central.
Sensors count cars moving in either direction and adjust the barrier’s lateral position (a set of linked, mobile robot cones, shown in red) so that whichever side of the road currently has the bigger traffic flow gets the wider carriageway.
This smooths the movement of vehicles and reduces any tendency to tailbacks and jams.
Today’s invention is a toy which works with one’s iPad (remember when everyone thought that was a stupid name?)
The toy is a bristlebot variant which carries an optical switch pointed down at the screen.
As the bot buzzes about and lands on a dark region, it presses the screen causing regions to change their lightness/darkness. If the screen is locally light, the bot buzzes off somewhere else. Thus, the whole thing behaves according to nonlinear feedback (with some visual noise added).
Should be fun to set going in a browser window (with the screen adjusted to high contrast).
Minefields aren’t ever really ethical, even if they are defending your family from some foreign army. Today’s invention is a new way to lay mines which is somewhat less horrendous than normal.
A robot device is programmed to traverse a stretch of territory, pressing into the ground small, bullet-like mines (designed to hold up an attack, by inflicting minimal wounds when triggered by an incautious boot).
The robot keeps a very careful record of where these devices are placed, laying them randomly within a designated secret region. It then parks itself prominently somewhere where there is no mine.
The approaching army sees the bot, understands there is a minefield ahead and makes a cellphone call to the number displayed on its casing.
This causes the robot to start retracing its steps, neutralising the mines by firing them vertically upwards. This it does however exceptionally slowly.
When the process is complete, the bot destroys itself. The result is that a cheap minefield has delayed an oncoming army, been completely cleared and left no technology behind to be ‘repurposed’.
Today’s invention reinvents the wheel…again. It started by thinking about how animals like the cheetah move at speed by flinging back legs forward over front legs which are gripping the ground -even very rough ground.
A vehicle (blue) is fitted with a large number of axles. Each has a cylindrical sleeve on both ends which rotate with the axle. In the sleeve, a ‘leg’ is located, so that it can be driven axially within the sleeve (perhaps by use of a screw thread driven by a motor on each axle).
The vehicle would have many wheels operating in sequence, as shown -allowing the overlapping legs to reach forward, grip the ground, push backwards and then be withdrawn axially (or rotated) for a new cycle.
This would allow rapid cross-country movement, potentially with no vertical motion of the vehicle body.