Tag Archives | Inventions

Neal Stephenson: Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation

By Orin Zebest via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

By Orin Zebest via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

via Slate:

For a big part of my life, I assumed that the scarce resource—the thing that was preventing me from getting to Mars, or having my own personal jetpack—was clever ideas. Since I see myself as an idea person, that was a pleasant thing to believe. It’s flattering to think that you are one of the special few who hold the keys to the future. In the last decade and a half, though, I’ve spent a lot of time working in idea factories of various types, and I’ve come to see how wrong I was. I had fallen for a 19th-century vision of how it all works: the lone inventor sitting in the lobby of the patent office with his better mousetrap on his lap, waiting for the world to beat a path to his door. My thinking along those lines led to a 2011 piece titled “Innovation Starvation.” This led in turn to a partnership with Arizona State University to create Project Hieroglyph, which asked science fiction writers to help imagine new futures.

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Ohio Firefighter Creates Device to Keep Gunmen Out of Classrooms

In recent light of all the school shootings, many have wondered how to keep the children safe. A firefighter and SWAT medic who was also concerned, designed a device to keep intruders out.

classroom-lock-11

There are three designs for three different door types.

Model DSO For Outward Swinging Doors

Model DSI For Inward Swinging Doors

Model DCS For Scissor Action Door Closers

You can check out all the features here.

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The Mortsafe: How To Protect Yourself From Bodysnatchers

mortsafeVia Kuriositas, this was a must-have for personal security during the height of the Victorian corpse-snatching era:

Medical students in the United Kingdom of the nineteenth century faced a quandary. They had been accustomed to using the corpses of executed criminals to study anatomy. However, the annual demand for bodies to dissect by the growing medical profession surpassed ten times that number. A thriving and historically infamous bodysnatching trade arose. However, those mourning the loss of a loved one soon developed a weapon against this: the mortsafe.

First made around 1816, the mortsafe was ingenious: a complex of iron rods and plates descending in to the ground and rising above it.

If this seems like a great length to go to, there was good reason. Grave robbers were crafty and would go to even greater lengths to retrieve a corpse from its coffin. It wasn’t, as you might imagine, a straightforward case of sneaking in to the graveyard and digging the deceased up at the dead of night.

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Dolphin Translator Relays First Word

dolphinsCan we handle what dolphins have to tell us? CNET News reports:

Scientists at the Wild Dolphin Project (WDP) who have been developing a dolphin translator may have succeeded in getting their software to work.

WDP director Denise Herzing was swimming in the Caribbean with a pod of dolphins she has been tracking for 25 years, wearing a prototype of a dolphin translator called Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry (CHAT), developed by the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Thad Starner, when one of the dolphin’s whistles was translated as the word “sargassum” — a type of seaweed.

Humans have for some time been communicating with dolphins on a rudimentary level. The animals are capable of responding appropriately to commands and learning to recognise symbols.

The whistle picked up by CHAT, translated into human speech, was not a whistle from the dolphins’ natural repertoire. Instead, Herzing and her team invented a series of whistles and ascribed them to certain things — one of which was sargassum — and trained the dolphins to repeat the whistles when they encountered those things.

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The Wendy Carlos Multiphonic Keyboard And The Museum Of Imaginary Instruments

The altogether delightful Museum of Imaginary Instruments features not-quite-yet-real musical devices that hover at the boundaries of physical law and the human senses. Take, for instance, electronica pioneer Wendy Carlos’s dream keyboard of the new era:

Wendy Carlos is best known as a pioneer of the synthesizer who reached mass audiences with soundtrack for Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971). While never-before-heard timbres were a stunning feature of these works, Carlos also pursued another avenue opened up by synthesizers: the development of new tunings. Based on a design by R. H. M. Bosanquet from 1875, her proposed generalized keyboard divided the octave into 53 equal steps, strategically arranged so as to make all regular divisions of the octave playable. Carlos wrote. Alas, like the shift to meantone Carlos expected to see as digital synthesizing equipment became more common, the keyboard was not to be.

multiphonic keyboard

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Nikola Tesla’s Mechanical Men

Tesla boatIt’s mooted by Jon Turi at Engadget that Nikola Tesla, as ever ahead of his time, designed the first military drone, although he’s quoted as saying himself, “You do not see there a wireless torpedo; you see there the first of a race of robots, mechanical men which will do the laborious work of the human race”:

…Tesla once said, “The world moves slowly, and new truths are difficult to see.” It was his way of responding to the crowd’s stunned disbelief upon viewing his scientific wizardry at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1898. Using a small, radio-transmitting control box, he was able to maneuver a tiny ship about a pool of water and even flash its running lights on and off, all without any visible connection between the boat and controller. Indeed few people at the time were aware that radio waves even existed and Tesla, an inventor often known to electrify the crowd with his creations, was pushing the boundaries yet again, with his remote-controlled vessel.

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Polish Company Developing A Star Wars-Style Hologram Phone

Leia Display Systems is working on reducing the size of their impressive hologram-video machines to the point where you will make three-dimensional phone calls. Via the Mirror:
A Star Wars-style phone which allows users to see 3D hologram images of the person on the other end of the line has been pioneered by experts at Leia Display Systems, a Polish company named after the film’s heroine. To make a call, the person sits in front of a camera which has two lenses and a microphone. The two images formed by the lenses are streamed through to the person on the other end. A hologram machine then projects them onto a screen of water vapour. “At the moment, our holograms are made using machines that are more than six feet high but we are designing smaller versions. We hope to sell hologram telephone devices within the next five years,” Chief executive Marcin Panek said.
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A UFO Detector With Magnetometer For Detecting Magnetic Anomalies

detectWant to give a holiday gift that can uncover the secrets of the universe? Why not go with this UFO detector of questionable legitimacy for sale on Amazon:

UFO sightings are reported all over the planet by thousands of people. The real question is whether UFO’s are interstellar vehicles visiting Earth? Most UFO sightings can be classified as misidentified aircraft, planets or other aerial phenomena, but not all of them. A small percentage of UFO sightings can’t be explained by any known aircraft or natural phenomena.

Over the years real UFO sightings have reported simultaneous electromagnetic disturbances. The UFO Detector is designed to sense these electromagnetic disturbances and signal their detection flashing 16 LED’s simultaneously and beeping.

The elegantly designed transparent plastic case is a handsome sculptured conversation piece that’s allows one to see the electronics inside the case. Suitable for display on a desk, shelf or bedroom dresser. Uses a 6V wall transformer (included).

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Sony Files Patent For “SmartWig”

smartwigIf technology did not already make you feel insane enough, Engadget reports that Sony wants you to wear a wig that gives you GPS directions and vibrates when you receive an email:

Sony’s trying to patent what it calls a “SmartWig.” The application describes a standard wig that could “be made from horse hair, human hair, wool, feathers, yak hair or any kind of synthetic material,” with a circuit board hidden among those luscious locks.

That board can talk to a “second computing device” wirelessly — such as a phone or even a pair of smartglasses — and actuators embedded in the hairpiece could “provide tactile feedback to the user.” In other words, the wig could vibrate when you receive emails and the like. The wig-chip could also include GPS and an ultrasound transducer, with different regions buzzing to give navigation cues.

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Rebuilding Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Car

Dymaxion car photoThe legacy of Buckminster Fuller, one of America’s greatest minds of the 20th century, lives on, largely due to the dynamic Buckminster Fuller Institute and its annual Challenge, which awards cash prizes to inventors working in the same vein as Bucky. Others work independently to complete Bucky’s ideas, including Jeff Lane, who is building a Dymaxion car, based on Fuller’s 1933 prototype. David K. Gibson reports for BBC Autos:

Some concept cars influence decades of automotive engineering. Some concepts never catch on. Some simply catch fire.

The Dymaxion car, designed by the visionary US architect and all-round polymath R Buckminster Fuller, may be the rare prototype for which all of these things are true.

“It’s full of unique and different technologies,” says Jeff Lane, director of the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee. “It was a failure commercially, but it tried lots of different things that have had big influence on car design.” It was a big enough influence on Lane that, 80 years later, he’s in the final stages of recreating Fuller’s first prototype.

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