Inventors Toolbox

Technologies and Ideas for Product Development

Bone Conduction Cellphone

Posted by Talbot on October 19, 2007

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Sending sound through our bones seems like a really strange concept. You put a ‘speaker’ of sorts on some bone of your body, and it vibrates the bone to create and send the sound throughout your body (most importantly, to your inner ear). In the last year or two, there have been a few new products that take advantage of this concept, such as headphones and even a children’s toothbrush. This time, developers have built it into a cell phone.

One nice advantage of using bone conduction is that headphones can become much smaller and less obtrusive. In a few years, will this be the one of the first technologies that starts the horrendous-yet-inevitable trend of installing electronic hardware on our bodies?

http://blog.wired.com/gadgets/2007/10/bone-conduction.html

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Microwind Generator

Posted by Talbot on October 17, 2007

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A big problem with conventional wind-based power generation is that it requires a relatively high average wind speed in a particular area. This unusual design boasts much better efficiency in low winds by exploiting wind’s ability to vibrate a ribbon (or bridge). The vibrating ribbon moves a small magnet rapidly back and forth between a set of electromagnetic coils, which comprise one of the simplest generator designs possible.

This appears to be a terrific design with lots of potential today for niche applications such as remote self-powered equipment. While it will probably not compete with full size wind turbines in the forseeable future, maybe a much larger version of this design (or an array of these modules) could provide useable power for some home applications.

http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/industry/4224763.html?series=37 via ecogeek

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Flat Shelves

Posted by Talbot on October 12, 2007

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The construction and assembly of these shelves are about as easy as it gets. They are cut from a single sheet of steel, and only require a little bending and a couple of screws to install. I really like this design because it:

  • reduces shipping cost
  • makes assembly and installation very easy
  • reduces both material and manufacturing costs
  • could eventually be a ‘downloadable product’ (you would download the design and cut/print it yourself on a home CNC or 3d printer)

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/10/bend_it_like_pi.php

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GPS Tracking System on Steroids

Posted by Talbot on October 12, 2007

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Until recently, remote GPS tracking systems have only been able to send the location, speed, and direction of a vehicle through wireless networks. Onstar has pioneered some improvements to such systems by offering the ability to unlock vehicles and turn them off when they are stolen.

The system pictured above takes it to the next step on a few different levels. The additional services include driver identification and sobriety testing, speeding detection, remote locking, and light/horn control. Although products like this may conjure up thoughts of Big Brother, the potential savings to companies through reduced accidents and theft will continue to create a demand for remote monitoring and control of any costly company property.

http://money.cnn.com/2007/10/03/technology/hijack_proof_truck.biz2/?section=money_technology

Posted in Communications, Convergence, GPS, vehicle, Wireless | Leave a Comment »

Humane Mouse Trap

Posted by Talbot on October 11, 2007

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Redesigning the mouse trap has been a mainstay of inventors for quite a long time. This most recent advancement has quite a few cool tricks up its sleeve to get rid of your rodent problem. Once a mouse is lured inside the case of the trap by the smell of food, the trap doors close, and carbon dioxide is pumped into the chamber, suffocating the mouse. As a last technological touch, the trap sends you a text message that it has caught something.

http://www.coolest-gadgets.com/20071008/rentokil-radar-the-humane-hitech-killing-machine/

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Color Changing Wallpaper

Posted by Talbot on October 10, 2007

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A couple of decades ago, hypercolor shirts that changed color according to your body temperature were all the rage. Until people started getting brightly colored armpits and other embarrassing side effects. This wallpaper exploits the same theory to unveil a ‘hidden’ design as the heat is turned up. This technology has been in a bunch of different applications, but I think it still holds a lot of untapped potential in other settings (color changing frying pans, anyone?)

http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/decorations/heat+sensitive-wallpaper-changes-patterns-when-you-crank-the-heat-307747.php

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Wifi Detector T-Shirt

Posted by Talbot on October 10, 2007

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This T-shirt has a graphic that changes depending on how close you are to a wireless network.  Here’s what I really like about it


  • It is a wearable piece of technology that serves a useful function
  • It is another great example of how dynamic displays can be built into clothes
  • Its another step in the ongoing trend of geeky stuff becoming mainstream

I hope this type of stuff gets cool before I’m too old to wear T-shirts.  The lack of wireless networks in my rural area, and a fleeting grain of pride, will keep be from buying this.   For now.

http://www.thinkgeek.com/tshirts/generic/991e/?cpg=cj via gizmodo

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Bacteria Powered Electronics

Posted by Talbot on October 10, 2007

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Microbial Fuel Cells use organic matter and special bacteria to produce power.  The bacteria consume whatever trash or biological byproducts they are fed, and in turn they produce small amounts of electricity.  While the amounts of power don’t seem that large when compared to batteries and more conventional generators, you have to remember that it is being produced from trash.  Even further, the bacteria also process the matter, breaking it down for safer and less toxic disposal at a later time.  This kind of win-win technology is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

http://technology.newscientist.com/article/dn12731-grassmunching-bugs-could-charge-rural-phones.html

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Health Monitoring Phone

Posted by Talbot on October 10, 2007

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This phone is stuffed full of all kinds of different sensors which provide lots of information on your bodily health.  It has a pedometer, pulse recording sensors, ‘bad breath’ sensors, and an obesity calculator.  It would be nice if Uncle Sam would subsidize this type of stuff to get our collective butts back in shape.

http://techon.nikkeibp.co.jp/english/NEWS_EN/20071004/140249/

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Ice Skates with Heated Blades

Posted by Talbot on October 10, 2007

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Countless hockey players and ice skaters have probably dreamed of having heated blades to improve their speed and control while moving around the ice.  Finally, a product is coming out that does exactly that.  The heating element from this product could be useful in quite a few other applications as well.

http://www.engadget.com/2007/10/02/therma-blade-heated-ice-skates-landing-soon/

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Magnetic Pole- Based GPS

Posted by Talbot on October 10, 2007

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Animals such as birds and bats use the earth’s unique magnetic field to navigate during their yearly migrations.  This new technology aims to use the same method to provide electronic location information (just like GPS).  The system references survey data which record the magnetic field strength and direction at points all over the planet to determine where exactly you are.  While this is still very early, maybe it could turn into a supplemental ‘backup’ to today’s gps systems.

http://technology.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn12714&feedId=tech_rss20

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4 Different Ways that Companies Make New Products

Posted by Talbot on October 10, 2007

This article gives a definition and examples for four different ways that large companies take
simple ideas to marketed products.  Very interesting and well worth the read.

http://connectedcollectiveinnovation.blogspot.com/2007/09/innovation-archetypes.html

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Power – Generating Nanowires

Posted by Talbot on October 10, 2007

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Piezoelectric materials generate small amounts of electricity whenever they are pushed or pulled.  This new discovery shows that certain nanowires exhibit piezoelectric properties, providing micro amounts of current when they are twisted or otherwise stressed.  While this is obviously many years away from seeing any practical application, maybe the small size could lead to a large array of these wires that could generate a useable amount of power.

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/09/nanowires_twist.php
 

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Breakaway Audio Jack

Posted by Talbot on October 10, 2007

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This simple, yet effective design prevents your audio jack or headphone connector from being damaged when you accidentally yank on it in the wrong direction.  The flexible nature of this connector allows it to bend and pull out of the earphone port with ease.  I like the simplicity yet effectiveness of this idea, and bet there are quite a few other areas where a similar breakaway design could save us countless headaches.

http://www.engadget.com/2007/10/02/replug-breakaway-cable-protects-your-3-5mm-jack/

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Artificial Cornea

Posted by Talbot on October 10, 2007

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While contact lenses have been around for a long time, this new product actually replaces the cornea, repairing vision problems permanently.  Quite a few scientific advancements came together for this product, such as the ability to prevent biofilms from forming on the lens (which cause clouding/fouling) and biofriendly, strong and forgiving materials.
http://www.fraunhofer.de/fhg/EN/press/pi/2007/10/ResearchNews102007Topic3.jsp via engadget

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Vibrating Water Drops Roll Uphill

Posted by Talbot on October 9, 2007

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When placed on a vibrating plate, droplets of liquid can effectively defy gravity by travelling uphill.  This is largely due to both inertia and the adhesive properties of the liquid. 

http://blogs.zdnet.com/emergingtech/?p=702

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Translating Copier

Posted by Talbot on October 9, 2007

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This copier merges two existing software technologies into a single hardware unit.  It uses character recognition to build software versions of the text on a paper document, and then uses electronic language translating technologies to change the printed language.  Then, the new document is printed as if it were from any other printer. 

http://www.coolest-gadgets.com/20070921/the-photocopier-that-translates/

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Downloading Clothes

Posted by Talbot on October 9, 2007

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One of the most intriguing aspects of the ongoing price drops in 3d printers is the possibility of ‘downloading products‘.  This means that you would download a design for anything from a simple hair comb to a complex radio or cellphone, and then your printer would create the product.  While the multiple materials and complex assembly required for electronics mean that that capability is quite a few years away from our living rooms, here’s a great, simple use of 3d printers to make useable goods.  This mesh-like fabric is printed on 3d printers, and is available for sale in all kinds of different objects (purses, bags, etc.) 

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DVD Burner Repurposed for Lab Experiments

Posted by Talbot on October 9, 2007

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A conventional DVD drive has been modified to scan laboratory samples through some simple hardware and software modifications.  The huge cost savings this provides seems to suggest that there may be much cheaper ways of making this type of laboratory scanning equipment WITHOUT all of the hardware hacking.

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Smart Paper

Posted by Talbot on October 9, 2007



Some eggheads at MIT are working on a smart paper which has wires, sensors, and computer chips embedded inside the paper. There are multiple other entities working on this type of technology to provide cheap, flexible, and intelligent electronic devices (effectively eliminating the bulky size of our phones and ipods), but MIT’s method of using conductive ink seems to really be able to make much bigger strides in reducing cost and complexity.

http://technology.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn12663

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