Literally Cool Inventions

Crosley Icy Ball
Crosley Icy Ball

In an earlier post, Old invention deserves a new life, I dug up the Crosley icy ball–a way to refrigerate without electricity. Since then, I’ve found some even cooler approaches to refrigeration. They also deserve some life.

Science News reports a Chip-size refrigerator that could fit inside future laptops. It still runs on electricity, but a lot less, and it removes a lot more heat than the current fans system in your laptop. How it works:
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Thar’s gold in them thar crowds!

Crowd Sourcing by Jeff Howe
Crowd Sourcing by Jeff Howe

Warning: It’s coming. Whatever you do to make money, no matter how innovative, crowdsourcing will deliver it cheaper from the world at large. If not today, soon.

Just ask any professional photographer who has labored to peddle pics to stock photo houses. What they used to get paid $300 a shot for, buyers now can get for a dollar.

Crowdsourcing is sort of like outsourcing with a captialistic vengence and technological superpowers. So it goes with innovation.
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Innovator makes bicycle bumps a bonus

Kanak Das
Kanak Das

I’m tempted to make this post one of those “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade” lessons. But I won’t, because there’s so much more to the story. It begins this way: a poor, yong man in India realizes that the bumps on the rugged, rural roads he travels might be converted–literally–into foward motion.

So Kanak Das retrofitted his bicycle. Now the shock absorbers convert the energy they absorb, when the moving bike hits bumps in the road, into force that assists the pedals.
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Old invention deserves a new life

In 1858 Ferdinand Carré invented a cooling device, based on the work of Michael Faraday, that can work without electricity.

More recently an enterprising Adam Grosser proposed re-introducing his redesigned version Carré’s invention to parts of the world where refrigeraion is not available and where it could save lives.

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Added-Function Funnels

Why did it take so long to put wheels on luggage? Why did we have to go through so many seat-belt contraptions before we settled on the current, easy-pull, easy-stow version? Remember passive restraints?

Photography for the Blind

Sometimes the ideas that initially sound the most absurd are the most brilliant ones. Suppose for a moment that someone told you that they were going design a camera for blind people. Well, a design team at Samsung has done just that.

My first thought was “Why?” … My second thought was “ok, but…How?”
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Innovation Strikes Like Lightning

Courtesy Wikimedia

When the unexpected jumps out and smacks you in the face, it usually means, “Pay attention! A great innovation waits to be found.” So we just might look for a connection between Usain Bolt’s record-smashing 100-meter, gold-medal dash and the fact that he could be called a 200-meter specialist.
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New Conrete Clears the Air

In the Dutch province of Overijssel, a stretch of road has been paved with a surface of air-purifying concrete. Meant to fight pollution, the road consists of concrete paving stones spiked with a titanium dioxide-based additive. In sunlight, this additive should bind to nitrogen oxide particles spewed from car exhausts and converts them into friendly nitrates.

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Robot Skin

Robot Skin
Robot Skin

In less than a decade, robots and other electronic appliances may wear skin. Japanese researchers have developed a rubber-like material that stretches over surfaces and conducts electricity. That means the wearer can be made sensitive to temperature, moisture, and pressure.
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Look Ma, No Hands!

Students at the Drexel University have developed a game controller that uses only your mind to execute actions.

Designed for use with the Lazybrains game, sensors in the headband measure brain activity and let you perform such actions as lifting a manhole cover. You can’t proceed until enough “mental power” has been exerted.

Mind-Control Video Game Interface
Mind-Control Video Game Interface