Patents are a virtue: flying spheres, e ink and air guitar

AJ Park patent specialists Anton Blijlevens and Jillian Lim touch on some of the interesting patents to look out for on the shelves.

Flying carpet? Make it a flying sphere

flying spheres patentYou could cover an aircraft with these cells, and forego the conventional propeller and wings. You could even forego the typical fuselage design and opt for a flying sphere. You could stick these cells onto the external walls of a building or the internal walls of a tunnel, and harness wind energy. Or you could do both and have energy capturing cells interspersed between propulsion cells.

These are just some of the scenarios described in patent US 8,473,123, recently issued to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The patent claims a craft covered with these programmable cells, each cell having a processor, a thrust generator and transceivers for communicating between cells.  

The “thrust generator” could be propellers, rollers, or any device which generates thrust relative to the surface of the cells. Roll, pitch and yaw of an array of these cells can then be controlled by varying the thrust of one cell relative to its neighbouring cell. And because the cells are modular, the setup can be scaled up or down according to the payload of each individual journey.

The system is supposed to be energy efficient, because although the cells may be small and slow, multiple cells can cover a large surface area and displace a large mass of air. Additionally, the cells could be converted into mini turbines for capturing wind or fluid power.

Colour for e-readers

E Ink patentE Ink’s displays have been successfully applied to e-readers such as Kindle, Kobo, and Sony readers, because of the low power consumption, clarity in sunlight, and reduced glare compared to backlit screens. The E Ink screen contains microcapsules of negatively charged black and positively charged white particles. Depending on the electric field applied, these particles move up to the top of the microcapsules and form words and images on screen. However, because there are only two types of charges, only two colours can be displayed on the original E Ink screen.

Coloured screens have been attempted, mainly using colour filters, but the results appear to have been less than satisfactory. The overlying filters darken the screen, and make whites appear grey.

In their new patent application US 2013/0257708, E Ink describes a screen which can be switched between black-and-white and colour modes, and does not require overlying colour filters. The display panel is instead divided into red, green and blue subpixels, which appear colourless when in black-and-white mode, but exhibit red, green or blue colours when illuminated with the respective coloured lights.

For colour mode, a light source is switched on, and the light is guided through a light-splitting element which overlies the display panel. The light splitting element could for example have triangular prisms on its surface, to split the light source into red, green and blue lights due to differing refractive indices. The three types of light beams then pass through a lens which directs each light beam to its respective subpixel. Each light beam reflects off the white pigment in the subpixels, to exhibit coloured words or images.

Because the overlying structures in this new screen are transparent, E Ink has avoided the previous issues with colour filters. And when the light source is turned off, the screen behaves exactly like the typical E Ink black-and-white screen.

Taking air guitar to the next level

air guitar patentIt’s a guitar on a shirt that’s actually playable. The buttons overlaid on the neck of the guitar generate corresponding tones when the user ‘strums’ over the image of the pickup. This strumming motion is detected by capacitive touch sensors located at the pickup.

A miniature amplifier is detachably coupled to the sound generation circuit and can be worn on the user’s belt, etc. The sound circuit, the mini amplifier and the battery pack can be completely removed from the shirt, so that the shirt can be washed.

We noticed that the product is already on the market, but this interesting patent, US 8476519, has only recently been issued to ThinkGeek.  

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