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Inventors and Remarkable People

The LongPen – landmark distance tool

March 30, 2006 The unveiling of the LongPen at the London Book Fair earlier this month is one of the most important technology stories of 2006. The fact it was conceived and funded in its development by Booker Prize-winning novelist Margaret Atwood seems to have helped to disguise the story from the tabloids. Similarly, the absolute focus of Unotchit on the LongPen as a tool to enable authors to escape the drudgery of book signing tours has been equally myopic – Atwood could not have picked a harder industry in which to pioneer a machine that challenges traditional ways. The LongPen machine threatens the lucrative tradition of book signing tours because it enables the author to sign a book remotely while they chat via videophone with the recipient – all facilitated by the Internet. Viewed with some perspective though, LongPen is the world’s first real-time, remote signing device and will likely find many applications in a world unshackling itself from the tyranny of distance. It is already being adapted to sign basketballs and will be used by entertainers, musicians ad infinitum to sign CD/DVDs and photos remotely. Instead of focussing on how much the value of a signed book is diminished by LongPen, we think Unotchit should forget the book market and go after the burgeoning distance-everything markets where it is a landmark tool that will enable public figures of all types to represent themselves more effectively to the global community.  Read More

FiberSIM software for designing composite products

March 23, 2006 There can be no more difficult proving ground than Formula One in the design and rapid prototyping of parts, and we have written before about the advanced techniques employed by Renault F1 in building the cars which won the 2005 title and lead the 2006 title. Accordingly, those who study advanced composites are in for a treat at the JEC Composites Show 2006 show to be held later this month at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles in Paris, France. Engineering software developer Vistagy will be on hand to show the latest version of its FiberSIM 5.1 design environment for composite products and to have one of their best known customers present not just the Renault F1 race car, but to have the F1 team’s CAD support engineer, Alan Duerden, deliver a presentation entitled “Champion cars, composite parts, and FiberSIM” in the VISTAGY booth. FiberSIM 5.1 provides specialized tools that enable engineers working in commercial CAD systems to automate design processes early in product development. This results in more efficient and accurate manufacture of complex or large composite parts, including products produced in multiple stages. There will also be demonstrations of the new Airframe Design Environment (ADE) which helps engineers design airframe assemblies.  Read More

Survey of Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs Reveals Increased Confidence in Startup Venture Lan...

March 22, 2006 It seems the outlook for entrepreneurial activity is looking good and getting better – at least that’s the result of a survey of current Silicon Valley entrepreneurs conducted earlier this month that shows startup Conditions, valuations and liquidity opportunities have improved in the last six months. According to the survey of entrepreneurs (individuals who are seeking or have sought venture capital funding over the past year ) over two-thirds of respondents indicated they believe conditions for starting a company today are more favourable than they were six months ago, outnumbering those who felt conditions were less favorable by more than a 10-1 ratio.  Read More

Instant activation program for electronic payment system allows retailers to enrol custome...

March 17, 2006 How many times have you seen a good idea that would offer compelling features and benefits and elected not to join because the process is just too time-consuming? Removing the barriers to entry of such systems is something that marketers have been battling with forever, which is why ExxonMobil’s latest enhancement to its Speedpass electronic payment system is worth a look – it offers a significant step forward in customer convenience. The Speedpass electronic payment system is one of the fastest ways to pay for gas and other purchases at Exxon and Mobil stations across the U.S. The new enhancement utilizes wireless hand held computer technology, to enable enrollment and activation within about two minutes at Exxon and Mobil retail locations or other remote sites. Customers no longer have to initiate the enrollment process using paper applications, wait for the device to be mailed to them, and then call to activate the device.  Read More

The world's first live multi-lot technology patent auction

March 16, 2006 Many of the things the world’s 6.5 billion inhabitants do every day are done in a certain manner because they’ve always been done that way. In a world that is rapidly changing though, many of the traditional ways are under threat, with the most recent being the way that IP is bought and sold. Chicago-based merchant bank Ocean Tomo is hosting the world's first, live multi-lot technology patent auction at The Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco on April 6, 2006. While some would suggest auctions are the absolute model of economic efficiency, uniting buyers and sellers at just the right price to their mutual benefit, there are those who argue that there is a winner's curse of ALWAYS paying too much at an auction, based on the fact that there will almost always be one or more persons who add irrationality to the model hence making the winning bid too high. If all bidders were truly rational, the winner would not overpay, but they wouldn't win many auctions either. Statistics also suggest that the bigger the universe of bidders, the more overrepresented the true worth will be. Which means that the auction might just be a better way of selling IP. The catalogue is available here, though you'll need to pony up US$500 for a look at the details.  Read More

Ross and Tony still have coffee a dozen years down the track. That's FLAT's inventor, Tony...

March 8, 2006 One day about 12 years ago, Tony Pike called in to have a coffee at a friend’s Bondi Trattoria restaurant on Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach. As his friend Ross put the coffee on the table, it tilted slightly on the uneven stonework floor and the coffee spilled. Ross looked up as he was adjusting the table legs with some folded cardboard, and he said to Tony, “whoever solves this table stability problem will become a billionaire - it’s the biggest single problem in hospitality worldwide.” A decade later, after working on the problem on-and-off between other projects, Tony finally solved the problem by developing an innovative, levelling and stabilizing hydraulic system which is now patented as the FLAT (Fluid Locking & Adjustment Technology) system. FLAT is based upon an interconnected series of hydraulic actuators to provide horizontal support on uneven surfaces and then locks to provide stability at the chosen level or angle the user requires. What was conceived as a table and chair stabilisation system for the hospitality industry appears to have potential for solving problems in many military and aviation situations, with dozens of domestic and industrial applications (see demonstration movies) seeking the system.  Read More

Industrial Archeology - designers and engineers preserve history using CAD to recreate pro...

March 7, 2006 Museums and history buffs have begun using CAD software for an exciting new application - breathing life into centuries past. "Industrial archeology" is the study and re-creation of machines, parts, vehicles, and buildings that may have vanished, been destroyed, gone obsolete, or perhaps never existed at all. The practice combines art, history, craftsmanship, and, in a new twist, computer-aided design. Industrial archeologists like Californian William L. Gould use SolidWorks software as an efficient, mechanically faithful way to illustrate, in three dimensions and myriad individual components, a piece of lost history. Gould’s (pictured) full-color 3D CAD model of the 1879 Mason Bogie steam locomotive, is rendered in SolidWorks and PhotoWorks software, and exists only as a 3D CAD model with hundreds of discrete parts. It is available as a fine art lithographic print or a set of plans in exacting detail.  Read More

Deflexion - the board game with a high-tech twist

March 2, 2006 Deflexion is an electronic board game with a high tech twist that we suspect has the oomph to compete with heavyweight classic board games such as Monopoly, chess and chequers, as it combines the strategic appeal and universality of chess with modern technology yielding an innovative and instantly engaging game experience. It’s played on a board similar to that of chess and the Egyptian-themed game pieces include obelisks, pyramids with mirrors and a Pharaoh, which needs to be protected in a similar way to the King in chess. Surrounding the board is a raised frame into which are built two low-power lasers, one for each player. After each move, the player presses the button to fire up the laser beam, which bounces from mirror to mirror around the playing field. The challenge is to protect one's own pharaoh while maneuvering to "light up" the opposing player's pharaoh.  Read More

The solar system no longer has nine planets

February 8, 2006 Since 1930 when American Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto, schoolchildren have been taught that Planet Earth is one of nine planets which orbit the sun, and that Pluto is the outermost planet in the solar system. Then last July 30, an American team found a more distant and quite large object circling the sun some 15 billion kilometers beyond earth. Dubbed UB313, an enormous debate has erupted over whether it should be classified as the tenth planet. More fuel was added to the debate last week when a group lead by Bonn astrophysicists determined that this putative planet is bigger than Pluto. By measuring its thermal emission, the scientists were able to determine a diameter of about 3000 km, which makes it 700 km larger than Pluto and thereby marks it as the largest solar system object found since the discovery of Neptune in 1846. For the last six months, many astronomers have argued that UB313 should be classified as a Kuiper belt object (KBO) but Pluto is also in the Kuiper belt, and the revelations about its size will weigh heavily when the special 19-member panel set up by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) determines exactly what constitutes a planet. Either way, the official planetary count will no longer be nine as a decision against UB313 will demote Pluto to the status of a KBO.  Read More

Power Plastics to provide electrical power to packaging and intelligent clothing

January 27, 2006 One of the more interesting companies we’ve encountered in the last 12 months has been Konarka. For starters, Konarka was founded by the winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize for chemistry, Dr. Alan Heeger, who has since become the company’s chief scientist. We first wrote about Konarka’s light-activated plastic power supply for the battlefield, but in more recent times we’ve seen the company announce a joint development program with Textronics to create prototype garments and fashion accessories with portable, wearable power generation capabilities and more recently comes the news that the Konarka’s Power Plastic materials are being developed to extend and enhance packaging and display applications. Imagine a can or bottle with dynamic content, boxes that light up or containers that serve as power sources for their contents.  Read More

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