Friday 30 April 2010

The iPhone Achilles' heel

There has been enough comment from others re the loss of  Apple's   iPhone 4G on a bar stool and ending up in Gizmodo. People haven't asked, why was it found on a bar stool? Would person have placed it there and just walked off? Unlikely. It could well have slipped out of the pocket.  When I last visited Apple in Cupertino re sale of patent of my Invisible Phone  for iPhone sensors, the Apple person I met with was startled that my iPhone was in a pink  silicon gel case. I put it in this case as  iPhone as slippery as a bar of soap. ( I dropped it first day I had it on concrete, while trying to take a picture.) Apple attorney  said the designers would not like this as spoiled the smooth surface of iPhone which is designed to slip  in (and out) of  man's back pocket of trousers. I replied that ladies do not normally put phone in back pocket and I said if I did, I would not want it to slip out. Maybe this is what happened with recent loss of prototype.

There are far easier ways to find out what might be in future Apple products than checking out stools. A perusal of my 1997 BT SmartQuill  patent Apple bought recently covered here in The Guardian and patent  as here  shows a portfolio of sensing systems for phones. This is all in the public domain.

Interesting to note, that one of only two working SmartQuill phones as above was stolen from The Millennium
Dome in 2000.
I am now designing sensors for phones for the next 5 years, including 3D hand trackers,  not for Apple but a well known Far East phone company and others if interested . I am not allowed even to say if a Non Disclosure Agreement exists.  I also  have a system that will alert person if more than a few feet phone their phone. This is old technology based on radio systems that alert if a parent losses a child in a busy shopping centre.

I am still looking for the lanyard fitting on my iPhone....

SmartChill - No More Headaches

Girton Labs researches and prototypes new methods of healthcare  and pain management.  One serendipitous discovery from the last device  I invented  before leaving Microsoft in 2007 ( ThrillChip  as here, a feedback device for replicating fear in games controllers )

was  to find  new way of reducing the pain for some (not all)  types of headaches, temperature reduction and   sports injuries. Some pain  can be removed by a bag of frozen peas or instant ice  gel coolers (£1 per usage)  but not always to hand, e.g. when traveling and far from home.  The SmartChill ( working project name)  devices uses a Peltier heat exchanger to reduce the surface of the skin by approximately 15 degrees Centigrade.  You can see the Peltier in image below, it is the  square part. One side effect of a Peltier heat exchanger is when the power is switch off , the heat will flow back into the Peltier device, which might be close to the skin.   A novel design of heat sink and fan allows a safe method of chilling the skin and avoids this heating problem. Headaches take about 5 mins to be reduced when tested on a subject. The sensation of simulated  ice on the skin is so relaxing.  The device can be placed on various parts of the body, such as forehead, neck, or wrist.   The device works off 2 x AA alkaline or  rechargeable cells and is charged by USB or 12V car cigar socket. The device will allow about 1 hours operation before recharging.  That  covers several headaches and costs a lot less in recharging than buying and swallowing  pharmaceuticals.  It also avoids paying license fees to pharmaceutical companies.

Safety mechanisms in the built in computer  hardware and software  ensure the heat "sucked out" of skin is dispersed of safety.
Device is also very useful for sports injuries.
A built in recording devices logs the time and date of application of chiller, can download via USB to pc,  so useful for research with working out what or who causes your headaches.  This would work well with clinical applications of Sensecam.

Girton Labs needs a route to market for this, as customers want it. A retail cost of less than £50 is practical.

So what happened to the ThrillChip? It never got patented for intended use as a Xbox  games controller, and after I left one of the UK leading games company wanted to use the technology.  Microsoft choose not to patent it so could not license the IP.

Update:  you can buy this drinks cooler from eBay that has some of the functionality of above as here:

For more information, contact Lyndsay Williams or tel +44 (0) 7970 101578.