— The bullet-proof material consists of three layers (Image: Army Soldiers System Command)
Ultimate body armour
A lightweight bulletproof vest that protects against armour-piercing rounds is being developed by the US government's Army Soldiers System Command.
Conventional vests use woven plastics to ensnarl normal, blunt bullets. Extra layers of hard ceramics, with air-filled gaps in-between, are needed to stop shells with hard cores and sharp, armour-piercing tips. But this makes the protection too heavy and bulky for a person to wear.
The new vest has three layers: a top ceramic section, a middle layer of aluminium, and bottom layer of woven nylon.
The aluminium is pre-scored to define interlocking plugs, like the pieces of a jigsaw. As an armour-piercing bullet hits the top layer, the ceramic strikes the aluminium below like a hammer, and frees one of the plugs. When the bullet breaks through the ceramics a split second later it hits the free plug, which wraps round its sharp tip. The bullet then has a wide, soft tip that is easily trapped by the nylon below.
In testing, the vest could trap armour-piercing bullets fired at point blank range from a rifle at 850 metres per second.
Read the full ultimate body-armour patent application.
The ubiquitous Blackberry portable emailer could soon have a clever new feature. Future versions of the device, made by Canadian company Research in Motion (RIM), may know exactly where they are whether in a user's hand or pocket, or sitting on a table and adjust their behaviour to suit.
The new Blackberrys would occasionally and very briefly vibrate. This should be too short to be mistaken for a message alert but just long enough for an accelerometer inside the device to measure how much it moves. This tells the Blackberry whether it is on top of a flat table, in a person's hand or stuffed inside a pocket.
On a table, the Blackberry rings loudly to announce a call. Inside a pocket, it shuts off the screen to save power. And while in the palm of a hand, it leaves the screen lit but switches to vibrate when it has a message to deliver.
Read the full context-aware Blackberry patent application.
Ads in fast-forward
For many people, the best thing about Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) is the ability to fast forward through adverts. This is possible as the machine pre-records TV onto a hard disc before play-back.
Not surprisingly, however, this feature hardly appeals to advertisers, or broadcasters who rely on adverts for revenue. So, thinking laterally, UK inventor Colin Davies has devised a system that forces a PVR to show adverts even during fast forwarding.
The compression algorithms used to capture digital TV typically capture only frames in full every second or so. The frames in-between are then captured by defining the differences between these full frames.
When a PVR fast forwards it saves processing power by displaying only the key frames. So the new system lets a broadcaster concentrate an advertising message in those key frames. A simplified version of an ad should then still be visible during fast-forwarding, albeit without sound.
The sponsor's message then pops up and dominates the screen even while fast forwarding. The same system could be used with DVDs to make messages stand out when people skip through trailers. Is there no escape from advertising?
Read the full ads in fast-forward patent application.
For more than 30 years, Barry Fox has trawled through the world's weird and wonderful patent applications, uncovering the most exciting, bizarre or even terrifying new ideas. Read previous Invention columns, including:
Long-range stunner, tongue-o-vision, jellyfish injections, Flesh-burn sensor, fire-escape tubes, VoIP mangling, in-flight rearming, sense that fat, Designer speakers, throw-away parachutes, password-protected bullets, spinning touchdown, palmtop Feng Shui, Origami gadgets, mile-high showers, Hydrogen fuel balls, human cannonballs, the riot slimer, the bomb jammer, Apple's all-seeing screen, the TV-advert enforcer, the wing-sprouting drone, the drink-driver arm scanner, laser spark plugs, remote-controlled implants,the "I've been shot" gun, the snore zapper, the guitar phone, explosive-eating fungus, viper vision, exploding ink, the moody media player, the spy-diver killer, preventing in-flight interference, the inkjet-printer pen, sonic watermarks, the McDownload, hot-air plane, landmine arrows, soldiers obeying odours, coffee beer, wall-beating bugging, eyeball electronics, phone jolts, personal crash alarm, talking tooth, shark shocker, midnight call-foiler, burning bullets, a music lover's dream, magic wand for gamers, the phantom car, phone-bomb hijacking, shocking airport scans, old tyres to printer ink and eye-tracking displays.