— Stun guns could soon be able to deliver a disabling shock even to recipients wearing insulating clothing.
Thick clothing can sometimes prevent stun guns from delivering their disabling charge. But the US government has been funding a project by the makers, Taser International of Arizona, to develop a projectile that is better able to deliver a shock through clothing. It will help stun animals with thick fur, too.
Today, stun guns fire a projectile with barbed electrodes that impales the target. A shock voltage is then delivered through the electrodes. But the barbs can sometimes get stuck in clothing or fur, which insulates the victim and prevents the device from delivering its shock.
The new design fires a projectile with ordinary electrode barbs on the front and an extra electrode on the rear that faces away from the target. Despite some protection from clothing, enough charge should get through the front electrodes to deliver a painful, if not disabling, shock. This initial zap causes the target to grab at the electrode or, in the case of an animal, bite at it.
This unfortunate instinct puts the targets hand or mouth in good electrical contact with the electrode pointing out from the projectile. A powerful shock is then delivered through bare flesh that disables the victim.
Cellphone bug killer
The microphone and earpiece cavities in a cellphone make a warm and comfy breeding ground for bacteria. Squirting germicide into the holes can damage the electronics but now Motorola has a better way to kill bugs.
It has patented a phone containing an LED that radiates ultra-violet light with a wavelength of 250 nanometres which is particularly lethal to bacteria. Optical guides inside the phone body steer the UV light into the cavities. Sanitising only takes around 3 minutes, the company claims.
To protect the owner against UV exposure, the light only shines when a flip cover is closed over the cavities. To save battery drain, the light is only activated when the phone is being charged. In an alternative design, the phone comes with a charger which contains a UV lamp with "light pipes" that channel light into the phone when it is sitting in its cradle.
Read the full bug-free phone patent application.
Watch where you watch
If a new scheme from Philips is taken up, watching a movie in the wrong country could land you in jail for 10 years or paying a $1 million fine.
Regional coding tries to stop people in Europe watching DVD movies released in the US and vice versa. But the technology has been hacked to shreds so people routinely watch discs intended for other parts of the world.
However, the movie industry has been far more proactive in preventing people from copying DVDs. Many governments have introduced powerful laws to prevent unauthorised copying, such as Americas Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and similar laws are coming to Europe. Breaking these laws can lead to stiff fines and considerable jail sentences.
For the moment, regional coding is separate from the system designed to prevent copying. But Philips has come up with a cunning way to tie them together by encrypting the regional coding in the same way that the movie itself is encoded.
That means the regional coding could only be broken down by tampering with the copy protection system, thereby unleashing the full power of the new laws.
Although it is probably too late to modify existing DVD discs and players, the copy-protection in the new Blu-ray and HD-DVD players has been specially designed so that it can be modified at any time in the future without the owner even knowing it. The modification instructions are to be hidden in movie discs, so Hollywood could yet opt to adopt Philips new system.
Read the full regional-coding protection patent.
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:
Razor light, wing-mirror cameras, body-wired headphones, rocket-repelling parachutes, tooth decay probe, laser healing, throwable game controllers, Microwave oven gun, Smart-card DVDs, Smart night scope, laser microphone, triple-standard DVD, ultimate body armour, 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.