This is the blog of Ant Miller, senior research manager and dilettante geek at large at the BBC.
I wail moan and cuss about the challenges and fun to be found here.
These are my personal opinions, and not those of my employer. Or anyone else here for that matter.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Brolly Brilliant

A few years ago I went for a walk, a biggish walk, which I do sometimes do. And I took with me a very excellent umbrella I'd been given by the delightful people at RTE when I did a workshop at the BISA event they hosted. That wooden handled brolly served me proud on my walk in Andalucia, keeping the worst of the sun off me as I tramped up through the Alpujarras, and making a very handy walking pole.

When I got up into the Sierra Nevada peaks proper, above the snow line the brolly kept on working- a decent walking pole now doubled as a stop gap ice axe, and a wind break on exposed ridges as I hunkered down with a few biscuits. It even stood up well as a photo monopod with the Gorilla pod grip for my compact camera.

My trusty brolly did me proud, and I actually rather liked sauntering around BBC facilities with another broadcaster's logo splashed about- it got looks, raised eyebrows. It was cool.

And I left it on a bus in Brighton, sigh.

Still, what this brolly led me to think it that there is a real gap out there. That the last piece of outdoor gear to get properly techno fetishised is the umbrella, and there's a hell of an opportunity there.

Firstly it's a stick. Shock absorbing, adaptable, strong, and extendable- so many options in terms of mechanisms and materials immediately spring to mind- carbon fibre being the obvious first choice.

It needs a handle, shock absorbing, comfortable, ergonomic, possibly including atachments for cameras, and small compartments for storage. And perhaps this handle can convert into an ice axe head?

Then it has a spike, or whatever ending is appropriate for the terrain, with a sleeve to cover the far end/ centre of the canopy and act as a temporary second handle.

And there's the canopy itself- this is already water and windproof, but we can go further, and ensure it's properly impermeable to UV, and perhaps radio waves too (see later) but just porous enough to act as a large area water filter.

The spokes, always the weak link of an umbrella design, could be so much better made- titanium is the obvious choice, light, strong, springy, it could be structured to give the perfect shape...

The shape- why not a perfect parabola? Imagine the potential benefits of having an accurate parabolic reflector surface on hand in the wilderness to boost mobile phone reception (radio waves!), or to boost the visibility of signalling lights!

I tell yah this has got to be a winner! The Gentlemans Adventure Umbrella! I'd call it 'The Penguin'!

Mean while, these really do float my boat....


Rowan Stanfield said...

Good idea, but what if you spend a fortune on a hi-tech brolly and then leave it on a bus? Perhaps it would also have to be telescopic so it could fix to your bag.

Craig Smith said...

GPS! Then you can track it down when you lose it, or people can find you when you're lost. That kid who got lost in the Blue Mountains - no mobile phone, but if he'd had a GPS umbrella, why, they'd have picked him up in no time.
And you could track your journey, and you could even compare your umbrella's understanding of your journey with your phone's, to see which is most accurate, so it's a benchtest of the quality of various GPSs.

And RFID, or a slot for an Oyster card, so eventually you can pay for things using your brolly.

And for the Englishman abroad - flick a switch and hey presto, it broadens out into a cricket bat! For those impromptu games while away from home.