Gadget Patents That We Hope Will Turn Into Real Products

They're clever. They're creative. And some of them are just plain bizarre. How come we can't buy products based on them?

By Harry McCracken, PC World |  Personal Tech, gadgets, patents

It's Odorific!

Back in 1959 and 1960, competing technologies called AromaRama and Smell-O-Vision invited moviegoers to use their sense of smell to experience everything from pipe tobacco to exploding firecrackers. Then the idea went away (save for John Waters' brief fling with "Odorama" in his 1981 film Polyester). But with 3D back in theaters and booming, why not give odor-based entertainment another chance? IBM's "Computer Controlled Olfactory Mixer and Dispenser" uses cassettes filled with fragrances, mixing their contents together like ink from inkjet cartridges to produce an array of scents to accompany multimedia presentations. It's a far cry from scratch-and-sniff cards.

Computer Controlled Olfactory Mixer and Dispenser

The patent shows cassettes with (relatively) uncontroversial fragrances such as banana, almond, and vanilla. But if you ask us, the gent depicted in this drawing just caught a whiff of something slightly gamy.

Getting All Emotional

Various digital cameras now incorporate smile-detection technology. Controller-free gesture detection is coming soon to a game console near you. Sony's emotion-detecting patent combines aspects of both ideas, using a Webcam and a microphone to help your PlayStation 3 determine whether you're busting a gut with laughter, seething with anger, or half-dozing with ennui.

emotion detection technology

Presumably, PS3 titles of the future will then adjust the game play in response to your mood. Here's an idea: Maybe TiVo could license the technology and use it to gauge your taste in movies, and then record ones that match your preferences? Chuckling up a storm at a comedy would be a good sign; doing the same in response to a drama, not so much.

The Lego Supercomputer

Normally, we wouldn't expect to get all that excited over an IBM patent for a technology designed to help data centers conserve energy and space. We're kind of smitten with this one, though. It involves computers, storage, and other electronics built into brick-shaped modules that snap together.

lego supercomputer

When a company needed more computing power, all it would have to do is stack up more bricks. The patent explains that the bricks can be assembled into cubes, walls, towers, and L-shaped formations, practically inviting IT people to get creative. Wonder if you could build something like this?

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