Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Disasters spawn inventions

The Japanese Tsunami resulted in thousands of deaths, focusing some inventive minds on the question, "How could I survive a seventy foot high wave bearing down on my town when I have only a few minutes to react?

Shoji Tanaka standing in front of Noah, his invention to survive tsunamis
Shoji Tanaka invented a pod that could withstand the forces of a tsunami and provide enough air, food and drink for a person to survive for three days. Other inventions, like robot armor to clean up nuclear disasters and 3D mid-air messages for informing the public of disaster, were unveiled and were reported on in a recent NY Times article.

Some of these ideas seem crazy but, if history repeats, one or two will become reality. Let's see what happened to disaster inventions from ten years ago.

Soon after watching people jump from the stricken twin towers, inventors came up with seemingly outlandish ways of saving them. Here's an article from December 2002, discussing the various parachutes and rappeling devices being envisioned at the time.

One of these inventions bore fruit. Dr. Kevin Stone invested a million dollars to create a product that would allow people to rappel from burning skyscrapers. He showed off his invention by March 2011 and it is available for purchase now, ten years after the event at http://www.rescuereel.com/

Here's his TED video showing his inspiration and the invention in action:

video
So which of the tsunami inventions is the most likely to be a product in ten years?

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