There is an old joke that says “When it rains we do as the Chinese do, we get wet.” I’m not sure where that came from, or exactly what it means, but it appears that some Chinese engineers are tired of being ridiculed and are prepared to do something about it. For some reason, the simple umbrella was rejected as a possible solution.
You may be surprised to find, as I was, that people have been trying to reinvent the umbrella for years. Names like Booster Brolly, Rainshader, Rain Shield and Air-umbrella populate the list of anti-rain breakthroughs that never made much of a splash. The latest rain defender, similar to a previous one that never quite made it, uses air to blow away the rain drops.
The base model weighs a little over a pound, but thankfully you don’t have to lift that for long as the battery only lasts 15 minutes. The standard umbrella which it hopes to replace weighs less and lasts a lot longer. Even the marketing geniuses in Cupertino would have a tough time with this one.
Innovation basically comes in two flavors. The first recognizes a need, finds a clever solution, and makes our lives a little easier (e.g., the cup holder). The second does something really cool that doesn’t have an obvious application, and radically changes our culture (e.g., the transistor). There actually may be a third type worth mentioning; one that does nothing more than raise the question “Why?”