People certainly haven't been afraid to try and reinvent the umbrella over the years. There was the solar-powered Booster Brolly, the windproof Rainshader and the lopsided Rain Shield, just to name a few. But now a team of Chinese designers is looking to do away with the awkward metal poles and canopy entirely, relying instead on a "force field" of air to keep you nice and dry.
The idea of using air flow to shield users from pelting rain has been explored before. A pair of designers developed a similar concept back in 2010, though this version seemingly never made it to market.
The latest take on the Air umbrella uses a lithium battery to power a motor and fan, which creates a cycle of air flowing through its tip to deflect the drops and form the protective layer. So how much protection are we talking about exactly? Well, the designers say at the current stage of development the umbrella will provide enough shelter for two people, though if the rain isn't too heavy more people can be squeezed underneath.
The team is working on three models, all resembling something of a detached shower head. The first claims to be designed for females and is 30 cm (1 ft) in length and 500 g (1.1 lb) with a battery life of 15 minutes. The second is 50 cm (1.64 ft) long, weighs 800 g (1.76 lb) and has a 30 minute battery life. The third is extendable, ranging from 50 cm (1.64 ft) to 80 cm (2.62 ft), weighing 850 g (1.87 lb), also with a 30 minute battery life.
With these battery times you wouldn't want to be stranded in a rainstorm, but they might just be enough to get you home from the bus stop without becoming a cold, shivering mess.
The team is looking to raise US$10,000 on Kickstarter for the production of its Air umbrella and looks to be having reasonable success to date. At the time of writing it has attracted almost $12,000 in pledges with 10 days to run on the campaign. Most of the early bird pledges are already gone, with $108 the minimum pledge to reserve the shorter "female" version of the umbrella. Deliveries are slated to commence from December 2015 if all goes to plan.
You can see a demonstration of the Air umbrella in the following pitch video.