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article imageThe future of staying dry is here: Kickstarter's air umbrella

By Scott Oldano     Oct 24, 2014 in Technology
While umbrellas come in different sizes, colors, and fabrics, the design of the object hasn’t changed in the last century. With the advent of innovative thinking, a Kickstarter project dubbed “Air Umbrella” is ready to make an appearance.
The Kickstarter project known as the “Air Umbrella” claims it can revolutionize the umbrella forever and create the world’s first so-called invisible umbrella. For starters, to put the exponential growth of the website into perspective, ever since Kickstarter began in the spring of 2009, nearly one billion dollars in pledges and over 135,000 various projects have been funded.
Recently, among the most popular and successful of these projects is that of the Air Umbrella, an electrical device that purportedly creates a force field of air to shield its user from the elements. According to the project’s Kickstarter page, the Air Umbrella comprises of a team of skilled aeronautics and engineering graduates from Nanjing and Beijing, China. What truly sets the Air Umbrella apart from its Kickstarter counterparts is its mass amount of funding, which currently stands just shy of $100,000. If this statistic isn’t shocking enough on its own, the project initially pledged a mere $10,000 goal, meaning that the project impressively increased its funding tenfold within the last few months.
The Air Umbrella is the brainchild of investor Chuan Wang who, along with his colleagues from Nanjing University, worked endlessly to create the prototype that can be seen on their project page. According to the details given by Wang, the “flowing air can change the moving path of the object. The jet airflow can isolate some objects.” Just how this process is carried out and which parts are responsible for operating the device are clearly outlined in the schematic diagrams that the Kickstarter page denotes.
At the very base of the wand-like umbrella is a master switch that simply turns the machine on or off. Right above it, a controller adjusts the size control of the air when the lithium battery powers the motor at the top of the umbrella. Due to the plastic grating near the fan blade, an air intake funnels air towards the air outlet, ultimately allowing a circular force field of air to envelop the surrounding area.
At first glance, the air umbrella definitely seems like the umbrella of the near future due to its futuristic design, practicality, and portability. However, like most project ideas in the works, the Air Umbrella has its fair share of shortcomings. First of all, many feel as though the fan will blow water on unsuspecting passers-by and fail to keep users dry in torrential downpours and strong winds. Also, the rechargeable lithium battery can only last anywhere from 15-30 minutes or just long enough to survive a single storm. In particular, the battery life of the Air Umbrella is entirely dependent on the model purchased.
As of now, a user can choose between an air umbrella-a, air umbrella-b, and air umbrella-c, with the main difference being overall length. One last drawback, at least according to those familiar with the product, is its retail price of as much as $108. For a product that is just making its debut, many potential buyers claim the Air Umbrella is too pricy and “over-complicated to find a sustainable place in the umbrella economy.” Though these concerns have a ring of truth to them, the fate of the Air Umbrella will not be known until this upcoming December when the first shipment of umbrellas will be delivered to faithful investors. Until then, we can only speculate whether this head-turning invention will be a hit or miss.
More about Kickstarter, air umbrella, crowdfunding
 
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