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Patents are a virtue: speed reading, too many cooks and clean water

AJ Park patent specialists Anton Blijlevens and Jillian Lim touch on some of the interesting patents to look out for on the shelves.

Speed reading

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to finish Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries in under 17 hours, or the last Harry Potter book in under 8 hours? Easy, if you can read 400 words per minute.

Trained speed readers may be able to read much faster than this, but they have had extensive training and practice. Spritz Technology, however, has developed a method which doesn’t need much, if any, training. I tried out their reading method on their website, and managed 400 words per minute comfortably on my first attempt.

The method is described in Spritz’s patent application, US 20130016867. It is based on two main principles: sequentially presenting words, and aligning the optimal recognition position of each word.

We waste time moving our eyes across and down the page to look at each word. Additionally, we normally scan each word to find a ‘fixation’ point that enables us to recognise the word. This optimal recognition position (ORP) is usually to the left of the centre of the word.

Spritz has worked out the ORP for every word length. Their method presents words one at a time in a display box, and additionally keeps the ORP of each word at the same place within the display box. Spritz claims that by eliminating eye movement, we can save up to 80% of reading time, and reduce eye strain.   


Too many cooks? Nah

We might be one step closer to the Magic Porridge Pot with this self-stirring, self-reversing skillet concept.

Patent US 8,621,987, recently issued to Walter Herbst, describes a skillet with a rotatable stirrer. The stirrer is magnetically engaged to a bracket which is not in contact with the food in the skillet. The bracket is rotated by a motor, and in turn drives the stirrer.

 Additionally, if food gets stuck onto the bottom of the skillet, the stirrer detects a change in resistance to its movement. If the resistance exceeds a specified value, the stirrer reverses the stirring direction. This prevents the motor from burning out, and the reversing helps lift the food.


Low-cost, continuous filtration system

In our continual pursuit of low-cost, low-maintenance water cleaning systems for the developing world, the ceramic water filter may be one of the more effective solutions. The pores in the ceramic material can filter dirt and bacteria from the water. However, one disadvantage of ceramic filters is that filtration capacity is limited by the strength of the clay and by the water pressure on the pots during filtration. Standard individual ceramic pots are limited to approximately 30 litres a day.

This issue is addressed in US 8,663,465, recently granted to Atopia Research, a non-profit research and design organisation focusing on humanitarian projects. Atopia Research has developed a scalable system which enables continuous filtration through ceramic filter banks. The constant water pressure maximises the rate of filtration, so that a standard ceramic pot can filter 48 litres a day, and potentially more. They estimate that a 25-module bank can therefore produce 1200 litres a day, which can serve 60-100 people throughout the year.

The setup claimed is simple. Rainwater or groundwater in a retention tank is pumped into a header tank, which continuously releases the water down into a bank of ceramic water filters. Filtered water flows into a collection tank for dispensing as needed.

Review overview