Thursday, 21 August 2014
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Is it a teleporter, is it a hoverboard? No, it's a tap

A revolutionary piece of technology that could fundamentally change the lives of millions was unveiled this week.

James Dyson, widely regarded as the most brilliant engineer since Brunel, has finally solved the problem of having to walk between the taps and the dryer after washing your hands.

The new Airblade tap, which includes the startling innovation of combining jets of air with a traditional water faucet, is set to shave literally seconds from bathroom visits around the world.

Ok, enough sarcasm. But sadly that’s not too far from the real reaction much of the media gave Dyson’s new product when it was launched on Monday night. The coverage was so prominent and at times sycophantic that you’d think the man had invented nuclear fusion not a slightly different way to dry your hands.

In fact, the hype began well in advance of the unveiling. ‘Dyson new invention: What could it be?’ asked the Guardian website, setting off a wave of mildly interested speculation from a bunch of people checking the site because they were bored at work.

Unfortunately, all this build up around the launch of a new product from the company that previously brought you a vacuum cleaner and a fan was bound to lead to an anticlimax.

Dyson’s about to launch its latest technology! What could it be? A hoverboard? A teleporter? A perpetual motion machine?! No, it’s a tap. With a couple of little fans stuck on the side.

/g/j/h/TE_Dyson_Airblade_tap2.jpg

Source: Dyson

The Dyson Airblade tap: changing the world, one drip at a time.

This isn’t a criticism of Dyson, by any means. The company is full of talented engineers, designers and (obviously) PR people, and its boss is clearly an astute businessman. Congratulations to them all for their hard and successful work.

But it galls me that the most fussed-over invention of the last 12 months is a tap. A well designed, unusual tap that will probably make lots of money (each unit costs £1,000). But a tap nonetheless.

As readers of The Engineer know, there are plenty of fascinating and important new devices under development in this country. And yet the UK’s most famous engineer is a man who’s made middle class floors slightly cleaner.

I’m not convinced that most people buy into the hype either. The first reader comment on the Guardian’s blog cheekily pointed out that every Dyson product either sucks or blows. Which set the tone for pretty much the whole thread.

Then again, what else should I expect from a media that classes technology as anything with a pixel. That scrutinises every move of the latest Silicon Valley startups but cares little for the companies that actually employ larges swathes of the British workforce.

A quick look at the BBC News website shows there are just three stories on its technology homepage about traditionally engineered products, covering electric car charging, the (also much-hyped) Raspberry Pi computer, and – you guessed it – the Dyson tap.

I guess all that remains is to wonder what James Dyson might do next. As he’s reinvented the tap, I suggested he might have a go at doing the same for the wheel. But as The Engineer editor Jon Excell pointed out to me, he’s already done this with his ballbarrow.

I’ll just have to hold out for that hoverboard.


Readers' comments (43)

  • It is good to see mention of engineering work in the media, however there is a whole world of engineers the world over as well,such as myself here in the great USA. Moreover the development tools available now enables us little guys to do things on par with big companies. Achieving this was not possible even a few years ago.

    My 2 cents

    Ron harding
    grand blanc, MI

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  • I've been to many countries where AirBlades are prolific. Considering the space saving nature of this new product, with a single installation point, suck, blow or squirt, it's likely to bring in revenue for the company and the country, even if manufactured abroad. One shouldn't mock unless one can do better.

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  • From what I understood paper towels were actually more hygienic than air driers.

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  • Had I been in the club, I too would surely have contributed to some different products, currently I have a tyre that will prevent slipping over BLACK ICE, specially for regions where there is a lot of snow on the streets, roads and highways in Europe, America, Japan, Chine and Russia. Other is the usage of waste paper for the production of tables, doors, shelves etc, next is the rail roads safety systems for avoiding train collisions and checking high speeds of trains where not desired, even if there is a unmanned runaway train. What about have a very simple solution to prevent flooding of homes and condos, all affordable to the common man.

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  • Several years ago on a visit to a cafe at the Albert Dock in Liverpool the toilets had a similar soap/wash/ dry system, all behind the bottom edge of the mirror and now so do most of the convinences along the South Coast. Put your hands under the correct place and there you are.
    Mr Dyson has perhaps improved the blast of air, but current people practice seem that a lot of folks are leaving the toilets with wet hands. So the question to ask is, 'do we need the drier'?

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  • It doesn't matter what the invention this country doesn't capitalise or promote it enough. Take the Hovercraft or the Harrier jump jet two wonderful inventions that we didn't promote enough but allowed others to further develop. OK, so the Dyson tap/hand-dryer is nothing new in the respect of washing drying technology, but give the man credit for trying. I expect Brunell would have been ridiculed for his ideas in the same way if he was around today. He also would have had to go abroad to further his ideas because no one in this country would have been willing to stick their neck out and back him. It's too easy to mock someones ideas, but it's from these that perhaps greater ideas and inventions form.

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  • What this article doesn't state is that you can't even change the temperature of the water! Nor can you alter the amount of time it sprays water/blows air.Not a very versitile tap.... and it still uses the same tech as the airblade dyer.

    His vacuum cleaners aren't good. They're ugly (my opinion) and you can see the crap flying around. Miele are far neater and AirRam uses only 100W. Dyson products are all re-inventions, novel - yes, life changing- no. Agree with Author, too much hype for a re-invented product. Shows what a name can do eh??

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  • It might be a lucrative idea to register a patent for a carpet cleaning hand drier boat that will also wash clothes and has balls for wheels.
    It could set back the natural course of Dyson Development for years though!

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  • Paper towels are more hygienic than air driers. However they are also considerably more expensive once you go beyond 12 month as by that time the air dryer has been paid for.

    You also free up storage room, orders , deliveries and staffing.

    Given there is not BSI test for cleanliness of hands, rather like there is no BSI for cleaning teeth, we have to accept that more hygienic is actually a relative term and not of much practical interest to most businessmen - and for that matter most humans.

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  • Please can everyone remember that none of the great Brunel's inventions made a penny of profit during his lifetime. He was always a chronic overspender. We also only tend to remember the great things he did, and forget the epic failure that was his atmospheric railway system, which he pushed ahead with at great expense (his shareholders', not his) despite huge evidence early on that it was technically the wrong solution.

    For all his faults, James Dyson deserves a lot of credit for building up a successful technology business from the ground up.

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