Browsing in the rain

It is hard to make someone smile when they are standing in a rain shower, but three Japanese design students are taking a crack at it.

Takashi Matsumoto, a doctoral student in the media design programme at Keio University in Tokyo, and undergraduates Sho Hashimoto and Shingo Iwata, are the inventors of the Pileus umbrella photo browser.

The wi-fi connected umbrella with a built-in camera takes pictures and uploads them on to the photo-sharing website Flickr.com.

Users can browse through photos, as they would online, by twirling the umbrella to the left or right.

‘There is a motion sensor to detect movement of the umbrella and it scrolls the photos on the screen,’ said Matsumoto.

The images are displayed from a tiny projector inside the handle of the umbrella on to its fabric dome.

Matsumoto and the team began designing Pileus six months ago for a university project. They first demonstrated it as a prototype at Ubicomp 2006, the eighth international conference for ubiquitous computing, held in Orange County, California, last month.

They plan to add more functions to the umbrella and enter it in design competitions before trying to make it commercially available.

Matsumoto said the team is working on making the umbrella capable of recording videos to upload on to YouTube, a website that allows users to post and share home videos and TV clips.

They also hope to add GPS sensors so the umbrella can be used as a map navigation system.