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Engineers brainstorm slumping posture problem

April 21. 2013 9:03PM

Editor's note: Sam Asano's column on inventing debuted in the Portsmouth Herald earlier this year. We are publishing his collected columns in sequence in the Sunday and Monday business sections over the next several weeks after which the new columns will appear on Mondays.

CASE 1304 Slumping Posture (published in the Union Leader on Sunday) generated a strong response from many readers. One thing for sure is that all responders agree that chronically slumping posture is bad all around. It's bad for long-term health, bad for psychological health and people think you are depressed. Slumping gives an image of a tired and aged person.

A few engineering talents and I were brainstorming to come up with some decisive solutions. One engineer suggested using the recently developed sheet of fiber that senses pressure, tension and directional pull. Form this material and weave it inside a shirt. The sheet includes an audio emitter that produces sounds when slumping occurs.

There were counter arguments also. "Do women like to wear shirts like this? Especially in the summer period?" A woman in the group firmly put her foot down with an emphatic "NO!" The solution might be clinically accurate and would work fine, but cosmetically and in terms of summer fashion, it was "unacceptable."

Just as we were deadlocked, a text message came in from a lady who was born in Austria and spent her teens there. She said her mother was always on her about her posture, and it was outright annoying. Her mother put a strip of adhesive tape on her back by asking her to stand erect straight as shown in Figure 1. Any slumping movement would cause a pull by the tape, and her back would have a slight but distinct pain. The only way to eliminate the pain was to correct her posture.

She admits this folksy solution was simple and cheap, but very effective for both men and women. She didn't think that it was her mother's unique invention, probably that was what many European mothers did. I am not sure this solution is applicable to American society today. In addition, what if you live alone? You can't put the tape on your back by yourself.

Reports on past cases Case 1303 - Dual purpose gun case and shield

I have reported the concept and some sketches to the state trooper by phone and e-mails. He is the one who originally described the problem. What I suggested was for him to build a simple POC (proof of concept) prototype with some wood, and experiment by shooting it with a low-speed BB gun. If this new shield is capable of reducing the impact force as compared with the conventional flat shield, then we are onto something. From the simple probability calculation, the impact should be less than shooting into the conventional shield. Just by how much is the question. We are waiting for his results. We will continue reporting on this case.

Preview of Case 1305 - Phantom power killer

The main problem this case intended to solve was the vast waste of phantom power in this country. Its prototype is about to function. This is a rather sophisticated development, and yet fills the condition of being a "piggyback" invention. There are so many power-generating stations in this country fully operating, burning fuel, fossil or nuclear, just to provide the power for phantom use. The result is huge emissions of CO2, which contributes to global warming. What is "phantom power?"

It is the power wasted by wall plug-ins to charge cell phones and other devices. Most people never bother to unplug them from the AC outlets and so they continue to consume power. The consumption per device is small, but there are millions of them. The report is coming out soon.

Shintaro (Sam) Asano of New Castle, who speaks and writes English as a second language, was named by MIT in 2011 as one of the 10 most influential inventors of the 20th century who improved our life. He is a businessman and an inventor in the field of electronics and mechanical systems, who is credited as the original inventor of today's portable fax machine. He also developed a data tablet used in the retail point of sale to capture customer signatures when credit cards are used. Write to him at


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