Canadian teen Ann Makosinski’s simple, yet ground-breaking invention, could be a possible ‘game changer’ in terms of energy requirements for small electronic devices like flashlights (see her invention in picture below), or even for use in mobile phones one day.
Her creativity and pursuit of innovation should be applauded, and no doubt her future rewards will be substantial.
But there is one thing in this story which should raise a serious red-flag. Her invention might be partially “owned” by the corporate monster known as Google. She entered her idea into Google’s International Science Fair, where Google and its network of billionaire VC investors are perfectly poised to pounce on any new tech which happens to sprout up through their corporately new grass-roots lawn. Yes, it all goes through Google now.
The trend is easy to see – innovation markets are being cornered by one or two major players. Should all future innovations be presented, funded and research facilitated through a few transnational corporations – like Google, or should other institutions take on this responsibility too?
Ann had to travel to Google’s head offices in Mountain View, CA to present her idea alongside two other finalists: the cure for the common cold, and a robotic exoskeleton – at least one of which the US military and DARPA are no doubt very interested in.
In the 1982 Hollywood blockbuster, Blade Runner, one corporation reigned superior over all others – the Tyrell Corporation, and the global dominance in monopolizing every tech-related market went without challenge. Their crowing achievement was of course, a cybernetic life form mimicking humans which were called ‘Replicants’.
When you look at how Google has positioned itself as a facilitator and future shareholder/owner of nearly every new innovation coming out of nearly every sci-tech and digital dev shop within its long reach – you can see Tyrell in Google. Powering a cybernetic life form with AI will be key for realizing the ultimate Google dream, or perhaps its much darker than that – drawing power off of humans as is illustrated in the pod farm scene (see image below), as depicted in the 1999 film, The Matrix.
It’s not a question of “if” any longer, it’s simply a question of when, and when this cybernetic ‘singularity’ technology finally arrives, you can bet that Google will want to own at least part of it – because any such technology will be powered by Google’s cloud network of servers and other connective devices.
The debate needs to happen sooner, rather than later…
Ann Makosinski was just another teenager with another science project when she joined her local science fair in Victoria, Canada, last year. Her invention, a flashlight that is powered solely from hand heat, took second place at the competition.
Ann, 16, and her parents, both of whom are HAM radio operators and like to fiddle with electronics, were satisfied with that result.
“It’s a very simple project,” said Arthur Makosinski, Ann’s father. “It has four electrical components. Let’s move on and do something different.”
But had Ann left her project in Victoria, situated just 25 miles north of Washington State, the world may have missed out on a light source that doesn’t use batteries, solar power or wind energy.
Think about that for a moment: a flashlight that shines for as long as you hold onto it. No more scrambling for and chucking away AA batteries. It could have an immediate impact on more than 1.2 billion people — one-fifth of the world’s population — who, according to the World Bank, lack regular access to electricity.
Stunningly, no one on record has thought to use thermoelectric technology to power a flashlight. But for Ann, peltier tiles, which produce an electrical current when opposite sides are heated and cooled at the same time, were a convenient solution to a friend’s study problem.
Two years ago, Ann, who is half-Filipino, was corresponding with a friend of hers in the Philippines who didn’t have electricity. According to Ann, her friend couldn’t complete her homework and was failing in school.
“That was the inspiration for my project.” said Ann, “I just wanted to help my friend in the Philippines and my flashlight was a possible solution.”
Ann got to work. She remembered hearing human beings described as walking 100-volt light bulbs: “I thought, why not body heat? We have so much heat radiating out of us and it’s being wasted.”
After a few prototypes, she unveiled her “hollow flashlight,” so named because it has a hollow aluminum tube at its core that cools the sides of the peltier tiles attached to the flashlight’s cylinder. The other side is warmed by heat from a hand gripping the flashlight.
Ann spent several months designing the flashlight and figuring out its voltage conversion. Much has been written online about powering a flashlight with peltier tiles, but those devices used heat from candles and blow torches. Ann’s patent-pending prototype relies on hand warmth only and required that she make her own transformer, among other difference-making factors.
Art Makosinski remembers his surprise when Ann figured out how to light the flashlight’s bulbs at 20 millivolts: “I didn’t believe it, I had to inspect the circuit. I said what did you do here, do you have a hidden battery on the other side?”
At the behest of Kate Paine, her ninth grade marine biology teacher at St. Michaels University School, Ann submitted her flashlight into the 2013 Google Science Fair last spring. She promptly forget all about it. Thousands of kids apply from around the world. She said she didn’t think she had a chance…
Continue this story at Yahoo! News