May is National Inventors Month, and at Intellectual Ventures, we owe a great debt of gratitude to the men and women who work tirelessly to develop new breakthroughs. All month long, we’ll be featuring their stories on our Insights blog, as well as our Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. Today on Behind the Breakthrough, we’re featuring inventor and entrepreneur Rafal Krepec of Lanomat, Inc. Rafal invented, patented and is now developing the DuoPad, an innovative dual-mode multi-touch trackpad that offers, not only traditional mouse attributes, but also virtualizes your hand therefore bringing full “touchscreen” functionality so users can utilize touch apps on any monitor. A true “breakthrough” in the world of graphical interface design and computing.
Rafal’s invention has had an interesting journey, which includes working with Intellectual Ventures as both an inventor and a partner and launching a successful crowdfunding campaign for DuoPad. Now, his invention is set to play a key role in merging the way we use computers with how we interact with touch driven devices like smartphones and tablets.
Rafal was kind enough to sit down with us to discuss his journey. Here are his insights:
Can you talk a bit about your invention and how you came up with the idea?
I’ve always been interested in how computers work, and throughout my career, I became very familiar with graphical user interface systems like the mouse and the benefits it brings to a computing system. But through my experiences, I realized that the traditional mouse had its limitations.
Unlike a touch screen or a stylus pen, a mouse doesn’t provide direct input to a computer – you can’t touch and feel or immerse in an interactive experience. Instead, the user interacts relatively with the screen by dragging around a pointer and clicking. There are many benefits of being able to have the kind of absolute input that a stylus provides or by direct touch, but direct input, like touching a screen, simply isn’t ergonomic for a vertical monitor; you get arm fatigue called “gorilla arm.” So around 2004, I invented a new pointing device that allows users to touch a horizontal surface (using a pen, or your fingers) and interact with your computer as if touching your vertical monitor. You virtually see your hand on the monitor and get to navigate and interact with your computing device by simply touching this horizontal surface; no longer limited to dragging around a pointer and clicking like you do a mouse or trackpad. This new technology effectively solves the computing gap – creating the comfortable and pleasant touch interactive computing experience for users without having to actually touch the vertical screen.
Any strong invention has to have relevance to what’s happening today. Touch is pervasive, but its true capabilities have not yet been fully realized in my opinion. It’s being used in our desktop environment but because many people use their mobile devices to run touch apps, this new input device, DuoPad, also allows people to merge their smartphone and tablet experiences with their vertically oriented computer screens, enabling the use of touch apps on monitors that are not even touch enabled. No gorilla arm, no fingerprint covered monitors. It’s great!
How did you come to work with IV?
After I received a patent for my invention from the USPTO, I contacted Intellectual Ventures because I knew they are a leader in protecting inventions as well as with promoting innovation. I wanted to do business with them to get access to capital that would let me further develop my technology. Today, that’s resulted in a product being built by my company.
Intellectual Ventures has an entrepreneurial spirit, and for someone like me, it was always really encouraging and gratifying to share that perspective throughout the process of invention.
What advice do you have for inventors just starting out on how to approach the idea of inventing?
Expect and prepare yourself to be patient! It’s a key ingredient in the process.
What I love about IV is that the company specializes in the field of invention. Therefore, they have the critically important appreciation for what a lengthy process invention is. As an inventor, I was grateful for IV’s understanding for how time consuming it is to produce real inventions, to have those inventions be truly unique, and then to produce the intellectual property. For me, that was a huge benefit to working with the IV team.
What drives you as an inventor and entrepreneur?
It’s a passion of mine to see something – not only my creation – but to see something well done and well-made that people like to use become a reality. I like it when people have great products that solve problems for everyday life. This concept drove my development of the DuoPad, and will continue to drive my approach to the company and product development.