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Which Inventor Mastermind Are You?

Inventors are the masterminds behind all things popular: cell phones, video games, electronic dance music and more. Before these were must-haves, an inventor hovered over a lab bench somewhere, scribbling out plans for new inventions that would amaze and delight millions.

Perhaps the problem is that inventors themselves are too often overshadowed by the brilliance of their inventions. In celebration of National Inventors Month, we're shinging the spotlight on inventors everywhere.

Don’t let your inner-brilliance go unnoticed. Take the quiz to find out which inventor mastermind you resemble most.

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Behind the Breakthrough for National Inventors Month: Rafal Krepec, Lanomat, Inc. Founder

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 TwitterFacebook 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.

Behind the Breakthrough for National Inventors Month: Rafal Krepec, Lanomat, Inc. Founder

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.

Want the most up-to-date news on the DuoPad’s launch? Sign up here for the latest. For more interviews from our Behind the Breakthrough series, subscribe to our newsletter here

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News You Can Use: April Edition

It’s been a great month for news profiling inventors, inventions, mentorship and more. Check out some of the links we’re loving from April.

News You Can Use: April Edition

IV in the News

IV’s Manan Shukla (above) talks with Rural Reporters about how the AI Shield can help improve the lives of cattle and dairy farmers across the developing world.

CNBC profiles IV spinout Kymeta and their groundbreaking metamaterials satellite technology. 

Inspiring Inventions

Stanford engineers invent ‘gecko toes,’ using inspiration from lizards to design an adhesive that could let people engage in superhero-like feats like climbing walls of glass.

Think Progress profiles wearable technology developed by students to help people with disabilities.

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Join in the Celebration with World IP Day

With the core belief that ideas are valuable and with a commitment to ensuring a thriving market for innovation, Intellectual Ventures (IV) is proud to take part in celebrating World Intellectual Property Day. Started by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2000, World IP Day gives us the opportunity to “learn about the role that intellectual property rights (patents, trademarks, industrial designs, copyright) play in encouraging innovation and creativity.” This year’s theme centers on the future of media, art, and culture in the digital age. 

Join in the Celebration with World IP Day

To get into the spirit leading up to today, IV’s Phyllis Turner-Brim, Vice President and Chief IP Counsel, hosted the 2016 AIPLA Women in IP Global Networking event for the greater Seattle area last week on April 21. Looking towards the future, Turner-Brim will be one of the impressive speakers scheduled to present during IPBC Global, the annual event for global IP leaders, taking place this June in Barcelona.

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Behind the Breakthrough: Scenes From Intellectual Ventures Laboratory

As we head off to Germany for the Hannover Messe trade fair, we’re offering a behind the scenes look at our state-of-the-art research lab as it pursues breakthroughs. Check out the photo series below for some of the technology that we’re excited to showcase next week.

Behind the Breakthrough: Scenes From Intellectual Ventures Laboratory

The Intellectual Ventures Lab is a state-of-the-art facility that brings together an interdisciplinary team of over 100 scientists and engineers to find creative solutions to some of the world’s toughest problems. These solutions include a laser that can quickly detect and kill disease-carrying mosquitoes and a cooler that can keep vaccines from spoiling for extended periods of time.

Every year, insects spread deadly diseases to humans and cause heavy losses to farmers worldwide by destroying crops. Mosquitoes in particular are the deadliest animals in the world. Each year they kill hundreds of thousands of people through transmission of diseases like malaria, especially in poor countries. To fight these insects, Intellectual Ventures developed the Photonic Fence (prototype in the photo), a laser-based system that electro-optically tracks and shoots down insects in midair.

3ric Johanson (pictured on the left), a research scientist at the Intellectual Ventures Lab, explains how the Photonic Fence electro-optically tracks mosquitoes and agricultural pests and shoots them down in midair. Every year, insects spread deadly diseases to humans, like malaria, and cause heavy losses to farmers worldwide by destroying crops.

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Showcasing the Power of Global Invention at Hannover Messe

Successful invention relies on a thriving global ecosystem for science and technology breakthroughs. At Intellectual Ventures, we’re proud to foster the vast infrastructure supporting the work of invention around the world. That’s why we’re heading to Germany later this month to demonstrate the value of an invention marketplace by showcasing some of the products we’ve created, our work with partner companies and the groundbreaking technology behind a few of our spinouts.

Showcasing the Power of Global Invention at Hannover Messe

Biochemist Amy Steadman monitors toxin levels using high performance liquid chromatography in the Intellectual Ventures Lab.

For the first time in the event’s 69-year history, the US is serving as the partner country for Hannover Messe, a leading global trade fair for industrial technology. We’re attending the conference as a part of the U.S. Commerce Department’s delegation and excited to continue to build global relationships and innovations to grow the marketplace for invention.

Our shortlist for the showcase includes:

  • The Photonic Fence, whose applications include agricultural pest and disease control;
  • The ArktekTM device, which keeps vaccines from spoiling in remote, low-resource, regions with poor infrastructure;
  • Our metamaterials spinouts, including Kymeta’s connected car technology, most recently profiled by CNBC; and
  • Partners like CollinsWoerman, Coffee Flour and Raisio who’ve partnered with us to commercialize a range of inventions.
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Encouraging the STEM Workforce of the Future

At Intellectual Ventures (IV), we are committed to empowering more young women to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers. That’s why we’re proud to be a sponsor of Expanding Your Horizons (EYH), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing gateway STEM experiences to middle and high school girls that spark interest in STEM. 

Encouraging the STEM Workforce of the Future

Left: Nicole Dalluge and Christy Barwick run IV’s booth at the EYH career fair. Right: Svetlana Titova charts infection rates during a workshop.

Currently, data shows that women are still heavily underrepresented in STEM fields; according to U.S. News and World Report, women represent just 24 percent of the engineering workforce, 36 percent of the computing workforce, and 18 percent of the advanced manufacturing workforce. IV and EYH recognize that engaging with female STEM role models and participating in hands-on activities can inspire girls to further pursue STEM education and consider a career in a related field. Several IV employees joined three local EYH conferences over the last month to foster a passion for STEM among local middle and high school girls. You can check out our first post on IV’s participation here: “Empowering Girls to Pursue STEM with Expanding Your Horizons.”

The Importance of STEM Role Models

In addition to the IV volunteers presenting workshops, Christy Barwick, treasurer, and Nicole Dalluge, finance manager, staffed IV’s booth at the career fair portion of the conference, meeting with many of the young women in attendance and answering their questions about working in a STEM-related field. Christy and Nicole shared their professional journeys with the students and fielded questions about how they used STEM skills to get to where they are today, providing the girls with positive role models who are active in STEM-related careers. EYH conferences aim to facilitate meaningful conversations such as this between the attendees and women who have parlayed their passion for STEM into successful careers. These conversations help the young women envision doing the same in the future.

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IV in the Community – April

April is shaping up to be a busy month for Intellectual Ventures, and our leadership has speaking events planned in communities around the globe. From Shenzhen, China to Hanover, Germany to Seattle, Washington, check out where in the world we’ll be this month. And if you happen to be in our neck of the woods, we hope you’ll join us.

IV in the Community – April Read the full story »

Inventor Superhero: Claude Shannon

Just like Marvel Comic’s heroes, inventors venture into unexplored territory, overcome obstacles, and improve the world around them. Tinkering away in their invention lairs, inventors make the real-life gadgets that crack codes and save the world. They have the brainpower to solve complex problems that ordinary citizens can’t match. And like our most beloved superheroes, inventors inspire us to strive for ingenuity and pursue our dreams.

Inventor Superhero: Claude Shannon

Inventor Superhero: Claude Elwood Shannon (1916-2001)

Superpowers: Mathematics, cryptography, card tricks, unicycling, juggling

Eureka! Moment:  When Shannon was in his 30s, he showed that text, telephone signals, radio waves, pictures, film — any form of communication — could be encoded in bits. This universal language written in binary digits 1 and 0 is known as binary code. Shannon developed a theory that once information was transcribed in binary code, it could be perfectly transmitted without error. His theory made it possible to use bits in computer storage. Today, many communication lines are measured in bits per second.

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Empowering Girls to Pursue STEM with Expanding Your Horizons

At Intellectual Ventures, we take pride in encouraging the next generation of inventors through mentorship and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. That’s why we sponsor several local conferences run by Expanding Your Horizons, a nonprofit organization committed to providing STEM workshops to middle and high school girls that spark interest in STEM activities and careers. All across the country, EYH is inspiring girls to recognize their potential and pursue opportunities in STEM. Several IV employees volunteered at local EYH conferences over the last month to present on the value of invention and innovation in STEM-related fields, and to foster a passion for STEM among local middle and high school girls. 

Empowering Girls to Pursue STEM with Expanding Your Horizons

Left: Eleanor Goodall illustrates the task to students with help from the scooter. Right: One group’s plan for a multi-terrain scooter.

Invent This!

To teach middle school girls about invention and patents, Eleanor Goodall and Beth Schubert, both from IV’s Invention Science Fund, got together a few years ago and devised a workshop. The colleagues have since presented ‘Invent This!’ at EYH conferences for several years running. The workshop takes the girls through the process of inventing and applying for a patent. On March 12 and April 2, Eleanor and Beth presented the hands-on workshop to middle school girls at Seattle University and Bellevue College, respectively.

During the workshop, the girls learn about the development of ideas into patents. They then split into small groups to tackle their own invention challenge, to create a unique scooter that can function on water. Finally, they evaluate their own creations as the possible basis for patent applications. Each team can interact with and study the Ski Skoot® snow toy, a scooter with ski attachments that allow it to function on snow. Eleanor and Beth also provide handouts featuring patents on scooter-like devices for reference and inspiration. Throughout the process, students learn how to work together to solve a complex problem that demands engineering solutions, draft a patent application, and present their inventions to the larger group. 

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Honoring 10 "Mothers of Technology" this #NationalInventorsMonth via @BizTechMagazine

May 05

This #NationalInventorsMonth, @EYHNetwork & @IVinvents honors STEM role models & workshop leaders!

May 05

LINK: MT @IVinvents: Take our quiz to find out which #inventor mastermind you resemble most. #NationalInventorsMonth

May 05