Air Umbrella holds off the rain with a force field of air

Now fundraising on Kickstarter, the Air Umbrella promises to do away with those pesky metal ribs in favor of a dome of jetted air.

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
2 min read

Is this the first major evolution of the umbrella in thousands of years? Air Umbrella

Most estimates put the invention of the umbrella at over 3,000 years ago. Since that time, not a lot has changed in its basic design -- it's still some kind of ribbed cage covered in some kind of fabric. The new Air Umbrella now making a run on Kickstarter, however, does away with this design in favor of a cone of jetted air that promises to keep the rain away.

That might sound unlikely, but there is a demonstration video (below) that would make you think the gizmo really could work -- at least for rainstorms that fall shy of monsoon strength.

This isn't the first time we've seen this concept. Back in 2010 we reported on an air umbrella concept from a Korean designer, but it seems like that was never actually produced. The new Air Umbrella on Kickstarter from designers in Nanjing, China, may meet the same fate; at this point, it's only raised about $4,000 of its $10,000 goal with 11 days left to the campaign.

Still, if the project gets funded, it could be a nifty device. For one, it would eliminate that annoying inside-out thing normal umbrellas do in high winds. It would also keep you from poking out someone's eye with those dagger-like tips that hang out from the edges of traditional brollies.

Air Umbrella says there are going to be three versions of the device. Version A measures 30 centimeters (about a foot) long and, for some reason, is intended for women. Version B is 50 centimeters (about 20 inches) long. And version C is scalable, growing from 50 centimeters to 80 centimeters (about 31 inches). The battery life on the umbrellas isn't the most impressive. Version A gets 15 minutes while B and C get 30 minutes, so they should be good for short darts here and there, but not for long romantic strolls in the rain.

Right now you can still get in on the early bird deals. Version A is priced at $88 (about £54, AU$100 AUD), B is going for $98 and C is $108. The pledge and pricing structure is a bit confusing on the Kickstarter page, but it looks like full retail pricing will range from $128 to $148 (about £80, AU$147). The makers are promising delivery in December 2015, so you'd better hold on to your traditional umbrella for the next round of April showers.