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A world class creative idea

“A very exciting new idea … I believe it is world class and something we will see a lot of in future. I rate it as one of the very best creative ideas I have seen and like so many great innovations the principle is quite simple, never mind that it took them ten years to develop and refine the concept.

You are now wondering what on earth it can be?

If you watch sport on TV or internet you will know how much advertising and sponsorship money there is, and how that enables the sport to develop. In particular, anything on wheels has a massive following, be it motor sport or cycling. Almost every available inch of a car or bike is plastered with advertising which flashes into our brains with each consecutive camera shot. We can’t avoid it, which is why it is so valuable. There is an advertising area on each vehicle which we read when the vehicle is stationary but becomes a blur whilst the race is on, this area is the wheels and tyres.

Sponsors don’t get as much bang for their buck here … Imagine though if the branding on the tyres could be clearly visible even when rotating, how could this be possible? Now stop and take a moment to think how you would do this. The answer uses existing technology with a twist, the twist is the innovation.

We are all aware of the “wagon wheel effect” in the movies. A wheel can appear to be going at an odd speed, in reverse or even standing still. The same applies to aircraft propellers which is where the inventors came up with the idea.

The wagon wheel effect is due to the fact that movies and TV are a series of rapid still frames which deceive the eyes and brain and appear to be continuous motion. Even with the naked eye it is possible to freeze a moving object for a split second. This is all well and good but if you want to make a spinning wheel appear stationary it must rotate exactly synchronized with the camera refresh rate, typically 24 frames per second, or alternatively vary the camera frequency, neither of which are practical.

Shining a strobe light on a wheel is another known way to make it appear stationary. Once again the strobe must be tuned to flash in sync with the wheel speed. If you have ever done this, you will know that the wheel speed is hardly ever truly constant and with a racing vehicle the speed changes are exceptional. How then can the wheel be made to look stationary at all times and the branding made readable?

Here’s how they did it.

Firstly, the branding on the wheel must be done using retro-reflective printing. This commonly used (e.g.3M) product reflects light directly back to the source.

Secondly, a strobe light source is mounted onto the camera, this shines where the camera points.

Thirdly, and this is the twist, the reflection from the spinning wheel constantly measures the RPM of the wheel and a computer algorithm automatically pulses the strobe to match exactly the frequency of the wheel rotation.

Hey presto, the branding on the wheel appears stationary even as the wheel speed varies. The strobe, it’s reflection and control system are linked to a specific camera and it’s only that camera that can capture the image. Multiple similarly equipped cameras would each be able to capture their own images but no unequipped cameras could do so.

The commercial aspects of this innovation are intriguing, with many possibilities.

Ownership of the system would enable specific media companies to control this branding opportunity in conjunction with the sponsors. If a camera company licensed or owned the rights to the system their cameras would have an advantage over others.

Race organisers could control which wheels would be allowed to use the reflective printing. It’s all about the money. Another quite different market would be the engineering industry where moving machinery can be monitored more effectively. Medical Bio-kinetics is another potential use.

Whatever the application, I do hope our inventors are able to maximize the returns for their excellent labours”

acknowledgment to: EUREKA - the newsletter of the Institute of Inventors & Innovators

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