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An umbrella made of nothing but air

Chinese designers are pulling in Kickstarter funds for an "air umbrella" that creates a dome of air to keep rain off users. 

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    Air Umbrella from a demonstration video on Kickstarter.com.
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Could the umbrella go by way of the Walkman and the fax machine?

A Kickstarter-funded "Air Umbrella" might one day replace the traditional umbrella, pushing air through its cylindrical head to create a dome that redirects falling drops away from its users. 

The campaign has far surpassed its $10,000 goal, receiving 153 donations totaling more than $18,000. The air brolly creators are based in Nanjing, China and have designs for three models — one with a handle 30 centimeters in length, one 50 centimeters, and one scalable from 50 to 80 centimeters. The lithium battery life is reported to last for up to 30 minutes. Price per unit are estimated to range from $88 to $108 each. 

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A video introducing the product notes that the product is designed to shield one to two people from rain, but more people can fit under the umbrella when the rain isn’t as heavy. 

Postgraduates and Ph.D. recipients in Nanjing and Beijing have worked to improve the design and appearance. 

Users can control the airflow from the base of the umbrella’s cylindrical controller. Air will push through the chamber, bursting out at the sphere at the top of the air umbrella — and hitting those unfortunate enough to be outside of the umbrella’s sphere of protection. Yes, there appears to be quite a spray coming off the dome. 

Right now, the product resembles the Seattle Eye — a fitting design, as the city averages about 150 rainy days per year.

Answering questions on the Kickstarter page, developers say the machine is less loud than the surrounding rain and that the product itself is waterproof. 
The product can withstand heavy rains, they say, but gusts of wind are a different story. 

If wind speed climbs too high, “the natural wind will oppress the air flow generated by the air umbrella and therefore greatly [decrease] the scope of sheltering.” (They note that physical umbrellas cannot handle heavy wind, either) 

This is not a new idea. In 2010, South Korean designer Je Sung Park floated a very similar concept, reports CNET

And back in 2012, Je Sung Park and Woo Jung Kwon designed a similar product with an identical name. Though their Air Umbrella did not have adjustable length, it did struggle with battery life, as this iteration does.

The founders have kicked off the second phase of their project, which aims to improve the umbrella’s appearance and auxiliary function. The group aims for a September 2015 factory launch.

Could the air sun parasol be far behind?

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