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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 January 2008, 11:44 GMT
Giving umbrellas a hi-tech spin
By Tim Marlow
BBC World Service's Culture Shock

Man with Pileus umbrella
The Pileus allows 3D navigation through Google Earth
The dullness may soon be taken out of a rainy day as a range of hi-tech new umbrellas - developed by several different companies - begin to hit the market.

One, the brainchild of an American company, can receive local weather forecasts automatically through a built-in radio receiver in the handle, which receives weather data for 150 US locations via a website called Accuweather.com.

If rain or snow is approaching, a light will illuminate on the base of its

handle. The light then flashes in proportion to the likelihood of how bad the weather is going to be.

For example, if there is a one hundred percent chance of rain, it will flash rapidly - and if the possibility is only around ten percent, it will flicker slowly.

Umbrellas with a twist

For a device more than 4,000 years old, umbrellas have changed comparatively little - but it seems that incorporating modern technology is inevitable.

Scientists at Tokyo's Keio University are continuing to work on a prototype umbrella that connects to the web via a wireless connection, and then projects images from the internet onto the underside of the canopy.

Man with Pileus umbrella
The specs of the Pileus are being continually updated
Known as Pileus, the umbrella allows you to watch videos from online video sites as you walk.

And the entertainment in the rain continues as the brolly allows you to take pictures with a built-in camera, which can then be uploaded onto photo-sharing websites.

There is also a satellite positioning system incorporated in case viewing the sites mean the user loses their way, with a map of the surroundings projected on the underside of the umbrella.

And should you prefer to sit down to view your content, design students from Japan and Korea have been working on a range of innovative park benches adapted for this very purpose.

One is a traditional metal framed bench that includes a device that will hold your umbrella open, so that you can sit peacefully in a park and not worry about getting wet.

Now, that's an idea that's definitely got you covered.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Tim Marlow discusses the umbrellas



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