‘Umbrella Here’ light invites strangers to share your umbrella, saving them from a soaking

A socially minded Hong Kong startup has come up with the fabulous idea of turning the humble umbrella into a tool for meeting new people, at the same time saving them from a soaking.

‘Umbrella Here,’ at its simplest, is a light that you plop on the top of your umbrella when it starts raining. As with a taxi, the light signals to others that you’re willing to ‘take a passenger,’ meaning anyone caught in a downpour without rain protection can join you to keep dry.

But there’s more to it than that. The four graduate students behind the idea have also created an app to help you stay in touch with those you meet under your umbrella – should you want to, of course. All you do is log in, enter the time and place you met, add the person as a friend, and continue the conversation.

Of course, if your passenger was annoying, obnoxious, or simply walked too darn fast, there’s no pressure to maintain contact through the site, though there’s a chance they might suddenly turn up when the next rainstorm hits.

Umbrella Here light

The app also lets you keep track of how many people you help and the routes you’ve taken, and even sends you a reminder telling you not to forget your umbrella if you’re out in a restaurant or bar.

At home, the Umbrella Here light turns into a little weather gadget, glowing red when it’s hot outside and blue when it’s cold. When it’s raining in the vicinity, it blinks so you know to grab your umbrella (and the light!) if you’re heading out.

Umbrella Here is currently a Kickstarter project, and was recently selected as a staff favorite by the crowdfunding site. However, with 15 days to go, it’s still to hit its $15,000 target.

If the startup does manage to secure funding, it plans to start shipping Umbrella Here in January, 2015, though the asking price isn’t currently known.

Related: The 10 most hilariously awful Kickstarter projects ever

From what we’ve seen, Umbrella Here is an easy way to help others on a rainy day, and could be a boon for lonely folk hoping for diabolical weather so they can wander the streets with their glowing light in the hope of striking up a conversation with a stranger, potentially leading to a new friendship.

Of course, for the system to work, people on the street need to know what the light means, otherwise they’d just think it’s a weird umbrella design that serves no obvious purpose.

Would you stick one on your umbrella?

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: DIY smartphones and zip-on bike tires

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Smart Home

Add some nature to your tech with Mui, a wood panel that’s also a smart display

Are you so immersed in technology that you long for a touch of nature in your home? You could get some potted plants -- or you could invest in Mui, a wood panel that is also an internet-connected smart display.
Smart Home

Softly spoken interactions with Alexa now possible with new Whisper Mode

Amazon's Whisper Mode for Alexa has gone live, so now you can talk more softly to Alexa and it'll respond in kind. The feature will most likely come in handy around napping babies or for bed partners you don't want to wake.
Mobile

Key settings you need to change on your brand-new Google Pixel 3 or 3 XL phone

Google's Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones are now available. If you've set the phone up, we've rounded up a handful of key settings we think you should tweak or turn on to get the most out of your new device.
Emerging Tech

Ekster 3.0 lets you ask, ‘Alexa, where did I leave my wallet?’

Ekster's newest smart wallet is its best yet. It's slimmer than ever, boasts a neat card-dispensing mechanism, and will even let you know where it is, thanks to smart speaker integration.
Emerging Tech

Johns Hopkins’ lab-grown human retina could lead to big insights

Scientists from Johns Hopkins University have successfully grown human retina tissue from scratch in a lab. The work could help with the development of new therapeutics related to eye diseases.
Emerging Tech

Light-swallowing room promises Call of Duty fans the blackest of ops

What's it like to be in a room fully painted with the world's darkest material, Vantablack? The makers of one of the year's top video games teamed up with Vantablack scientists to find out.
Wearables

Skydio’s self-flying drone now has an Apple Watch app for flight prep

Skydio's clever R1 autonomous drone now has its own Apple Watch app, making flight preparations simpler than ever. The $2,000 flying machine is now also selling at its first retail outlet — Apple Stores in North America.
Emerging Tech

Are e-cigarettes safe? Here’s what the most recent science says

Ecigarettes are widely regarded and advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for people who are trying to kick the smoking habit. How safe are these cigarette alternatives? We went deep into the recent scientific literature to…
Emerging Tech

Scientists created a condom that self-lubricates during sex. You’re welcome

Researchers from Boston University have invented a special coating for condoms which make them respond to bodily fluids by becoming more slippery. Here's how their new breakthrough works.
Emerging Tech

You’re so vein: Palm-based biometric system could help confirm your identity

Move over, Face ID! The next biometric security systems could rely on analyzing the unique vein patterns in your palm print. Here are some of the ways the technology could prove useful.
Emerging Tech

For only $4,950, you can get jetpack lessons from the world’s only instructor

Have you ever dreamed of flying using a jetpack? JetPack Aviation founder -- and the world's only qualified jetpack teacher -- David Mayman is now offering a day of flight instruction.
Emerging Tech

Biologists have found a hormone that could make space farming possible

Researchers have shown how space farming may be possible. By encouraging plants to excrete a certain hormone, they’ve demonstrated that crops can thrive despite challenging conditions, such as low-nutrient soil and microgravity.
Emerging Tech

Keep your holiday gift list high tech and under budget with these gadgets

Modern technology doesn't always come cheap, but there plenty of premium devices that don't carry a premium price. Whether you're looking for a streaming device or a means of capturing photos from above, our list of the best tech under $50…