How cross field technologies can inspire new product design and functionalities.

Assume we are “rolling toy” designers and need to quickly generate new rolling toy design concepts, facing time and resource constraints. We use InnoSenze and start with “positioning” the technologies that have been developed for rolling toys on the map as shown in (Figure 1) “Sports & Amusement”, “Infographic & Display” and “Vehicle in General” are highlighted in red color because “rolling toy” patents are found in these domains.

Figure 1

The intensity of the red color of the nodes corresponds to rolling toy patent occurrences in respective patent classes. The size of a node corresponds to the total number of patents in the corresponding patent class in the total history. The “grey” domains have no rolling toy designs being found, i.e., no patents found in corresponding patent classes.

In the information panel on the left-hand side, we can quickly discover and learn the technical terms that are extracted from the titles of all rolling toy patents and represent the elementary design concepts for rolling toys, the actual patent documents sorted according to their grant dates or citations, as well as leading inventors and companies that have contributed to the prior designs of rolling toys.

Such information informs us of other concepts, designs and technologies that have been adopted in rolling toy designs. So, we can make more informed decisions regarding either adopting them for our own products or differentiating our own designs from them to avoid competition.

As shown in (Figure 2), one can move the slider bar in the information panel to increase the knowledge distance of the exploration into the whitespace domains from the nearest to the farthest relative to the positions of the technologies already used in prior rolling toy designs.

Figure 2

Because of the knowledge proximity, prior design concepts in the nearest domains can be most easily learnt and feasibly synthesized with rolling toy designs. Particularly, the “Checking-Device” domain appears to be the most proximate whitespace domain to rolling toys.

We click the node “Checking-Device” on the map to retrieve more information related to this specific domain. The panel retrieves the leading inventors and companies, the most cited and newest patents relevant to “checking device”.

Most importantly, the information panel reports the most characteristic design concepts in the checking device domain (Figure 3). These concepts, which might represent generic functions, components, structures and working mechanisms, have already been extracted from the patent title texts in the domain.

Therefore, instead of reading the patent documents one by one for design inspiration, we can quickly go through the design concepts in the “checking device” domain to conceive possible analogies and syntheses with rolling toys.

Figure 3

For instance, “gaming” and “display” inspired us for a new design of rolling toys with an LCD display for kids to play interactive visual games on the rolling ball.

The concept “monitor” inspired the inclusion of a camera on the rolling toy to monitor the surrounding remotely.

The “authentication” function can be synthesized with a rolling toy by embedding a RIFD chip inside for it to be used as an authentication device. Kids may use the playful rolling balls as their identity keys in the kindergarten.

Furthermore, the terms “sensors” for “data collection” inspired us to conceive the use of rolling balls to cruise and collect environment data in difficult-to-visit places, such as underground sewers.

In addition to these most characteristic terms, one can also directly read the patent titles for rapid inspiration. For example, the patent title “dual-mode vehicular controller (2017-11-28)” stimulated us to conceive the design concept of “dual-mode” rolling toys that have a mobile-controlled mode and an autonomous mode for rolling.

The patent title “tamper resistant rugged keypad (2017-11-28)” inspired us to conceive the design concept of rolling toys with “rugged” shells, while the surfaces of the existing rolling toys are normally smooth.

Without reading the lengthy patent full texts and images, we have been able to be inspired to rapidly generate various divergent design concepts that we would not be able to conceive without the prompts of the term or sentence level stimuli from InnoSenze.

These new design concepts are readily porotype-able as they are stimulated by the design information at the semantic level. Meanwhile, the patent documents are also retrieved and listed in the information panel for each domain. Reading them may provide more detailed inspiration but requires time and dedication and is unsuitable for rapid wide exploration of the design concept space and the generation of divergent concepts.

In addition to nearby domains that provide near-field stimuli, one can also freely browse the map regardless of knowledge distance, to discover concepts, technologies, inventors and companies in any domains on the map for design analogies and syntheses.

For instance, “lighting” technologies can be synthesized with rolling toys to design moving lights at home or in public spaces (Figure 4).

Rolling toy designs and bomb design concepts in the “weapons” domain can be synthesized to design rolling bombs.

“Mechanical vibration” technologies can be adopted to either suppress unwanted vibrations or generate useful vibrations for rolling toys.

Figure 4

As suggested by prior design stimulation studies, the design concepts that synthesize near-field technologies might be more feasible, whereas far-field stimuli will contribute to novelty.

Figure 5

With the understanding of such tradeoffs, as shown in (Figure 5), the InnoSenze-based visual and quantitative information of the relative distances or proximities between the design stimuli and the original design may further suggest the feasibility and novelty of different design concepts that have been generated in the heuristic map-aided ideation process.