Jameco Challenge: Black Light Laser Pointer

Challenge Responses


The great black light pointer challenge was a huge success with more than 40 suggestions. Recall that reader Marshall Hankins from Arizona challenged Jameco readers to help him invent a device that could be operated like a laser pointer, but one suitable for daylight that produced a visible black line to point out a distant object.

Not everyone was excited about this challenge. Reader David Cuenca held back his solution worried that Jameco had not clearly spelled out how we plan to share the profits. He proposed that as a community we treat this like an "open source" solution, which seems reasonable enough.

Dark Pulse Laser

David Okagaki and Steven Goldstein may have taken a Google approach to solving the problem. They both sent us links to articles on a Dark Pulse Laser, which we all agree has the perfect name for our product, but alas it has absolutely nothing to do with the challenge at hand.

It's Physics

Many readers, including Tom Burnett, pointed out that there is this little thing called physics, which apparently is getting in the way of all our fun. While we heard from many of you that it wasn't possible, you all qualified that conclusion by saying it wasn't possible today and left an opening for the future.

Robert Wallace pointed out that to create darkness would possibly require a portable pocket-size black hole. Gary Barr apologized for being a "buzz kill" and suggested that anything in ultra-violet frequencies would be downright dangerous and even if successful, would create an ultra-thin beam that would simply not be visible.

Sanford Roman was a bit more visionary in his analysis. Not hampered by physics, Sanford began to imagine the military benefits of such a device. Suggesting that this was essentially "cloaking" technology that could bring Harry Potter's invisibility cloak into reality.

Virtual Reality

Others suggested that if the National Football League could put a virtual yellow line on the field to indicate the first down marker, that there must be a similar solution that would work for our challenge.

There were numerous ideas that involved special virtual reality glasses, possibly equipped with Bluetooth technology, or GPS technology, that when combined with a touch of software could create a virtual line for the wearer. Credit to Dar Scott, Bill Hilger, Greg Peek & Adrian Michaud who all shared similar thinking.

Camera

There were many very practical inventors who suggested simply using a camera or a cell phone. Jon Smith suggested using your finger to point to the screen while Gerald Payne proposed a new ap with virtual pointing software solution.

Glasses

Tim Anderson offered the suggestion of using an infrared laser pointer that when combined with red glasses could see the light. Jon Smith suggested using welding glasses and a green laser to produce the desired results.

Blue & Green Lasers

Double E Dave proposed using a blue diode laser but rightly pointed out that this would be a very dangerous solution and not well suited as a consumer electronic solution. Check out one mean video demonstrating the power of blue. Credit Steve Leach, John Goss, Phil Karras and Chris Frederick with similar solutions.

Funny Solutions

Joe Carroll contributed a 1980s gag product called a "black-hole diode" which is a device with two inputs and no output. Shielding was advised so that the unit wouldn't absorb itself.

Greg's Favorites

I have to say that after pouring over all these well-considered solutions, there were two low-technology solutions that became my favorite. Mike Spalding suggested using a stick to point with and Dar Scott joked that a trained frog with a long tongue might accomplish the goal!

And Jameco promises to share all of its profits from the trained frog solution with its readers! Thanks for all the heavy thinking.

Click here to view the orginal challenge.