As a staunch introvert who prefers wide swaths of personal space, I find the idea behind Umbrella Here frightening, yet strangely compelling. The creators of the project, which is currently raising funds on Kickstarter, want to “bring strangers together on rainy days” with a Bluetooth light that attaches to the top of your umbrella and an app alerting people that you are willing to share it. You can change the color of the light to reflect your mood: green if you are wiling to share it, for example, or red if you aren’t.
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Patience Lee, Umbrella Here’s user interface designer, tells TechCrunch that the project originally started for a competition called the Interaction Award, a design competition that seeks to “facilitate communication between people and communities.” All four members of Umbrella Here’s Hong Kong-based team are recent graduates from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where they majored in interaction design.
“We remembered that during rainy days, people without umbrellas would just stand outside the Hong Kong subway station waiting for the rain to stop. The four of us have experienced times when we had an umbrella with us and felt very embarrassed to ask the person next to us to share our umbrella,” Lee says.
“This is the reason why we came up with Umbrella Here. A signal that helps you tell people that you are willing to share your umbrella, instead of needing to ask a stranger directly.”
Of course, Umbrella Here’s concept will only come to fruition if there are enough people using the light and app to create a network. In order to get more users, Lee says that Umbrella Here is currently in discussions with a large corporation to buy the light as a gift for clients, as well as several social networks to integrate Umbrella Here with their platforms.
Even if you aren’t keen on the idea of sharing your umbrella with a stranger, Umbrella Here still has several functions that might be helpful. The app, which lets you keep a record of the people you have connected with through Umbrella Here and add them as friends through different social networks, also tracks weather reports and will send you an alert reminding you to take your umbrella along with you if it looks like it’s going to rain. The Umbrella Here light will also turn different colors depending on the temperature and blink when it is about to rain.
To be sure, you can also depend on weather forecasts and looking out the window to remember if you need to bring your umbrella, but then you won’t be part of Umbrella Here’s network. The project ends on September 17 and has already raised more than two-thirds of its $15,000 goal, so there are clearly plenty of backers who are intrigued by the idea (and even willing to put it into practice).
If Umbrella Here catches your fancy and you order one, the team promises that you will receive it by January 2015. Umbrella Here already has a manufacturing-ready prototype and is ready for production if its Kickstarter campaign succeeds.