"Andrew Fentem...went from working on classified missile systems to developing multi-touch human interfaces, kinetic surfaces and motion sensing technologies before almost anyone else in the world."
Andrew Fentem is an innovation expert who worked at Cambridge University and London Business School in the 1990s, studying the management of innovation and the psychology of inventors. He decided to engage more deeply with the field by becoming an inventor himself; against the prevailing wisdom, he wanted to show that it is still possible to create complex new technologies without large development teams or big budgets.
A chronology at the bottom of this page details the technologies that Andrew went on to pioneer - cubic touchscreen computers, tangible computer interfaces, smartwatches, planar robotics etc.
As the inventor of several early multi-touch interface technologies, Andrew was asked to act as an expert in the major patent dispute between Apple and Samsung - www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smartphone_patent_wars. He was also interviewed about connected controversies -
Andrew has been asked to appear on a number of TV shows related to business, technology, and education - in the US, UK, and Japan. He currently lives in Oxford, and enjoys writing about innovation and politics.
'Obsolete' skills can come back into vogue
- Financial Times, 14 August 2016 -
Fear and Brexit in Tech City : Digital 'elite' are having a nervous breakdown
- The Register, 30 June 2016 -
Patent trolls, innovation and Brexit: What the FT won't tell you
- The Register, 15 June 2016 -
My savings, not government, funded multitouch research
- Financial Times, 7 August 2013 -
Surface computers: debunking Microsoft and Han
- The Register, 8 June 2007 -
Why Microsoft's innovation is only Surface deep
- The Register, 1 June 2007 -
Uninventing the Bomb
- New Scientist, 9 March 1996 p46 -
Magic Cube Heralds the Future of Gaming and Human Interfaces
- Gizmodo, 8 January 2008 -
Touch cube points to future toys
- BBC News, 25 December 2007 -
Andrew Fentem: Why I went to quango to fund pre-iPhone touch tech
- The Register, 20 December 2013 -
Showcase of UK Digital Creativity
- UK Government Digital Catapult, Autumn 2015 -
"...the ridiculously gifted Andrew Fentem."
"The Fentix Cube is just the tip of the iceberg of his stunning work." -
Low-cost actuators could work with many materials
- Professional Engineering - Journal of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, August 2015 p4 -
Flick Pixels: Wallpaper for the Internet of Things
- Imperica, 31 July 2015 -
Fake History Alert: Sorry BBC, but Apple really did invent the iPhone
- The Register, 9 January 2017 -
How Britain had iPhone technology before Apple, but Quango handed our advantage to the competition
- The Daily Mail, 14 December 2013 -
How Britain could have invented the iPhone: And how the Quangocracy cocked it up
- The Register, 13 December 2013 -
- 360 Magazine - August 2008 p91-95
Future of gaming: World's First Multi-Touch Games Platform
- Trend Hunter, 29 February 2008 -
Big In 2008: Multi-touch toys
- Stuff Magazine - January 2008 p82
Fentix Cube: If Rubik was smarter, had multi-touch
- Engadget, 19 October 2007 -
Touch Screen Technology
- DJ Mag - April 2004 p98
Paris: close encounters of the woodland kind
- The Daily Telegraph, Fashion Section, 6 March 2004 -
Evolving Spatial Representations to Support Innovation and the Communication of Strategic Knowledge
- Knowledge-Based Systems 11, p417-428, Elsevier, 1998 - www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0950705198000756
(This paper summarises some of Andrew's unsubmitted PhD research, and explains the psychology and philosophy behind the SpaceMan software system.)
Building Electronic Totems to Manage Automotive Concept Development
- Managing New Product Innovation, p30-37, CRC Press, 1998 -
Ref. Electronic Synthesiser Projects, M K Berry, 1981.
Digitally-Controlled Analogue Music Synthesis System
Synthesiser sequencing software, drum machine programming software, score visualisation software, drum synthesiser hardware, and computer-synthesiser interface hardware. Ref. E&MM, 1983.
Fully Digital Sound Synthesis System
Hardware and software for sound sampling, processing, synthesis, mixing, waveform visualisation/manipulation etc. DSP algorithms for artificial reverberation, pitch-shifting, modulation, Fourier synthesis etc. written in Z80 machine code and assembly language. Ref. Musical Applications of Microprocessors, Hal Chamberlin, 1980.
Modular Electronics Prototyping and Tuition System
For Thorn EMI Electronics Ltd, London.
Defence Systems Research and Development
Various classified R&D projects related to advanced military and defence systems, for Thorn EMI Electronics Ltd, London.
High-Speed Digital Logic Analysis System
Project involving the design of the overall system, a specialised large-scale integrated circuit (ie. a 'microchip'), PC interfacing hardware, and waveform generation/recording/visualisation/analysis software (written in C). Awarded the Wiley Publishing prize for best thesis.
Evaluation of an Internet-Based Shared Virtual Workspace
This early multi-media conferencing system - built by the UCL Computer Science Department - was a pioneering Internet video-conferencing system, with shared white-boards and remote sharing of virtual documents. Published as: 'Interacting with Multi-Media, Multi-User Systems: Observations on Multi-Media Conferencing Tools', Angela Sasse and Andrew Fentem, Proc ECCE-7 Seventh European Conference on Cognitive Ergonomics, Bonn, 1994.
Monitoring Data Packets
Software for managing traffic on Reuters's financial data and news network (written in Pascal).
PhD research - Knowledge Management Systems to Support Innovation - SpaceMan
PhD research and development of SpaceMan software - a spatial hypertext knowledge management platform. The research was carried out at London Business School, Cambridge University's Judge Institute, UCL's Computer Science Department, and in collaboration with BMW/Rover Group. SpaceMan (written in C++, VB, and Java) was a bit like Pinterest, but it also had flexible nested spaces, maps, a bit of AI, visualisation algorithms, and novel metaphors. SpaceMan systems were eventually spun out commercially into a management consultancy and Unilever plc. Some of the theoretical work was published by Elsevier as: 'Evolving Spatial Representations to Support Innovation and the Communication of Strategic Knowledge', Knowledge-Based Systems 11, 1998, p417-428. It can be downloaded here: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0950705198000756
Novel Interface Technologies and Electronic Devices
Leaving academia and management consultancy to concentrate on inventing, Andrew wanted to explore areas overlooked by the major tech corporations. He was unable to sufficiently interest research bodies, smartphone manufacturers, or universities in the potential of technologies such as multi-touch, so he funded and executed the R&D projects himself.
Some of the technologies that Andrew went on to pioneer - such as multi-touch touchscreens, virtual music controllers, and wireless smartwatches - are now mainstream mass-market technologies, and are very much part of the on-going smartphone revolution. His Flick Pixel technology is currently on the verge of commercialisation, while other inventions - such as the Fentix Cube, tangible interface objects, and modular computing devices - appear to have inspired a number of commercial toy products and academic research programmes: uclic.ucl.ac.uk/news-events-seminars/uclic-featured-in-iet-partners-magazine.
The majority of the 2000-2016 projects are detailed below, and many of them can be seen in action on a Youtube channel: www.youtube.com/user/AndrewFentem. These projects were generally based around novel sensor and actuator hardware components and architectures, and were controlled by Motorola microprocessors running proprietary software (written in embedded C). Patent application documents and detailed technical descriptions exist for these technologies - for more information please use the contact details below.)
Unique approaches to multiple touch detection youtu.be/0cOx7fyNULQ, tracking multiple passive objects youtu.be/7yXJMt4KKrM, and software to enable hardware products to use this touch data. The most successful of these touchscreen projects were: an ultra-high-speed touchscreen (2001) youtu.be/TyJOPGut2I0, various multi-touch music controllers (2002-2004) youtu.be/u5_RNA6eNIo, various interactive flooring systems (2002-2004) youtu.be/qanz8rGzu_k, the world's first multi-touch and orientation-aware tangible computing platforms eg. the Fentix Cube (2007) youtu.be/V4A_wfaScy4, and various modular 3D multi-touch lighting and information display systems (2007-2010).
Planar Robotics, Kinetic Surfaces, and Planar Manipulators:
Innovative technologies for moving objects across flat surfaces using computer-controllable magnetic fields (2000-2005) youtu.be/E_bMwL8O4c0. This long-term research project resulted in the creation of many exotic experimental robotic systems and, ultimately, the Flick Pixels technology - robotic wallpaper display systems for the Internet of Things (2014-15) youtu.be/d4GwvYAZoZY. Flick Pixels were showcased at the UK government's Digital Catapult Centre - in a showcase of the best of digital creativity in the UK youtu.be/uDKRPLoYd48. The Flick Pixels technology has now been licensed by a consortium of manufacturing and marketing companies who are working on a range of products for consumer and industrial applications.
In the 1980s Andrew briefly attended art college. In 2004 he worked with the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen - successfully integrating small computers and digitally-controlled lighting into dresses and shoes for McQueen's Paris couture show Autumn/Winter 2004 - fashion.telegraph.co.uk/news-features/TMG3323739/Paris-close-encounters-of-the-woodland-kind.html.
In 2007 Andrew's tangible multi-touch music-controller youtu.be/7yXJMt4KKrM was exhibited at the 'Soundwaves' show at Kinetica Museum in London, and his interactive LED Eyes piece youtu.be/-9H3dvHfTQg was exhibited at Kinetica Museum's 'In Flux: A State of Being' show in London's Earl's Court Exhibition Centre.
Other experimental electronic devices and products built between 2000 and 2016 include:
- Robot remote control devices using light-beams and/or magnetometers (2002).
Drawing Tablet Controllers - Computer drawing tablets 'hacked' into sophisticated synthesiser controllers (2003).
Optical Sound Synthesis - Hybrid analogue/digital direct sound synthesis device turning the output from a linear optical scanner directly into sound waves youtu.be/u5_RNA6eNIo (2003).
Optically-Reprogrammable Computing Devices
- Very small and simple computing devices that could be programmed by means of flashing graphics on a webpage (2004).
- Smartwatch with an OLED screen, Zigbee wireless networking, and some simple apps (2005).
Musical Key Detecting Device - A DSP-based Fourier transformation harmonic analysis gadget to help DJs to identify keys in musical recordings etc. (2005).
- Various haptic computer interfaces, and vibration-based communication and navigation systems (2006).
POV Display Systems
- A combination of robotics, moving strips of LEDs, and the persistence-of-vision (POV) effect - to display information and/or colourful lighting patterns without the need for a conventional display screen (2009).
Mechanically Flexible Robots - A flexible linear robot with independent ends enabling it to curl up etc. (2009)
Interactive Light Projectors and Sabers
- Animated light projections interacting with each other via a reflective wall, and POV-effect light swords (2010).
- A tangible interactive display screen created out of tiny movable display tiles youtu.be/PJyJHek2laQ (2010).
- A touch-responsive lighting device based on a novel shape-memory alloy actuator youtu.be/mjlFboVEcBo (2010).
- A sculptural Internet-of-Things-connected domestic lighting and information display device youtu.be/mGdDg_LGhmw (2016).
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