The Award Ceremony for the first KAIST Invention Exposition was held on November 19 in the ChungMoonsoul Building at KAIST. The topic for the Invention Exposition was coming up with solutions to relieve discomfort and tiredness that could result from studying and working for long periods. Participants were asked to submit conceptual designs of their solutions, including effectiveness of the invention with brief explanations and drawings, basic principles of motion and applicable examples. The final evaluation only took the written solution into consideration; Ho Geun Kwak received the Presidential Award for his “Flexible Desk” and Gwang Jae Gil received the International Cooperation Head Award for “Posture Correcting Application Using Smartphones.” Gwang Jae Gil is planning to get his idea patented in the future.
How did you develop the idea?
[Kwak] Normally I move from place to place to get inspiration for idea development, but I got this idea from a very familiar place; it was right in my bed where I usually write in my journal before going to sleep. I put my pillow on my lap to perform this task and this is when I thought that I could apply the soft feeling of a pillow to the desk. Thus my “Flexible Desk” idea came to me.
[Gil] I first did some research to find out the kinds of discomfort that people complain about. By doing a Facebook survey I realized that lack of sleep was the most agonizing discomfort, followed by backaches and psychological pressure to get work done on time. Subsequently, I decided to focus on coming up with a solution for the backache. Since I have been interested in developing a smartphone application, I decided to develop my idea in this direction.
What difficulties did you face and how did you overcome them?
[Kwak] The idea came to me the day before the deadline. It was disappointing that I did not have a concrete idea until then, but I think it is due to my cheerful attitude that the idea finally came to me. I learned while reading books that it is important to keep calm, especially in times of difficulty. This way, I could overcome a lack of ideas.
[Gil] I first learned about the Exposition a couple of days before the deadline. Thus it was difficult for me to plan the application’s working process and refine it in a short period of time. Though I had interest in developing smartphone applications, getting professional knowledge about smartphone sensors and working principles was difficult; I got help from my high school seniors and teachers.
How does your design work and who is it for?
[Kwak] The desk surface has tiny grain-sized Styrofoam to make it feel like a pillow or a cushion. Thus it makes the desk more fluid-like and three-dimensional. In other words, the surface can be made to be flat or curved. This can make the contact surface of our body such as the hand and wrist take a perfect shape on the desk to reduce the stress and resultant pain that may be applied to the joints. Also, even without a bookstand, a book can be placed with a certain degree to relieve pain on the neck.
[Gil] The product is a smartphone application. Smartphones have built-in acceleration sensors that can sense motion in x-, y- and z-axes. Considering the fact that people who work for long hours are students and office workers, I expect they would wear clothes that have pockets. With smartphones in the pockets of their top, the motion of bending their back would be caught by the smartphone application. Thus alarming the user by vibrations or sounds could help the user maintain the correct posture.
Gil, what is your plan for patenting your smartphone application?
Through research I found out that patent rights cannot be applied to a conceptual idea. Thus patenting is not possible at this stage, but Apple for example has a functional idea like “sliding to unlock” in the form of a Utility Model Right. If no one registered for the Utility Model Right regarding the acceleration sensor in smartphones, then I can do this. Even if this is not possible, I could make it a complete product and patent it. I might confront difficulties when choosing target market groups and in that I do not have professional programming knowledge, but I believe I will overcome them with effort and a positive attitude.
Would you like to say a few words to your fellow KAIST students?
[Kwak] Please live the way you want to live by doing whatever you want to do. I hope you do not miss out on this significant portion of your life as numbers only make up a small part of your entire life. Besides being grateful for the award, I would like to thank everyone for reading my response to the interview questions.
[Gil] I think it was a great experience to think outside the box. Compared to sitting in classrooms and the mundane routine of studying followed by more studying, participating in the Invention Exposition was refreshing. I am very thankful for the award I received and would like to thank the people who gave me advice and help. The process of coming up with many ideas and refining them was a pleasure.