Female Inventorship & the Kiwi-Covid-Ring
Dovetailed is a user experience design and innovation studio set up by Dr. Vaiva Kalnikaitė in 2011. Vaiva’s background is in researching organic human memory and investigating how to extend memory capacity through designing the right technology. Vaiva always knew that she wanted to commercialise her ideas, “I like tech and innovation but I want people to use what I make - and that’s why I started Dovetailed.” Over the years, Vaiva has invented and patented products alongside the Dovetailed team including nūfood - the world’s first 3D liquid printer for making personalised edible sweet and savoury flavour bursts in a wide range of shapes, flavours and colours on-demand.
Vaiva is not alone in the field of innovation, female inventors have created and made some of the most important discoveries and inventions in the last 100 years including the first electric refrigerator (Florence Parpart, 1914), external fire escapes (Anna Connelly, 1887), computer algorithm (Ada Lovelace, 1843), caller ID and call waiting (Shirley Ann Jackson, 1970’s) and Laserphaco Probe for laser cataract surgery (Patricia Bath,1986) to name just a few!
However, according to an article titled, ‘Who invented the dishwasher, windshield wiper, caller ID? Women created these 50 inventions’ by Josie Green in USA TODAY in March 2019, only 10% of U.S. patent holders in 2018 were women, although women account for half of doctoral degrees in science and engineering in the US. This disparity has been claimed to be due in part to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office being more likely to reject patents with women as sole applicants. Further, when patents sought by women are approved, they are more likely to have added parameters that made the description of the patents far more detailed. These revisions tend to lower the scope of the patent, making it weaker and less valuable.
It is a similar landscape in the UK. Findings from ‘Gender profiles in worldwide patenting: an analysis of female inventorship (2019 edition)’ prepared by the Economics, Research and Evidence team at the Intellectual Property Office*, September 2019, found that in 2017, the total number of female patent holders in the UK was 11%.
As is clearly demonstrated, Women in STEM are often given bigger hurdles to leap when it comes to inventing and patenting their inventions so Vaiva’s work within this field is definitely something to shout about!
As previously mentioned, Vaiva invented and patented, nūfood 3D food printer. Working with the team at Dovetailed, she designed a full end-to-end experience and developed the mechanical, electronic and software aspects of the product entirely in-house using our extensive prototyping facilities and hardware and food chemistry labs. The invention inspired the Financial Times to write that: “…pick your own strawberries might be superseded by print your own fruit." We are currently exploring how we can take food from pixel to plate, make it digitised and if this can lead to other applications including how to produce more and waste less food.
Another innovative design from 2017 is Time Ripple, an app which helps improve focus by showing users which social media and other apps they have been using on their phone in the last hour. Using official Android APIs, TimeRipple pulls app data already available on users’ devices and presents it in real-time on their mobile phone or smartwatch. The TimeRipple app was born out of Dr Vaiva Kalnikaitė's work completed in collaboration with Professor Steve Whittaker and his department of psychology research group at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Dovetailed designed early prototypes and user studies to test the theory that physically visualising how we spend time can empower us to reclaim it, improving focus and efficiency. Further information available in the paper, 'Don't Waste My Time’: Use of Time Information Improves Focus, published in the proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.
Vaiva is always innovating and since the start of the pandemic, she has been working on the design of new products alongside the Dovetailed team, that will shape our behaviours in the future. One such area is the potential danger in touching shared surfaces. Many places make sanitiser available so we can clean our hands as we enter a building or room, but it’s difficult to make this available everywhere. As the global pandemic continues, Vaiva and her team turned their attention to this problem and put their minds to what they are really good at – innovative design!
There have already been a number of functional solutions to help reduce the touching of shared and public surfaces. A handful of hand-held devices that often double as a key ring or a bottle opener have been successfully made and distributed via Kickstarter, such as Virus Hook and Hygiene Hand Door Opener.
Vaiva and team Dovetailed set out to design something that sat in the space between adornment and function. They wanted to use a form that was quirky and more flowing. This led them to design something resembling a Kiwi bird. And do you know what? We love it! The base of the ring holds the structural form and spans over two fingers – designed to go over the index and the middle fingers for a solid grip. The Kiwi itself can function as a button pusher or a hook for opening doors.
You can download design (stl) files for this ring from Instructables here and 3D print this ring on your printer or send it to Shapewaves.com. This could be a great Christmas present for someone that will keep them safe, as well an opportunity to support female inventorship and innovation!
*Open Government Licence for public sector information