Elwood Norris receives 2005 Lemelson-MIT Prize for invention

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

MIT has announced that Elwood "Woody" Norris, inventor of potentially revolutionary technologies of Hypersonic Sound beams and AirScooter flying vehicles, will receive this year's Lemelson-MIT prize for invention this Friday, April 22. The prize comes with an award of US$500,000, making it the largest single award for invention given in the United States.

Hypersonic Sound beams

HyperSonic Sound, or HSS®, has been called by MIT "the first big improvement in acoustics since the loudspeaker was invented 80 years ago". It represents a new way to focus audio in beams, rather like light is focused.

HSS works because sound of sufficiently high frequency above human hearing does not normally spread out like audible frequency waves. These waves can be projected onto specific individuals, causing them to hear a sound that appears to be emanating from themselves, while others around them hear nothing.

Potential benefits could include the reduction of noise pollution in public places. Announcements, instructions, and advertisements could be aimed at individuals, not disturbing their neighbors. People in the same room could all listen to different music without the use of headphones.

Crank up the volume, and HSS could also be useful to military or law enforcement agencies. HSS beams can be focused up to 500 yards away, transmitting warnings or temporarily stunning and disabling a person with non-lethal force.

AirScooter flying vehicles

The AirScooter™ is a flying, helicopter-like personal vehicle that is planned to be made available for sale later this year. The price is estimated to be less than US$50,000.

Weighing less than 300 pounds and able to carry a load of an additional 350 pounds, the AirScooter runs on ordinary gasoline rather than expensive airplane fuel, and is able to travel about 2 hours at 55 m.p.h. on a 5-gallon tank, at heights up to 10,000 feet above sea level. Its ultralight weight means that no pilot license is required to fly one.

The light weight is made possible by the production of a new AeroTwin 4-stroke engine specifically for the AirScooter, designed by motorcycle racing engine specialists at Pearson Motor Co of New Zealand. Stability is provided by two rotors both set on a single shaft, which turn in opposite directions, eliminating the need for a tail rotor.

The craft is steered using only the hands on a motorcycle-like handlebar. Throttle up to gain altitude, turn left or right to rotate, and move the bars like a joystick to steer in different directions, including reverse.

Pictures and video of the new craft are available from the AirScooter.com website.

Woody Norris

Norris is a self-educated, independent inventor with boundless curiosity who never made it out of the 3rd grade in traditional schooling. He has been developing inventions for more than 30 years, particularly in audio technology, since taking apart his family's radio at the age of 8. He is 63 years old and has 11 children.

Part of the reason Norris was selected for the prize is his commitment to inspiring others. “There are classes to inventing. It isn't limited to science and technology. Writers, actors, cooks and artists are all inventors,” Norris says. “People need to be encouraged to go out there and pursue the fields that will help them create the wonderful things they are capable of achieving.”

Norris plans to use the prize money to establish a foundation to help other struggling, independent inventors like himself.


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