Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) has collaborated with a local entrepreneur to reinvent the traditional umbrella.
The Rainshader has tackled problems of navigating through windy and rainy weather, particularly during large entertainment and sporting events affected by adverse conditions.
Its design differs from the traditional umbrella in that it covers the user in a long dome shape and has a cut out front, a structure apparently inspired by the shape of a motorbike helmet.
This change is the brainchild of Stephen Collier, owner of Kenilworth based Hospitality Umbrellas Limited. As an entrepreneur and spectator, he realised the inefficiency of the conventional umbrella when he attended the Grand National last year.
Speaking to WMG, he said: “Traditional umbrellas have a lot of drawbacks in busy environments as they can blow inside out and make it difficult to navigate through crowds.”
A solution was made in collaboration with the University’s International Institute for Product and Service Innovation and its WMG team, who are currently encouraging Small and Medium Enterprises in the West Midlands.
The team addressed the concern that the longer back of the Rainshader could block the view of spectators. The inclusion of the low top of the item allows the umbrella to sit closer to the head and avoid obstruction to those stood behind.
“The basic design of the umbrella hasn’t changed for centuries, so the time is ripe for to make it more suitable to modern settings,” added Mr Collier.
Historically, the umbrella was invented to shade people from the sun as early as eleventh century BC in China. Its current name is derived from the Latin word for umbra, or shade.
Even as the product became waterproof in the late seventeenth century, the umbrellas seen on campus remain relatively unchanged in comparison to their historical counterparts.
First-year Maths and Physics undergraduate John Woolley commented: “It looks pretty weird to begin with, but I suppose that’s because we’re all so used to umbrellas looking a certain way.
“I can imagine if you went to a sporting event it could be quite useful, especially if it was windy and the rain was blowing at you from the side.”
Mr Woolley, however, remains divided on what this will mean for the umbrella market: “I think I could probably see myself with one in a large crowd, but the traditional umbrella has survived all this time for a reason, and I wouldn’t expect the Rainshader to displace it anytime soon.”