A pocket Braille reading tool and a system that holds up speeding motorists are among the latest designs being unveiled by Cambridge University students hoping to break into the technology market.

A pocket Braille reading tool and a system that holds up speeding motorists are among the latest designs being unveiled by Cambridge University students hoping to break into the technology market.

The two devices went on display along with nine more product ideas at the Design Show run by the University's Institute of Manufacturing this week. The annual showcase is a chance for the best undergraduate manufacturing engineers to show off their ideas to local inventors, industrialists and designers looking to spot the next big thing.

This year's projects range from the functional - a hygienic kitchen appliance for slicing fresh meat - to the fun, such as a practice gadget for snowboarders that doesn't require any snow.

Highlights include SpeedSmart, an intelligent "speed calming" system that stops speeding motorists at red lights and identifies them to other drivers held up behind them.

Instruments along the side of the road calculate the average speed of each vehicle - identified using the latest number plate recognition technology. As the driver progresses, feedback signs warn those who are going too fast and congratulate those keeping within the limit. At the end of the system a red traffic light is activated if the driver has been speeding and a sign displays the registration number of the offending vehicle. The hold up time is proportionate to the vehicle's speed.

Another hotly-tipped innovation is the Braille Belt. The student team has developed the technology needed to make a pocket-sized device no bigger than a PDA that can capture text and translate it into Braille. The tool would be capable of reading anything from newspapers and novels to cereal packets and medicine instructions. It could even read electronic displays, such as the timer on the front of a microwave.

Text is picked up by a camera built into the tool. Software translates this into a text file. The information is then translated into Braille dots that are printed onto a narrow revolving plastic belt that the user can read.

"At the moment there are no products like this that are smaller than a large book," Pete Budge, one of three designers behind the project explained. "We have had strong interest in our idea from potential backers and the hope is that our technology will eventually lead to the production of pocket-sized Braille output devices that are much easier to carry around."

Other ideas showcased at the event included:

• The Clean Cup Sauna: An eco-friendly cup-cleaning system that uses steam and requires 85% less water than traditional dishwashers.

• Easy-Rise: A cheap alternative to adjustable beds that can be incorporated into a mattress.

• The Driftboard: A practice device for snowboarders that doesn't require snow.

• Activ-Back: A device to help users strengthen their backs by improving their posture.

• CPE AgentWand: A room-dimensioning and plotting device to aid Estate Agents when mapping homes.

• Socketsaver: An energy-saving device which detects standby mode on a piece of electronic equipment, switches the power off and turns it back on when needed.

Each project for the show is produced over the course of a year by teams of three or four manufacturing engineering students. The participants have to research the market and devise a full business plan, the only limit on their ambition being that whatever they produce has to be an original idea that meets a genuine customer need.

Lecturer Dr James Moultrie said: "These designs not only reflect the imagination of our students, but the emphasis we place on turning technology into products that are attractive, user-friendly and above all meet a real customer need. Hopefully some of the ideas will see the light of day in a commercial setting in the not-too-distant future."

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