Is this the end for awkward and unwieldy umbrellas? Designers in China have teamed up with university students to invent a better kind of umbrella - a device that creates a force-field of air around you to shield you from the rain.

Umbrellas are kind of terrible. They're a pain to carry around with you all day, they turn inside-out in the wind, and it's a wonder that more eyes aren't poked out by those protruding metal edges when a crowd of people funnel out of a train station and unfurl them all at once. But how do you make an umbrella less unwieldy, while maintaining the coverage?

Over the past two years, a team of designers in China has been working with postgraduate students at the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics to invent a new type of umbrella that works without those spiky, flimsy metal poles. In fact, it doesn't even need a canopy. Instead, it keeps you dry by creating a 'force field' of air that circulates around you.

Dubbed the Air Umbrella, this nifty little hand-held device contains a lithium battery, a motor, and a fan, and together they work to create a continuous cycle of air that flows out from the tip. This air flow is strong enough to constantly deflect rain particles away from the user, and the team says that two people can fit under it comfortably.

According to Nick Lavars at Gizmag, the team is developing three models to take to market, with varying coverage space and battery life. Their smallest model will have a 30-centimetre-long handle and a battery life of 15 minutes. Another one will have a 50-centimetre-long handle and a 30-minute battery life, while the third option will be extendable from 50 centimetres to 80 centimetres and have a 30-minute battery life. They're working on extending the battery life of all models, but plan to start delivering their products to Kickstarter backers from December 2015.

Source: Gizmag