In through the outfield blog

22 posts from July 2008

31 July 2008

A dog’s dinner

Dogsdinner Another reminder spotted on the streets of Seattle, that the United States is the home of innovative products and services, and that nothing is too niche.

Dine with your Dog is an ‘additional’ service provided by the Three Dog Bakery.

Design classics - the Bic Crystal ballpoint pen

Often when talking to innovative designers and inventors in the Business & IP Centre, I discover they have a great fear of having their intellectual property stolen. Of course there are many examples where this has occurred. Our very own inventor Mandy Haberman had her idea for the Anywayup Cup copied, and had to win a legal battle to regain her rights. This experience has turned her into something of spokesperson on the topic.

However for many new products such as the Wattson mentioned in a previous blog post, the key is being first to market, and keeping ahead of the competition.

Bic_cristal_ballpoint_pent The other winning approach is to produce a design classic first time out. A case in point is the Bic Crystal ballpoint pen. Designed by Marcel Bich, more than 100 billion Bic pens have been sold since 1950 – enough to draw a line to the moon and back more than 320,000 times, according to the Observer newspaper. The only variation on the original design was to create a hole in the cap to prevent choking.

The pen has even become part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and has been reinventing in various guises.

Re-design your world with RedesignMe

Redesignme For those of you who get as frustrated as I do with poorly designed products, you will be pleased to know there is now a place you can go to air your grievances. There is even a chance that the product manufacturers will take note and listen to your improvement suggestions.

Just pay a visit to  RedesignMe and start a new topic. Or add you comments to the hundreds of suggestions already on the website.

For those of you who are a source of new ideas the site could even pay you for input into new product suggestions.

According to SpringWise, product manufacturers pay RedesignMe to establish “RDM Challenges,” through which a new product concept is presented and the site’s 1,000 or so active members are asked to react to it. Currently on the site, for instance, is one from the international DECT Forum, a group of wireless communications companies that are seeking product ideas based on CAT-iq (short for Cordless Advanced Technology - Internet and Quality).

Beginning with an initial proposed concept, users are free to modify the current design or upload their own ideas, using any combination of comments, sketches, pictures, mood-boards, movies, prototypes or total redesigns. In exchange, they are rewarded with RDMs—RedesignMe’s online currency, which is convertible into products in the online RDM Shop such as mp3-players, game consoles and gift cards. RDM Challenges can be open to all users or only a select few. Ideas generated on the site are then used as input by the manufacturer’s R&D team or professional designers, who decide on the final concept.

A friendly version of Dragon’s Den?

The_pitch_final has joined forces with the Bristol Design Festival 2008 to organise The Pitch, an opportunity for up and coming entrepreneurs to sell their idea or existing company to a panel of specialists who have their finger on the pulse of business.The UK’s next generation of successful entrepreneurs are being invited to pitch their lightbulb moment to a panel of leading business experts and win a prize package worth over £1,000.

Having watched Douglas Campbell present his Project Hold Me (a unique and innovative egg-shaped incubator aimed at nurturing the bond between mothers and their newborn babies during their stay in hospital), I a would say that the ‘Dragons’ in this instance are a much more friendly and constructive bunch than seen on BBC television.

Have a look at the others and see what you need to do to develop your perfect pitch.

29 July 2008

In search of the perfect mouse

I’m sure you are all familiar with the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” There is even a book by Graham Barker & Peter Bissell called A Better Mousetrap: the business of invention.

Apple_macintosh_plus_mouse However, as a computer addict for over 30 years (anyone remember the Commodore Pet) I have suffered from repetitive strain injury (RSI) for many years. The introduction of the mouse in the 1980s only made matters worse for me. Consequently I have spent much time investigating new and improved hardware and software.

For over 10 years I have been using my left hand for mousing at work and my right at home to spread the strain. When the pain was at its worst I experimented with auto-mouse-click software. (When the mouse pointer stops moving, the system counts down a fixed interval and triggers a mouse click.) However this was very tricky to use, especially for moving items around the screen.

A more successful approach has been to upgrade my mouse, first from the type relying on a physical ball for positioning, to infra-red, and more recently to laser powered. Also the introduction of a scroll wheel significantly improved the ergonomic experience, especially for those long hours surfing the web for information.

I briefly experimented with a track-ball mouse but couldn’t get on with it.

However a couple of years ago I saw the the answer to my prayers (and started saving the £70 required to acquire it). This particular example is from Logitech (although I’m sure there are similar ones available now). The key factors are its ergonomic shape, which comfortably fits into my hand, a high precision laser beam leading to less hesitation on the screen, and a wireless USB connection preventing snagged cables. It also has a scroll wheel with a needle roller bearing (something of an engineering anachronism in these days of high-tech). When the wheel is set to ‘free scroll’ (my default setting), I can whiz up and down fifty screens worth of information with one gentle flick of my finger.

I understand that thought controlled computer interfaces are being developed, but until that day I think I will be happy with my digital mouse.

Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)

See my pitch

Cmypitch Once again Springwise have come up with an innovative service for budding entrepreneurs. describes itself as “Dragons’ Den meets YouTube“.

Those in search of funding can pitch for investment by uploading a short video supported by a summary business plan, for a fee of £200 for a three-month listing.

Unfortunately due to UK financial regulations, viewers need to register and self certify as an investor before they can see any pitches. I can see this being a barrier to widespread take up of this service.

28 July 2008

As seen on Dragon’s Den

Layline I am aware that the producers of Dragon’s Den select some of their ‘victims’ purely for their entertainment factor, rather than as a serious business proposition.

The couple who ‘invented’ the idea of the Layline must surely fall into this category. I have to admit that the idea of buying a sheet with a tactile line woven through the middle to avoid arguments about who has taken the lion’s share of the bed does seem somewhat nutty.

However, despite being dismissed as “ridiculous” by the fearsome dragons it would appear that Ros Adams and John Foster-Smith had the last laugh. According to Real Business they were knowingly using the show as a way of publicising themselves and their serious business, FilmCircle – a DVD website.

But even their website for the Layline product shows how they have been able to use their opportunity to maximum benefit. For a start they have used the classic “As seen on TV” quote on a nice red banner in the top right-hand corner. Even more cheekily they have used used the following quotes out of context: “Television gold”, The Daily Telegraph - “This a gem”,

I have to say I admire their chutzpah.

This entry was posted on 28 July 2008 at 11:21 am and i

24 July 2008

Recycling PET plastic

Each month I submit a story about inventions to the Ideas21 website, and July's is on recycling PET plastic. PET, or PETE in the USA, is the familiar flexible, thin-walled bottles used for pressurised drinks.

Ideas21 has monthly "Last Thursday" meetings (except in the summer) about innovation topics, where a talk is followed by networking. The meetings are in inner London, near the Strand. There are also monthly meetings in Manchester, with the first on the 13 September this autumn.

I find that I am frequently encouraging inventors to join local groups to pick up ideas from those more experienced in getting products to market. The British Library has a list of UK inventors' groups and other sources of Information for Inventors on their web site.