Invention Ideas That We Like (But See All the Time)
Posted ago by Baron
With close to 2,000 submissions coming into Quirky each week, it’s fair to expect that a certain number will be repetitive. Oftentimes, inventors will attempt to solve the same problem in a variety of different ways, and it may take time for us to find the right solution: we saw dozens of salt-and-pepper grinders before Chris Holcond submitted his concept for Grind. However, in many cases, identical or similar ideations will be posted month after month, raising interest among the community, but ultimately never reaching Eval. From an outsider perspective, these frequent-flyer concepts may be cause for confusion, so we’ve decided to list a number of Quirky’s most commonly submitted inventions, paired with some insight into why they aren’t making any headway. We hope it proves useful!
Rising-Base Salsa Bowl
Why We Like It: The idea behind this one is simple: a bowl designed especially for salsa and other dips, with a rising bottom that allows easier access once the contents run low (usually via a screwing mechanism). Now, most everyone has had a hand smeared with salsa when dipping chips into a jar, so the appeal of this product is both relatable and immediately apparent. In fact, we guarantee that a host of men and women throughout history have examined their dip-smeared hands and thought: “hey, wouldn’t it be great if…”
Why We Haven’t Picked It: Regrettably, while concepts like this provide an intriguing solution for salsa-hands, they tend to forget one key element: all require the user to pour the salsa into a second container, which makes the product no more efficient than the average wide-mouthed bowl (which also solves the problem of a narrow opening). Furthermore, any product that combines gooey liquids with a semi-complex mechanism risks being quite difficult to clean, another disadvantage when compared to a regular bowl. Now, if a cheap-enough system could be integrated directly into a jar of dip, that would be a different story, but the problem may simply be too narrow to justify a distinct product.
Toothbrush Combined with Floss/Toothpaste
Why We Like It: In general, the consolidation of two products into one is something to be praised, especially if the two separate functions are somehow related. Like the ubiquitous Spork, these dental products seek to combine two associated tools —either a toothbrush and floss, or a toothbrush and a toothpaste tube— to make a common activity more convenient. Could there really be a downside?
Why We Haven’t Picked It: Unfortunately, there are several. While the consolidation of products is admirable in theory, it’s only worthwhile if you’re actually make a task more efficient. Since dental products are generally stored in the same place (the bathroom), it isn’t difficult to keep these products together, and both applying toothpaste and flossing are relatively simple to perform. Combining a toothbrush with floss or a toothpaste tube may streamline the process a little bit, but the added functionality can lead to any number of complications: a built-in floss dispenser would be difficult to refill, while a toothpaste-dispensing toothbrush would be a nightmare to clean. Combine this with the over-saturation of the dental hygiene marketplace, and the differing life spans for various consumable products (a toothbrush may last five months, while floss may run out in one), and you end up with a solution that causes more trouble than its worth. If you need any more convincing, the long list of unrealized concepts on Google Patents should be eye-opening.
Light-Up Keys and Key Holes
Why We Like It: As indicated by our recent product brief with Target, we love simple solutions here at Quirky, and this is about as simple as it gets. People have trouble finding their keyholes in the dark, so why not create a light that would illuminate a keyhole? Like a good pumpkin pie, the concept is simple, relatively easy to make, and just a little bit nutty.
Why We Haven’t Picked It: There’s no doubt that darkened keyholes are a frustration, but when you consider the amount of time the inconvenience costs you, a keyhole light woulds save you anywhere from 3 to 5 seconds. So, as Quirky’s Chief Revenue Officer Bill Lee would ask, is the juice worth the squeeze? It might be if the product had no downsides, but this concept provides us with an aesthetic conundrum: the keyhole light would either be activated at all times (which would be unsightly), or it would have some sort of proximity-based activation, which would be expensive (at least over $20). Either way, the benefit provided by the product would likely be outweighed by either its appearance or its cost, resulting in an orange not worth squeezing.
Why We Like It: Let’s get real: if you’re reading this article, you’re probably aware of the benefits of solar power. Not only does it provide clean, eco-friendly energy, but a solar cell can be charged anywhere there’s sunlight, which is plentiful most anywhere but Lapland. In fact, the advantages are so appealing that you may be tempted to slap a solar charger on anything, from cell phone cases to GPS tags. To paraphrase the illustrious rapper Jay-Z, it’s a case of “All Solar Everything”.
Why We Haven’t Picked It: While it may be tempting to see solar power as the be-all-and-end-all of energy solutions, the fact of the matter is that the technology’s effectiveness is still limited. Most consumer-grade solar panels struggle to break 20% efficiency (which means they retain 20% of the energy applied to the panel by sunlight), and the highest-grade solar panels used by NASA are only able to reach 40% efficiency. We’ll use specifics to put this in context: a 1″ x 1″ panel would be rated at approximately .5 watts, and it would take a 20 watt panel nearly an hour to fully charge an iPhone. Although this is a gross simplification of the mathematics involved, the comparison provides some insight into the efficiency issues that hinder solar tech, the same issues that our engineers are wrestling with while developing Ray. This doesn’t mean that there is no potential for solar-enabled products: on the contrary, the tech should play a larger and larger role in consumer electronics as the decade progresses. However, if you’re going to submit a concept of your own, make sure that the technical specifications are viable, and be sure to explain why that particular product type would benefit from a solar charger (e.g. reliable power for a hiker’s emergency beacon). It shouldn’t be added just for kicks.
GPS Child/Luggage Tracker
Why We Like It: Much like the Rising-Base Salsa Bowl, this concept touches on a nearly universally impulse: the desire to know the location of a certain object at all times, be it a vehicle, luggage, or even your child. Cheaper RFID-based tags do exist, but their range is limited to less than 200 feet, making them ill-suited to consistent tracking, or finding lost items. Thus, because GPS technology is commonly associated with long-range tracking and locating, many inventors make the logical connection, and submit a generalized concept for a compact GPS tracking device.
Why We Haven’t Picked It: The problem with GPS mirrors the problem with solar: inventors expect more from the tech than it can currently provide. A GPS system relies on satellites, so to communicate properly with a satellite array, any GPS-enabled tracker would need to compress a very robust receiver and power source into a compact device, and feature a subscription-based GPS plan to boot. This means a rather hefty price point, especially for a general-purpose tracker intended as an everyday convenience. Just how expensive you ask? Well, a specialized GPS tracker called Pikavú does exist, designed to help parents locate their children using a wristwatch tracker and portable display. The cost: $1200.
Can you think of any other product concepts that you see submitted to Quirky over and over? If so, share it in the comments section below!