Posted by: Marty Fahncke | June 13, 2007

American Inventor – Review of Inventions (Episode 2)

In anticipation of my seminar for inventors coming up on June 21st, I’ve decided to watch the show “American Inventor” and provide a review about each episode on this blog.

My perspective will come from my 20 years of experience selling inventions and new products via Electronic Retailing, which includes television (infomercials, home shopping), the telephone (telemarketing, Teleseminars), and the internet.   I’m also a featured columnist for Electronic Retailer magazine.

I won’t comment on EVERY invention shown on the program, as some are so bad, they don’t even require the time to discuss them.

I will focus mostly on the following:
#1 –Inventions I think would be good for Electronic Retailing
#2 – Inventions where I think the judges got it wrong
#3 – Miscellaneous thoughts

On with the review of the inventions from Episode 2:

Invention:  No name? 
Inventor:  Milton Butler
Summary:  A lawnmower attachment that allows you to edge, trim (weedeater), and mulch all with one tool. 
Comments:  The idea is a great one, and yard tools are good sellers on TV.  This one is very demonstrable, which is an important criteria for DRTV.  I question how he can possibly make it “fit any mower”, but overall, it’s a good concept.

Invention:  Fresh Cuts
Inventor: Erica Ford and Shelly Kohan
Summary: Gel air freshener dispenser in an artificial flower
Comments:  From an Electronic Retailing standpoint, this could do well on Home Shopping, or possibly short form DRTV to support retail. 

Invention:  Easy Flow (EZ Flo?  Easy Flo? They never did display the spelling of the name)
Inventor: Tami Harris
Summary:  One judge called it a “battery operated frosting syringe”, which pretty much sums it up.  It is a frosting decorator tool which uses battery power to push the frosting out of a replaceable cartridge. 
Comments:  Housewares such as this are huge items across the Electronic Retailing spectrum.  This item could be a big seller on Home Shopping, Infomercial, short form DRTV, on the Internet and in multiple retail channels.  One thing I was unclear about is whether the “refillable cartridges” are something you buy with frosting in them, or if you have to fill them yourself.   My advice would be to have them be pre-filled, so that additional colors frosting could be upsells and/or continuity items.   The continuity aspect could be unique in that instead of once a month like most continuity programs, the color packs would come “seasonally” such as Christmas, Halloween, Easter, etc.

Invention:  Car Casket
Inventor: Wasn’t named
Summary:  A casket which looked like a classic car.  The judges rejected it.
Comments:  Perhaps it’s not that original of an invention, but the look on the judges faces indicated they thought the idea was stupid.  Based on the fact you can get a KISS casket, a Major League Baseball casket, and many others, I think this invention would be a good seller.

Invention:  Compact Wheel Chair
Inventor: Michael Every
Summary: A compact, folding wheelchair which truly collapses and folds small enough to fit in any car.
Comments:  This is a great concept.  Obviously it’s not a mass market item, and certainly not an Electronic Retailing item, but I think it has a huge potential to dominate the niche.   I have a friend in a wheelchair, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that this is an invention that will be successful. 

Invention:   Mr. Bright Eyes
Inventor: Richard “Dick” Kerr
Summary: A battery tester designed like a little face, and the eyes light up if you touch a good battery to it.  The inventor came up with the idea in 1963.
Comments:  What were the juges thinking giving this a yes?  Maybe in 1963 this was an innovative idea, but today you can get any number of batttery testers for as cheap as a dollar which will give you the same results. 

Invention:  HT Custom Kit Racers
Inventor: Ricky DeRennaux
Summary: Invented by a teacher from Oklahoma, this invention is a model builders dream.  It allows you to design cars and airplanes on your computer, then print out folding instructions so you can make your design out of paper.  Once the item is done, you can install an electrical motor included in the kit, and it’s a real remote control vehicle. 
Comments:  There is a huge hobby and toy market out there, primarily at retail.  However, this invention does so many things, and is a bit difficult to explain, so I think it could be great for either infomercial or Home Shopping.
***This item was the Los Angeles finalist, so we’ll be seeing more of it throughout the season.  However, I don’t believe it stands a chance of winning the grand prize.***

Invention: GG Hearing aid stabilizer
Inventor: George and Rahana Cox (with their deaf child Georgia)
Summary: A clip which holds a hearing aid onto a childs ear so that it des not flap around or fall out when doing physical activity. 
Comments:  As the parent of a Deaf child myself, I INSTANTLY understood the problem.  People with hearing aids call it a “flapper” when the hearing aid doesn’t stay in place.  This is mostly a problem with kids, since their outer ears are small, and can’t “hold” the hearing aid in place as well as an adult ear can.  I’ve seen parents try to solve this problem with double-sided tape, straps, and many other fixes, but have not seen anything work that well.  Since they only had a drawing, and not a prototype, it’s hard to say whether they have the right invention or not, but it’s worth doing a bit more work on. 
***This item was not selected as a city finalist, so if anyone knows how to reach the Cox family, please have them contact me  as I would like to help them for free. ***

The San Francisco finalist was the Guardian Angel invented by Greg Chavez, which I discussed in last weeks post.

Overall, this episode had better inventions that episode 1, but I still haven’t seen a “home run” invention.


  1. “What were they thinking about Mr. Bright Eyes?” They probably just didn’t want to break an old man’s heart. Easier just to pass him through then say other inventions beat him than to reject him outright.

    The Cox family did have a prototype of some kind. Their daughter was wearing it. I’m just not convinced it works very well. Anyone who uses the loop-style earbuds can attest that they don’t fall out of your ears because they’re hanging over the ears, but how does this attach to the hearing aid? It doesn’t look like it can put much pressure on the hearing aid to keep it in.


  3. I think HT Racers could win!

  4. does anyone know where I can view the collapsible wheelchair concept? It would be useful for my dissertation.

    Dean, Scotland.

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