Vitamin beer on display at inventors' convention
Published Saturday, February 2, 2008 7:38AM EST
BANGKOK - A beer that takes some of the guilt out of drinking, a system to stop would-be car bombers and, yes, even a better mousetrap, are on display as inventors from around the globe gather to revel in thinking outside the box.
It may just be a jam spreader from Taiwan or a "cat averter garbage bag'' thought up by an Iranian, but many of the inventors from 27 countries are as enthusiastic about their creations as kids at their first birthday party.
"Every time you give inventors an opportunity to have their ideas seen, that's what starts their blood flowing,'' said Deb Hess, executive director of the Minnesota Inventors Congress.
More than 150 of their brainchildren are being unveiled at a conference of the International Federation of Inventors' Association, a Hungary-based group celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
While many of the inventions are highly technical efforts -- possibly breakthroughs -- in the fields of medicine, agriculture and environment, crowds Saturday at a cavernous convention center in Bangkok were rather drawn to displays such as the fail-safe hammock and Vitamin Beer.
"If you are looking for an excuse to take a swig, this is it,'' said Billy L. Lalang, who concocted a beer mixed with Vitamin B, to replace this essential vitamin lost when excessive amounts of alcohol are consumed.
Although yet to be marketed, this "prophylactic for drinkers'' as the Philippine inventor calls it, has won a gold medal at the European Union-sponsored Genius-Europe competition.
Lalang, president of the Manila Innovation Development Society, says he has 42 inventions to his name, including a one-a-day lollipop, packed with vitamins and other essentials for undernourished children.
Husein Hujic, secretary-general of the Inventors' Association of Bosnia-Herzegovina, extolled the virtues of a hammock so adaptable to the body's shape that "there is no risk to fall down off the hammock, even if the user is asleep and unconsciously moving.''
Hujic, whose inventions include a patented calendar running from Jan. 1 of the Christian era to 4619, spoke so convincingly of the swinging bed -- "It takes 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds), you can put a whole classroom of children into it,'' he enthused -- that someone asked about placing an order.
"Unfortunately, you must come to Bosnia to get one,'' he said.
From Niger came a pest trap with "automatic rearmament,'' while the Iranian booth displayed a garbage bag infused with unnamed vegetal and chemical ingredients that are not harmful to humans or the environment but ward off cats, thus reducing urban litter.
Among the American inventions was an "invisible gym'' -- an armchair that converts in 30 seconds into an exercise machine for the arms, upper body, legs and thighs and comes in his and hers configurations.
Next to photographs of buildings devastated by terrorist bombs, Taiwan's Chih-Hong Huang pointed to diagrams explaining his "anti-terror defending facility against car-crash attack'' -- a pressure sensor that instantly throws up a steel barrier when a vehicle of a certain weight rolls over it.
Huang, a professor at the National Taipei University of Technology, said the system was under patent review in Taiwan and the United States.
The idea for Huang's other featured invention was sparked by the frigid winters he spent in Germany and his mother's cold feet -- a shoe that heats up as the wearer treads up and down on a small electric power generator embedded in the sole.
The three-day conference, held under the motto of "without inventor no invention -- without innovation no development,'' also features discussions on improving the international system of patents and global sustainability.
Hess, who will speak on an aviation biofuel made from oilseed crops developed by the University of North Dakota, described inventors as highly original characters, not particularly well organized and not without ego.
"They typically have an open mind,'' she said. "Until it comes to their own ideas.''