Inventions, practical and oddball, showcased at Geneva fair

Apr 11, 2013 by Jonathan Fowler
Ryu Dae Ryeong with his "Running Tortoise" snowchain at the International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva on April 10, 2013. The event has drawn 725 exhibitors from 45 countries, with lone inventors making up a quarter.

The impeccably-dressed South Korean flipped a tyre sideways, and with a deft sweep snapped a curious, pastel-shaded device onto the hub. "Fitted in seconds," he said with a flourish, drawing nods of approval from Swiss onlookers all too used to their annual battle to preserve their fingers as they fix snow chains during the Alpine winter.

Welcome to the of Inventions in Geneva which bills itself as the biggest of its kind in the world.

Showcasing innovations from the plainly practical to the charmingly oddball—all of which much be patented to be allowed a berth—the annual fair's 41st edition kicked off this week and runs until Sunday.

It has drawn 725 exhibitors from 45 countries, with lone inventors making up a quarter and the rest from small companies, research institutes and universities.

"We only present new items, never seen before," noted Jean-Luc Vincent, its founder and president.

Past success stories include flexible lighting for decorations, stairlifts for the disabled, inflatable neck cushions and clips to hold a glass to a plate at parties.

A key goal of exhibitors—who pay an event fee of up to 1,200 Swiss francs (980 euros, $1,285), booth hire not included—is to hit markets. Industrialists and distributors make up almost half of the 60,000 visitors.

James Dower sits astride the "Tilt and Turn", a petrol-powered tricycle whose trick is a flexible axle, at the International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva on April 10, 2013. "It's a very simple design really. Nothing can go wrong with it," Dower told AFP.

"The rhythm of innovation is accelerating and the competition is out there, inciting companies to buy inventions from outside, rather than develop them themselves," said Vincent.

Touring the fair offers insights into the inventor's art.

Ryu Dae Ryeong, mastermind of the "Running Tortoise" snow chain, said the seed was planted in 2005 when he was a professional soldier in South Korea.

"I was watching conscripts trying to fit chains in the winter. Then I came out of the army in 2010 and worked as a taxi driver, and I was the one having to fit chains," Ryu told AFP.

"It took me three shots to get the prototype right. Now I'm looking for a factory so we can start making them right away," he added, saying he foresaw a price tag of 310 euros for a set but staying cagey on likely production costs.

The inventors span the generations.

Hafizuddin Abdul Rahman (L) and Ahmand Syafiq Amirudin with their invention—an electricity system using decomposing garden soil in place of batteries—at the International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva on April 10, 2013.

Irishman James Dower, 77, sat astride his "Tilt and Turn", a sturdy, petrol-powered tricycle whose trick is a flexible axle.

"It's a very simple design really. Nothing can go wrong with it," Dower told AFP.

"I'd been thinking about this from my young days. I'd had problems with three-wheelers, they'd topple when they turned. But four-wheelers needed suspension. This is the solution."

Dower's trike is mainly aimed at farmers—he cited advantages such as a cost of less than 2,500 euros, and the power to pull weights of a quarter of a tonne—but he said he saw potential for electric versions in urban areas.

"It's not my first invention. I had one before, an automatic gate for pig stalls, way back in the 1970s. But it didn't really take off," he added.

At the other end of the age scale was 17-year-old Malaysian Hafizuddin Abdul Rahman, whose electricity system uses decomposing garden soil in place of batteries.

"We wanted to show that soil is a way to produce power. Dry cell batteries use toxic chemicals. And there's an abundance of soil," Rahman explained.

Paul Chavand is pictured with his "Rollkers" skates at the International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva on April 10, 2013. Chavand said he invested 10,000 euros of his own money in the project and was leveraging 100,000 euros from investors.

"This started out as a school chemistry project. We invented it last April. I'm here to get experience. This is just my first , but my next one is still a secret," he said.

The inventors are grouped by nation. In the French section, Paul Chavand's enthusiasm for his "Rollkers" 10-kilometre-per-hour skates was infectious.

"I got sick of new technology, so I decided to focus on good, old technology," he told AFP, explaining how he uses a similar concept to traction-powered toy cars to give power thanks to the wearer's own weight and motion, while also preventing the feet from sliding back.

Chavand said he invested 10,000 euros of his own money in the project and was leveraging 100,000 euros from investors.

"If we find a manufacturer, this could be on the market within 18 months," he said.

He bristled at the mad scientist label sometimes stuck on inventors.

"We always get treated like we're crazy. It really annoys me," he said.

The underlying message is that for every problem, there's a solution.

Indian P Mahalingam was pitching his "WeeWee", a small tube that enables women to urinate standing up like men, with gains for hygiene, lower water use from flushes and discretion.

"If I can talk to the corporates, people who are in sanitation, then I'll have done what I'm looking for," he said.

Explore further: Magic Leap moves beyond older lines of VR

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Inventors float novelties at Geneva fair

Apr 21, 2010

A French invention that levitates objects is one of the star attractions of the inventors fair in Geneva, which opened on Wednesday, alongside new fangled bottle openers and shopping trolleys.

Inventors limber up for Geneva showcase

Apr 11, 2012

A ultra-quick sock drier and a device to repel pesky bugs are among about 1,000 inventions being showcased at the 40th International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva next week.

Economic crisis drives the mothers of invention

Apr 04, 2009

Crisis is the mother of invention, if one believes the bright sparks behind the gizmos, contraptions, novelties and potions at the international inventions exhibition in the Swiss city of Geneva.

Weird and wacky: Inventors show off their devices

Apr 06, 2011

They say there's a gadget for just about everything. That now includes boots which detect radiation and a kangaroo tail for weary humans who'd like a rest but can't be bothered to sit down.

Commercial paradigm brings inventors down to earth

Apr 22, 2010

Inventors are often perceived as eccentric, original thinkers inspired by dreams: but many of the 700 inventors at an international fair in Geneva showed skill, pragmatism and good business sense.

Paris launches world-first electric car-share scheme

Oct 02, 2011

Self-service electric cars appeared on the streets of Paris Sunday, as a French group launched a public car-hire scheme modelled on the capital's popular bicycle-sharing system and designed to become the world's ...

Recommended for you

Magic Leap moves beyond older lines of VR

Oct 24, 2014

Two messages from Magic Leap: Most of us know that a world with dragons and unicorns, elves and fairies is just a better world. The other message: Technology can be mindboggingly awesome. When the two ...

Oculus Rift users to see Moon live through robot

Oct 23, 2014

A group from Carnegie Mellon wants to send a robot to the Moon to beam live pictures of the Moon to Oculus Rift headset users, reported technology reporter Jane Wakefield of the BBC. Andy the robot is intended ...

Skin icons can tap into promise of smartwatch

Oct 21, 2014

You have heard it before: smartwatches are cool wearables but critics remind us of the fact that their small size makes many actions cumbersome and they question how many people will really have them on their ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

danut_sun
2 / 5 (1) Apr 11, 2013
Not a word about Yildiz motor? Come on, this should be a breaking news on this site. Not a single word about renewable energy inventions present there?
Anda
not rated yet Apr 11, 2013
"Hafizuddin Abdul Rahman (L) and Ahmand Syafiq Amirudin with their invention—an electricity system using decomposing garden soil in place of batteries—at the International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva on April 10, 2013."
There danut. Your breakthrough...
Ok, stop joking. I've been looking and learning about this yildiz motor and you're right. It's supposed to be there.
We'll wait for impressions about it.