Update: The winner has been anounced. Click here to find out who won!

As I sit here watching the debut of ABCs American Inventor I am completely underwhelmed. The best of these showings are a weak mashup of existing products. E.g. the solar powered cooler. Whoopee. Other inventions do have a limited market, but I see very little here which will change how people live.

The highlight of the program is the fashions of Doug Hall, the only actual inventor on the judge’s panel. He also seems like the only one with any interest in the actual inventions. While the other judges are investors and executives, Doug is the complete package. He has made a career out of inventing not in a limited market space, but working with corporations to advance their innovation. He is an active lecturer and a published author.

Most inspiring is a 14 year old boy who has come up with an air-conditioner for the car window so you can leave your dog in the car on a hot day. He didn’t make it, but his resolution to work harder and come back with more means to me we will hear more from him in the future. He is the American Inventor. Despite rejection he received some great advice from Doug. I failed to catch his name but I do hope he continues on.

From what I’ve gathered about the show, twelve inventors will be given $50,000 each to advance their invention. America will choose a winner (although I’m not exactly sure how, probably phone voting) and that winner will receive one million dollars. A heafty sum, but why should a single invention be the measure of the next great American inventor? The show is “American Inventor”, not “American Invention”. A great inventor should be able to broaden their scope to address new challenges, new needs, and new market spaces.

What if these inventors were forced to compete in different areas? Household items, transportation, electronics, office technology, entertainment, the list could go on. At this point I’m truly afraid that the nut bowl with hidden shell discard and the branch cutter (which seems to be just a branch cutter, yes, both of these moved on to round 2) may just win this competition. I hate to say it but the edible snow globe was the most innovative invention I saw tonight. Hell, it’s better than those stupid chocolate fountains that doned the shelves of every retailer this past holiday season.

So I’ll tune in to American Inventor again, but I’m really hoping for more. In the meantime I’ll stick to Make Magazine and the Makezine Blog for my invention fix.

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