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.

american inventor, inventor, invention, innovation, reality television, reality tv, television, tv, entertainment, inventing

On December 22, 2005 the Apple iPod Settlement Administration website posted that the settlement of the iPod battery class action suit was final and that “the Settlement Administrator can move forward with claims administration and claims fulfillment.” In the two months since then there have been no updates on what exactly that meant.

Today on my routine web crawl for information on the topic I found this article on iLounge.com which outlines the following timeframe for settlement:

February 17, 2006 – The Claims Administrator will mail $25 checks to Class Members who purchased the AppleCare Protection Plan and obtained battery repair/replacement under the AppleCare Protection Plan.

Beginning of March 2006 – For Class members who own a First or Second Generation iPod and who selected the $25 cash payment, the Claims Administrator will begin mailing $25 checks to those who submitted valid claims.

Middle of March 2006 – For Class members who own a Third Generation iPod and who selected battery/iPod replacement, the Claims Administrator will begin mailing letters containing instructions for battery/iPod replacement to those who submitted valid claims.

Middle of March 2006 – For Class members who own a First, Second or Third Generation iPod and who selected a $50 store credit, the Claims Administrator will begin mailing letters with certificate codes for the $50 store credit to those who submitted valid claims.

Around March 17, 2006 – The Claims Administrator will begin sending deficiency letters to Class members who submitted an incomplete/incorrect claim.

End of March 2006 – The Claims Administrator will send denial letters to those individuals who do not fit the class definition or who submitted their claims past the claims deadline.

It’s been almost a year since claim forms went out, but hey, at least there are signs of action. Thanks iLounge for reporting on this. Now why couldn’t the settlement administration have posted this timeline on the official website?

ipod, apple, apple computing, battery, technology

Just when I thought I had enough reasons to hate the entertainment industry they come up with an idea like this.

From a recent Reuters article on Boston.com:

A breakthrough in television advertising debuted without fanfare last spring as a brand-name box of crackers appeared on the CBS sitcom ”Yes, Dear” for about 20 seconds, seen but hardly noticed by millions of viewers.

Unbeknownst to them, the image of Kellogg’s Club Crackers had been digitally painted onto the top of a coffee table after the scene was filmed, launching the latest advance in a marketing practice known in the industry as product placement but derided by critics as ”stealth advertising.”

This is worse than the advertisements which now seem to frequent the bottom third of the screen as you’re trying to watch your favorite program. At least when Shrek started popping his ugly head into the frame you knew you were seeing an advertisement!

Now when you see a box of crackers, pop-tarts, a box of trojans, a bottle of Coke, or a BMW in a series you’ll never know if it was put there by a careful writer, a skilled set dresser, or just a network advertising department who has no interest in the artistic integrity of the show.

Now I’m not naive enough to think the entertainment industry hasn’t been taking payoffs for putting brand name products in their shows, but at least it was part of the original composition, not an afterthought. There can be some give-and-take between the advertisers and the writers and, while advertising is inevitable, at least there are some checks.

So where does this end? Well, my bitching probably won’t get them to stop placing ads in more and more programming, so I’d like to offer this suggestion for the future of “stealth advertising.”

Advertising in the news. That’s right, the news. Try these on for size…

Would George W. like a cracker? (or should that be “Is George W. like a cracker?”)

bush.jpg

How about some great moments in history? Everyone needs crackers…

There were crackers on the moon right?

moon.jpg

What’s a war without crackers?

iwojima.jpg

You can go great places with crackers!

hitler.jpg

And my personal favorite.

911.jpg

Tasteless? Well, yes, but since we’ve already turned anything artistic into a commercial, what’s left? Just the news.


advertising, internet advertising, humor, funny, stealth advertising, george w. bush, bush, news, entertainment

First-and-TenWith the Super Bowl being this weekend lots of people like me (who can’t stand not knowing how something works) will be sitting around wondering “How do they paint the first-down line on the TV?”

Since 1998, Sportvision has provided many of the major networks with the technology called “1st & Ten” to paint the first-down line on the screen.

How does the line get there?

Well, the short answer is a computer analyzes the position of the camera on the field, takes into account zoom and the angle the camera is at, and where the first down line is, and draws the line on the image.

Why doesn’t the line cover the players?

There is a carefully calibrated color pallet of all the colors on the field, and another color pallet of all the colors of players’ uniforms, skin, the ball, and anything else which the line should not be painted on.

Before the line is drawn, very pixel on screen is then compared against these two color pallets. If the pixel matches a color in the field pallet the line is drawn on that pixel, if it matches the non-field pallet the line is not drawn.

Of course all of this has to happen 30 times a second to keep up with moving cameras and players, so as you can imagine it takes some serious computer power.

For more detail, check out Sportvision’s description of the technology or How the First-Down Line Works from HowStuffWorks.com.

sports, football, technology, television, tv, super bowl, superbowl

Pouring a drinkAfter months of planning and weeks of construction, on New Years Eve, 2005 Alan’s Bar Monkey finally made its debut.

I have updated the Bar Monkey image gallery with more photos from the construction, testing and first night of use.

The first night was a limited success. The Bar Monkey made tasty drinks, and calibration was easy, but due to gas leaks in the caps we ran out of gas after only two rounds of drinks.

So we’re currently experimenting with different methods of making caps. The original design used hot glue, but leakage has been a problem. Alan attempted to seal these leaks with silicone sealer but this didn’t help much.

The most recent attempt was made with 30-minute epoxy. Most of us held that this had a better chance than other methods we have tried, but actually failed completely. It seems that polyethylene (which the tubing is made from) is extraordinarily difficult to glue.

So we’re back to the drawing board for caps, but check out the image gallery for pics of the unit in action. There will be more to come.

As time allows I will be posting more info on the construction process and some better pics of the finished unit. Also check out my other stories on the planning process and the relay assembly.

drinks, cocktails, alcohol, bar, bar monkey, electronics, drink, cocktail, alan baker

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