What Will They Think of Next?

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UNBREAKABLE BULB
INVENTOR: GENERAL ELECTRIC
Light bulbs last longer these days, that is, if you can get them into the socket before accidentally breaking their delicate shell. GE's Saf-T-Gard incandescent bulb is the first one that's completely shatterproof. Its Teflon coating means the glass may crack, but the pieces stay together.

BUILDING A BETTER BACKPACK
INVENTORS: ED KOIS, DAVID GILMOUR, SCOTT CUMMINGS
A few years ago, David Gilmour, 60, a patient with back problems, came to the office of physiatrist Ed Kois and told him he wanted to climb a mountain. Kois told Gilmour he was crazy, but Kois, Gilmour and Cummings started working on the Back Balancer, a 10-in.-wide oval-shaped pad that, when retrofitted to a normal backpack, acts as a spine-supporting brace. The pad pulls on the abdomen, creating a hydraulic lift to save wear on back muscles. Kois' patient raved about the device, and outdoor outfitter Kelty snatched it up.

NO MORE JUNGLE ROT
INVENTOR: SUMNER BARENBERG
If you have ever opened a box of fruit or vegetables only to discover a carton of penicillin, Microsphere is the nontoxic microbial biocide for you. Packaged in perishables and clothing containers as a fine powder, Microsphere is inactive until humidity hits. Then, like a chemistry teacher's long-aborning dream, it turns into a gas that safely fights off bacteria and mold.

LOOK AT THE BABY!
INVENTOR: VOLUMETRICS MEDICAL IMAGING, INC.
For years, ultrasound has given expectant parents a preview of their baby's sex. Soon, with new modifications, parents will be able to see if Baby looks like Mom, Dad or old chinless Uncle Ray. New 3-D Ultrasound, or Real-Time Volumetric Rendering, developed at Duke Medical Center, displays three-dimensional moving images rather than a mere cross section. Ultrasound will also help surgeons view the entire heart and its chambers, helping them navigate inside the organ during surgery.

COOL PUPS
INVENTOR: JO WIDNESS
If dogs had thumbs, they would probably stop drinking out of the toilet. They also might turn on the air conditioning when their owner leaves them in a hot car. Until evolution, there's the Chilly Dog, a car system with a preprogrammed temperature setting that automatically starts a car's engine and turns on the AC when things get too hot. The vehicle runs for a programmed period of time and then shuts off. The process repeats whenever the threshold temperature is reached.

CLIP-ON SHOE DEODORIZER
INVENTOR: TANITA CORP.
The Deodorant Light for Shoes has two tiny lamps that beam safe levels of ultraviolet light into shoes to eliminate isovaleric acid--the cause of the disease more commonly known as stinky feet. It was developed for a Japanese market obsessed with cleanliness; each 3-min. treatment eliminates 86.7% of acids. That should do it.

HOME-ROASTED COFFEE
INVENTOR: SWISSMAR
In their reckless pursuit of the freshest cup of coffee, java jocks are worse than drug addicts. Alpenrost, the first home coffee roaster, could be the ultimate enabler on the coffee lover's road to destruction. Pour in green coffee beans (Swissmar supplies them), press a button and 25 minutes later you have fresh-roasted coffee beans. If that's too long to wait, check yourself into a clinic.

WHEELS ON WATER
INVENTOR: SBK ENGINEERING
Somewhere there are people who have always wanted to ride their mountain bikes on water. On the theory that no demand shall go unsupplied, Italian company SBK offers the Shuttle-Bike Kit. Ride to the edge of a lake or stream; within 10 minutes, inflate two pontoons with a specially designed air pump and attach the gear with a series of hooks. While you're at it, try to think of something even more ridiculous for the SBK folks to invent.

CANCER-FREE CALLING
INVENTOR: CALGON CARBON
Studies on the potential dangers of cellular-phone radiation remain inconclusive, but WaveZorb, a thumbnail-size piece of carbon cloth that costs about eight bucks, could make them moot. Tests show that WaveZorb, adapted from military use, soaks up nearly 99% of microwave radiation--and doesn't interfere with performance. Each adhesive-backed unit lasts about six months and can be trimmed to fit any cell-phone earpiece. Too bad it can't screen calls as effectively.

PASSWORD REPLACEMENT
INVENTOR: BIOLINK
Your brain is big, but it has better things to do than remember an eBay password. Thumbprints, however, have nothing to do--ever. So Biolink's U-Match Mouse comes with a thumb scanner and easy-to-install software that renders passwords obsolete. Up to 10 thumbprints can be held in memory at any time, and parents can limit the access of younger thumbs.

NOW HEAR THIS
INVENTOR: GEOFF BALL
Hearing-impaired since he was 8, Geoff Ball waited years for someone to create an implantable hearing device. With none forthcoming, he developed one himself. Vibrant Soundbridge is an external processor linked to a skull-mounted internal receiver. Unlike standard hearing aids, which merely amplify sound, the Soundbridge directly vibrates the bones in the middle ear for a more natural sound quality that clarifies background noise and nearly eliminates feedback.

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