Global Economics

Wacky Ideas at Geneva Inventions Expo


The fair, which brings inventors and investors together, features 1,000 new creations including artificial nose hair and a self-making bed

From artificial nose hair to a bed that makes itself, the wacky products on show at this year's International Exhibition of Inventions offer all sorts of impractical solutions to problems you may not know you have.

More than 700 creative minds have set up stands at the word's largest inventions fair to show off products ranging from heavy-duty engineering feats to wacky little gadgets like emoticon-reading robots.

The fair, which runs until Sunday, features 1,000 new inventions of all kinds by companies, independent researchers, universities and just people with a good idea to remedy smelly feet or make unicycles a little easier to ride.

Labor-saving devices for people averse to exercise are a recurring theme at this year's 36th edition. The self-making bed, for instance, re-spreads linens at the push of a button. The bed sheet is rolled out by two fasteners moving along metal bars on each side of the bed. Once the sheet is spread over the bed, the two bars are automatically lowered.

"I was thinking of people with diseases when inventing the bed," said the Italian inventor, Enrico Berruti, "but also because I'm a little bit lazy myself." After the contraption has done its work, the bed looks neat, no matter how messy it was before or how thick the bed sheet is, he said.

Among the simplest innovations is artificial nose hair. Two little nubs of coiled pipe cleaner connected by a U-shaped wire block pollen and dust when placed in the nostrils. The "hair" can be washed and reused. "Most people do not have enough nose hair," said its inventor, Gengsheng Sun.

One techie-targeted invention is an e-mail analyzer to determine whether a person met in a chat room is a man or a woman. The computer program, developed by a Malaysian university professor, analyzes e-mails according to the number of words, exclamation marks, emotions and compliments to determine if the sender is male or female. Women tend to be more expressive than men, said Dianne Cheong Lee Mei, but she refused to go into detail about how the program unveils the gender of the unseen Internet partner.

The fair draws 65,000 visitors annually, including investors looking for a brilliant idea in need of financing. According to the fair's organizers, last year's event resulted in licensing contracts worth $40 million (€25.5 million).

Provided by Spiegel Online—Read the latest from Europe's largest newsmagazine

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