‘Tis the season for catalogs, and my favorite is Hammacher Schlemmer, America’s longest running catalog, “Offering the Best, the Only and the Unexpected for 166 Years.” I was curious to see if I could spot any of the five patterns of the innovation method called Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT). With eighty seven pages of cool gifts in the catalog, it wasn’t hard at all. The hard part was deciding which ones to choose. Here are my favorites:
1. SUBTRACTION: The Subtraction Technique works by removing a component, preferably an essential one, then working backwards to imagine what benefits are created by just the remaining components.
The Gentleman’s Faceless Watch (page 56)
This is the watch that tells time with LEDs built into the band. Blending seamlessly into the watch’s stainless steel links, the four disguised LED sets are only detected when they illuminate to form 1/2″ H digital numbers at the press of a button. The top row displays the hour and the lower row the minute; the press of a button switches the view to month and day. The stainless steel band features a durable electroplated finish. Includes two additional links.
2. MULTIPLICATION: The Multiplication Technique works by taking a component of the system, copying it, but changing it in some qualitative way. Like Subtraction, you take this new configuration and imagine benefits that it could deliver.
The Table Tennis Hands (page 80)
These are the table tennis paddles that are worn like mittens, effectively turning your hand into a paddle. The mitt’s unconventional design eliminates the handle and spreads apart the front and back of the paddles, allowing your hand to slip between them. The paddle becomes a natural extension of your arm, resulting in greater ball control, faster volleys, an improved backhand, and more spin.
3. TASK UNIFICATION: The Task Unification Technique works by taking an existing component and assigning it an additional job (that of another component or some new task).
The Call Me Gloves (page 37)
These touchscreen winter gloves allow the wearer to wirelessly conduct cell phone calls by assuming the universal “call me” gesture. With a speaker inside the left thumb and a microphone inside the left pinkie, wearers simply hold the thumb to the ear and the pinkie to the mouth for convenient “two-digit” calling. The gloves pair wirelessly with a cell phone via Bluetooth technology and provide clear sound even 39’ from the phone. Buttons on the left cuff, easily maneuvered while wearing the right glove, answer or disconnect a call. To ensure users don’t have to choose between connectivity and warmth, conductive fibers woven into both thumbs and index fingers allow easy operation of a touchscreen while the gloves remain on.
4. DIVISION: The Division Technique works by taking a component of the product or the product itself, then dividing it physically or functionally. You re-arrange the parts to seek new benefits.
The Customizable LEGO Timepiece (page 16)
This is the watch that incorporates the iconic universality of the LEGO system into its design using interchangeable bezels, straps, and multi-color links. The watch’s face pays homage to the classic building block with yellow and blue 2×2 brick façades that serve as subdials for displaying the day of the week and date. Red tick marks denote each hour and a yellow rim has an inscribed tachymeter for precise calculation of speed. The classic primary colors that have become synonymous with LEGO’s legacy are manifested in black, blue, and yellow bezel options and eight interchangeable red, yellow, blue, and green strap links.
5. ATTRIBUTE DEPENDENCY: The Attribute Dependency Technique works by creating (or breaking) a dependency between two attributes of the product or its environment. As one thing changes, another thing changes.
The Adjustable Focus Reading Glasses (page 9)
Unlike common reading glasses with one fixed magnification, this pair lets you adjust the focus of each lens with the simple turn of a dial. Using patented fluid-injection technology developed by a physicist at Oxford, the lenses comprise an elastic membrane held between rigid polycarbonate plates. As the dial on either side of the frame is turned, the elastic membrane bows inwards or outwards, subtly changing the magnification from -4.5 diopters to +3.5 diopters. Users can adjust each lens independently, and if their vision changes they can simply give the side dials another twist. The flexible nose pads ensure a comfortable fit, and the side knobs can be twisted off to lock in the magnification permanently.