Inventors bring their dreams to market

Nothing is too potty - Germany's Axel Benkhardt presents his talking toilet Keystone

Some of the world's most creative minds have been showing off their gadgets at the world's largest inventions fair in Geneva, which wrapped up on Sunday.

This content was published on April 12, 2003 - 12:20

Over 1,000 devices - from medical and military lifesavers to the downright bizarre - have been on show at the International Exhibition of Inventions.

Among this year's more noteworthy creations were the anti-mine shoe, a French invention which uses electro-stimulation to prevent the user from stepping on landmines, and a Russian system which allows open-heart surgery in any conditions.

The many slightly offbeat contraptions included handy little items like a device that automatically tees your golf ball - no stooping required!


Engineer Eric Ghasnavi from France brought along his skyjacker neutralisation system, designed to kill or incapacitate hijackers in aircraft.

"If my system had been installed before September 11, the catastrophe wouldn't have happened," says Ghasnavi modestly.

"What's more, as soon as my system is installed in airplanes, there won't be any more air piracy."

The device works by firing lethal projectiles or targeted anaesthetics at hijackers to within a millimetre of accuracy.

A technician, who operates from an armoured control cabin within the aircraft, controls the system. The training manual recommends that technicians be psychologically profiled.

"There's no risk either for the passengers or for the aircraft," Ghasnavi reassured swissinfo.

"What's more, it can take out one hijacker every two seconds so if you've got ten hijackers they're eliminated in 20 seconds."

Ghasnavi reckons his prototype could be installed in aircraft within two years at a cost of about $200,000.

Flying cars

However, Ghasnavi's project might soon be redundant if Peter Allenbach from Niederbipp has his way.

The Swiss pilot and mechanic showed off a model of his "flycar", billed as the first practical combination between a motor car and an airplane.

As a plane, it is designed to have a range of 1,500km and a cruising speed of 300kmh. As a car, it can run at about 140kmh.

Converting from one to the other should take only three minutes. Allenbach hopes that a kit version of his car-airplane could be available in about five years.

"It's not the first car-plane," says Allenbach. "The first was displayed in Paris back in 1917 but they all had the disadvantage that the wings had to be detached and left at the airport when you drove off.

"With my prototype, you fold the wings out like a Swiss army knife."


A 68-member jury awarded the best invention to the Russian inventor of a portable system which allows open-heart surgery in any conditions.

It also awarded prizes in 35 different categories. On the basis of a popular vote from visitors, the "Oscar of Inventions" was also awarded.

Many of the exhibits are expected to draw serious interest from industrialists, businessmen and distributors, with 45 per cent each year gaining licensing contracts.

Last year, the total turnover reached during the exhibition or shortly afterwards was over $30 million.

Inventions can only be entered only once at the Geneva show and must be patented.

Organisers said that the war in Iraq and the Sars epidemic deprived the fair of about 60 participants, mainly from Israel, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

swissinfo, Vincent Landon

In brief

More than 1,000 new devices have been displayed at the International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva, which finished on Sunday.

A 68-member jury selects the best invention and awards prizes in 35 different categories.

The "Oscar of Inventions" is also awarded on the basis of visitors votes.

The war in Iraq and the Sars epidemic deprived the fair of about 60 participants, mainly from Israel, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

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