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Prototype on my workbench.

Prototype on my workbench.

Often when pitching a company an idea for a new product, it’s not what you have, it’s what they think you have. That was the case when I presented this “game-in-a-hat” toy idea. My idea: a preschooler-sized hat that uses a motion sensor and sound circuit to play a simple musical game. As the hat plays a song, the kid dances along (and the motion sensor monitors the child’s actions). When the music stops, the dancer must freeze. If he moves — RAZZZZZ! — he’s called out. Simple and fun!

But how to make a compelling presentation without having to build a working prototype? Instead, I made a hat with a speaker and pushbutton switch, both wired to an iPod through a wired control (such as the Apple earbuds with remote: makezine.com/go/earbuds). My switch was twinned to the circuit board traces for the “next track” button on the remote, and the speaker was connected to the audio out. Every time I pressed the button on the hat, the iPod would skip ahead to the next audio track!

Game demo in progress.

Game demo in progress.

I also recorded multiple audio tracks (including some silent “spacer” tracks) and made a cleverly sequenced playlist that simulated how the real toy would play the games. The voices and music played through the hat’s speaker while I’d surreptitiously pressed the button to trigger the next audio track as needed to demonstrate the game. As long as I didn’t deviate from my canned routine, the musical hat demoed exactly like the real thing. I wore the hat and danced or froze through my demo. The toy company loved it!

Final toy in package.

Final toy in package.

Bob Knetzger

Bob Knetzger

Bob Knetzger ([email protected]) is an inventor/designer with 30 years of experience making fun stuff.


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