- Tell us something about yourself, your background
I am a health, safety, and ergonomics consultant and I have worked in injury prevention for over 30 years. My entire career has been focused on protecting people. I am certified in occupational hygiene, in safety, and in ergonomics.
- Can you list the products you have invented with a brief explanation of each
My product is called a tekneksavr. I designed it to improve our neck and hand comfort while using mobile technologies like smart phones and tablets. Many of us experience neck pain, which can be linked to smart phone use. Our necks were not designed to hold our head forward, hanging over our phones. When we hold this unnatural position, the effective weight of our head increases from 10-12 lbs. to as much as 60 lbs.! It is like our neck is holding a bowling ball. Our neck is not designed to support that much weight! And think of how long we hold our head forward – for many minutes at a time- and for many hours a day! Text Neck is a painful neck injury linked to holding your head with poor posture, for long periods of time.
A second challenge is that we hold our phones/tablets tight- probably because they are so expensive. There is a painful hand condition called Text Claw linked to gripping our phones tight. So, I designed the tekneksavr to support the weight of the phone so that we don’t have to grip the phone so tight, which reduces hand fatigue.
The bottom line is that my product, the tekneksavr, helps us use mobile technology comfortably by improving neck posture and reducing the forceful gripping of our phones.
- How/Why did you start inventing. What set you off?
I was teaching a class on ergonomics. When we were discussing how to prevent Text Neck, the medical recommendations included reduced phone use (really?), holding your phone high to keep your neck straight (that looks weird!) and to stretch (ok, that is good). So, I tried to solve this problem. Like all great inventions, the tekneksavr solves a problem and makes our lives better.
- How did you get from idea to finished product?
I thought it would be smart to have a device that would help us hold the phone at eye level to improve neck posture. So, I tied a wooden spoon from my kitchen to my phone with rubber bands to create a “handle”. Then I realized that I was gripping the handle pretty tight. While thinking about how to proceed, I rested the spoon-handle on my torso. And presto! I realized that I had greatly improved my neck posture and no longer had to grip my phone, since the weight of the phone was supported on my torso.
After realizing this was the best route, I knew that whatever handle I made needed to be retractable and fit on a phone. Finding a retractable wand was a challenge and I started with a pointer used by teachers. The pointer did not have the ability to stay open and support the weight of the phone. It collapsed too easily.
Another challenge was attaching the pointer to an adjustable base that would then attach to the phone. After several failed attempts with welding, soldering, etc., I started working closely with an engineer and CAD designer. Together we figured out the best way to connect the wand to the phone and to make the connection adjustable – the current tekneksavr can rotate 360 degrees and be angled from zero to approximately 135 degrees. This provides remarkable adjustability, a feature essential to good ergonomic design. This adjustability makes the tekneksavr so user friendly – it is light, compact, easy to adjust and makes the goal of improving neck posture and decreasing hand fatigue a reality.
I worked with a patent attorney while searching for the extendable wand to make sure that I would avoid patent infringement and to also protect my product. Every company I worked with, which included a welder, plastic molder, CAD Designer, etc., had to sign a non-disclosure agreement with me prior to working on the project.
I tried to use US resources as much as possible. However, I do import some small parts that would be too difficult to recreate in the US. I took my early prototype to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The product was very well received and got me news coverage in the LA Times. The input I received at this venue helped me improve the product. I was surprised by how many people wanted the tekneksavr to also work as a selfie-stick. So, I found a blue tooth remote to fulfil this customer need. I also realized that the tekneksavr could be used as a fully adjustable phone stand in both the vertical and horizontal position. The more I tweaked the design, the more user benefits I developed. Even though the tekneksavr started out to reduce/prevent injury, it turned out to have so many other functions and uses!
Things that can really eat into an entrepreneur’s budget: marketing companies and facebook marketers. Instead, I am trying to work with results-oriented companies and offer them a piece of the profits. That way, they have a vested-interest in generating sales, and not in busy-work.
- Let us know of useful resources that helped you i.e. Books, websites, software etc
I used the internet extensively for information. YouTube has been very informative in what other professionals are saying about Text Neck Injuries and on how to use social media to grow your business. The US patent office website would be useful, but I used an attorney instead. Use experts when you can afford them. For example, I wasted money buying the wrong plastic/pigments. I should have consulted with my molder first. Using a CAD professional is vital for manufacturing drawings. Shop around for prices- discard the lowest quote if very different than the rest, since they probably don’t understand what you want done. Regarding books, I always listen to entrepreneurial audiobooks, but cannot think of one that is outstanding.
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