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Where can Gadget Freak take you? part 2

In part one of this series we met Les Kelly, former Gadget Freak and inventor.  Les invented a remote control gadget for his dog’s kennel, so he could let her out from two flights of stairs away, without having to leave the comfort of his warm bed during those cold Virginia nights.  Daisy (the dog) was then free to take care of her doggy business and join Les and his wife upstairs.  In this part we’ll finish talking about the initial inspiration and the design that ended up winning Gadget Freak of the year.

What happens after Daisy leaves her cage? Is there a dog door she can operate that lets her outside?Yes, there is a common dog flap in the door to the backyard that she can go through to get outside and come back in through once she’s released from her crate. She can use that to pee upon being released from her crate, and then come back in and upstairs to see us. But when she was a younger pup she didn’t really always need to go pee when she would start barking, she would just get lonely sometimes in the middle of the night and want to join us in the bed. Usually this would happen when it was only an hour or so before we would be getting up anyway, so we had accomplished our goal of her not chewing anything up or soiling the carpet. But it’s better if you don’t have to get up in the cold and go down and back up 2 flights of stairs and can instead push a button and have that extra last hour of sleep in warm comfort under the covers!

There are many other applications of the product though, depending on people’s needs. The bedroom use is a good one for people who live in homes with several floors, such as the 3 story townhouses that are common here in Northern Virginia, because the bedrooms are always on the top floor and the “utility” areas where a dog’s home commonly is are on the bottom floor. But it also works well for letting out your dog when you get home from work, etc. for example. You can press the button from your car in the driveway and your dog is able to greet you at the door when you come in, and you don’t need to go let him/her out as soon as you get inside. You can instead put away your groceries, or go pee yourself, for example!

If your pet stays in a separate garage or building or outside in a kennel, you can also release him/her without needing to get dressed up and go outside in bad weather, as another example. It is also good for senior citizens who don’t want to go up/down stairs and bend down to fiddle with the latch on their crate, instead they can just push the remote control button from wherever they want to. Obviously people demand remotes these days for garage doors and TVs, but why do even stereo systems come with remote controls when you’re usually in the same room anyway and only need to take a few steps to turn the volume up/down? They all have them now because people just love remote controls, period!

This could be part of a universal remote setup, but the initial product to market will come with its own small remote, suitable for a keychain. We’re also working on a version for door flaps, and eventually a version that could be triggered remotely using your PC or iPhone.  That would be good if your dog normally stays in the yard but bad weather comes up while you’re at work. The best thing about this product though regardless of how you use it is the feeling you get when you push the button and hear your pet bounding through its containment door and she runs through the house on her own and suddenly appears in the room you’re in and jumps on you to give you a happy greeting and licks your face! That’s a great moment to enjoy even if you didn’t care about saving the steps of going to the crate to let her out!

Is there anything else about the initial concept and project that you think would be interesting to readers?

The coolest thing about the initial concept was figuring out a way to do something in your life more easily that you can benefit from every day, in a unique way, on your own, that you didn’t and couldn’t buy at a store, and seeing it come to life and work! That’s the best part of inventing I think. But the most interesting part of this product’s story is probably how it evolved from that 1st somewhat clunky 120V powered prototype box made in my garage and shown in the Design News article to the current version that is about 1/8 that size, only needs 4 AA batteries for power, and will be mass produced in China and sold around the world. It’s been an interesting ride so far, although mostly uphill and with plenty of setbacks… but I’m almost to the top of that hill now if things go well over the next few months, so it’s very exciting!

Thanks Les.  In the next installment we’ll learn about how the design evolved to satisfy conflicting constraints regarding safety, manufacturability, and profitability.

Steve Ravet

Design News Gadgeteer

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