Originally created 09/25/98

Inventors display wares



LONDON -- Next time you go for a haircut, shouldn't you find a stylist who does the job with sharp glass instead of scissors?

Frank Bisson thinks so.

"This is not just hairdressing -- this is pure art," Mr. Bisson said Thursday as he showed off the "glass-cutting technique for hair" on the opening day of the London International Inventors Fair.

The glass cutting piece, placed on the end of a handle that looks like an old ink pen, has more sharp edges than scissors or razors, which Mr. Bisson says allows for better sculpting of a hair style that won't require mousses, gels or hair spray.

"We just wash it, shake it and there you go," Mr. Bisson said. The process is safe, he insists, although he acknowledged that anything that can cut hair can also cut fingers.

It remains to be seen whether glass haircutting, or any of the other 200 inventions on display, can make it commercially.

Among the other gadgets: Talking toilets for children, little fans that blow away the tear-inducing smell of onions without scattering the peelings around the kitchen and a cat flap that sprays your pet with flea killer when it passes through an entryway.

What will the cat think about getting doused?

"It gets used to it very quickly, particularly if the food is on the other side," said Phyl Cooke, hoping to drum up business for The Hobbs Cat Flap.

The Zagreb Inventors Association of Croatia had what it called a better traffic light -- a model said to improve safety because it flashes numbers to show pedestrians how many seconds they have to cross.

Liz Juniper brought little tubes of a product called Runaway, which stops runs in women's hosiery from getting worse. Women have done the same thing for decades with nail polish, but Runaway is clear, so there's no problem of having red polish on black hose -- or vice versa.

"It's an embarrassment preventer for women," Ms. Juniper said. "It's not going to save the tights. You're going to have to throw them away anyway."

The inventions will be graded by a panel of judges whose main criteria is their likely commercial success.

"There are some very good inventions here that I am absolutely certain we are going to see in the market soon," said Paul Ambridge, the chief judge and chairman of Britain's Institute of Patentees and Inventors. "There are a large number of inventions around here that would never see the light of day in shops."

Being a discreet judge, Mr. Ambridge would not publicly identify the turkeys.

"No way am I going to quote you that," he said.