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How can I test the viability of my product idea?

  1. Apr 27, 2014 #1
    Hi there!

    Im new to this forum so pardon me if this is the wrong place to post my question.

    Basically, I have an idea with regards to doing some modification to phone screens. However, there is no such technology (yet) for this and I have zero knowledge and background pertaining to engineering.

    What I want to ask you guys is: who can I talk to / what steps can I do to test the technological viability of my idea?

    Thanks
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 27, 2014 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    So, this guy walks into an engineer's office and says "I have this great invention! It's a machine that will prepare any dish you tell it to. You say 'make me a steak with a baked potato' and out pops a steak and potato. You say 'make me a pepperoni pizza' and out pops a pepperoni pizza'. You say 'make me a dish of strawberry ice cream' and out pops some strawberry ice cream. I just need a little help with the engineering."

    "That's amazing!" says the engineer "how does it work?"

    "How the heck should I know?" says the man. "You're the engineer!"
     
  4. Apr 27, 2014 #3
    How then do we draw the line between impossible and something which hasnt been done yet? There was an article recently which showed that scientists were able to 'freeze' light for up to a minute. 10 years ago people would have thought you were crazy if you mentioned this. For all you know, the scientist which spearheaded this research could have had an encounter with a similar man mentioned in the story above.
     
  5. Apr 27, 2014 #4

    AlephZero

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    130613then_a_miracle_occurs.jpg
     
  6. Apr 27, 2014 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    The word "impossible" never appeared in my message. The closest I came was "amazing". I think you missed the point, which was that there is a difference between an idea for an invention and an actual invention. Consequently, there is a difference in value between an idea for an invention and an actual invention.
     
  7. Apr 27, 2014 #6

    jim hardy

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    "earn the right"
    ...to impose on somebody else's time and effort
    ... by investing your time and effort
    .... to produce a clear, concise, and well reasoned proposal
    describing
    ....... what your gizmo does,
    ......... what principles of physics or logic it would employ to do that,
    ...........and why it's needed.

    USPTO dot gov has forms for something called "Provisional Patent". It's pretty inexpensive.
    Were you to read a few patents for ideas similar to yours and submit a provisional , two things would happen:

    1. You'd get your idea into a clear format
    2. A clock would start ticking: you have one year to apply for a real patent. After that it's up for grabs.
     
  8. Apr 27, 2014 #7
    Of course there is a difference in value between a potential invention and one that's already been created. But how does one go from having an idea in his head to actually producing that invention when he knows nothing about the engineering behind the product? What steps can he take to further research on this 'potential invention' ?
     
  9. Apr 27, 2014 #8

    Thanks for your response, at least its more helpful than others have posted here.

    There's one point I'd like clarification though. You mentioned how I would need to describe 'what principles of physics or logic it would employ to do that'. How do I go about doing this when firstly, the technology is not in place yet, and secondly, I have little knowledge on the relevant subject?
     
  10. Apr 27, 2014 #9

    Ryan_m_b

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    :rofl: I get this a lot. Just the other day I had someone propose to me a cure for cancer using some conceptual targeting system. When I asked how on Earth they thought it would work they blamed me for lack of imagination in not solving that issue.

    I highly doubt that anyone would have thought one was crazy to say that light would be frozen for so long, I think the first time it was attempted was over a decade ago. I don't like your implication here that scientists are dogmatic and it's laymen who have to provide the ideas, that's so far from the truth. To be able to come up with good ideas you have to know the field well enough to know where to start, it's ok asking for clarifications on points or advice but expecting someone to solve your problem whole cloth is an entirely different thing.

    TL;DR You should focus on learning some of the relevant disciplines before trying to get your idea validated.
     
  11. Apr 27, 2014 #10

    russ_watters

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    That's not what he said. And just because you didn't like what he said, that doesn't mean it wasn't what you needed to hear/the right answer.

    I'll be more blunt: an idea for an invention is worth nothing without the technology for it to happen. Similarly, I have an idea for warp drive. Want to buy it?

    It sounds like all you have is a 'wouldn't it be cool if...?'
    Enroll in an engineering school. Or hire an engineer to evaluate your idea and tell you if there's anything to it. Be careful with that one though: if he's doing all the inventing, he'll want all the credit.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2014
  12. Apr 27, 2014 #11

    Astronuc

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    Without a theoretical or applied science background, how does one know the technology doesn't exist. Perhaps it does, but was tried and abandoned, or it has not yet been applied.

    In applied science (engineering) there is functionality (what it does) and the physics (how it does it).

    There are only so many ways to manipulate mass, momentum and energy, and there are only so many combinations of appropriate elements to accomplish a functionality/process, particularly one that is optimal.
     
  13. Apr 27, 2014 #12

    Simon Bridge

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    Also see: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?p=4730860#post4730860

    I advised to hire an engineer.
    Reply:
    Taking your questions in reverse order:

    You find such engineers by making inquiries at engineering firms which deal with the area of technology your idea involves. One way to find someone who will evaluate a proposed technology is to try a lawyer specializing in patents - they usually have contacts in various appropriate industries. (I told you replies won't be much use without details.)

    But it sounds like you just have an idea, with no notion of how it would be made to work.
    This means that you don't have nearly enough for an engineer to bother with - at least not cheaply.

    Assessing technology proposals is one of the things you can hire an engineer to do. It is not a specialist field since "technology" is a very broad area. Basically you hire an engineer as a consultant, iron out your contract, the engineer looks at the idea and writes you a report about what he thinks.

    What you get depends on what you pay, and how much detail you are prepared to disclose.
    Secrecy gets you the kind of responses you already have above.

    Be aware that it is very unlikely that you have thought up something that an engineer working in the field for years has not thought of and tried out already. Your very lack of engineering knowledge pretty much guarantees this. Ideas are a dime-a-dozen - nobody wants to know - it is the the making things work part that is worth all the money.
     
  14. Apr 27, 2014 #13

    jim hardy

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    Set yourself a goal:
    "In one month I will know how a display works."

    Hobby sites are probably best for a beginner. This search returned lots of them:
    display hobby site lcd display electronic

    http://www.tinkerhobby.com/lumex-graphic-lcd-road-test/

     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  15. Apr 27, 2014 #14

    Simon Bridge

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    ... you are claiming that the tech does not exist yet - how do you know this?
    If you have enough knowledge on the relevant subject to know that your idea has not been implemented, then you have enough knowledge to attempt the description.

    But as jim hardy points out: you should obtain some more knowledge on the relevant subject.
     
  16. Apr 27, 2014 #15
    This reminds me of an exchange between Ricky Gervais and Karl Pilkington. Karl has an idea for a watch that counts down how long it is before you die. When asked how it works he says, "just pop it on your wrist".

    http://imgur.com/r/rickygervais/f5gPC
     
  17. Apr 27, 2014 #16

    Simon Bridge

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    Although - it is not unheard of for someone to say: "I wish there was a device X with properties Y. I want one so much I'm prepared to fund research efforts to make such a thing."

    It's not that uncommon - I remember being presented with the idea of making elastic string bikini tops stronger for the over-enhanced customer ... manufacturer had no idea how to do that without making the bikinis uncomfortable, or even if it was possible to meet their parameters. But they were prepared to pay someone to investigate - which involved pretty much what you think.

    There was a similar project involving reducing the amount of foam that builds up on top of beer vats that was pitched to me as a thesis topic. The project was funded by a brewery, and, again, they had no idea how to go about it and only a vague idea how the foam gets there in the first place.

    My point is that this sort of thing happens all the time. The legitimizing factor is the amount of money someone wants to throw at the project.

    Carl's idea is a case in point.
    His description is quite reasonable: ask anyone how a TV set works they'll say - "you plug it in and push some buttons" ... which, technically, is how a TV set is used. Which is what makes Carl's pronouncements so much fun: you can see the common-sense in them.

    If he'd come up with a few hundred-thou to develop the idea into a product, I'd probably take the challenge.
    The early development would probably go along the lines of: it would be difficult to get the literal functionality described, but we can certainly start with a collection of monitors to collect data and compare against common warning signs ... the "watch" part would be a matter of miniturization and would probably be the HID rather than the whole thing. May be better to hook it through a phone or something.

    What we are basically asking OP to do is go through the preliminary-meeting stage like that - refine the idea for research - and so save a couple-thousand dollars.
     
  18. Apr 27, 2014 #17

    Evo

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    What we're asking the OP to do is explain the absolute basics. That's not much to ask. What exactly is this *miracle* substance that has yet to be discovered? What makes you think it is something that can exist, and if it can, why/how would it be financially feasible? Let's get real here.
     
  19. Apr 27, 2014 #18

    Simon Bridge

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    ... I can see that.

    But OP is asking how to get the support needed to turn something from a vague but possibly cool idea into something that is actually realized. Since there are no further details of this wonderful whatsit forthcoming, the question has now been answered as completely and fully as possible.

    OP is faced with the task of developing the idea into something that sensible questions can be asked about.

    Time to move on.
     
  20. Apr 28, 2014 #19
    I was once the best at this strategy game in my school. One day, one of my friends (who I was teaching about the game) asked me what would happen if I had made a specific move as my first move. As I researched his question, I found that if someone made that first move first, he would always win no matter what.

    I would probably have never thought about that move first (since I was perfecting my own strategy), but I further developed that idea where my friend would not have been able to do.

    Would i get half credit and my friend get half credit for this invention or should I get full credit? :O
     
  21. Apr 28, 2014 #20

    Simon Bridge

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    Depends on how close your implementation was to the original expression of the idea.

    You need to make a distinction between the idea itself and the result or expression of the idea.

    It would probably be polite to credit your friend as the source, but you may be using a derivation of the original expression so at best your friend "inspired" your strategy. If all he had was an idea though... with no reason to suspect that it may be a good one...

    It does kinda show what I was trying to say earlier - you could have insisted your friend tell you why you should even bother to look at the idea for a first move before considering it. OTOH: you were able to develop the idea, to know what to do to best examine the idea, because the details were not a secret from you.

    If your friend had just showed up and said "Ohh I know - I have an idea for a killer first move... but I don't know how the game is played..." you woud have treated him differently.
     
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