I recently discovered Google Patent Search. Essentially, if you have a stroke of genius and come up with a million-dollar idea, Google Patent Search lets you quickly and easily make sure someone else didn’t already patent it. However, you’ll more likely be using it to search for all the crazy, outside-the-box inventions people have dreamed up that haven’t yet been featured on Shark Tank. Finding wacky ideas on Patent Search is surprisingly quite easy. Chances are, if you can think of a bizarre invention, someone else has already thought of the same invention and patented it. Case in point: Remember that episode of The Office where Michael and Dwight compare their ideas for inventions to see whose are superior? The “toilet sponge,” which was claimed to be “more absorbent and softer than toilet paper,” was Michael’s very own idea—or so he thought! Actually, an almost identical invention had already been patented in 2004. The invention, simply referred to as a sponge device, is “usable as a moisturized sponge at home, to replace existing toilet paper…” Dwight had come up with the “horse boat,” a canoe that wraps around a horse so you can go directly from land to sea travel without changing means of transportation. Unfortunately, no invention like this is patented, although I found something possibly even stranger when I typed “horse boat” into the Google search bar; a man-powered boat in the shape of a horse that was patented in 1930.
The invention aims to provide a novel means whereby a person may propel a boat without resorting to complicated machinery…there is…a form of the invention wherein the possibilities of the structure, as an amusement device, are accentuated. The hull is shaped like the body of a horse, and is provided, fore and aft, with air-tight compartments, between which the cockpit is located.
Possibly my favorite invention I’ve found so far, for the sole reason that it’s so bad that it’s good, is the sound shoe studio. At first, I thought it would be a shoe that makes sound when it moves in certain ways. For example, stomping might create a loud cymbal crash, tapping your feet would produce a drum beat, etc. However, the actual invention is even worse. Various percussion instruments can be attached to the shoe and played through foot tapping. The shoe is “able to mix sound generated by the shoe with other musical sounds and record them at the same time. This shoe allows for adjusting, amplifying and controlling of the music and audio generated within the shoe.” It even performs “equalization, reverbation, and editing of the waveforms and MIDI sounds”! Whatever that means. Basically, this invention lets you play simple percussion instruments with your feet and record yourself doing it. After all, recording yourself on a computer while playing percussion instruments with your hands would be far too complicated. I suppose it could be used for extreme percussionists who already have their hands full with other instruments or bands that don’t have a percussionist so somebody decides to multitask, but that’s a ridiculously limited audience for such an intricate device that would likely be difficult to manufacture. The only somewhat cool feature of this complex shoe instrument is that it has a built-in radio, which could be used while running. Even so, playing music via shoe speakers is essentially just an obnoxious alternative to listening to music with headphones as you jog. I checked to see if the sound shoe studio, which was patented in 2012, was actually available to purchase. Not surprisingly, it isn’t.
Finally, although it may be shocking given the above examples, Google Patent Search is actually capable of helping you find some inventions people might actually want to use. Take the “method and apparatus for molded ice sculpture,” a creative invention with a less than creative name, for example. This “inexpensive and easily utilized apparatus” is filled with water and placed in a freezer, where it produces an ice sculpture, like the swan in the image on the side. You could make your very own flock of ice swans. You could even use Kool-Aid to make each swan a different color. This invention may be far from practical, but it sure is awesome.
So go ahead, do some of your own crazy-idea-searching on Google Patent Search. I’d love to know if you find something good!
Update: I’ve already found some more interesting inventions! Here are two different versions of a shoe with springs at the bottom to improve your jumping ability.