Haven't you ever wished somebody would invent a doohickey that fastens on the bathtub and holds your book while you wash?
How about a gadget that opens and closes toilet lids, no hands?Or a box that creates your own subliminal advertising - injecting microsecond-long messages into your TV, which could help you kick a cigarette or other drug habit.
Well, they exist, on display at Toronto's New Product Store - a home for the mad scientist and crazy inventor.
The business was founded a year ago by Brian Gray, his brother, Joseph, and Ed Zwolinski.
"Brian Gray was a frustrated inventor," says Zwolinski, who manages the place. "He had a line of hardware products - a radon gas detector, a disco music light box, custom construction hard hats - and was frustrated by all the doors closed to him, being told to buzz off."
He says the biggest problem for inventors is skepticism.
"It's so hard to get attention. You really have to have a lot of clout behind you. One person alone doesn't have that."
The New Products Store can't offer much in the way of clout. But it can offer exposure, both in shelf space in the store and via the publicity it has generated.
It also offers professional evaluation from its board of engineers and lawyers, distribution leads, contacts with retailers and a sympathetic ear.
The typical inventor usually follows a path like this: He gets an idea, becomes obsessed with it, creates a product and produces it. At that point, the honeymoon is over because he then has to sell it.
"That's where we come in," says Zwolinski. "We offer them a start in the market. There is no way an inventor can know how good his product is without public exposure."
The store is not very large, but it is located in one of Toronto's most fashionable shopping districts. The store manager can judge customer response to products, even browser response.
Robert Dubeck invented the device for reader-bathers, an obsession that has consumed nine years of his life.
"No one thought this was going to go," says Dubeck. "Everyone wanted me to give up the dream, just keep working. I was put down by friends and family. They basically said work for a living, don't come up with a dream to better yourself."
The secret is getting the big stores and chains to buy and stock the item. And, according to Dubeck, buyers in these recessionary times are not given to speculating on unproven products.
"Our main concern is marketing, publicity and distribution," says Zwolinski. "We're publishing a distribution catalog in December, sending it to 10,000 distributors in Canada and the United States.
In it, potential customers will find such items as the Leisure Reader for the bathtub; a lapel or blouse pin for holding eyeglasses; the Bathroom Butler that opens and closes toilet lids; erase protection tabs for computer disks; or the box that creates those microsecond positive affirmation messages for your TV as a means of changing behavior.