Image: Inventions
At the top of the "daily frustrations" wish list was a mobile phone that works everywhere — from mountaintops to subways, from California to the Kalahari. Call it the MagicFone.
updated 6/7/2007 12:38:51 PM ET 2007-06-07T16:38:51

Technology proceeds at such a breakneck pace that sometimes it feels like we're rocketing into science fiction territory: Animal cloning, unmanned aircraft and space tourism are all recent realities.

For some, though, invention isn't moving fast enough.

Take the 95 CEOs and other executives we interviewed over the past two years as part of our Executive Toy Box series. We asked each person to name the one device they wish somebody would invent. The results range from the highly imaginative to the mundanely useful. One executive wished for a "fountain of youth" pill, while another wished for a simple, cheap means of water desalination, a technology that could transform the lives of millions of the world's poor.

The devices that came up again and again, though, spoke directly to everyday white-collar frustrations. Attention inventors: There's a well-heeled market out there salivating for some of these gadgets to hit the shelves.

At the top of the "daily frustrations" wish list was a mobile phone that works everywhere — from mountaintops to subways, from California to the Kalahari. And it should function without the user having to switch SIM cards, pay outrageous roaming fees or deal with dropped calls. Call it the MagicFone.

Many executives also wished for a do-it-all device that would reduce gadget overload. Each wanted a slightly different combo — say, a telephone/music player/electronic wallet or, more imaginatively, a telephone/music player/GPS/speedometer — but you get the idea: Everyone wants an electronic Swiss Army knife. Gadget fatigue popped up in other ways too: Some execs wanted a single remote for all of their home entertainment devices, while others wanted a power source that would work with all of their portable electronics. If we must lug our mobile phones, computers, BlackBerrys and iPods around the world, then please, could someone find a way to cut back on the number of chargers we need?

On the home front, a house-cleaning robot is much desired, as is a searching contraption that would find lost keys and books — sort of like Google, but for the physical world.

Our favorite wished-for items, though, were those that were imaginative, useful and a good distance beyond the state of current technology — but with that ring of plausibility that characterizes the best science fiction. Among these, we include the "bubble," a clear spherical shield that travels with you, blocking out unwanted dirt and noise. Another favorite: computer chips that plug directly into your brain.

It was also interesting to see what no one wished for: Neither better hand-held Web browsing nor more efficient cars came up. And despite all the hype around space tourism these days, no one wanted a rocket ship. Of course, that could change when there's actually somewhere to go up there. But given all the wishes we heard for faster travel, from "effective baggage handling" to "travel at supersonic speeds," once we have somewhere to visit in outer space, we think travelers would rather just use their teleportation machines.

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