Imagine a box cutter with a blade that would automatically retract when it sensed skin. Great idea, but who wants to test it? Intrepid Texas inventor Neil MacAloney has managed to make a working prototype of a skin-sensing blade and keep all of his fingers intact.
MacAloney submitted his design to product-development site Quirky, which allows its members to weigh in on promising products. Those that make it through the Quirky process will then be able to bring their gadgets to market.
A battery supplies a weak electrical current that runs through the blade. When the blade comes in contact with skin, the body absorbs some of the current, which triggers a sensor and the blade quickly retracts before the skin is broken.
The knife is about halfway through the assessment process. More than 1,200 members answered questions about the device to determine demand. Most people agreed it was an original idea, would appeal to both men and women and that they would purchase it for a gift for a parent.
MacAloney had the opportunity to ask the community some questions of his own, such as whether people wore protective gloves when using a utility knife. He asked also about the community's tolerance for the knife’s possible shortcomings under a worst-case scenario. In other words, if the knife slightly broke the skin — as opposed to slicing a large gash — nearly 70 percent said they'd be happy with the skin-sensing knife, as long as they didn't need stitches. [See also: Self-Healing 'Skin' Has a Sense of Touch ]
However, user Aubrey Pitts suggested MacAloney "make it extra, extra sensitive to skin ," and another user, Roger Fortner, said he wanted a child-proof feature.
Just nine days remain for the community to submit its ideas to make the skin-sensing knife even better. Then, the Quirky team will decide whether MacAloney's knife will make it into production and then eventually be sold on the Quirky website.