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Costly Gadgets on Display at Convention Center : I've Seen the Future, and It's Expensive

December 16, 1987|DOUG BROWN | Times Staff Writer

How would you like to have a clutch that never wore out, be able to turn on the faucet without using your hands, or have natural sunlight indoors? Well, the future is now.

At the National Engineering Show that began Tuesday at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, these gadgets, and hundreds more, are on display at 500 exhibition booths. They beckon you with the promise of a better, easier life.

Sure, the price tag on some of these new and improved products is 10 times what you're used to paying. But who wants the old stuff, with all their fuss and muss?

Automatic Faucet

Not you, say the folks at Sloan Valve Co. who point to the convenience of their electronically triggered faucet that automatically turns on and off. All you have to do is put your hands beneath the faucet and remove them when through. The faucet does the rest.

Find $300 too pricey? Well, you shouldn't, says Dave Benisek of Sloan Valve, although he readily acknowledges: "You could go down to Ole's and get one of those do-it-yourself faucets for $35."

The clientele for the "no hands" faucet, Benisek says, are "those people who want the ultimate house, and the ultimate gadgets to go in it.

"No longer will you have to fiddle around with the hot and cold water knobs to keep from scalding your hands," Benisek says. "With our faucet, the temperature is pre-set."

For those of us who've had clutches give out in the rain, then hiked a couple of miles on isolated stretches of road to get to a garage, only to find that it will cost $500 to get the car in driveable shape again, say goodby to those old-fashioned metal clutches.

Carbon Clutches

Now there are lightweight carbon clutches that don't wear out or fail. OK, they cost $5,000. But the folks at Tilton Engineering and HITCO Carbon, who've joined to manufacture these easy-to-shift carbon clutches, say the price is expected to come down enough so that one day they'll be standard in the family sedan. While most gadgets that make your life easier save you from working up a sweat, Dave Emmer's one-man rowing catamaran will bring a bit of perspiration to the brow.

"I got into rowing a couple of years ago," the San Jose engineer said, "but I had trouble getting a friend to come out with me. . . . You need somebody to help you get a a conventional rowing shell off your (car) roof and into the water because they weigh too much."

Emmer came up with a rowing catamaran that can be transported by just one person. It is made out of reinforced fiberglass and weighs just 28 pounds. This "revolution in rowing" costs $2,295.

"I think it is really catching on," Emmer said. "We showed it at the Cow Palace up in San Franciso, and we got a lot of inquiries."

But Emmer ackowledges: "We've only sold two dozen. . . . Marketing it has proven to be more of a challenge than we thought."

Studies show that things look better, and people feel better, in natural sunlight, says Kirby Hincey of Daytracking Systems Inc. which makes the "daytracker," a large mirror placed on a roof that reflects sunlight indoors, providing wholesome natural light for up to 12 hours.

"A couple of school systems use it," Hincey says, "and teachers say that it increases their student's attention span. . . . Or maybe, it's just that the sunlight keeps them awake."

The Engineering Show, which is open to engineers and industrial executives, is expected to attract 15,000 people before it closes Thursday.

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