Smothered invention?

24th February 2006 at 00:00
Dog-washing doormats, contact lens videophones and floating drinks trays, all imagined by schoolchildren for a technology competition, suggest the inventive spirit of Wallace and Gromit is alive, if not entirely well.

A past generation, asked to create everyday objects for a 2020 home, would have dreamed up whizzy personal jetpacks, chore-busting gadgets and entertainment systems. Maybe it's just that they've all got electric toothbrushes and PlayStations. Maybe it's the dead hand of a rigid curriculum and technology lessons where you plan pizza rather than cooking it... but where have the wilder shores of invention gone?

It seems behind every creative kid is a yelling adult ("Get that muddy dog out of here!"). What would parents invent? The doormat which scrubs kids'

feet before they walk dog poo into the house? Or the PlayStation which refuses to co-operate until homework is complete?

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