Local inventor seeks help creating tot-proof remote control gadget
By Polly Keary
You are watching the last episode of American Idol, and the two final contestants are standing side-by-side. The host draws breath to announce the winner…and the screen goes black. In frantic despair, you look around to see what happened, and there is your toddler, hands gleefully wrapped around the remote, pressing buttons.
If that has happened to you, or you have a friend who is a sports fan and has a child on the way and you would like to help maintain peace in that home, a Monroe native might have the solution for you…but only if he can come up with the money to get his new invention into production.
Kyle Myers, 1993 graduate of Monroe High School, has invented a device he calls the Tot Switch, and it slips into the battery case of the most popular remote controls, allowing parents to disable the remote once a show has been selected. And now he is running a fundraising campaign on the website Kickstarter, in hopes of raising enough capital to begin manufacturing and selling the item.
Myers describes himself as a lifelong inventor.
So when his first child started learning that toys with buttons are fun, and then began viewing a remote control as another toy with buttons, Myers found another household problem to solve, especially when he learned other parents had the same issue.
“I have friends who have kids the same age, and they say they will be watching the Super Bowl and the kid would come in and change the channel,” he said.
His own child adored toys with buttons, and was relentless in his pursuit of the remote control.
‘”It was right after he started crawling, when he could pull himself up on his knees; if your remote was next to you, he could reach it,” said Myers. “He has toys with buttons, and he loves them, so he’d always grab the remote. And I’d try to take it back, and he’d start to cry. And he’d grab the remote many times a day.”
Myers’ first impulse was to search online for a product that would solve the problem. He searched “childproof remote” and other similar things, and came up empty. So he thought he’d take a crack at creating one.
At first, the thought of making a childproof universal remote. But universal remotes are quite expensive.
“So I thought, why not create a real simple thing every remote could use?” he said.
He reasoned that the problem with remote controls is that they don’t have on/off switches; they are always on. So Myers decided to try to find a way to disable a remote once a channel was selected. He struck on a simple solution.
“Most remotes have AA batteries,” he said. “I’ve downsized one of the batteries from AA to AAA, and built a housing around it, so it’s the same size. Then there’s a side-switch that disrupts the current from that one battery.”
Over the battery casing, a battery cover replaces the one that came with the remote, but this one has a little switch on it that interrupts the battery connection, hence the name of the invention; Tot Switch.
Then, just to make sure it’s impervious to the most determined toddler, Myers has added a small screw that holds the cover in place, lest the child pry the cover off and pull out the batteries.
Having two sizes of battery in the same remote doesn’t do any harm, Myers said. Both batteries produce the same number of volts; it’s just that AAAs don’t last quite as long. But the difference in the life of the battery in the remote is negligible, said Myers.
“It will change the life of the battery, but instead of changing the batteries every year and a half, it might shorten it a month and half, so no one will ever notice it’s shortening the life of the battery,” he said.
He experimented to see if disconnecting the battery would reset all the pre-programming in remote controls, but he found it did not; when powered back on, the remotes still retained all the preset channel settings.
Myers worked with CAD designers to create the prototype, starting out creating the Tot Switch for DirecTV and Comcast remotes. The kit includes a battery housing, a battery cover, and a screw to hold it in place.
For parents who worry that their clever child might figure out how to flip the switch on the battery cover, he’s making a second prototype with a spring-loaded switch that must be held in place to power on the remote.
There are about 50 million people worldwide who use just those two remote controls, Myers noted. But he hopes to eventually create them for other popular remotes, such as Dish Network.
But before he can do any of that, he has to get the product to market. And to do that, he’s going to have to amass some investment capital.
So he went to the popular fundraising website Kickstarter, which connects people with great ideas to potential donors. The way Kickstarter works, a person with a proposal makes a short video and presentation page about it. Then the creator sets a deadline of up to 90 days to meet the fundraising goal. People who support the project make pledges. If at the end of the fundraising period the inventor has met the goal, everyone’s credit cards are charged in the amount of their pledges. If not, no one pays anything and the creator is out of luck.
Sometimes complete strangers run across the proposal online and invest, but mostly they are people who learn of the project through friends, social media or other media who invest the lion’s share of the money.
Myers is trying to raise $30,000 by Thursday, April 4. So far 40 people have pledged a total of $706, leaving him a long way to go. But Kickstarter projects succeed nearly half the time, and often for sums greater than that, so Myers has reason to hope he’ll get his investment money.
People who donate $15 will get their choice of Tot Switch when they are complete, a $25 value. People pledging $25 or more will get a package of three Tot Switches, a $53 value.
The money will pay for the tooling and injection molding of the plastic parts, metal stamping and the first production run.
If Myers succeeds, he thinks he could have the device in production by June. He envisions selling the product online, and perhaps through such stores as Buy.com and the tech company Brookstone.
To learn more about Myer’s product and to see his Kickstarter page, visit: