1. The Caffeine Patch
Too busy to make a Starbucks run? Not to worry. A new product from London-based Anatomicals delivers caffeine through the skin a la the familiar nicotine patch. The big difference: These adhesive strips (below) are not meant to break any habit. A test at Inc.'s headquarters produced one really wired editor.
2. Virtual Haggling
Getting two sides in a lawsuit to settle is rarely easy. So can it be automated? A company called Cybersettle has created Web-based software that helps two parties bring their positions into sync. New York City recently signed a deal with the company to resolve lawsuits and claims using the software. Once the city's settlement proposal and a claimant's demand overlap, the system notifies them of the deal, which could be finalized within minutes. CEO Charles Brofman could branch beyond legal work eventually: "Any time a number settles an issue, this application works."
3. G'bye Sore Muscles
Ribose, a dietary ingredient used by heart patients, is increasingly popular among the makers of energy supplement drinks like SoBe Adrenaline Rush. A small Minnesota biotech called Bioenergy provides the sugar for drink products. By stimulating the production of the compound ATP, ribose gives muscle cells more energy. A study conducted at the University of Nebraska showed that bodybuilders who used it could perform more bench presses. SoBe parent PepsiCo has talked to Bioenergy about adding ribose to more of its drinks.
4. A Better Bag for Carting Your Clubs
The big hit at this year's PGA merchandise expo was a new golf bag called the "shling" from maker Ogio. Its molded plastic yoke, backed with thick foam padding, wraps around the shoulders and attaches to golf bags in one of two places. Distributing the weight evenly allows duffers to stand upright. The golf bag, which hits stores this month, costs $229. Nongolfers can also benefit from the patent-pending design: Ogio is producing a laptop case using the same shling technology. It retails for $149.
5. Taming Phone Rage
Tired of being left on hold? New software will gauge which callers are pissed off by listening to their mutterings and sighs. The system transfers the most pissed to an operator, by analyzing variables such as voice intonation and speech patterns. Its inventor, University of Southern California professor Shrikanth Narayanan, expects to bring it to market by 2006.