Zubbles

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Soap bubbles are fun. If you have ever watched a baby play with blown bubbles for the first time, or seen a dog snap at them, or given a child a bubble bath, then you know how magical they can be. How could you possibly improve on such a simple yet fascinating amusement? Tim Kehoe though it would be nice if they were colored. Kehoe is a toy inventor, and colored bubbles became his life's work. Going into the project, he didn't know it would take 15 years and $3 million to complete. You'd think it would be a simple matter of adding dye to the soap mixture, but there were problems.

Standard food coloring or dyes have no effect; they simply run down the sides of the bubble, creating a drop of color on the bottom. Other dyes can stain bubbles, but when they pop they also stain clothes, dogs and eyes, as Kehoe discovered during one accident. Other tests, including one for a bubble dye that washed out, didn't fare much better.

"I thought a washable bubble was a great idea," said Kehoe. "But the kids (of a large focus group) were covered head to toe in red dye. It looked like a scene from Braveheart."

In 2005, the Kehoe won the Grand Prize for Innovation from Popular Science for his Zubbles. At the time, we thought we'd be able to get our own Zubbles soon. Two years ago, we expected to see this product on the market any day. 250_zubblesThat was an optimistic promise.  But he persevered, and now the product he calls Zubbles is available to the public. So far, the bubbles only come in pinks and blue, sold separately for $14.95. That's for a mere four ounce bottle. The latest dye technique makes your clothing pink (or blue) but is supposed to disappear in about 15 minutes. A commenter elsewhere provided the first customer review I'd seen, and said the bubbles are less than impressive; that the dye pools at the bottom of the bubbles as in earlier prototypes, and that the dye hadn't disappeared from her clothing, but it washed off her skin easily. You can see a video made by another customer here. Maybe for this one, I'll wait until they get the bugs worked out before I place my order.

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July 13, 2009 - 4:14am
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