Ron Popeil's Subliminal Messaging Machines

YouTube
YouTube

While perusing Ron Popeil's history on Google's patent library—it's fun, you should try it—I stumbled upon what I like to interpret as a brief obsession for America's favorite inventor and infomercial host. In the late '80s and early '90s, Popeil Industries filed a number of patent requests for subliminal messaging technology and the machinery to implement it.

US 5017143 A, a patent filed in 1989 by Popeil Industries that lists Ron Popeil as an inventor (along with longtime collaborator Alan Backus) doesn't mince words:

The field of this invention is the production and generation of visual subliminal images, and in particular, video subliminal images intended to alter behavior, attitudes, moods and/or performance.

Another Popeil patent, this one simply titled, "SUBLIMINAL DEVICE," is even a little blasé about light mind control:

Theories behind changing behavior through subliminal communications, as well as systems of message thought to be effective in subliminally changing behavior, are well known to those knowledgeable in the art and thus are not discussed here.

Reading that makes Popeil sound like a subliminal messaging snob—First of all, it's an art.


US 5221962 A

Popeil's patents point to a subliminal messaging device made for home use. This invention is adjustable and allows the user to determine how subliminal they want their messages, which is hilarious because, well, then they're not subliminal.

From WO 1992003888 A1:

Many problems are presented by these subliminal devices. First, there is no way an individual may verify if any subliminal messages are being presented by such devices. By definition, the messages presented are at levels which are not readily detectable.

Continuing, there is no way an individual may positively verify what subliminal messages he or she is receiving. This is a major drawback because an individual must trust the manufacturer to place correct and positive subliminal messages on the tape. Some of these devices supply scripts and/or recordings of what they claim has been subliminally recorded. But there is no proof that these are accurate.

...

The preset invention provides means for an individual to manually adjust, from supraliminal to subliminal levels, the level of obviousness of subliminal signals he or she is receiving.

This is a very interesting demographic he's going after here: Consumers who want the benefits of subliminal persuasion but are worried they're not getting all the messaging they paid for.

The actual technology is somewhat complicated, so I reached out to both Ron Popeil himself and the man who served as his patent lawyer. Popeil never got back to me, and his lawyer said he did not advise him on the subliminal messaging devices and could be of no assistance.

What I gather about the nuts and bolts of this invention (which, to my knowledge, never got past the patent stage) is that it dealt with rasterline frames and superimposed images while automatically adjusting them for contrast so they could fade into the screen. There's pretty advanced stuff going into this machine, even if all it did was let a compulsive eater adjust how sharply the text "EAT LESS" appeared on their TV.

While this is remarkably silly, we shouldn't forget that, in the 1980s, subliminal messaging was frequently marketed as a popular self-help gimmick. A 1988 New York Times business section article reported on these high-selling audio tapes and alluded to a "cultural phenomenon." (They also uncovered the script to one of these tapes' subliminal messages: "It's O.K. to do better than Dad. I do better than Daddy. I deserve to do better than Dad. I deserve to succeed. I deserve to reach my goals. I deserve to be rich." God, the '80s were awful.)

Still, Popeil clearly had interest in subliminal messaging, and I couldn't help but wonder whether or not these patents were part of a sinister plan to brainwash Americans into buying Pocket Fishermen and electric pasta makers. Why wouldn't he try using this technology in some of his infomercials and ads? Like many paranoid obsessives before me, I went to the tape to find out.

After closely watching Ron Popeil ads for the better part of an afternoon, I could only find two instances where it looked as if subliminal messaging was used, and both occurred during a commercial for The Buttoneer (a plastic pincer-like device that secures buttons onto fabric with an obtrusive little nub). First, there was the presence of a stray exclamation point for one frame, and it appeared in the middle of the product itself:

YouTube

Even more scandalously, I thought I stumbled upon a brief pornographic clip later in the same commercial. I thought I had tumbled down the rabbit hole and uncovered the Queen of Diamonds of this infomercial Manchurian Candidate. That was until, after stopping and pausing the clip for over an hour straight, I realized what had really happened: I had gone slightly off my rocker. This ad for The Buttoneer was produced in 1973. All the stray text and blurry cuts had to be attributed to the low production value.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have been stricken with an insatiable desire to re-button all my dress shirts.

Patents:
-US 5017143 A: "Method and apparatus for producing subliminal images"
-US 5221962 A: "Subliminal device having manual adjustment of perception level of subliminal messages"
-WO 1992003888 A1: "Subliminal device"
-CA 2002933 A1: "Apparatus for generating superimposed television images"

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YouTube's Most Successful Content Producer Earned More Than $22 Million in 2018—and Is 7 Years Old

iStock.com/PixHouse
iStock.com/PixHouse

For some YouTube stars, playing with toys is a full-time job. "Unboxing" shows make up some of the most popular channels on the site, and they rake in big bucks. In fact, YouTube's highest-paid star in 2018 runs a toy channel. Oh, and he's 7.

As CNBC reports, the eponymous youngster behind the insanely popular channel Ryan ToysReview, was just named the No. 1 earner on the annual Forbes Highest-Paid YouTube Stars ranking. The 7-year-old rakes in $22 million a year through ad revenue and partnerships, including his new line of toys and shirts, Ryan's World, which launched at Walmart and Target in 2018. The latter is probably what catapulted him from No. 8 on Forbes's 2017 list (making $11 million that year) to No. 1 in 2018.

Ryan ToysReview launched on YouTube in March 2015, and within months, millions of followers were tuning in to watch him discover and play with new toys. He's remained at the top of the most-viewed channels rankings ever since, and his reviews are influential enough that just being featured in a video often results in a spike in sales for specific toys. The channel currently has more than 17.3 million subscribers and 26 billion total views. His most popular video, which you can watch below, has more than 1.65 billion views and counting.

His family has since also branched out into other channels, including another vlog channel featuring Ryan and his younger sisters, a behind-the-scenes channel, and more. As public as his life is, though, to give the young millionaire a modicum of privacy, his parents keep his full name and location a secret.

To read more about the booming business of unboxing channels, check out our deep-dive here.

[h/t CNBC]

20 Successful Kickstarter Products You Can Buy on Amazon

Two purple PyroPet candles, one in the process of burning down
Two purple PyroPet candles, one in the process of burning down

Kickstarter is a great tool to help new businesses get their products developed. Thanks to the magic of crowdsourcing, the demand is available before there is even a supply. In case you missed the campaigns, here are some successful Kickstarter products you can buy on Amazon. You can find even more on Amazon Launchpad Kickstarter.

1. Cat Pyropet; $34

Carved candles are nice to look at it, but once you use it for its actual purpose—burning—the candle tends to lose its fun shape. Often people will put off burning a candle altogether for fear of being left with a melted lump where a cat- or tree-shaped candle once stood. PyroPet encourages people to actually use their candles because once the candle melts down, a creepy (but cool) metal skeleton is revealed. PyroPet now sells lots of different animals, but the project all started with a cat candle called Kisa. The campaign more than doubled its $40,000 goal in 2013.

2. Illumibowl Toilet Night Light; $11

When getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, some people are hesitant to turn on the lights. The IllumiBowl Toilet Night Light eliminates the need to hit the light switch by illuminating the toilet itself. The clip-on light makes the toilet bowl glow one of eight colors (or rotates through all of them). It's motion-sensored, so it only flips on when a sleepy visitor comes to use the toilet. The product met its Kickstarter goal in 2014 and also made an appearance on Shark Tank, where software tycoon Kevin O’Leary offered up a whopping $100,000 for 25 percent of the business.

3. Qwerkywriter S Typewriter; $260

Qwerkywriter S Typewriter

This item has the look, feel, and satisfaction of an original typewriter but with the accessibility and ease of your tablet. The Qwerkywriter Typewriter can connect to your computer with or without wires and provides one of the most delightful typing experiences you could imagine. Qwerkywriter raised nearly $130,000 on Kickstarter in 2014.

4. Exploding Kittens; $20

Fans of the popular web comic The Oatmeal are probably familiar with this card game. The party game is good for two to five players and comes with 56 cards, all illustrated by The Oatmeal's Matthew Inman. The game boasts two Kickstarter records, as both the most-backed Kickstarter project ever and the most-funded game in Kickstarter history. Impressively, it raised over $8 million during the course of its campaign. According to CNN, the game is a lot like UNO, but with more deadly kittens.

5. Back To Roots Water Garden; $97

Everyone loves a good self-sustaining ecosystem. The Back to Roots Water Garden is the perfect aquarium for hungry pet owners who hate to clean. The bottom of this fishbowl holds the betta fish, while the top holds a variety of edible plants. The plants clean the fish bowl and the fish's waste is eaten by the plants. All the owner has to do is feed the fish and they're rewarded with flourishing edible plants to enjoy. The project raised over $200,000 in 2012, back when it was called the Home Aquaponics Kit.

6. Collar Perfect Travel Iron; $35

When running to a business meeting or an important interview, a crisp collar is key. Never settle for out-of-shape lapels again with this portable iron that slides onto collars for on-the-go perfection. Best of all, it transforms into a normal iron for when you have other wrinkles to work out. The innovative gadget met its Kickstarter goal in 2014 and has been helping out wrinkled shirts ever since.

7. Good And Cheap Cookbook; $10

Let's be real: When it comes to mealtime, you usually have to decide between eating healthy or eating cheaply. But it's possible to have your avocado toast and eat it, too: Leanne Brown created a recipe book to teach new cooks how to make the most out of their grocery trips. The helpful book includes meals that only cost about $4 to make. You'll never have to settle for McDonald's again! The Good and Cheap book is Kickstarter's most successful cookbook. The PDF is free, but for every hard copy sold, the company donates to someone in need.

8. Sprout Pencils; $19

These helpful pencils have two functions. Besides the obvious role of writing, the pencils can also help you plant a garden. Each writing utensil comes with a little pod on the end filled with seeds. When you're done with the pencil, you can place it into a pot of soil to begin the growing process. The unique pencils got their start after a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012. The company now makes pencils with a variety of different plants, including sage, sunflower, basil, thyme, and more. You can get either regular number two pencils or colored pencils.

9. ZOMBICIDE: BLACK PLAGUE BOARD GAME; $62

Zombicide: Black Plague is a lot like the original Zombicide board game, but set in medieval times. Both games are cooperative board games with customizable characters and game pieces. Players take on the roles of survivors in a zombie apocalypse as they fight their way through hordes of zombies, collecting weapons, learning spells, and gaining experience along the way. The successful Kickstarter campaign raised more than $4 million.

10. Jamstik Smart Guitar; $200

A young man playing the Jamstik 7 Smart Guitar

JamStik is a great way to learn guitar, thanks to its lack of necessary tuning—not to mention its portability and the accompanying learning app. Simply connect the product to your iPad, iPhone, or laptop via Bluetooth or USB to get started. The product has real strings that make noise through the connected device. It's just 18 inches long, so you can throw it in a backpack for on-the-go learning. An earlier version of the JamStik met its Kickstarter goal in May 2015.

11. Prime Climb Board Game; $28

This colorful board game is perfect for two to four math-loving players. Players must roll the dice, do some quick calculations, and make their way to the center of the board (bumping off opponents as they go). It's fun for people of all math levels, and helps children just learning multiplication and division get a better grasp of the concept. Math lovers supported this project on Kickstarter in 2014.

12. Ilumi Led Smart Bulb; $50

After getting comfortable on the couch or in bed, the last thing you want to do is get up and turn off the light. Ilumi is the perfect solution to these lazy problems: The smart light bulb can be turned on and off or dimmed right from a smartphone or tablet. Simply screw in the device like any other light bulb and then you can change the dimness or color. The LED light is amazingly efficient and can last up to 20 years. The bulb met its goal in 2015.

13. Soviet Bus Stops Book; $16

This quirky coffee table book is filled with the charming, forgotten bus stops in former soviet countries. Author Christopher Herwig spent 12 years traveling through 13 different countries documenting the weird art of bus stops. From interesting fresco paintings, to lopsided statues, these structures are a lot more unique than what you might find in the United States.

14. Chain Mail Bikini: The Anthology Of Women Gamers; $13

It has always been a bit puzzling to see the strange outfits that some female video game characters wear. From boob-shaped armor to chain mail bikinis, these outfits are just plain dangerous. Hazel Newlevant used this oddity as the title for this special anthology. The book contains comics from more than 40 artists about what it's like to be a female gamer or game character, with over 200 pages that explore all types of games from video games to card games. In 2015, the Kickstarter campaign far exceeded its $13,000 goal, earning nearly $70,000.

15. Mudwatt; $29

This living battery is fueled by bacteria. The educational project is perfect for kids who are just getting into science. Simply fill the MudWatt with dirt to get started. The micoorganisms in mud release electrons as they consume and break down sugars; these electrons are then harnessed by the MudWatt battery. Different bacteria produce more power than others, so children can experiment with different kinds of dirt and by adding different ingredients from around the house. Parents looking for fun and easy STEM projects loved this idea and the project was backed in 2015.

16. Wuju Hot Sauce; $9

WUJU is a special hot sauce created by Lawrence Wu. The Drexel-educated foodie has a real passion for hot sauces and worked tirelessly to create a special sauce made with habanero peppers, mango, agave nectar, and an array of spices. Heat-seeking gastronomes who backed this Kickstarter in 2015 were thrilled to have a unique hot sauce that tastes great with almost anything.

17. Eyepatch iPhone Case; $25

If you're worried about people potentially hacking into your phone's camera, a piece of tape over the lens might do the trick. For a more permanent solution, try this special phone case with a slider that covers the lens when you're not using it.

18. Rocketbook Everlast Reusable Smart Notebook; $32

Rocketbook Everlast Reusable Smart Notebook

Everlast promises “a classic pen and paper experience that’s built for the digital age.” This notebook offers 36 reusable pages that transfer what you write by hand to your computer over Google Drive, Dropbox, and more. All it takes to erase a page for another use is a drop of water. With over 28,000 backers, Everlast raised around $1.8 million for their incredible notebooks in 2017.

19. LIFX Smart LED Lightbulb; $40

LIFX Smart LED Light Bulb

Not only does the LIFX LED Lightbulb come with tons of color options, it also can connect to your Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple Home Kit with ease. With simple setup and easier control from your phone, the LIFX Lightbulb is as intuitive as it is useful. LIFX also joined the 1M+ club on Kickstarter back in 2013, making around $1.3 million dollars.

20. Espro Travel Coffee Press; $32

Espro Travel Coffee Press

For those who are on the go and need a little kick, the Espro Travel Coffee Press presents a stylish, affordable answer to your needs. Perfect for camping or commuting, Espro’s new spin on the thermos quickly surpassed their goal, raising almost $60,000 earlier in 2018.

All photos via Amazon.

A version of this story originally ran in 2016.

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