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Inventor Finds Opportunity in Latest Technology, Turns Pursuit of High Score into a Lesson on the Evolution of an Idea. Frankfort inventor, and digital artist, and iPad game enthusiast John Picha has a plan to turn vinyl into gold, and has a message for anyone with an idea: "It's just a matter of connecting the dots to make the thing you want to see. Most of the pieces are out there, but it takes a little imagination.". While playing games on the iPad, Mr. Picha became frustrated experiencing "thumb drift", losing orientation of the control panel on the smooth iPad surface while concentrating on the game. Recognizing a problem, he immediately sought to find a solution. The result of his search for a better way to play computer games produced "Thumbtraps", and also a tutorial in the entrepreneurial process in the age of the internet.

The answer to how to prevent "thumb drift" seemed obvious; place a raised template over the touch screen controls that players could feel without having to look away from the action. The real problem was finding a material that would adhere to the smooth iPad screen, not leave any residue when removed, and was reusable. His search first led him to Menards, where he discovered a window cling advertisement display. While Menards didn't sell the material, they let him have the sample, which was cut in to the first prototype. This initial effort proved unsatisfactory, as the material was too thin to adequately feel, leading Mr. Picha to a local sign shop, where he again encountered problems when trying to explain his vision. "It seemed like the people I talked to couldn't see past the sample I brought them. They didn't recognize the potential applications of the material. They wanted to help, but it was difficult to get information beyond how the material was currently used."

Not finding anything suitable in retail stores, Mr. Picha continued his search online for specialty industrial supply firms, and found a vinyl manufacturer in nearby Wheeling, IL, Verilon Vinyl. "I asked them if I could talk to someone about identifying the material of my sample, and to find out if they had anything similar, but thicker. I don't know what they thought when I showed up with my little scrap, but I was able to get an impromptu meeting with Glen Jeris. He seemed intrigued by my idea and offered some of their product samples." After testing each sample under real-world gaming conditions, one particular sample performed perfectly. It was the Eureka! moment for Thumbtraps.

With the material question answered, the next step was to test design. Playing hours and hours of games of all types, Mr. Picha experimented with many different types of shapes and sizes of control pad covers. With so many different types of games available, with so many different control configurations, it was a process of trial and error to find the best shapes to fit the most games. "It was a classic example of mixing business with pleasure. It's awesome to sit down for an afternoon of gaming and be able to tell your wife you were working." Ultimately, six different shapes were decided on for production. A patent application was filed online, the designs copyrighted, retail relationships with E-bay and Amazon were established, a domain name was registered and a website built, a marketing presence was uploaded to YouTube, and Thumbtraps were born, available world-wide from a basement in Frankfort, IL.

In addition to being the inventor, manufacturer, marketer, web-designer, and retailer for Thumbtraps, Mr. Picha is an advocate for boot-strap entrepreneurism. What he hopes to provide with Thumbtraps is not just higher scores for computer game enthusiasts, but an example of how anyone with an idea and some hard work can be their own Thomas Edison. Mr. Picha wants to re-invigorate the entrepreneurial spirit in the everyday American, and sees virtually unlimited opportunity for creativity in consumer culture. "I've always enjoyed solving problems, whether it's figuring out HTML code, playing games, or bringing a product to market. I start off asking myself "How hard could it be?", then I work the process to see how close I can get, all the while anticipating pitfalls, just like in computer games. It's just a matter of connecting the dots from your idea to the global marketplace. The internet can put everyone on an equal playing field. I don't know if Thumbtraps will make a million dollars or not, but I'm curious to see what happens." Thumbtraps are available for purchase at: www.thumbtraps.com.