CritBit wins top prize on Top Inventor reality show



SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A wearable device called the CritBit has earned Petaluma inventor Michael Shapiro $1 million on the Turner reality show “America’s Greatest Makers.”

The device, about the size of watch, can be worn on one’s wrist or belt. It contains language software programmed to recognize criticisms and emits a small beep when a critical comment is uttered. It has a vibration setting for the hearing impaired.

A prototype of the new CritBit. The device recognizes and tallies criticism uttered by its wearer.

A prototype of the new CritBit. The device recognizes and tallies criticism uttered by its wearer.

The CritBit tallies the number of criticisms uttered in a day, week, month or year.

“So many of us are critical to our friends, co-workers and especially our spouses, but we don’t always realize it,” said Shapiro, a resident of Petaluma, Calif. “The goal of the CritBit is simply to make us aware of when we’re being critical.”

“America’s Greatest Makers” was sponsored by Intel, and is being televised on Turner Broadcasting channels nationwide.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich will present the prize to Shapiro on the air in May. The show promoted Intel’s “Make it Wearable” challenge to showcase makers inventing wearables and smart connected consumer devices powered by Intel Curie technology.

Shapiro said he doesn’t have a technology background but worked with Dragon Speech Recognition engineers after coming up with his idea.

FitBit, which makes wearable devices that track the number of steps taken in a day, initially threated to sue Shapiro for copyright infringement but now is in talks to acquire the CritBit.

“I’m thrilled,” Shapiro said, “not just to win the $1 million prize but to get this idea out there so we can live in a less critical world. When I tried the prototype the first day I tallied 69 criticisms – I couldn’t believe it.”

Added his wife, who declined to give her name: “I could.”

Asked what he plans to do with the $1 million prize, Shapiro said, “I’m finally going to be able to buy that big house in Sonoma County. Or small house. Or make a down payment. I don’t know, maybe after taxes I’ll just pay off some debts and get one of those new $35,000 Teslas.”

Then he added: “Housing in this county is so damn expensive.”

His CritBit emitted a small beep.