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Fidget spinners are here but no need to worry

Fidget Spinners have hit India -- and kids are buying them in lakhs.  But is this  anything more than a passing  dumb trend?
Bangalore, July 31 2017: Parents in India are waking up  to ask:  Fidget what?  Their kids didn't need to be told. For some weeks now, Fidget spinners have been top toys on sale at Amazon and other Indian online sites.  They are now available for sale on the roadside  and are being hawked at traffic signals in all the metros.
What is a fidget spinner?  It is a  palm-sized toy  with  typically,  three  vanes like the blades of a ceiling fan in miniature.  The tips are weighted and there is a ball bearing in the centre so that the user can spin it between his  or her fingers.  The whole thing is made of plastic  and metal  and there are multiple ways to spin it: between thumb and finger,   balanced on one finger......
 If the ball bearing is  of good quality,  probably made of ceramic and the tips are nicely weighted,  a sharp twist will keep it spinning for a minute or more, because of the low friction.  The principle is akin to that of the flywheel we study in school.     It helps if the  disks in the tips  are also free to rotate. It adds  extra torsion. This may cost a few rupees more.
You may well ask: What's the big deal?   For people especially kids who feel fidgety, it is a way of keeping their fingers occupied.  Elders and parents should ask themselves: didn't you, in your day,  pay with a Yo-Yo  or spin a top with  a piece of string?  Today's kids   are too lazy to go outdoors so they   keep clicking their ball point pens or squeezing one of those yellow sponge balls -- and now they play with a Fidget Spinner.  So far  nothing remarkable  -- except their distractions seem to become costlier with every classroom fad.  The Fidget Spinner costs around Rs 70  from roadside hawkers and Rs 130 - Rs 250  online, depending on the frills:  the pricier ones come with dancing LED lights.  Even this is nothing.  Jumping on the craze, some  toy makers  sell models costing  $ 500 or more in the US.  To justify such  extortionate prices, they have let loose a social media campaign that suggests that Fidget Spinners  are some form of  anxiety or stress reliever and may be beneficial for children  suffering  from Autism or what is known as  ADHD --  Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  As of now there have been no trials or systemic studies which support any such claim. 
Like all such trends fueled by social media, Fidget Spinners  have become a must have gizmo for millions of young people.  The only people  raking in the moolah are the manufacturers  who churn these things out and sell them  for  50-100 times  what it cost them.  
They are able to do it, because the person who  is credited with inventing something similar to the Fidget Spinner as we see it today was  an American engineer -- Catherine Hettinger -- who applied for a patent in 1993 and won it in 1997. But no toy maker, including  market leader, Hasbro  saw any potential in it. So she let her patent rights lapse in 2005... and now ironically someone worked on her design to make the current product, though she gets no royalties. And Hasbro which turned her down  then, is also minting money now. Ms Hettinger has come up with an improved design that she calls the Classic Fidget Spinner and is trying to crowd-source funding at Kickstarter to manufacture it -- hopefully in a few weeks.




    


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