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Kauai couple invents minilight for TV remote

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A tiny new patent-pending device invented by a Kauai couple may resolve the frustration of pushing the wrong button on the remote for your TV-cable-TiVo-DVR-DVD-viewing.

Not much larger than a die (as in, one of a pair of dice), the Pop-up Microlite is made to illuminate the hard-to-differentiate buttons on today’s increasingly complex and multifunctional TV remote control devices.

Design engineer and multiple-microelectronic-patent-holder John Teel and his wife, Jessica, are the mothers of this invention. Jessica saw a need for a way to illuminate the buttons on the TV remote control, and over the course of three to four years, they brought her idea to fruition.

The Teels have learned along the way that some people keep flashlights or headlamps beside their TV-watching-perches just to see the buttons on their remotes.

"We’ve had a lot of interest from people around the world and I really feel like this has the potential to be a product that reaches a global market," he said.

You know how it is. You’re watching live television via your DVR so you can rewind live TV, as long as you don’t change the channel. Then, inexplicably, accidentally, you change the channel. Once you change back to what you were originally watching, you can no longer rewind to find out what you missed. Grr.

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The Pop-up Microlite could help in that regard, and did, during product testing in your columnist’s home.

The stick-on light fit neatly on the DVR remote, between the bottom-most buttons. Pressing down on the device’s top front edge makes the light pop up and ta-da, the buttons and text are visible, even in a dark room.

It is about the size of a pair of stacked dice when deployed, so "overhand" remote users may have to change their remote-using grip and technique.

Gamers and night owls can likewise use the light to navigate around shin-finding furniture corners in the living room on the way to the kitchen, once the parental units have retired for the night.

TV remotes with back-lit buttons exist, but make up only 10 percent to 15 percent of the market, and the lighting does not effectively illuminate each button’s text, John Teel said.

John Teel’s design expertise centers around microchips. He is a former engineer for Texas Instruments and still serves as a contractor with TI. So he’s accustomed to complicated, highly technical stuff.

Nevertheless, the process of inventing the Pop-up Microlite was no simple matter.

"It’s been a lot of work," he said. "You can’t imagine how difficult it is … to get all the manufacturing set up."

It is made in Asia, but "we’d like to keep all the other functions here in Hawaii," he said, though they do have family members on the mainland helping with distribution.

The couple settled in Kalaheo about a year ago. "We love it," he said. "We’re done bouncing around."

John and Jessica are doing their own sales, approaching retailers on Kauai.

They see it as "more of an impulse purchase," something that could be displayed near the cash register of, say, a hardware, general merchandise or grocery store; however, sales are also planned through The suggested retail price is $9.99.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Advertiser. Reach her by e-mail at


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