Clean your house with the power of augmented reality! Unbelievers cruelly mocked the “metaverse,” but now its true “killer app” has been revealed!

Background:

One of the various promises of “augmented reality” (or “AR”) is the ability for a user to wear a virtual reality headset that edits reality in some vaguely useful fashion.

For example, a maintenance worker might be able to overlay a diagram of the wiring inside walls, giving them a sort of “x-ray vision.”

The Issue:

So far, there have been few appealing consumer applications of “augmented reality.” But that is about to change!

Imagine the following situation: a person lives in a completely messy room (Figure 1), with junk piled up everywhere, spilled drinks, dirty laundry, etc.

Fig. 1: This desk area is a mess! We could clean it—but maybe there’s a better way.

Currently, the only recourse this mess-owning individual has is to laboriously clean their room. But technology may offer an alternative.

Proposal:

Thanks to augmented reality, the user can just put on a headset and (after a brief training period, where the user must indicate which items are “messes” that should be deleted), their room will be presented in a completely clean form—no more stress!

Fig. 2: Thanks to the power of augmented reality, the desk has been cleaned to its “reference, clean” state.

If the user is willing to clean the room at least one single time, it would be possible for the VR headset to save a 3D “snapshot” of the clean room, which would then be displayed no matter how disgusting the room got. 

This would save the user from having to manually designate each item as “mess” or “clean,” but would require that the user clean their room at least one time.

Conclusion:

Even people who keep a relatively orderly home could benefit from this technology, as it would redue the need for vacuuming, dusting, repainting, etc. A room could be caked in dust, with a cat-hair-infused rug and peeling paint, but thanks to augmented reality, this could all be safely ignored. (And there would be no tripping hazards in this scenario.)

PROS: Should save countless hours of recurring cleaning.

CONS: Since the “mess” items still physically exist, some hazards might be erroneously hidden: for example, imagine the calamity that could befall a user who hides their “pile of broken glass and hypodermic needles in the middle of the room” mess.

Increase your literary appreciation with this new web site idea (a replacement to the short-messaging service “Twitter”) that encourages—no, REQUIRES—long messages instead!

Background:

In the mid-2010s and 2020s, the service “Twitter” was a popular method for celebrities to share short messages with their followers. It had the unusual property of requiring short posts (originally only 140 characters). This was originally due to ancient historical limitations on sending messages (called “SMS”es) over phones, but a slightly-increased limit was preserved for nostalgic reasons.

The Issue:

Unfortunately, it turned out that encouraging people to winnow down their messages to the shortest and most inflammatory snippets was not necessarily a great way to encourage quality discussion.

Proposal:

A new service with the tentatively Twwwwwwwwwwtly, with ten “w”s instead of just one, would be the opposite of Twitter: instead of requiring comments to be under a limit, it would require that each post be over a limit. In this case, we would start by requiring that all posts and replies be at least 2800 characters (10 times the 2022 Twitter maximum).

Here’s what this looks like in practice:

A normal Twitter-style post:

Hey I saw a dog today and was like “lol what an ugly dog” but then I realized I was looking at a puddle and it was my own reflection (132 characters)

The same exact post, but in Twwwwwwwwwwtly format:

ESTABLISHING THE SCENE: I was walking along the road. There was no traffic. It was mid-morning, perhaps 11 AM, or maybe 12. I was in a country where people drive on the right, and was also walking on the right side, which is apparently not advised, although it’s a bit counterintuitive. It had rained the previous night, and the sidewalks and the streets were still wet. There were a number of puddles in the low sections of the road (caused, I am told, by a combination of heavy trucks and poor road maintenance. Incidentally, apparently cars are negligible when it comes to road wear, which is not at all obvious to a human, to which an 18-wheeler and a passenger car seem roughly equivalent).

PROLOGUE: As I walked, I looked around. This served both to alert me if any cars were coming (I was, as previously mentioned, walking on the right side of the road with the traffic) and to allow me to take in the scene. What a crisp day, I thought to myself. I marveled at my good fortune to, at this moment, be experiencing such a joy of this existence. I wished that everyone could have this opportunity. Perhaps they did? Who, truly, can say. In any case, it was a fine experience indeed. The cold weather reminded me of fall, specifically of my childhood in Ohio, where the trees had a very specific smell. Maybe the trees smell that way everywhere? There certainly was an “autumn” feel to it, anyway. As I walked, I noticed the number of puddles, and how strange everything looked in the reflections, almost as if I was seeing through into another world, some sort of parallel universe, perhaps. I idly wondered if, maybe in that universe, we had lost World War II, or perhaps the Battle of Agincourt had gone the other way, or maybe even the dinosaurs had never gone extinct.

ACT I: As I looked into the puddles, I thought the images therein would make for a great image, maybe in a watercolor or something? But then I realized that I had never really learned how to paint. Was it too late? Maybe not, but then, did I really want to spend the time painting? Especially now that, it seemed, at least, that computers were able to conjure up any image on demand: “Computer, paint me a watercolor in the style of Winslow Homer, it should evoke the feeling of melancholy and of the longing of a forgotten and perhaps never-real autumn of one’s youth.” Would we have to just give up on humanity entirely if such a painting could be created? Or would it be merely a parlor trick? I doubted that we were more than a few years away from such a creation, yet it vexed me that my phone still couldn’t even reliably filter out telemarketing phone calls. Was this the 21st century version of “they can put a man on the moon, but they can’t XYZ,” maybe? Probably.

THE INCIDENT: As I walked, a car drove by, through one of the puddles, leaving a distorted image of rippling water. I walked close and looked into it, and was startled at the image of a hideous dog wearing a red dog vest. As the water ceased to ripple and the image cleared, I realized that the image was, in fact, me. I laughed at my earlier uncharitable evaluation of the canine. (3133 characters)

The improvement is so obvious!

Conclusion:

The results speak for themselves, so no additional elaboration is required.

PROS: Might lead to a renaissance of stream-of-consciousness literature.

CONS: Phone keyboards are a bit annoying to type on, so 2800+ characters might be more than people are willing to tolerate.

Fill in coloring books in far less time with an incredible gadget that will save MILLIONS of hours of labor per year!

Background:

Every year, tens of millions of coloring books are sold to children and adults alike.

The Issue:

Filling in a coloring book can be quite a time-consuming process. Even with frantic scribbling and thick markers, it’s a slow process to fully color even a single page in a coloring book (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: Colored pencils (seen above) and crayons are the most popular artistic tools used for filling in a coloring book. But both are quite slow and require substantial non-coloring “dead time“ as the color-er switches between various pencils/crayons/markers.

Proposal:

Thanks to modern technology, we can make a tool that will vastly improve coloring efficiency. A combination of computer vision (i.e., a camera) and machine learning can allow a computer to quickly determine a reasonable set of colors for a coloring book.

By combining this information with modern mechanical engineering, we can create a device (Figure 2) that will quickly fill in the coloring book as the user slowly moves it across the page.

Fig. 2: The camera (A) can determine (with 99% accuracy) what color to use to fill in each region of the coloring book. The user need only hold the auto-filler at the handle (B) and slowly sweep it across the page while markers are automatically extended and retracted (C) to fill in the page in record time!

With this sort of technology, coloring time can probably be reduced by 90% or more.

Conclusion:

If we (conservatively) estimate that it takes 2 hours to fill in the average coloring book, and that 10 million coloring books are filled-in per year in the United States alone, then this device can save 36 million hours of labor annually—in just one country!

It’s possible that future advancements in technology may even make it possible for coloring books to be entirely filled in by machine before shipping it to the user.

PROS: Saves an enormous amount of labor. Should reduce the number of coloring-book-related repetitive stress injuries.

CONS: None!

Waste less time on your phone AND get some much-needed exercise with this new software-only phone feature.

Background:

Supposedly, changing a phone’s display to only show a drab grayscale tends to reduce the amount of time that the phone’s owner spends fiddling around on the Internet.

Proposal:

Here’s a simple software-only hack that would make people more aware of the amount of time they’re spending on their phones, and might give them some extremely minimal exercise as well.

The system is simple: the user’s phone starts off colorful and vibrant, but over a period of a few minutes, the contrast is reduced until the phone is a dull uniform gray. The user must shake their phone a bit (like one of those rechargeable flashlights) to “shake” the color back into the phone (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: Left: during casual browsing, the phone loses color and contrast. Right: after shaking the phone for a little while, the phone is “recharged” and high-contrast color is temporarily re-enabled.

Conclusion:

This can be implemented entirely in software, and could be a cool and trendy “phone use mindfulness” mode. Unfortunately, since installing system-wide changes like this to phones is heavily locked down, it’s likely that only a phone manufacturer would actually have the ability to deploy a system like this at any scale.

PROS: This could be accomplished with the existing functionality on phones: it requires no additional hardware!

CONS: Would probably increase the number of dropped phones.

Half of the letters of the English alphabet require new names: let’s change them to make things easier for everyone!

Background:

The English language has 26 letters. You are reading them right now!

The Issue:

Some of the letters of the alphabet are very poorly named.

For example, “W” is pronounced “double-yoo,” which totally lacks the actual “w” sound (e.g. the leading sound in “what”) anywhere in it. Additionally, it’s absurd that the letter W doesn’t even have its own letter in its name.

We would think it absurd if the letter “I” was called “Rotated Hyphen” yet we somehow tolerate style of naming with the W!

Proposal:

Let’s rename the letters so that their names better match their common pronunciations. The emoji indicate the degree to which a letter needs renaming. (See the “conclusions” part for a key to the emoji).

✅ A: Acceptable. The “a” in “able.”

✅ B: Acceptable. The “b” in “bee.”

🔥❌  C: C is an odd letter, since it is replaced by an S or a K in all situations except when it appears with “ch.” Renaming the letter to “choo” to remind all users of this letter that non-“ch” uses of “C” are now deprecated. Wordsmiths should please use “k” or “s” instead of “c” whenever practical. Note that “C” is currently pronounced “see,” which would actually be better suited for the letter S.

✅ D: Acceptable. Example: the “d” in “details.”

✅ E: Acceptable. Example: the “e” in “each.”

⚠️ F: “Ef” has an unnecessary leading “ehh” sound. Renaming to “foo.”

❌ G: “Gee” is a so-called “soft g,” which could also be spelled “jee.” Renaming to “Goo” (“hard g”) to remove the ambiguity.

❌ H: Totally lacks the “h” sound unless you say it with an aspirated “h,” like “hay-ch” (as some regional accents do). Renaming to “hop.”

✅ I: Acceptable. This letter has a lot of pronunciations, but this is the “i” in “ice.”

✅ J: Acceptable. Example: the “j” in “join.”

✅ K: Acceptable. Example: the “k” in “kale.”

⚠️ L: “Ell” has an unnecessary leading “ehh” sound. Renaming to “lee.”

⚠️ M: “Em” has an unnecessary leading “ehh” sound. Renaming to “moo.”

⚠️ N: “En” has an unnecessary leading “ehh” sound. Renaming to “noo.”

✅ O: Acceptable. Example: the “o” in “open.”

✅ P: Acceptable. Example: the “p” in “piece.”

⚠️ Q: “Queue” or “Cue” is not a very accurate sound. Renaming to “quib” to more accurately reflect the letter’s common pronunciation in e.g. “queen / quick / quit.”

⚠️ R: “Arr” has an unnecessary initial “aa” sound. Renaming to “raa.”

⚠️ S: “Ess” has an unnecessary and misleading initial “ehh” sound. Renaming to “snek” (which also better describes the shape of the letter).

✅ T: “Tee” is ok.

✅ U: Acceptable as-is. Example: the “u” in “use.”

✅ V: “Vee” is good and matches the pronunciation in most cases.

🔥❌  W: This letter is the most absurdly named of all: “double yoo” doesn’t have either the letter “w” or the “w” sound in its name. Let’s fix that by renaming it to “wah.” Strangely, the “legacy” letter “Y” (pronounced “why”) would actually have been a better name for the “W.”

🔥❌  X: This one is a total disaster, just like “C.” “X” is an odd letter that can usually be replaced by a “Z” or “KS.” It’s unfortunate that “ks” is a unfamiliar initial sound for English speakers, but we’ll have to make the sacrifice and rename this letter to “xa” (like “ksa”), which is pronounced like middle sound in “exam” or “axon” (and specifically does not sound like “za”).

❌ Y: “Why” has a leading “w” sound, which is very misleading and is not very suitable for the most common applications of the “y.” Renaming to “yak.”

✅ Z: Acceptable as either “zee” or the equivalent “zed.”

Overall Statistics:

  • ✅: 13 letters were in acceptable shape already, and did not require renaming.
  • ⚠️: 7 letters were marginally acceptable, but should still be renamed. These include letters like “L,” where the “ell” sound is clearly present, but the letter should really start with the correct sound, rather than have it be at the end for some reason.
  • ❌: 3 letters would substantially benefit from renaming (G, H, Y).
  • 🔥❌: 3 letters were in dire need of renaming (C, W, X).

PROS: Makes it easier for people to learn the English letters.

CONS: All children’s alphabet books will need to be confiscated and replaced with new ones, to prevent regressive ways of thinking about letters from continuing on into the future.

Increase employee productivity and improve video chat meeting participation with this one horrifying secret involving mannequin hands!

Background:

Thanks to modern technology, it’s possible for many meetings to be conducted over video chat.

The Issue:

Frequently, it’s not really necessary for a participant in a meeting to be paying attention: that person’s time could be better spent doing actual work, or writing emails.

But it is important for the person to look like they’re definitely paying attention, and not typing on their computer.

Proposal:

Here’s a method for a person to seem like they could not possibly be distracted by something else, while still freeing them to do work and ignore the meeting.

Specifically, it relies on the fact that if a person in a meeting has both of their hands visible on the video chat, it means they can’t be casually browsing the Internet at the same time (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: We can tell that this other meeting participant is definitely paying attention to the meeting, because they’re holding a coffee cup in both hands, and thus, definitely aren’t typing or using the mouse.

However, the “hands” seen in Figure 1 are actually artificial mannequin hands that match the user’s skin tone! The true situation is shown in Figure 2.

Fig. 2: Other meeting participants believe that the user above is intently listening while holding a cup of coffee, but they are actually seeing a pair of artificial hands (indicated by the arrow). This intrepid employee is diligently adding value to the company, instead of wasting time at a 30-person meeting.

PROS: Increases employee efficiency.

CONS: By mitigating the “too many meetings” problem, this technical solution might lessen the social pressure to reduce superfluous meetings.

Company layoffs? A new method of getting rid of unnecessary employees in a fair and efficient manner. This new technique will surely be adopted by every HR department.

Background:

Companies have various approaches to firing employees (or “laying them off” or “making them redundant,” if you prefer a softer and more soothing terminology).

However, generally speaking, no one regards the layoff process as being pleasant for either the fire-er or the fire-ee.

Proposal:

Instead of making the firing process a brutal and harsh process, why not just invite all the employees (who might be fired) into a breakroom for a cake, to celebrate the company’s upcoming more-efficient financial situation.

Seemingly coincidentally, there will be a radio / 1980s boombox / vintage MP3 player playing a song.

When the song stops, people would normally expect another song to begin. However, in this case, the employees have actually stumbled into a game of musical chairs (Figure 1), where the reward finding a chair is retain your job.

(The employees that the company does not want to lay off should be forewarned about this “game,” so that they can be sure to grab a chair as soon as possible.)

Fig. 1: The employees (left) are enticed into the breakroom with promises of celebratory cake, but it’s actually a high-stakes game of musical chairs.

Conclusion:

In this fashion, the layoffs can happen exceptionally quickly, and—since everyone theoretically had a chance to grab a chair—it feels more “fair” than the typical methods that involve employee evaluations, internal politics, etc. This way, no one’s feelings are hurt, and everyone retains a high opinion of the company!

PROS: Brings high efficiency to corporate restructuring.

CONS: May violate the Americans with Disabilities Act: consider how a person who walks with a cane would have a disadvantage in rushing for a chair. Additionally, it is impossible to lay off an employee in a wheelchair in this fashion.

Firearm safety is enhanced even further with this new system that may also develop math & logic skills!

Background:

Various governments and organizations have made efforts to reduce the number of firearm discharges by impulsive and/or unqualified individuals.

The Issue:

Currently, by design, a firearm is relatively easy to operate. Unfortunately, this makes it easy to accidentally fire, or for a child to find a gun and shoot it. Additionally, an individual may get very angry in a specific moment (e.g. a “road rage“ incident) and murder someone with minimal contemplation of the consequences.

Proposal:

The proposal is simple: a concerned individual who (perhaps) knew that they were highly impulsive and/or prone to fits of rage could mitigate the damage they could cause by adding a “sudoku lock” to their firearm.

This would be similar to the “you must blow into a breathalyzer installed in your car before you can drive,” which is sometimes used as a restriction on habitual drunk drivers.

As shown in the figure, the trigger could be unlocked by simply solving the associated sudoku.

Fig. 1: The “sudoku unlock” will reduce the chance of an accidental or impulsive firearm discharge.

Conclusion:

This same system could also be used by extremely confident hunters to give their prey better odds.

PROS: Provides a built in “cooling off” period for someone who is briefly intensely angry, which should reduce the number of “road rage” shootings. (Unless those people get extremely good at sudoku-solving.)

CONS: Might actually increase the number of irresponsible firearm discharges if people are bored and start playing sudoku on a gun because, hey, it’s right there, why not.

Karmic balance: the new legal system concept to allow good deeds to balance evildoing in the correct ratio. The criminal justice reform that we need.

Background:

In most aspects of life, positive and negative elements balance out: if a person has an income of $1000, and expenses of $750, then they have a net income of ($100 – $750 = $250).

The Issue:

The only area where this does not seem to apply is in the commission of good / evil deeds.  Typically, a person is judged by their most recent style of deed-performing: e.g. “many past good deeds → one recent evil deed” is more harshly judged than “many past evil deeds → one recent good deed.”

Proposal:

Perhaps we can use a sort of “karmic balancing” system to encourage people to do good deeds to “bank up” goodwill for potential future evil deeds.

Although counterintuitive, this might have a positive effect on society, as people try to “save up” by performing good works for the community.

In order to ensure that the good / evil deeds were properly accounted for, we would need to assign each of them a numeric value (Figures 1 and 2).

Fig. 1: Rescuing a cat might reward the user with +46 “good deed” karma. This is a system that is frequently seen in video games, and is also a component of the TV series “The Good Place.”

Fig. 2: Performing a heist might result in –273 points. This could be balanced out by rescuing 5.93 cats (at +46 karma per cat).

Although this “karmic balance justice system” may sound outlandish at first, the civil legal system basically already operates in this fashion: if a person has $100,000, and someone sues them and wins $25,000, then the legal system is satisfied as soon as the fine is paid

A person is essentially “immune” to civil cases, fees, and various governmental fines as long as they have the ability to pay out. (For example, a very rich person can, in most jurisdictions, afford an unlimited number of parking tickets, essentially putting them above the law.)

The criminal justice system would probably also benefit from working in this fashion, since many trials could be skipped entirely. For example, if a person had a karma of +3825 and they committed a –714 karma vandalism, then the accused individual might just pay the karmic fine rather than going to trial. (So this is essentially an improved version of the plea bargain.)

Conclusion:

This is a good idea for legal system reform. Consult a constitutional scholar today to see what the best steps forward are for this plan! Don’t commit any crimes in the meantime, though, as there’s no guarantee that this system will be adopted in the immediate future.

PROS: Brings the criminal justice system in line with the civil justice system. Encourages individuals to do good deeds (even if for perhaps selfish motives).

CONS: Someone who had accidentally accumulated a huge amount of good deed points (e.g. by single-handedly saving everyone on a sinking ship) might decide to cash out their karmic points by going on a crime spree. This system has no defense against these corner cases, unfortunately.

Reclaim your personal time by getting all your phone notifications on the hour, every hour—and NOT at other times!

Background:

It’s easily possible to receive an overwhelming number of phone notifications these days. Typically, this is a mix of emails, text messages, multiple messaging apps, and the occasional demanding apps spamming you with notifications that “you earned 10% off your next order!”

The Issue:

It’s possible to silence some of these alerts, but sometimes you still want the alerts, you just wish they wouldn’t arrive so relentlessly.

Proposal:

The solution is extremely simple: add an “hourly notification” mode (Figure 1) that bundles up all the notifications that the phone would have sent you, and waits until the next “00” minute of the hour to send them to you.

Fig. 1: If a user activates “hourly notification mode” on their phone, all their notifications from 1:00–1:59 PM will arrive in a single batch at 2:00 PM.

It might be a little bit excessive to get a huge number of notifications at once, so these notifications can be bundled together by category. The user would get a single “text message” notification bubble, a single “email” bubble, and so on (Figure 2).

Fig. 2: The “hourly mode” notifications could also have a special style (here, purple with “1:00“ in the corner) to show that they are potentially not ultra-recent notifications, but were all part of the one o’ clock batch.

Conclusion:

A more notification-averse user could also potentially set alerts for every two hours, or twice a day, or once a week, or perhaps annually on Jan 1.

PROS: Reduces the stress that humans have subjected themselves to in the always-connected “information age” world.

CONS: The user interface for managing this system might be complicated. Should phone calls still ring at any time, or do they have to wait until the hour boundary? Can you still see text messages that arrive, or do you have to wait a full hour to reply? This could have a negative impact on your text-messaging conversational skills.