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Month: March, 2017

Never run over a pedestrian or a bicyclist while looking for a parking spot, thanks to this new attention-saving idea! Personal injury lawyers hate it!

Background:

It can be difficult to safely drive down the street AND find a parking spot at the same time. Many locations look like parking spots until you get right next to them (Figure 1) and see the fire hydrant / driveway / red curb (Figure 2).

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Fig. 1: This is a road with two opposing lanes of traffic separated by the dashed yellow line. Cars (black) are parked on both sides of the road. The red car is driving from left to right down the two-lane road. Question marks indicate possible parking spots, but which ones—if any—are valid and will also fit our red car?

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Fig. 2: Unfortunately, the locations above were all disqualified for reasons that were not immediately obvious (fire hydrant, loading zone, driveway, etc.). The process of disqualifying these parking spots is a dangerous distraction to the driver!

Proposal:

A system with a LIDAR / radar and an integrated GPS unit would be able to constantly scan ahead for valid parking spaces.

This “SpotFinder” would work as follows:

  • A LIDAR unit (a laser range-finder) scans in front of the car, looking for gaps between parked cars.

  • If a spot is detected, SpotFinder checks the LIDAR data to see if the spot is big enough to fit your specific car.

  • SpotFinder checks your GPS coordinates in a street map database, to see if there are any disqualifying reasons to not park in the spot (e.g. fire hydrants, driveways, etc.) even if there is physically enough space there to fit a car.

If all the conditions above are met, SpotFinder beeps and says something like “parking spot located, ahead on your right in 60 feet, after the blue parked car.”

 

3a-maybe-rightFig. 3: The LIDAR unit is looking at the right side of the street at candidate parking spot “E.” The spot is big enough to fit a car, but the map data indicates the presence of a driveway. No good!

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Fig. 4: Here, the LIDAR unit is assessing parking spots A, B, and C on the left side of the street.

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Fig. 5: Spot F is valid, but unfortunately isn’t quite long enough to fit the red car.

PROS: Increases safety by allowing drivers to focus their attention on driving instead of evaluating parking spots.

CONS: If the map database isn’t constantly updated, the system could occasionally suggest an invalid parking spot (for example, if a new driveway was constructed where a previously-valid parking spot had been). So the driver might get some false positives of suggested (but invalid) parking spots.

Never get a contagious disease from a coworker again with this one tip. Use the healing power of crystals and bears to naturally fight off disease. OSHA hates it!

Background:

Sometimes, your coworkers will come to work with obvious contagious diseases, coughing everywhere and spreading disease and pestilence throughout the land.

Proposal:

The best situation in this situation is for you or your boss to say “hey you, sick individual, go home!”

This should save time and money by preventing others from getting sick, but is sometimes not an option.

Instead, the following technical solution is proposed for office-related jobs: for diseases in which the afflicted individual needs to blow their nose (Fig. 1, left), they are likely to at some point access a tissue box placed somewhere in the workplace.

Instead of just letting that individual take a tissue and return to disease-spreading, the idea is to ensnare the sick individual with a (non-injurious / non-lethal) trap at that location (Fig. 1, right).

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Fig. 1: Left: A standard tissue box. Useful for a person with a runny nose. Right: a possible type of tissue box trap: essentially a bear trap (but with rubber grips instead of bone-crushing steel jaws).

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Fig. 2: Illustration of the closing process. This non-injurious “bear trap” modification will hold the sick individual until they can be humanely released back into the wild.

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Fig. 4: A) tissue box. B) non-injurious padded rubber grips to hold onto the tissue-grabbing individual’s arm. C) support for the grabbing arms. D) to prevent the sick individual from just going back to their desk and working with a bear trap on one arm (and continuing to spread disease), the bear trap should be secured in place somehow.

PROS: Saves workplace productivity and reduces the spread of disease.

CONS: Won’t be effective in non-office jobs or for diseases where the plague-ridden individual doesn’t blow their nose.

Thumb your nose at those “know-it-all furniture designers” with this exotic and impractical table! Finally, an outrageous way to show off your OBSCENE WEALTH.

The issue:

Once upon a time, it was possible to show off one’s obscene wealth by purchasing ornately-decorated objects that were obviously expensive.

However, in the era of modern manufacturing, high-quality products are available to even members of the non-nobility.

If only there were a way to show off your personal decadence AND solve a common furniture-related problem (Figure 1) at the same time.

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Fig. 1: This plain four-legged table is acceptable, but you might accidentally hit your knee on a table leg. Plus, it’s constraining to not be able to put a chair on the corner of the table. A central-post table could solve these issues, but those typically have large “feet” on the ground that you’ll be likely to kick accidentally. Plus, you can’t vacuum around them easily.

One common way to show that one has a ridiculous amount of wealth is to purchase something entirely impractical.

Here, we modify the common dining room table so that it will have the following features:

  • Has a new and impossible-to-counterfeit feature.
  • Is visually distinct from a normal table that a regular person would buy.
  • Is obviously very inconvenient and/or impossible to install in a normal room.
  • Is impractically difficult to move, thus showing that the owner must have servants to handle such day-to-day affairs.

In this case, the impossible-to-counterfeit feature is that the table doesn’t have any table legs—instead, it is suspended from the ceiling.

See Figures 2-5 for possible methods of accomplishing this goal.

rich-table-pillarFig. 2: The ideal table (left) would be a slab that would float a fixed distance from the ground: this would provide the full functional tabletop and works on any surface. However, this is not possible due to the laws of physics. One option we have for realizing this floating-table future is to have a single heavy-duty pillar in the center of the table that suspends it from an overhead support beam

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Fig. 3: Alternatively, the table could be suspended by wires, which are less visually obtrusive. This would be ideal, but there is a problem, as seen in Figure 4.

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Fig. 4: With only two wires, the table would be prone to swinging back and forth, which would probably be incredibly annoying. Also, perhaps more severely, if you put anything heavy on the table, then the added weight would cause that side of the table to tilt down, spilling everything onto the floor. Since you’re presumably extremely rich, you could always pay a servant to lean on it and prevent it from swinging, but there’s a better solution in Figure 5.

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Fig. 5: By adding more anchor points and having multiple guy-wires (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy-wire), we can minimize the swinging / tilting of the table. It is still theoretically possible to lift up the table, but this would generally not be a problem unless the table were incredibly light.

Conclusion:

Next time you have tens of thousands of dollars to spend on an aggravatingly impractical furnishing, consider the “suspended from the ceiling table”!

Discuss it with your interior decorator today.

PROS: Show your obscene wealth with an impractical and very-difficult-to-move table that requires substantial structural support that only the richest and most decadent individuals can afford.

CONS: You could theoretically decapitate yourself on one of the guy-wires. So be careful when walking near the table!

 

Phone manufacturers hate this one weird tip to save you HUNDREDS of dollars by not losing your phone! One frugal tip for saving money on smartphones (do not lose them).

The issue:

Cell phones occasionally fall out of a person’s pockets and get forgotten. This is especially easy to do when sitting on a sofa or in a movie theater seat.

If the phone could detect that it had been dropped into sofa cushions, it could notify you before it was too late to find it again!

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Fig. 1: Alas, this phone has fallen between sofa cushions and may soon be lost forever.

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Proposal:

The phone could use its microphone to detect the difference between “phone is in your pocket” and “microphone can only detected sounds that are muffled by sofa cushions” (Fig. 2).

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Fig. 2: Audio from two scenarios: “normal” (top, yellow) and “stuck in sofa cushions” (bottom, blue).

By listening to the phone’s microphone (and using the orientation sensors), the phone could distinguish between three situations:

  1. “In your pocket” (phone is slightly moving, but sounds are muffled)
  2. “On your desk” (phone is not moving, but background noise is crisp and clear, like a transparent apple)
  3. “Phone fell into the sofa” (phone is not moving, but sounds are muffled).

In case you are worried about the privacy implication of the constant use of the microphone, consider that all phones are monitoring you at all times anyway so that you can say “Hey Siri” / “Ok Google” in order to activate the voice assistant.

Thus, this additional monitoring would not be any more invasive than the current situation.

(Plus, the “fell into the sofa” detection could be done entirely on the phone, so it wouldn’t need to send any audio data to a remote server.)

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Fig. 3: Once the phone detects that it has become trapped in the sofa, it can scream until you rescue it.

This feature could also be expanded to include things like:

  • The phone could detect that you have debarked your plane (or gotten off a train), but somehow the phone has been left behind, perhaps in one of those seat pockets.
  • The phone could detect that 1) it’s been several hours since it’s moved it all, 2) it’s close enough to see your own home WiFi network, and 3) the audio sensor informs it that it’s still in a pants pocket—this means you probably threw it into a laundry basket, so it should email you and/or start beeping so you don’t wash it.
  • The phone could detect that you were traveling by car and left your phone in the car. Then it could send you an email (“Hey, you left me in the car. –Your Phone”), which you would presumably receive on your laptop / desktop computer.

Conclusion:

Don’t buy a new phone unless it comes with this exciting new feature!

PROS: Saves you from many lost-phone mishaps.

CONS: Perhaps by further reducing the demands on humans to actually pay attention and keep track of things, future generations will become slothful and decadent.