WorstPlans.com updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible plans and ideas!

Month: September, 2020

With “sponsored auto-correct,” you’ll be able to buy a phone for even cheaper! And it will only be SOMEWHAT infuriating to use!

Background:

When typing on a phone with an on-screen virtual keyboard, the auto-correct feature is essential.

Strangely, this auto-correct / auto-complete feature has never been monetized!

Proposal:

In order to bring great deals to consumers and new advertising opportunities to companies, we describe the following auto-correct enhancement.

Currently, auto-correct is boring and predicable. For example:

  • Typing “I’m going” may suggest the following completions: “to,” “on,” or “out.”
  • Typing: “I like” may suggest “that,” “the,” or “it.”

These are reasonable guesses, but what if we enhanced the autocorrect system to allow for sponsored suggestions (Figure 1).

“I’m going” could suggest:

  • “I’m going to
  • “I’m going on
  • “I’m going—but first, I’m going to drink a refreshing [BRAND NAME] soda, and then

The particular [BRAND NAME] would be determined by whichever company was the highest bidder for the auto-correct ad.

Fig. 1: Left: the traditional autocorrect system suggests “soo__” -> “soon.” Right: the improved ad-sponsored system inserts a valuable promotion into this otherwise-boring text message.

It would also be possible to increase national pride and patriotism by changing the autocorrect to insert mandatory patriotic messages, such as:

“I like” ➡

  • “I like the
  •  “I like our glorious leader-for-life, who will lead our nation to victory over our cowardly foes
  •  “I like to

Or

“I support” ➡

  • “I support the
  • “I support quartering troops in my house—it’s my patriotic duty as a citizen
  • “I support it

Conclusion:

The best part about this system is that each ad implicitly carries the endorsement of the sender: it’s more persuasive to have a friend or trusted colleague text you with “I’ll be at the meeting, let me just finish this Ultra Crunch™ Cereal first” than to just see an impersonal ad demanding that you eat that specific cereal.

There is some prior work in this area: the Amazon Kindle “with special offers” shows ads on its screen while it’s sleeping, in return for being somewhat cheaper.

As an added bonus, each ad reaches TWO people (the sender and the recipient)!

PROS: Helps people afford more extravagant cell phones by subsidizing their purchases in return for ads infecting the auto-correct system.

CONS: None!

With this “breakaway safety earring,” you need never again fear having your ear yanked off your head due to an earring-related mishap! This system also works for ties, necklaces, rings, and capes.

Background:

Humans frequently wear metal adornments that have a small chance of being caught on something. Under most circumstances, this is fine, but occasionally this may lead to situations with a high probability of disaster (e.g. operating a lathe while wearing a dangly necklace).

The issue:

Somehow, it is still the case that very little jewelry has a “break-away” safety feature that ensures that the object will disassemble itself before the attached body part is disassembled—generally, the situation that arises is the one shown in Figure 1.

Fig. 1: The metal earring is much stronger than the mammalian ear, potentially leading to the (slightly dramatized) event above.

This is surprising, since “break-away safety connector” has existed for decades, in:

  • Kitchen counter hot-water boilers, which often have a magnetically-attached power cord.
  • The Apple “MagSafe” laptop connector that (usually) disconnects if someone trips over the power cord.
  • The 2001 Microsoft Xbox wired controller’s break-away cable.

But for whatever reason, search terms like “break-away earring,” “magnetic safety earring,” and “Apple MagSafe connector earring” seem to indicate that break-away safety earrings are not a product under widespread commercial production!

Proposal:

The proposal is simple and low-cost: simply add a magnetic safety section to earrings, jewelry, ties, rings, and other adornments that might be caught on something.

As shown in Figure 2, this break-away safety section will detach if pulled with sufficient force, reducing the likelihood of disaster. 

Fig. 2: The two-part magnetic connector shown at “A” will come apart if pulled with sufficient force. Compare the ear’s final situation here to the less-than-optimal situation in Figure 1.

Conclusion:

Although earrings are the most immediately obvious application of this type of safety connector, it would also be feasible for:

  • Rings (see The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King for a situation in which this would have been useful)
  • Ties (see Who Framed Roger Rabbit for a situation where this would have been useful)
  • Necklaces
  • Capes (see The Incredibles for a situation where this would have been useful)

PROS: Saves the wearer from experiencing traumatic unscheduled disassembly.

CONS: Significantly increases the chance of losing the earring / ring in question. But this is a small price to pay!

Video chat’s next major feature: physical positioning of participants (“mingle at a party” options) to allow a huge chat to be split into manageable groups!

Background:

With the 2020 COVID plague, work-related video chats have become increasingly full of a large number of participants (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: Video chat software (e.g. Zoom, FaceTime, Hangouts, Meet, Duo, Skype, and more) typically only allows participants to appear in a randomly-ordered grid. All participants are part of the same (single) discussion: there is no easy way to have a “side discussion” and then rejoin the main conversation.

The issue:

Video chats have a problem that in-person office work does not: there is no convenient way for participants of an unreasonably-large video chat group to split off into subgroups.

Instead, every discussion must take place in a SINGLE mega-discussion with all participants, or people need to leave the mega-discussion and start their own exclusive video chat groups. People often get around this by having side discussions over text, but that’s not really a great solution either.

Proposal:

In a physical workspace, it’s easy to have a small discussion: simply PHYSICALLY relocate the individuals in the conversation to an empty lunchroom table or meeting room.

To improve video chat, we simply implement the same feature: instead of each video participant just being a randomly-placed square in a grid, now each participant can also specify their location on a virtual floor plan (Figure 2).

Fig. 2: Left: the old-fashioned style of video chat. Right: the updated video chat, where you can only hear and see participants who are in close physical proximity. In this case, the chat has split into groups A, B, and C (shown here from the perspective of a person in Group B). Everyone in Group B has a normal video chat, but can only faintly hear low-audio-volume chats going on in groups A and C.

Importantly, it’s still possible to see and hear people who are somewhat nearby on the floor plan, but at a very low volume. So you can know that a conversation is going on, and join in if necessary, but it won’t drown out your primary discussion.

Previous Examples:

Some video games implement a system like this (“proximity audio”), in which you can hear voice chat only from nearby players. However, as far as I am aware, this has never been a feature in any office-focused collaboration software.

PROS: This seems like it should actually exist! Maybe it hasn’t been developed before due to the lack of compelling business case for having large numbers of people on video calls.

CONS: Might lead to a tyrannically oppressive workplace in which work-from-home employees are mandated to always be available on video chat and present on a virtual floor plan.

Golf clubs are now obsolete: this bike-pump-based “air pressure golf cannon” system promotes the sport to a new level of precision and accuracy!

Background:

A successful game of golf is heavily dependent on the technical execution of the golf swing.

The issue:

It is possible to imagine many games that are similar to “golf,” except that they do not use a golf club to drive the ball (perhaps “frisbee™ golf” is the most well-known existing example, although it does not use a golf ball).

Proposal:

Let’s imagine a bare-bones version of “artillery / cannon golf” with only the following two elements:

  1. Select a force to apply to the golf ball…
  2. …and select the direction to apply this force.

(This is the approach seen in most video game implementations of golf, since pre-2000 controllers had no satisfactory way of approximating a golf swing.)

Figure 2 details a method of implementing this abstracted “cannon golf.”

Fig. 1: A bike pump (A) supplies pressure to the air cannon, which can be tilted in various precisely-measured directions (B). A trigger at (C) releases the air into the cannon, propelling the standard golf ball (D) into the air.

The advantage of this system is that it allows a “cannon golf” player to understand the theory of golf without requiring strength or technical execution skills: the required abilities are instead 1) an understanding of trajectories, 2) accurate evaluation of distance, and 3) an understanding of the effects of the current wind direction(s).

Figure 2 shows a mockup of what “cannon golf” might look like on a golf course.

Fig. 2: The application of the “golf cannon” (shown at position A) might look something like this. This particular trajectory seems to have been chosen poorly, and is likely to land the ball in a sand trap or water hazard.

PROS: Could increase the number of people interested in golf-related activities, thus opening up new revenue streams for golf courses and golf instructors.

CONS: This system might evolve into a computer-controlled cannon that plays the game itself, thus hastening the arrival of human-oppressing robotic overlords.