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Category: Design

Get exercise and improve your self-control with this new eco-friendly hand-crank-powered cell phone!

The issue:

It is frequently asserted that people are addicted to cell phones. If only there were a technical solution to this problem!

Proposal:

Here’s a simple solution to discourage casual cell phone use: a cell phone with two features:

  1. A strict limit on the amount of time you can use each program. (This feature already exists.)
  2. A hand crank on the side of the phone (Figure 1) that lets you circumvent the limit while you turn the crank.
    • (Turning the crank also charges the phone battery, which makes this an eco-friendly idea as well.)
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Fig. 1: The crank-powered phone at left has reached its daily limit of unmetered browsing. In order to keep using it, its owner must turn the charger crank (shown at right). Note that the manufacturer of this phone has slavishly copied the 2017 iPhone X notch.

Alternatives to the crank could also be employed: foot pedals, a bellows, or The Wheel of Pain from the 1982 Conan the Barbarian movie.

The crank could also be useful in other situations (Figure 2).

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Fig. 2: The charger crank would add verisimilitude to this slot machine app.

Conclusion:

This eco-friendly idea is guaranteed to be a staple of future phone / tablet / laptop design.

Alternative Version:

An alternative formulation of this idea would be to not meter usage by time, but just require a user to turn the crank 50 times before an app will launch or a web page will load.

PROS: Discourages casual phone use out of boredom / habit. Provides a good arm workout, especially if you remember to flip it 180º occasionally to work out both arms.

CONS: Might not actually reduce phone use, but now there would be an annoying grinding sound of people turning cell phone cranks everywhere. Would increase the frequency of dropped phones.

Prevent the UNWASHED MASSES from sharing their stupidity on your top-tier Internet forum with this new insane life-saving trick that you owe it to yourself to know! Don’t hike in the wilderness without this one weird tip!!!

Background:

Online discussion forums often have posts that look like this:

Air pollution actually SAVES 10,000 lives per day worldwide

>109 Comments

[Upvote] [Downvote] [View Comments]

Or:

Futuristic economic model allows Swedes to make $200,000 a year without having jobs

>274 Comments

[Upvote] [Downvote] [View Comments]

The issue:

Crucially, the comment page is usually completely separate from the original article, so readers can post their gut reactions to the headline without reading the associated article (example headline in Figure 1).

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Fig. 1: An example Reddit-style headline. Better comment on it! In order to comment quickly, I’d better only read the text of the headline!

Proposal #1:

In order to be allowed to comment on an article, you have to show that you have actually read the article.

This works as follows:

  • The person who posted the original article also writes a couple of quiz questions that would be easily answered by anyone who had read the article.
  • In the comment box, the submit button is replaced by a question and several buttons with possible answers. (Figure 1.)
    • For example, “What country is the article about?”
      • With the possible response buttons:
        • “Submit comment: JAPAN
        • and “Submit comment: INDIA.”
    • If you click the wrong button, your comment is sent to the server and appears (to you) as if it has been posted, but it doesn’t show up to anyone else (this is also referred to as “shadow banning”).

 

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Fig. 2: If you wanted to comment on the article in Figure 1, you’d need to click on one of the buttons here. If you click on the wrong one, your comment is deleted.

Proposal #2:

One problem with the first proposal is that it makes it slightly more annoying to post an article (since the original poster has to write a few quiz questions).

In proposal #2, the questions are generated automatically, and are extremely basic, like “What is the last word in the article?” or “What is the first word in the second paragraph of the article?”

(This is a method that was used in 1980s and 1990s computer game copy protection.)

Although this method would not prevent a user from just clicking the article, letting it load, finding the relevant word, and closing the article, it would probably increase the likelihood that the commenter would read at least a portion of the article, since it would have to at least be loaded in their browser.

Conclusion:

Figure 3 shows how the user interface might be implemented.

 

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Fig. 3: An example of how this might work in an actual Internet post.

PROS: Might improve the quality of Internet comments. Also a great way to annoy your users.

CONS: None! It’s the pinnacle of Internet commenting technology.

 

Never worry about someone breaking into the un-secured space of your hatchback vehicle again thanks to “fake trash,” the amazing new invention that covers your valuables with a layer of trash that deters car break-ins. Hide your valuables in plain sight!

Background:

Many types of cars—e.g. hatchbacks, SUVs, “crossover” vehicles—do not have a secure trunk space.

Although these vehicles often come with retractable covers that can hide the contents of the trunk, they often don’t have 100% coverage.

(So if you have a laptop sliding around in the back of your car, it’s entirely possible that it’s visible to a thief with an eye for detail.)

Additionally, using the cover implies that there may be something in the back of the car—you ought to break in and find out!

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Fig. 1: Someone broke into this car, despite the storage area being covered! So why did a thief become intrigued? See Figure 2 for the answer!

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Fig. 2: A dramatic re-enactment of the scene before Figure 1 (in the same model of car, by coincidence!). If we look into the window, we can see a laptop in plain sight, despite the cover (left) being extended.

Proposal:

To make a hatchback storage area that is less appealing to break into, we have developed the following product: an easily-rolled-up layer of “fake trash” on a canvas backing.

Then, instead of attempting to hide your belongings, you simply put the layer of fake trash over your valuables.

This fake trash would make it look like the car belongs to an incredibly disgusting person who keeps all manner of trash and rotting food in the back of the car (Figure 3), and no one would suspect that a valuable laptop was beneath the trash.

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Fig. 3: Top: fake trash (left) and laptop (right). Bottom: the fake trash covers up the laptop perfectly! Additional improvements could  also be made; for example, a non-slide surface for the fake trash, or elastic straps to keep the laptop in place.

Conclusion:

This method is slightly better than just using the storage area cover: the cover implies that valuables might be present, whereas this method makes it seem that there is no possible place for valuables at all.

I’m surprised this isn’t already one of those “As Seen On TV” products for hatchback vehicles.

PROS: I think this product could legitimately be sold for $19.99, and people would buy them as gifts and/or pranks.

CONS: If this “fake trash” system catches on, thieves will recognize it and no longer be fooled.

 

Bonus: live video feed of this laptop: maybe someone will steal it on-camera while you watch! Better keep refreshing the page and visiting our sponsors in the meantime.

2018-08-06 19.38.16.gif

Bonus figure: Live video feed of this laptop in an unsafe steal-able location.

You were driving a car SUPER RECKLESSLY without even realizing it! Stop using your car sun visor and upgrade to this new mechanically complex solution with dozens of possible points of failure!

Background:

Car sun visors are useful for avoiding glare while driving. But they require constant adjustment on winding roads, and they don’t work at all if the sun is too low in the sky (e.g. sunrise, sunset conditions).

1-car.png

Fig. 1: Oh no, the horrible sun is blinding me as I drive!

Proposal:

Instead of having a sun visor, what if the sun was blocked by an “eclipse disc,” a small opaque disc that could slide around in front of the windshield (or perhaps inside a double-paned windshield).

Using a small camera in the dashboard and an eye-detection algorithm, the car can figure out: 1) the position of your eyes, 2) the position of the sun, and 3) the location where a small object (the “eclipse disc”) could block the sun that falls on your eyes.

Then, the car can automatically move the eclipse disc around to block the direct light from the sun (Figure 2).

 

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Fig. 2: As the car turns (or the sun sets), the eclipse disc can move around to shade the driver’s eyes.

Conclusion:

Adding a second disc for the front seat passenger (and perhaps another disc for the driver’s side window) would allow this system to totally replace the obsolete hundred-year-old sun visor. Embrace the future of automotive innovation!

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Fig. 3: The mechanism in photorealistic detail. A: the eclipse disc. B: the mechanical arm that moves the eclipse disc around (here, it’s mounted on a track on the left side of the windshield). C: the windshield. D: the approximate location of the rear-view mirror, just to provide context.

 

PROS: Prevents accidents due to glare-induced impaired visibility.

CONS: May lead to a moment of horror when you think the sun has been replaced by a black hole, until you realize that it’s just the “eclipse disc” sliding around on your windshield.

 

 

Spice up your boring ocean views with this new incredible construction megaproject! Bonus: creates jobs!

Background:

Looking out to sea from most coastal locations results in the same view: a featureless horizon of sky and sea.

But we can fix that with modern construction techniques!

Proposal:

Let’s improve those boring ocean views by adding silhouettes of distant cities and monuments (Figure 1).

This way, when you look out into the ocean, you’ll get an idea of what’s on the other side, even if it’s thousands of miles away.

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Fig. 1: Here are three proposed highly-accurate silhouettes of Mt. Fuji (a), San Francisco (b), and Sydney (c).

 

fsadfadsfas

 

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Fig. 2: In order to liven up Hawaii’s ocean views, we can place the three silhouettes from figure 1 off the coast of the Hawaiian islands.

 

Fig. 3: Fixing the skyline: here’s what it might look like before (top) and after (bottom) our silhouette mega-project is complete.

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Fig. 4: A diagram of how the silhouette system would work; Here, a viewer on an island (A) sees the distant image of the Eiffel Tower (B), even though France is actually thousands of additional miles away.

PROS: Provides a useful navigation and orientation aid. Promotes geographical awareness. Livens up the featureless ocean horizon.

CONS: The silhouette is only correct from one angle, so any ships that are out to sea will get a misleading view.

Stop living in barbaric savagery with the English words “left” and “right.” Ascend to the next level of consciousness and realize your new potential with this new secret wisdom only for the most enlightened individuals.

The issue:

People often confuse the directions “left” and “right.”

Additionally, “right” can additionally mean “correct,” which leads to the exchange:

  • “Should I turn left here?”
  • “Right.”

This is stupid and must be fixed if English is going to remain competitive with the world’s top languages, like Esperanto (Figure 1) and Loglan.

 

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Fig. 1: Whoa, Esperanto has its own flag, it must be pretty popular!

1-LR

Fig. 2: These words are bad for indicating directions. If you use them, please take a moment to feel bad about it.

Proposal:

Instead of using random words like “left” or “right,” let’s use some words that inherently have left-right properties to them.

In English, the alphabet always comes in this order

  • A B C D … W X Y Z

The leftmost letter (or a similar word) can be the new word for “left,” and likewise with the rightmost letter.

So “left” becomes can become “Aa,” which is actually already a Scrabble word (among other options, this one: Aa). It could be pronounced either with the a in “bat” (aa-aa) or the a in “law” (ah-ah). Or a combination, like “aa-ah.”

“Right” will then become “Zz,” which is, obviously, pronounced “zi-zuh,” as if you extended the end of the word “pizza.”

2-AZ

Fig. 3: “Ah-ah” / “Aa-aa” and “zi-zuh” are inherently superior to “left” and “right.”

Alternative option:

An alternative option would be to pick a multi-syllabic word that everyone knows, and use the left part of that word as “left” and the right part of that word as “right.”

Plenty of words would be suitable, but here are two proposals (Figures 4 and 5):

3-alfa

Fig. 4: “Alfa” or “alpha” for left and “bet” or “beta” for right might be acceptable and easy to remember.

 

4-aardvark

Fig. 5: The best word is clearly “aardvark,” which splits cleanly into “aard” and “vark.” These new words have the advantage of being extremely distinct from each other and not colliding with any existing English words.

See how difficult this ORIGINAL English exchange is:

  • DRIVER: “Should I turn left at the next intersection?”
  • PASSENGER: “Right. Then once there’s no road left, right.”

Q: Which way should the car go? But see how much clearer it becomes with our new and improved words:

  • DRIVER: “Should I turn aard at the next intersection?”
  • PASSENGER: “Right. Then once there’s no road left, vark.”

PROS: Totally unambiguous directions will now be possible, saving millions of car crashes and disasters every day.

CONS: Some old-fashioned users of “left” and “right” would need to be mercilessly ridiculed until they adopted this new system.