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Category: Architecture

Even a tiny apartment can feel huge, thanks to motorized “slithering furniture” (or “slitherniture”). Replace your old furniture now!

Background:

It’s difficult to move heavy furniture around, so furniture is usually positioned for general use, even if there are specific setups that would be better for rare situations.

For example, your home might have a room that would be best configured in one way for watching movies, but a different way for a Thanksgiving dinner.

The issue:

Unfortunately, it doesn’t make sense to move your furniture around every time you want to watch a movie, so furniture is almost always set up in a “good enough” general configuration. Until now, that is!

Proposal:

If furniture could “magically” move around on its own, it would be easy to have a room reconfigure itself so that you could, for example:

  • Optimize a room for exercise / yoga (Figure 2a), with a large empty space in the middle.
  • Have a “poker night” configuration (Figure 2b) where seating is clustered around a central table.
  • Have a single wall in your house dedicated as an indoor climbing wall, along with a padded floor mat that would slide out from “nowhere” (perhaps from under a dresser or sofa).
  • Have a large dining table that can automatically hide itself away when dinner is over.

Various layouts could be saved as furniture presets (Figure 1) that would be accessible at the press of a button. (This would be similar to how presets work on a motorized standing desk.)

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Fig. 1: All four of these layouts contain the same furniture, except for the red futon, which is mysteriously absent from the Yoga Zone layout. Maybe it slithered its way into another room.

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Fig. 2a: An example “yoga” layout, where the center of the room is cleared. These 3D views were generated using the program “Sweet Home 3D” (http://www.sweethome3d.com/) on the Mac.

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Fig. 2b: A “poker night” layout, featuring seating is arranged around an uncomfortably-low coffee table.

 

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Fig. 2c: A “movie night” configuration that focuses on the television.

Method of implementation:

Each furniture leg would sit atop a motorized omni-directional wheel.

Any time you need to reconfigure a room, you just push a single button (perhaps labeled “THANKSGIVING DINNER” or “YOGA STUDIO”), and the furniture rolls into the pre-determined new configuration.

The furniture would need a few sensors in it, so that it would be able to detect unexpected obstacles / pets / etc. in the way.

It might be annoying to keep your furniture batteries charged, so the motorized furniture could automatically seek out power outlets and charge itself overnight while the homeowner is sleeping. (As a proof-of-concept of this idea, the Roomba vacuuming robot is capable of automatically returning itself to a charging station.)

2d-default.png

Fig. 2d: This is what the room above might look like in an awkward but perhaps “good enough” default configuration that isn’t optimized for any specific use case.

Conclusion:

You should throw out all of your existing furniture and get new Internet-connected furniture with powered wheels.

The problem of dealing with plugged-in electronics (like a television or set of speakers) is left as an exercise to the reader.

PROS: Even a small apartment can now feel enormous, since it can be reconfigured for every use case.

CONS: This “Internet of things” furniture will probably be hacked by someone who will randomly move your furniture around just for amusement.

Replace your windows with television screens: save thousands of dollars of rent a year by VIRTUALLY moving your home or office to an expensive location, without paying any more rent!

Background:

People generally enjoy having a good view from their home or office windows.

However, some locations have a bad view (e.g. a dark alley or cement wall) or cannot accommodate windows at all (e.g. interior offices or basements).

Proposal:

Modern flatscreen displays can be as large as office windows (and some types consume very little electricity).

Thus, we can replace the nonexistent and/or bad windows with large-screen television monitors.

In order to provide a convincing view of the “outdoors” on these screens, we only need two things:

  1. The time of day, so the screens can show a proper day or night scene.
  2. The relative orientations of each screen (e.g., if one screen faces the sea, then a screen on the opposite wall could show a beach).

The scenes could be either real-world video (either live webcam video, or looped video from earlier), or computer-generated scenes. See Figure 1 for an example.

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Fig. 1: Instead of renting an expensive office in a city like New York or San Francisco (shown here), you could simply set the windows of your company to show scenes from that location. Think of the savings!

One additional benefit of virtual screens is that there is no requirement that the screens face out onto a practical (or even real) location (Figure 2).

For example, one could place an office:

  • On the surface of the Moon
  • Orbiting a distant science fiction planet or space station
  • Under the sea
  • In a windswept desert of endless sand dunes
  • Inside an M.C. Escher print, modeled in 3D (this might be extremely confusing)
  • Inside a video game (one could imagine a game development company setting their office windows to show scenes from the under-development game, in order to further oppress and crush the spirit of their programmers with the inescapability of the game)

Computer-generated locations could also feature 3D animations, like a buggy driving around the Moon’s surface or caravans crossing the desert.

 

1-abstract-multi-screen-scene

Fig. 2: There is no requirement that the virtual windows in your multi-screen room must face out onto a real-world scene. You could also imagine that your home or office was inside a giant abstract painting, as shown in this example.

Conclusion:

This project requires only consumer-level hardware and a web site to implement, so I am actually surprised that it appears not to currently exist. You can make an ad-hoc version by using a maps site with Street View (e.g. Google Street View) and adjusting the orientation of your multiple displays accordingly. (The only downside to this method is that the image will not update to match the current time of day).

PROS: Allows you to cheaply obtain a beautiful view for your home or office without paying exorbitant rental prices.

CONS: Large displays can cost up to $200 a year (2019 prices) to operate 24 hours a day, and the entire idea is essentially a huge waste of energy (unless you can use the extra heat generated by the screens).

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).

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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.

Chalk up another astounding win for the Internet of Things: another major plague on humanity is BANISHED thanks to a wireless chip in your blender.

Background:

People occasionally forget to lock the door before leaving the house, or leave a stove on by accident, or any number of other things.

“Internet of Things” aficionados often suggest that you could, say, turn on and off your stove from your phone, but now someone on the Internet thousands of miles away can also turn on your stove at a random time.

Proposal:

If your appliances could report their status wirelessly to a receiver on your door, then you could check your home’s status as you leave.

Anything that is amiss will glow in an obvious fashion that calls for more investigation (see mockup in Figure 1).

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Fig 1: Since this panel is on your main exit door, it’s nearly impossible to accidentally leave something on / forget to lock the door / leave the microwave popping popcorn for 90 minutes instead of 90 seconds / etc.

Conclusion:

Since this is a one-way channel of communication, you don’t have to worry about hackers turning on your microwave. (Additionally, high security is not crucial here; exposing the information “your microwave is on” to a hacker 8000 miles away is probably not a realistic concern unless you’re making a contrived scenario for a made-for-TV movie.)

PROS: As with all Internet-of-Things things, it solves a problem that actually does (juuuuust barely, anyway) exist, and (more importantly) provides a great hobby for engineers.

CONS: In five years, when your smart home hub supplier is out of business, none of your new appliances will work with your system. And when you buy a new dryer, you’ll have to research it for 80 hours to to see if it’s compatible with your version of the Smart Home hub, and then you’ll to have to dig around on the internet for a firmware update named SmartHouse_v_2.7_North_America_41.80.24b.dat.zip. Which will then turn out to be malware that turns your hub into a Dogecoin miner.

You will TRULY appreciate art after surviving the ART OBSTACLE COURSE! Brave a swamp of deadly crocodiles in order to catch a single glimpse of “Dogs Playing Poker”—you’ll never accuse it of being kitsch art again.

Background:

Something that is difficult to obtain tends to be appreciated more than something that is easy to obtain.

For example, people rate the same wine more highly when it has an expensive price tag.

We can use this information to design a new style of art museum that will be a huge hit with all art aficionados.

The issue:

Traditional museums (Fig. 1) barrage the viewer with fine art at a relentless pace. It becomes hard to appreciate the technical skill of a single painting when 948 of the world’s finest 19th century impressionist paintings are crammed into a single.

So we need to both slow down the viewer and make them feel like they are engaging with the art, rather than being bombarded by it.

art-general

Fig. 1: When people expend a lot of effort (or money) on something, they tend to more highly value it. But this art museum just has the art hanging right there on the wall—no effort required!

Proposal:

The solution is to turn every art gallery into a harrowing obstacle course. It won’t be possible to just dismissively waltz through a gallery that represents 40,000 hours of oil painting effort. No—if you want to see the art in this gallery, you will need to work for it.

  • Lift a heavy wall that is obscuring a work of art (Figure 2).
  • Swim through an underwater passageway (Figure 3).

The trial that you must endure in order to view the art could also follow the theme of the art in some way. For example:

  • Sit on a wooden plank for an hour, baking in the hot sun, with no food, shelter, or water. If you can manage that, then the plank will lower into a vault that hosts The Raft of the Medusa.
  • Traverse a hallway that is constantly being pelted by paintballs from an automated gun in order to prove your worthiness to view the Jackson Pollock collection.
  • Order some soup at the art museum cafeteria. Then present your receipt to an attendant in order to be admitted to the Andy Warhol collection.
  • Push an enormous boulder up a ramp and onto a pressure plate in order to gain entrance to the Titian collection, featuring The Myth of Sisyphus.
  • Face your fears and wade through a pit of snakes in order to view . . . oh wait, it’s just the gift shop? No wonder no one buys anything.

 

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Fig. 2: If you want to see the famous work of art at the end of this hallway, you’ll need to lift a heavy wall and hold it up (or convince someone else to) while you appreciate the artwork.

 

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Fig. 3: You’d better leave your cell phone behind before you swim under the wall. Hopefully the art on the other side is worth it. Extremely noteworthy works of art might also be defended by electric eels.

 

Other options would surely present themselves to a creative museum curator. A few ideas:

  • Hold perfectly still in front of a sensor. After 2 minutes, a window will open, allowing you to see the artwork. If you move, the window closes again.
  • Use a pair of binoculars to find the work of art, which has been placed in an alcove on a distant high-rise apartment.
  • Pedal a bike fast enough to generate the power required to electromagnetically lift shutters that block your view of a painting.
  • Climb a knotted rope up to a lofted gallery.
  • Work together with several people to press a set of buttons simultaneously, which will briefly reveal a work of art.

PROS: This museum will let art aficionados really demonstrate their dedication.

CONS: Many rich museum donors are 80+ years old, and would be at high risk of being devoured by crocodiles in the “rope swing” obstacle. This would prevent them from making further donations to the museum.

 

The FDA doesn’t want you do know about this amazing cure for reverse-seasonal-affective-disorder, which could totally be a real thing! Increase your home’s resale value by 0 or more percent with this amazing new “rain window” architectural innovation.

Background:

Although people usually prefer it to be sunny rather than rainy, there are locations in the world where it hardly ever rains. Plus, there are some people who prefer an occasional rainy day even when the weather is sunny and cheerful.

Besides, sometimes a sunny day doesn’t match the tone of the actual events going on in your house: for example, if you were indicted for tax fraud for setting up a fake goat-based charity, would it be metaphorically appropriate for it to be a nice and sunny day? No: you should learn the bad news while sitting at a huge mahogany desk while in front of a window with raindrops streaming down it.

The issue:

You can duplicate the “rainy day at any time” effect by attaching a sprinkler to a hose and pointing it at your window, but this has two disadvantages:

  1. You have to actually own the land right outside your window, so it won’t work at a high-rise apartment or zero-lot.
  2. It wastes a lot of water, and may be forbidden by local ordinances.

window-sun

Fig. 1: An unacceptably sunny day. We can fix this with TECHNOLOGY. (Or a sprinkler.)

Proposal:

The proposal is simple: a transparent LCD screen is attached to the window. This screen can be relatively bare-bones; it can be grayscale and low-resolution, since we’re only going to be displaying raindrops on it.

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Fig. 2: Left: a bare window frame (with transparent glass in it). Right: a transparent LCD screen (shown darker than it normally would be—when it wasn’t in “rain” mode, the screen would be almost 100% transparent).

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Fig. 3: Left: the installation process is very simple—the screen sticks onto your existing window glass. Right: the final result. Rain on demand! Maybe combine it with a speaker system to get the full soothing-rain-sound experience.

PROS: No longer be at the mercy of the weather; now you can get a rainy day on demand.

CONS: Installation might complicated due to the lack of a “standard” window size.

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THE CITY GRINDER: The one relentless trick that will DRAMATICALLY CHANGE your property values! Read up before you buy property, or soon you will weep bitter tears of despair!

Background:

Modern cities face a number of issues due to old buildings. For example:

  • Housing that isn’t up to code
  • Abandoned buildings
  • Absentee owners who don’t maintain their property
  • Urban decay

Proposal:

Fortunately, with an amazing new idea, we can revitalize urban development and create guaranteed construction jobs.

Specifically, the proposal is as follows:

  1. Build an elevated circular track around City Hall (or some other centrally located building).
  2. Next, build an enormous miles-long spiked roller that rests on this track (Fig 1). The outer edge of this “city grinder” should reach to the farthest extent of the city.
  3. The city grinder will now make a slow revolution around the city, consuming everything in its path.

city-grinder

Fig 1: The “city grinder” is a giant spiked roller (left) that levels everything in its path. It is mounted on an elevated circular track that is centered on city hall (right; the building with a yellow roof). In this example, the roller is traveling counter-clockwise (see arrow). Not shown: the roller should actually be rotating quickly in order to grind the buildings it encounters.

The actual time required for a full rotation could be set based on the circumstances of the specific city. Perhaps 100 years for a full rotation would be reasonable.

Although this idea may seem unorthodox, it isn’t without precedent: some places have 99-year leases or even 999-year leases instead of permanent ownership.

Thus, the “city grinder” is just a strong formalization of the 99 year lease—except a property won’t just revert to government ownership after 99 years, but instead will be ground into dust.

city-map

Fig 2: An example of city grinder transit over a 100 year period (as indicated by the numbers; note that the grinder is in the top-right corner of the map in both 1900 and 2000). The star indicates the city hall (or other “center” location). At 100 years for a complete revolution, the city grinder will only need to cut through 3.6 degrees of the city per year. For a circular city that is 10 miles across, the outermost (fastest) point on the city grinder would be traveling at a mere 4.5 feet per day (or 1.4 meters / day). (City circumference = π × 10 miles = 31.4 miles. 31.4 miles / 100 years = 4.5 feet per day).

The only remaining logistical question is: how does traffic pass through the region being ground up? Luckily, this can be easily solved by breaking up the roller into many independent-operating sections that can be elevated. So only a small portion of the city grinder would be blocking traffic at a given time, and this segment could easily be driven around. This wouldn’t be any more difficult than dealing with railroad crossings, which all cities already handle.

PROS: Prevents accumulation of obsolete and decaying buildings in a city. Improves urban beautification. Architects and construction workers will have guaranteed employment.

CONS: The roller may be expensive to operate and maintain.