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Category: UI / UX

Stop challenging my opinions! Never see an alternative opinion again, thanks to this new feature that will save gaming and also your sensitive feelings!

Background:

Sometimes, a game will have a political statement to make, which you might disagree with.

For example, in the game “Papers Please,” you must perform bureaucratic duties in a stifling faux-Eastern Bloc nation, and there is a strong negative message about the oppressive regime. But what if you think that totalitarianism is actually a great sort of government?

Similarly, in Super Mario Bros., you must save the princess, but what if you aren’t a monarchist?

The issue:

If you disagree with the political statement of the game, it is possible that you will find your opinions challenged in some way, which could be either annoying or informative.

Proposal:

In order to prevent this, we introduce the following proposal: an option in the game settings that will let you customize the political message of the game (Figure 2), as well as the normal settings that most games have already (Figure 1).

 

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Fig. 1: Most games already have a basic set of user-configurable options, like the example here.

 

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Fig. 2: By modifying the “POLITICS” slider here, the user can pick their desired political message along this single-dimensional axis that represents early-2000s United States political affiliation. This may be insufficiently granular: see Figure 3 for one possible alternative.

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Fig. 3: The classic two-dimensional “political beliefs” plot may be somewhat more useful than the single LEFT / RIGHT slider.

Details:

The implementation of this “politics slider” would vary on a per-game-genre basis.

In the easiest example, dialog could change to uncritically praise the the player’s actions. For example, a gritty military shooter might feature the dialog “Good thing we burned down that village, those civilians were definitely going to betray us!” or “Good thing we didn’t burn down that village, now the citizens have joined our cause!The gameplay would remain the same, so this would be an inexpensive change.

Graphics could also be altered; for example, if a map appeared in a game, there could be different borders displayed for areas such as Taiwan and Kashmir (depending on the player’s opinion of the proper political affiliation of the region in question). Even bodies of water could be re-labeled: for example, “Sea of Japan” vs. “East Sea of Korea”).

Differing graphical options could also be used to avoid political controversy or antagonizing important markets. This has already been partially implemented in some games: in the simulation of San Francisco in the game “Watch Dogs 2,” no Taiwanese flags are flying in Chinatown—only (mainland) Chinese flags are present. One could imagine this being a user-defined setting, or perhaps automatically set based on a user’s location as inferred by their IP address.

Even in a game like Dr. Mario, the pills could be relabeled as “VITAMINS” or “HOMEOPATHIC REMEDY” or “JUST A PLACEBO.”

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Fig. 4: For the gamer who never wants to see an opposing opinion, this high-dimensional settings option will let you customize the game to parrot back your exact beliefs in every conceivable axis.

Conclusion:

No one wants to feel like they’re wrong: now you can have a game affirm your beliefs at every turn!

PROS: No more hurt feelings when a game challenges a person’s opinions!

CONS: May only be applicable to a tiny set of games that actually have a message to convey in the first place.

Stop getting run over by those passenger-transport golf carts in airport concourses with this one incredible tip, brought to you by the Big Laser Pointer industry.

Background:

Airport terminals often have small golf-cart-like trams that can be driven around in the passenger concourses. These are often used to help people move around the concourses (for example, one might be used to help a passenger with a leg in a cast who is trying to make it to a connecting flight).

The issue:

These passenger carts can move quickly, and may run over pedestrians in the terminal. To help prevent this, the carts usually emit an incredibly loud and annoying beep (like a truck backing up).

However, it is usually not very obvious where a cart is based only on the annoying beeping sound, especially in a crowded concourse (Figure 1).

 

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Fig. 1: The annoying beeping coming from this airport golf cart lets people know that a cart is nearby, but requires pedestrians to 1) find the cart and 2) figure out what path the cart is attempting to take through the airport crowds.

 

Proposal:

Instead of only beeping, the passenger cart could also have a special set of headlights that would project a “danger zone” image in front of them. This would make it extremely obvious as to where pedestrians should not walk.

 

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Fig. 2: This updated passenger cart has special headlights that project a “danger zone” region in the path of travel of the cart. These headlights could be repurposed laser pointers with a more spread out pattern (instead of a single dot).

Conclusion:

These new headlights could be an after-market attachment, since most airports will probably not want to replace their existing fleet of golf carts.

The light would only turn on when the shuttle is moving and would only consume as much energy as ~10 handheld laser pointers, so it shouldn’t substantially reduce cart battery life.

PROS: Would make it much easier to avoid being run over by an airport carts.

CONS: Probably… none? Is this a legitimately good idea?

 

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Fig. 3 (bonus): Illustration for a hypothetical patent application.

Improve print quality and generate an impressive high-contrast résumé with this amazing mirror-image two-sided printing plan.

Background:

When printing non-color text on paper, you generally want to print the text as dark as possible, for maximum contrast.

Proposal:

With this new “two-sided mirror printing” idea, text can be printed darker than is normally possible, with this one trick: the printer automatically prints a mirror image of your text on the opposite side of the page.

This mirror-image text contributes (very slightly) to darkening the overall text on the side that is intended to be read (Figure 1).

print-both-sides-for-darker-text

Fig. 1: This sheet of paper has a “2” printed on both sides (mirror-imaged on the back), but the other text is printed only on one side. Note that the 2 is slightly darker than the other text.

This process has been empirically tested: it actually does work, but is only really noticeable if you hold the paper up to a light. See Figures 2 and 3 for experimental evidence.

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Fig. 2: A piece of paper that has been printed with overlapping black rectangles on both sides: here, we see only one side (a normal view of the sheet of paper without any backlighting).

 

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Fig. 3: Here, the same piece of paper from Figure 2 was held in front of a light. The overlapping printed regions (center) are dramatically darker than the regions that were printed on one side only (left and right areas). The numbers indicated are the pixel values as measured in extremely unscientific fashion (0% would be the JPEG’s lowest black value, and 100% would be the JPEG’s brightest white value).

Conclusion:

Although this method uses twice as much ink (and potentially twice as much paper), it produces text that is subtly higher contrast under very specific lighting conditions.

The brightness measuring technique shown in Figure 3 is methodologically questionable; I don’t recommend plagiarizing it in your Methods section if you are attempting to publish a research paper.

PROS: Increases text contrast, helps support the struggling printer supply industry, which has been hit hard by the diabolical “Paperless Office.”

CONS: May increase unsustainable usage of natural resources, hastening the transformation of the Earth into a barren and windswept wasteland, devoid of all life and completely silent except for the sound of printers attempting to automatically clear a paper jam.

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.

 

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).

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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.