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Category: Computers

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.

 

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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).

When giving a slide presentation, show DIFFERENT slide decks to different groups in the audience! Never confuse your audience with an overly-technical presentation again. An amazing application of the same technology used in red-green-glasses-based 3D movies.

Background:

When giving a presentation to a diverse audience (e.g. of experts and non-experts, or of employees from two different departments in a company), you have a problem: you can only make one set of slides, but sometimes you might want to tailor different parts of the presentation to a different audience.

For example, one might want to give a presentation at an easily-understood overview level while also providing technical details for any domain experts in attendance.

Proposal:

Nearly all projectors and screens consist of three light-generating elements, in red (1), green (2), and blue (3).

By giving some members of the audience a pair of green-lens glasses (which block all red and blue light), we would be able to hide certain elements of the presentation that were not relevant to the green-glasses wearers. We can use a set of red-lens glasses and blue-lens glasses in the same way (see Figure 1).

With this technique, we can show up to three entirely different slide presentations, with the only limitation being that each presentation must consist of only monochromatic images.

Specifics:

  • Red glasses can see the following colors:  red, yellow, magenta, white [*].
  • Green glasses can see the following colors: green, yellow, cyan, white.
  • Blue glasses can see the following four colors: blue, magenta, cyan, white.

[*] Note that this is “additive” color space (where red + green = yellow), not the “subtractive” color space one might be familiar with from mixing paints.

Fig_1 3d_glasses_modified

Fig. 1: These glasses block certain wavelengths of light. By carefully constructing our slide decks, we can use these glasses to give up to three different presentations to the same audience at the same time.

So a slide that should be visible to everyone in the audience should be white (or shades of gray). Whereas if you only wanted to present to the red & green glasses-wearers (but not the blue ones), that text would be yellow. See Figure 2 for an example.

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Fig. 2: A sample presentation that is meant to provide both “optimistic” conclusions (green glasses) and “realistic” conclusions (red glasses). This is what the presentation looks like with no color-filtering glasses on.

 

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Fig. 3: The presentation from Figure 2 in “pessimistic / realistic” mode, as viewed through red lenses. All of the green text has disappeared!

 

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Fig. 4: The presentation from Figure 2 in “optimistic” mode, viewed through green lenses. Red text has disappeared.

 

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Fig. 5: Real-world demonstration: a color-enhanced version of what a red-blue version of this presentation looks like through red-blue “3D” glasses. The effect is almost 100% convincing for the human eye, but the camera actually manages to pick up a lot of the non-lens color, so this photo has been edited to more accurately reflect the perceived image.

A superior (but more logistically difficult) implementation:

It would also be possible to implement this same system with polarized glasses (as were used for some 3D TVs in the early-to-mid 2010s).

This would have the advantage of providing full color, but the disadvantage of not being compatible with a standard conference room projector. Additionally, you would be limited to two different presentations, rather than 3.

PROS: Improves your presentations by letting you tailor the presentation slides to multiple categories of audience members.

CONS: Greatly increases the amount of time required to make a presentation!

Improve your web site’s comment section by only allowing unique comments! Now every meme image will need to be one pixel different in order to be reposted. The Internet is saved!

Background:

Moderating the comments section of any web site is a thankless and un-ending task. But what if there were some way to make it slightly easier?

Proposal:

Instead of just allowing any comments, we can require that comments be totally unique and never-before-seen.

Once a comment is made, or an image is posted, a “fingerprint” [1] of that data is saved, and that exact comment can never be posted again (UI implementation shown in Figure 1).

[1] For example, an MD5 sum.

This will automatically get rid of many types of classic low-signal posts (e.g. the historical but rarely-seen-noawadays “First post”) and reposted memes. (This may or may not be desirable, depending on the type of site being run, of course.)

 

internet-message-board-only-unique-comments

Fig. 1: If a user posts some text (or an image) that was seen before, they will get an error message similar to this one.

Observation about images:

Since images must be unique to be reposted, the easiest way to re-post a meme image would be to make a small change to it and re-save it (or make no change at all, but re-save it using a lossy compression method). For a lossy image format like JPEG, this would lead to an interesting situation in which memes became more and more corrupted-looking as they are modified and re-posted over and over. This would even allow the lineage of a meme to be traced by looking at its variously-compressed versions.

PROS: May discourage certain low-effort posts that you’d want to moderate away anyway, saving moderator time and improving web site quality.

CONS: If a 32-digit hexadecimal number is used as the output of the “fingerprinting” hash function, then only a maximum of 16**32 comments can ever be made to your web site. If your web site gets 1 million unique posts per year, then some time in the year 340,282,366,920,938,448,064,954,991,902,720 A.D., all of the hash values will be used up, and people will no longer be able to post on your web site. Also, your visitor counter will probably have overflowed by then!

For your next job application / rental apartment selection / house purchase: you would be able to make an INFORMED decision about your commute thanks to this incredible piece of software!

Background:

In the United States, an employed person has two conflicting goals:

  1. To commute to their job as fast as possible (ideally by “hyperloop” or helicopter),
  2. …and to live as far away from their workplace as possible.

To these ends, thousands of man-hours have gone into new legislation preventing residences near places of employment (zoning laws which help with goal #2, above) and to developing new and complex commute-easing technologies such as self-driving cars or trains that travel at a thousand miles per hour (addressing goal #1).

The issue:

When accepting a new job, it’s hard to know how long or unpleasant your commute might be.

Although a person can get an idea of the total amount of time a commute is expected to take by checking an online map service, it’s a different matter to actually experience the commute.

Proposal:

In order to figure out if a commute is tolerable, a “Commute Test Drive” is proposed: this is just a piece of software that generates a realistically-long commute on the route that you specify (example in Figure 3, perhaps using data from OpenStreetMap) and then requires that you drive it in real-time.

 

1 Commute test drive.png

Fig. 1: This “Commute Test Drive” commute simulator would be similar to the delivery truck game “Euro Truck Simulator,” but with realistically-excruciatingly-large maps.

If a person wants to use public transit instead of driving, then a more sophisticated version of this software might allow the player to simulate the process of walking to a bus stop, waiting for a bus, and sitting on the bus for the correct amount of time.

By enduring the commute in the comfort of their own home (Fig. 2), a person can make a better-educated decision about accepting a job (or buying / renting a house) in a given area.

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Fig. 2: Although it would be possible to play this simulator with a gamepad or a mouse and keyboard, the steering wheel adds realism.

 

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Fig. 3: The route would be simulated with traffic and any other elements of a commute that might cause a delay (like railroad crossings, police checkpoints, and drawbridges).

Conclusion:

PROS: Inexpensively allows a person to make informed decisions about where to live and work.

CONS: This software probably already exists in some form as a fan-made Euro Truck Simulator mod.

Errors-by-Mail: the new feature in computer operating systems! It supports the printer industry and makes it easier for you to keep track of any problems with your computer!

The issue:

When clicking “OK” on an error message on a computer or phone, it’s easy to instinctively dismiss the message and then later wonder what it said.

Unfortunately, the moment has passed, and there’s usually no way to read the message again!

This is especially true with phones, since an error message typically takes over the entire screen while it is displayed, making it impossible for a user to just put the error message into a corner and deal with it later (or never).

Proposal:

All logged errors on a computer could be sent to the user by physical mail (as in Figure 1), as follows:

  1. An error occurs on a system
  2. The system sends the error and the user’s postal address over the Internet to Errors-by-Mail, a hypothetical hip startup in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  3. Errors-by-Mail prints the error message and puts it in a regular envelope, then puts it in the mail.
  4. A few days later, the user has a hard copy of any error that occurred on their system. The user can then re-read this message at their leisure.

 

error-message-by-mail.jpg

Fig. 1: Here, a python error message has been helpfully mailed to the user. With this service, you would now have a record of any error messages that you encountered on your phone or computer.

PROS: Supports “Big Printer,” lets users easily keep a physical record of any problems with their computer or phone.

CONS: Postage could add up. But perhaps this is a positive feature, as it would encourage users to never do anything that might generate an error.

Finally, you can become an ant, thanks to the power of VIRTUAL REALITY.

Background:

Currently, there is no easy way to have the experience of becoming a tiny ant [*]. This is a shortcoming that could not be addressed—until now, thanks to modern VR technology!

[*] You could watch the 1989 film Honey I Shrunk the Kids, but that isn’t an interactive experience.

Proposal:

Thanks to virtual reality, you can become an ant in 3 steps:

  1. Get a VR headset.
  2. Create a small remote-controlled car with two cameras on the front.
  3. Set up the R.C. car cameras to transmit to the VR headset.

Figure 1 shows the result of these steps.

Now you can be an ant!

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Fig. 1: Left: someone wearing a VR headset that receives a pair of video signals from the remote-controlled car (orange) shown in the magnifying-glass inset (right)

 

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Fig. 2: The experience of the viewer in VR goggles is shown at right. This is definitely exactly what an ant looks like close-up, as anyone who has seen the “Planet Earth” series can confirm. That’s how you know that this image was drawn with extensive consultation of reference material.

Conclusion:

This “ant VR” system theoretically be used for other purposes as well; maybe the ant-sized drone could check for cracks in hard-to-access parts of bridges or buildings, or an aquatic version could swim through a city’s water system to allow maintenance personnel to both look for leaks AND ALSO pretend to be an eel at the same time. Finally!

PROS: Lets you feel kinship with your insectoid brethren, the ants.

CONS: After spending a while in VR, you might think you actually ARE an ant and become unable to participate in human society.

3-vr-ant-original

Figure 3 (bonus): An extremely detailed technical schematic that will be used for manufacturing.

 

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.