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Category: Computers

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.

2 Home driving setup.png

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

 

3 real-time route.png

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!

1-vr-ant

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)

 

2-vr-be-an-ant

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.)
1-phone-plus-crank.png

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).

2-slot-machine-option.png

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.

Are you hunched over your laptop while you give a presentation? Save both your posture and your presentation with this one incredible eco-friendly tip.

Background:

When giving a presentation on a large screen, there are two popular options for calling attention to specific areas of a slide deck:

  1. Physically gesture at the screen (or use a laser pointer, as seen in Figure 1).
  2. Use the laptop trackpad to move the mouse pointer / arrow around.

The issue:

The trackpad method—which requires the presenter to hover around their laptop—usually makes for a less engaging presentation, but it’s the only option for a presentation that requires real-time interaction.

So far, there’s been no way to combine the best of both worlds: 1) the direct-pointing of the laser pointer and 2) the ability to affect the on-screen user interface elements.

 

laser-remote

Fig. 1: Presentation remotes often consist of a slide advance button, a “back” button, and a laser pointer. Some of them also have a gyroscopic mouse, but this feature usually controls awkwardly at best.

Proposal:

Until now, that is!

In this proposal, the presentation remote (and laser pointer) will allow the user to point the laser at an element on the screen (say, a “play video” button), click a button on the remote, and have the on-screen element respond (in this case, playing the video).

The system works as follows:

  • The presentation remote is paired to the presenter’s laptop already, in order to allow the slide advance button to work. This is a normal feature of all presentation remotes.
  • The remote also gets a “reference” image of what’s on the laptop screen at the exact moment. This doesn’t have to be high-resolution; the remote just has to know generally what the screen looks like, updated a few times per second.
  • The remote also also contains a camera, so it can see what its laser pointer is pointing at.
  • So when the presenter points a laser at the large presentation screen, the remote now knows exactly what element the laser is hitting, since it can compare the camera image to the reference image of what’s on the laptop.

This allows the user to essentially turn the presentation screen into a giant touchscreen.

For a touch-aware operating system (e.g. iOS, Android, or Microsoft Windows), this would require no additional software support beyond sending a simulated touch event at the laser-pointer-pointed-at location.

laser-pointer-touchscreen

Fig. 2: The remote has a camera in it, so it can compare what it’s pointing at to the “reference” image from the presenter’s laptop: if the images mostly match, the remote can figure out exactly what the laser pointer is pointing at.

Conclusion:

If you thought it was TOO EASY to set up a presentation these days, this new and complex system will guarantee at least 15 minutes of “wait… hang on, I think I’ve got it working…. no, huh. Is it input 1, or input 2?” at the beginning of every presentation.

PROS: Prevents deforestation by reducing the number of wooden presentation pointers that will be manufactured.

CONS: May reduce deforestation so much that plants grow rampantly across the globe, killing all animal life and depleting the atmosphere of carbon dioxide. All because you couldn’t be bothered to walk over to your laptop to move the mouse!!!

Solve your conference call woes with this one insane tip! Never lean your head weirdly in front of a laptop camera again. FINALLY.

The issue:

During a conference call, it can be difficult to position multiple people in such a way that everyone is actually in-frame.

Usually, either:

  1. Only one person fits into the frame, or:
  2. Everyone is extremely far from the camera, so 95% of the screen area is taken up by a conference table.

Figure 1 illustrates this common scenario.

conference-call-1-without-prism.png

Fig. 1: When multiple people are sharing a laptop during a conference call, usually the video looks like the example on right, where only one person is actually fully visible.

Proposal:

An inexpensive prism can fix this problem once and for all (Figure 2). A prism can be placed directly in front of the camera to split the image into multiple horizontally-spaced parts.

Now everyone can participate in the conference call without needing to move the camera around!

conference-call-2-with-prism

Fig. 2: The prism attachment makes it easy to fit everyone into frame. The prism could attach to the camera by means of either a magnetic clip or some sort of suction cup (probably the best solution for laptop screens).

PROS: Encourages conference call participation by people other than whoever happens to be directly in front of the camera.

CONS: Might result in an unflattering “fun house mirror” effect in the final image. (Although this could be fixed in software, or by a more complicated prism setup.)