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This new eco-friendly smart shower head will save water from being wasted while not impacting your enjoyment of a shower! The new video-camera-based Internet-enabled shower is the inescapable trend of the future.

The issue:

When a person takes a shower, it is often the cast that some fraction of the water leaving the shower head lands directly on the shower floor without hitting the shower-taker (Figure 1).

This “off-target” water is totally wasted.

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Fig. 1: Here, the blue rays indicate water that hits the shower-taker, while the green “off-target” lines indicate water that just immediately sprays onto the floor of the shower.

Proposal:

Thanks to advances in computer vision and inexpensive electronics, it is now possible to figure out, in real time, where the water that leaves each shower nozzle will actually end up. Specifically, we need to determine if there is a human in the path of the water.

In order to accomplish this, a valve is added to each individual shower nozzle (allowing it to be independently opened and closed) and a camera is mounted on the shower head to allow it to track the shower-taker (Figure 2).

The camera feed from the shower is sent to a secure cloud facility, where an advanced machine learning algorithm analyzes it to determine which shower nozzles should be opened or closed. This system should be operable with latency of less than one-tenth of a second, which should be more than sufficient..

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Fig. 2: The camera can look at the shower-er and determine which shower nozzles are actually aiming at that person (shown as blue circles here). The nozzles that are just aiming at the shower floor can be closed automatically (red), thus saving water and potentially increasing water pressure in the remaining nozzles.

Conclusion:

This system sells itself: it saves water without negatively impacting the shower-taking experience.

PROS: Saves water and improves shower water pressure.

CONS: Some people might object to having a video feed of themselves in the shower being constantly streamed over the Internet, but it is very unlikely that an Internet company would have a security breach.

 

 

 

Never face “decision paralysis” due to a few one-star reviews on items you’re buying online, thanks to the “SURPRISE ME” purchase randomizer!

Background:

In the post-online-shopping world, there are now nearly innumerable purchasing options for every style of item.

If a person wanted to buy a particular style of baseball cap in the pre-Internet world, they would have the following option:

  • Go to a store
  • Purchase one of the, say, 4 or 5 suitable caps that are in stock.

But in the Internet-shopping era, the process is as follows:

  • Go online
  • Find literally thousands of options at nearly all price points
  • Find hundreds of reviews for each cap, ranging from “This hat saved my life ★★★★★.” to “This hat burned down my village and destroyed everything I ever loved. However, shipping was fast: ★★★☆☆.”

The issue:

A person may be unable to decide on a suitable purchase due to two factors:

  1. The overwhelming quantity of options (“overchoice“).
  2. The incredible amount of information available about each option (“analysis paralysis“). This is especially seen in purchasing of consumer electronics (e.g. a new stereo system or a television).

The solution:

Fortunately, the solution is very straightforward, and can be implemented by any web shopping site (see mockup in Figure 1):

  1. The user finds an item on the web site that is similar to what they’re looking for.
  2. The user adds this item to their shopping cart with a special button marked “SURPRISE ME.”
  3. Instead of adding the exact clicked-on item to their cart, the web site adds a similar randomly-chosen item that costs anywhere between 75% and 125% of the price of the clicked on item.
  4. The user is not informed of the actual contents of their shopping cart at checkout, only the total cost.
  5. A few days later, the mystery item arrives at the user’s house by mail.
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Fig. 1: Here, we see an online store that has a “surprise me” button that will allow the user to purchase a random item that matches their requirements (at left). (This is an alternate version of the situation described in the “solution” section above).

Conclusion:

Using the system above, decision paralysis can be avoided. This increases both the rate of all-devouring consumption of your customers, AND your company’s profit margins!

PROS: Could be legitimately implemented, probably does not break any local or national laws!

CONS: The rate of returns might be extremely high.

Vastly improve your whale watching tourism business with this new “guaranteed whale appearance” whale jail, A.K.A. the “cetacean cube.” Never disappoint a demanding and entitled tourist again!

TITLE: Vastly improve your whale watching tourism business with this new “guaranteed whale appearance” whale jail, A.K.A. the “cetacean cube.” Never disappoint a demanding and entitled tourist again!

Background:

Tourists in certain countries are willing to pay money to embark on a short boat trip in search of some sort of evidence of whales existing (e.g. a dorsal fin, waterspout, tail).

The issue:

Unfortunately, although this activity is billed as “whale watching,” there is no guarantee that a whale will make an appearance during the voyage, even if there is, in fact, a whale somewhere in the water underneath the whale-watching boat (Figure 1).

This is because the whales do not receive a cut of the tourist proceeds and thus, under capitalism, are not incentivized to appear at any particular schedule.

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Fig. 1: Despite there being many exotic marine animals in the water in this example, none of them are visible due to the opacity of the ocean water. The whale watcher is completely dependent on the whale deigning to come up for air at some point during the whale watching expedition. Outrageous!

Proposal:

The solution to this AWOL-whale problem is simple: an enormous transparent cube that is partially submerged into the ocean near the route of the whale-watching ship.

After the cube is partially submerged, most of the air in the top is pumped out, thus causing the water level to rise substantially above the normal water level (due to the lower atmospheric pressure in the cube).

The cube actually only has five sides: the bottom of the cube is open to the sea, thus allowing sea creatures to enter (or leave) the cube.

 

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Fig. 2: Thanks to this “cetacean cube,” the whale can be observed as if it is in an aquarium. Additionally, other sea life that does not need to surface for air can also be observed in the cube.

Conclusion:

This system should be of great use to coastal whale-watching tour boats.

PROS: Gratifies many tourists who would otherwise have had a whale-free vacation.

CONS: It may be difficult to create a structurally sound transparent cube for millions of gallons of water and to somehow anchor it in the open ocean. Even if it is possible to construct, it may be beyond the financial resources of a whale watching business.

Never get run over by a car again, thanks to this high-visibility LED modification for your laptop bag! Might save over one million lives per year in the world’s most crowded cities.

The issue:

In large cities, there are many perils for pedestrians: cars, bicycles, motorcycles, horses, etc.

Even the sidewalk is not a safe zone from scooters and bicycles!

At night, the problems are even worse, since pedestrians are generally un-illuminated and are frequently wearing all-black coats in the winter months.

Proposal:

Since many commuters carry a laptop bag, briefcase, or purse, it would be easy to put some sort of high-visibility indicator on this object: for example, an LED light (see animated designer laptop bag in Figure 1).

This would be less intrusive than wearing a high-visibility vest, and might be an easier sell to fashion-conscious commuters.

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Fig. 1: Fashionable designer laptop bag with caution tape and an LED light. Possibly OSHA-approved?

Figure 2 shows the same briefcase as a still image.

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Fig. 2: Thanks to this LED strip, the pedestrian holding the laptop bag is less likely to be hit by a scooter, bicycle, or car while walking on city streets.

Conclusion:

This is clearly the next evolution in fashion: reserve your designer laptop bag now!

PROS: Should reduce pedestrian fatalities and the city’s overall fashion rating at the same time.

CONS: May make your coworkers jealous and cause them them to plot against you.

Improve your nation’s Scrabble championship performance and learn new and exotic words with this one amazing license plate proposal! Call the DMV now and reserve a new plate!

Background:

English has a wide variety of rarely-used short words that are extremely useful in various word games (e.g. Scrabble, Words With Friends, Bananagrams), and not in very many other situations.

Specifically, there are (in the 1993 FreeBSD dictionary that comes with Mac OS X), a total of:

  • 139 two-letter words
    1294 three-letter words
    4994 four-letter words

…out of the 234,936 words in the 1934 Webster’s Second International dictionary, according to the following commands:

grep -E -i '^[A-Z]{2}$' /usr/share/dict/words | tr 'a-z' 'A-Z' | sort -u | wc -l  --> Result: 139 two-letter words

grep -E -i '^[A-Z]{3}$' /usr/share/dict/words | tr 'a-z' 'A-Z' | sort -u | wc -l  --> Result: 1294 three-letter words

grep -E -i '^[A-Z]{4}$' /usr/share/dict/words | tr 'a-z' 'A-Z' | sort -u | wc -l  --> Result: 4994 four-letter words

The issue:

This is a fairly large set of words that a person would need to know at minimum in order to be a pro at a word game.

In order to make our nation more competitive at international word game tournaments, something will need to be done.

Proposal:

Car license plates should incorporate the following: a short word (from the set of valid words above), plus the definition of that word (Figure 1).

Then, as people are stuck in traffic every day (or are waiting for a bus), they can learn new words just by observing the nearby cars!

As a bonus, this may make drivers more attentive of the in front of them.

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Fig. 1: These proposed license plate numbers contain an uncommon English word and its definition. Top: “AIT.” Bottom: “EME.”

“Grassroots” Alternative Proposal:

If you don’t want to wait for your state to implement this new license plate design, you can still implement this idea right now by just making your own bumper sticker with a word & definition on it. Put the sticker on the back of your car, and you’re done!

PROS: Increases literacy and national performance in esoteric word games.

CONS: May encourage extreme tailgating (in order to read the tiny text on the license plates), which could lead to more traffic accidents. This could be solved by making the license plates huge, or using a set of bumper stickers instead.

Throw away your laptop privacy screen and use this camera-plus-software approach for the ultimate in security!

Background:

Laptop privacy screens (or “monitor filters”) reduce the viewing angle of a laptop screen in order to prevent evildoers from snooping on sensitive information on your laptop (Figure 1).

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Fig. 1: Since this laptop does NOT have a privacy screen on it, the suspicious individual at left is able to view this contents of the laptop (despite being at an extreme off-center angle).

The issue:

Unfortunately, these privacy screens have a few downsides:

  1. They are inelegant to attach. Often, the attachment points block a small amount of screen real-estate.
  2. They slightly darken the screen even when viewed directly head-on
  3. When collaborating with coworkers, removing and replacing the screen is time-consuming.

Proposal:

A high-speed camera could, in combination with facial recognition and eye-tracking software, be used to determine who is looking at the screen and exactly what part of the screen they are looking at.

Then, the privacy system simply scrambles the contents of your laptop screen as soon as it notices an unauthorized individual looking at your screen (Figure 2). (When you are the only viewer, the eye tracking camera can recognize you and not scramble the screen.)

 

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Fig. 2: With the camera-based privacy filtering system, the laptop instantly scrambles the screen as soon as it detects that someone besides the laptop owner is looking at the screen. Note that the contents of the laptop look similar at a glance, but are actually scrambled nonsense. This prevents passers-by from immediately realizing that a software privacy filter has been applied (and potentially attracting unwanted attention).

In an extra-fancy system, the scrambling mode could be operational at all times, with the laptop only unscrambling the very specific part of the screen that the user is looking at (Figure 3). This is similar to the idea of foveated rendering, where additional computational resources are directed toward the part of the screen that the user is actually looking at.

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Fig. 3: It might be possible to selectively unscramble only the part of the screen that the user is actively looking at. The region in the user’s peripheral vision would remain scrambled.

Conclusion:

If you own a laptop manufacturing company and are looking for an endless hardware task to employ your cousin or something, this would be a great project!

PROS: The laws of physics do not prevent this from working!

CONS: Might be impossible to use a laptop in a coffeeshop with this system activated.

An “audio radar” hardware device could theoretically bring positional audio and distance cues to both deaf gamers and people who just play games with the sound off. Maybe someone should crowdfund it??

Background:

Closed captioning (e.g. [Wind howling] or [Ominous footsteps] in a movie) supplements traditional subtitles with information beyond just dialogue.

For a movie, this information is usually sufficient: a viewer doesn’t usually need to know exactly how loud the wind was howling, or which direction the footsteps are coming from.

The issue:

Unfortunately, in video games, the direction and loudness information is important! But closed captioning does not provide this information. Even if certain sounds are close-captioned (e.g. [leaves rustling] or [zombie sounds]), this information is too vague to suggest a useful course of action.

Consider the following scenario:

You encounter a hallway lined with doors while exploring a haunted Victorian mansion. The text [“Zombie scratching at door: LOUD”] appears at the bottom of the screen.

Since you have no idea which door the scratching is coming from, your ability to push furniture in front of the correct door (and thus escape from brain-devouring) is down to complete luck.

Proposal:

Since it is unlikely that many games will include all sound information as text in the near future, we need a game-independent hardware device for this purpose.

Thus, the following proposal: a hardware “audio radar” (Figure 1) that plugs directly into the audio output for your game console or PC. This device would indicate the location and distance of any relevant sounds in the in-game audio.

 

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Fig. 1: This “audio radar” analyzes incoming sounds and provides a detailed description, location, and distance for each relevant sound. Above, the “dangerous” sounds have been highlighted in red, while the merely “suspicious” sound here is shown in purple.

This could probably also be implemented as a phone app, rather than a dedicated hardware device.

PROS: Might actually be useful!

CONS: People would definitely complain about this being cheating in a multiplayer game! (Unlike keyboard-and-mouse use in console games, however, this device would be completely undetectable.)