Fill in coloring books in far less time with an incredible gadget that will save MILLIONS of hours of labor per year!

Background:

Every year, tens of millions of coloring books are sold to children and adults alike.

The Issue:

Filling in a coloring book can be quite a time-consuming process. Even with frantic scribbling and thick markers, it’s a slow process to fully color even a single page in a coloring book (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: Colored pencils (seen above) and crayons are the most popular artistic tools used for filling in a coloring book. But both are quite slow and require substantial non-coloring “dead time“ as the color-er switches between various pencils/crayons/markers.

Proposal:

Thanks to modern technology, we can make a tool that will vastly improve coloring efficiency. A combination of computer vision (i.e., a camera) and machine learning can allow a computer to quickly determine a reasonable set of colors for a coloring book.

By combining this information with modern mechanical engineering, we can create a device (Figure 2) that will quickly fill in the coloring book as the user slowly moves it across the page.

Fig. 2: The camera (A) can determine (with 99% accuracy) what color to use to fill in each region of the coloring book. The user need only hold the auto-filler at the handle (B) and slowly sweep it across the page while markers are automatically extended and retracted (C) to fill in the page in record time!

With this sort of technology, coloring time can probably be reduced by 90% or more.

Conclusion:

If we (conservatively) estimate that it takes 2 hours to fill in the average coloring book, and that 10 million coloring books are filled-in per year in the United States alone, then this device can save 36 million hours of labor annually—in just one country!

It’s possible that future advancements in technology may even make it possible for coloring books to be entirely filled in by machine before shipping it to the user.

PROS: Saves an enormous amount of labor. Should reduce the number of coloring-book-related repetitive stress injuries.

CONS: None!

Waste less time on your phone AND get some much-needed exercise with this new software-only phone feature.

Background:

Supposedly, changing a phone’s display to only show a drab grayscale tends to reduce the amount of time that the phone’s owner spends fiddling around on the Internet.

Proposal:

Here’s a simple software-only hack that would make people more aware of the amount of time they’re spending on their phones, and might give them some extremely minimal exercise as well.

The system is simple: the user’s phone starts off colorful and vibrant, but over a period of a few minutes, the contrast is reduced until the phone is a dull uniform gray. The user must shake their phone a bit (like one of those rechargeable flashlights) to “shake” the color back into the phone (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: Left: during casual browsing, the phone loses color and contrast. Right: after shaking the phone for a little while, the phone is “recharged” and high-contrast color is temporarily re-enabled.

Conclusion:

This can be implemented entirely in software, and could be a cool and trendy “phone use mindfulness” mode. Unfortunately, since installing system-wide changes like this to phones is heavily locked down, it’s likely that only a phone manufacturer would actually have the ability to deploy a system like this at any scale.

PROS: This could be accomplished with the existing functionality on phones: it requires no additional hardware!

CONS: Would probably increase the number of dropped phones.

Half of the letters of the English alphabet require new names: let’s change them to make things easier for everyone!

Background:

The English language has 26 letters. You are reading them right now!

The Issue:

Some of the letters of the alphabet are very poorly named.

For example, “W” is pronounced “double-yoo,” which totally lacks the actual “w” sound (e.g. the leading sound in “what”) anywhere in it. Additionally, it’s absurd that the letter W doesn’t even have its own letter in its name.

We would think it absurd if the letter “I” was called “Rotated Hyphen” yet we somehow tolerate style of naming with the W!

Proposal:

Let’s rename the letters so that their names better match their common pronunciations. The emoji indicate the degree to which a letter needs renaming. (See the “conclusions” part for a key to the emoji).

✅ A: Acceptable. The “a” in “able.”

✅ B: Acceptable. The “b” in “bee.”

🔥❌  C: C is an odd letter, since it is replaced by an S or a K in all situations except when it appears with “ch.” Renaming the letter to “choo” to remind all users of this letter that non-“ch” uses of “C” are now deprecated. Wordsmiths should please use “k” or “s” instead of “c” whenever practical. Note that “C” is currently pronounced “see,” which would actually be better suited for the letter S.

✅ D: Acceptable. Example: the “d” in “details.”

✅ E: Acceptable. Example: the “e” in “each.”

⚠️ F: “Ef” has an unnecessary leading “ehh” sound. Renaming to “foo.”

❌ G: “Gee” is a so-called “soft g,” which could also be spelled “jee.” Renaming to “Goo” (“hard g”) to remove the ambiguity.

❌ H: Totally lacks the “h” sound unless you say it with an aspirated “h,” like “hay-ch” (as some regional accents do). Renaming to “hop.”

✅ I: Acceptable. This letter has a lot of pronunciations, but this is the “i” in “ice.”

✅ J: Acceptable. Example: the “j” in “join.”

✅ K: Acceptable. Example: the “k” in “kale.”

⚠️ L: “Ell” has an unnecessary leading “ehh” sound. Renaming to “lee.”

⚠️ M: “Em” has an unnecessary leading “ehh” sound. Renaming to “moo.”

⚠️ N: “En” has an unnecessary leading “ehh” sound. Renaming to “noo.”

✅ O: Acceptable. Example: the “o” in “open.”

✅ P: Acceptable. Example: the “p” in “piece.”

⚠️ Q: “Queue” or “Cue” is not a very accurate sound. Renaming to “quib” to more accurately reflect the letter’s common pronunciation in e.g. “queen / quick / quit.”

⚠️ R: “Arr” has an unnecessary initial “aa” sound. Renaming to “raa.”

⚠️ S: “Ess” has an unnecessary and misleading initial “ehh” sound. Renaming to “snek” (which also better describes the shape of the letter).

✅ T: “Tee” is ok.

✅ U: Acceptable as-is. Example: the “u” in “use.”

✅ V: “Vee” is good and matches the pronunciation in most cases.

🔥❌  W: This letter is the most absurdly named of all: “double yoo” doesn’t have either the letter “w” or the “w” sound in its name. Let’s fix that by renaming it to “wah.” Strangely, the “legacy” letter “Y” (pronounced “why”) would actually have been a better name for the “W.”

🔥❌  X: This one is a total disaster, just like “C.” “X” is an odd letter that can usually be replaced by a “Z” or “KS.” It’s unfortunate that “ks” is a unfamiliar initial sound for English speakers, but we’ll have to make the sacrifice and rename this letter to “xa” (like “ksa”), which is pronounced like middle sound in “exam” or “axon” (and specifically does not sound like “za”).

❌ Y: “Why” has a leading “w” sound, which is very misleading and is not very suitable for the most common applications of the “y.” Renaming to “yak.”

✅ Z: Acceptable as either “zee” or the equivalent “zed.”

Overall Statistics:

  • ✅: 13 letters were in acceptable shape already, and did not require renaming.
  • ⚠️: 7 letters were marginally acceptable, but should still be renamed. These include letters like “L,” where the “ell” sound is clearly present, but the letter should really start with the correct sound, rather than have it be at the end for some reason.
  • ❌: 3 letters would substantially benefit from renaming (G, H, Y).
  • 🔥❌: 3 letters were in dire need of renaming (C, W, X).

PROS: Makes it easier for people to learn the English letters.

CONS: All children’s alphabet books will need to be confiscated and replaced with new ones, to prevent regressive ways of thinking about letters from continuing on into the future.

Increase employee productivity and improve video chat meeting participation with this one horrifying secret involving mannequin hands!

Background:

Thanks to modern technology, it’s possible for many meetings to be conducted over video chat.

The Issue:

Frequently, it’s not really necessary for a participant in a meeting to be paying attention: that person’s time could be better spent doing actual work, or writing emails.

But it is important for the person to look like they’re definitely paying attention, and not typing on their computer.

Proposal:

Here’s a method for a person to seem like they could not possibly be distracted by something else, while still freeing them to do work and ignore the meeting.

Specifically, it relies on the fact that if a person in a meeting has both of their hands visible on the video chat, it means they can’t be casually browsing the Internet at the same time (Figure 1).

Fig. 1: We can tell that this other meeting participant is definitely paying attention to the meeting, because they’re holding a coffee cup in both hands, and thus, definitely aren’t typing or using the mouse.

However, the “hands” seen in Figure 1 are actually artificial mannequin hands that match the user’s skin tone! The true situation is shown in Figure 2.

Fig. 2: Other meeting participants believe that the user above is intently listening while holding a cup of coffee, but they are actually seeing a pair of artificial hands (indicated by the arrow). This intrepid employee is diligently adding value to the company, instead of wasting time at a 30-person meeting.

PROS: Increases employee efficiency.

CONS: By mitigating the “too many meetings” problem, this technical solution might lessen the social pressure to reduce superfluous meetings.

Company layoffs? A new method of getting rid of unnecessary employees in a fair and efficient manner. This new technique will surely be adopted by every HR department.

Background:

Companies have various approaches to firing employees (or “laying them off” or “making them redundant,” if you prefer a softer and more soothing terminology).

However, generally speaking, no one regards the layoff process as being pleasant for either the fire-er or the fire-ee.

Proposal:

Instead of making the firing process a brutal and harsh process, why not just invite all the employees (who might be fired) into a breakroom for a cake, to celebrate the company’s upcoming more-efficient financial situation.

Seemingly coincidentally, there will be a radio / 1980s boombox / vintage MP3 player playing a song.

When the song stops, people would normally expect another song to begin. However, in this case, the employees have actually stumbled into a game of musical chairs (Figure 1), where the reward finding a chair is retain your job.

(The employees that the company does not want to lay off should be forewarned about this “game,” so that they can be sure to grab a chair as soon as possible.)

Fig. 1: The employees (left) are enticed into the breakroom with promises of celebratory cake, but it’s actually a high-stakes game of musical chairs.

Conclusion:

In this fashion, the layoffs can happen exceptionally quickly, and—since everyone theoretically had a chance to grab a chair—it feels more “fair” than the typical methods that involve employee evaluations, internal politics, etc. This way, no one’s feelings are hurt, and everyone retains a high opinion of the company!

PROS: Brings high efficiency to corporate restructuring.

CONS: May violate the Americans with Disabilities Act: consider how a person who walks with a cane would have a disadvantage in rushing for a chair. Additionally, it is impossible to lay off an employee in a wheelchair in this fashion.

Firearm safety is enhanced even further with this new system that may also develop math & logic skills!

Background:

Various governments and organizations have made efforts to reduce the number of firearm discharges by impulsive and/or unqualified individuals.

The Issue:

Currently, by design, a firearm is relatively easy to operate. Unfortunately, this makes it easy to accidentally fire, or for a child to find a gun and shoot it. Additionally, an individual may get very angry in a specific moment (e.g. a “road rage“ incident) and murder someone with minimal contemplation of the consequences.

Proposal:

The proposal is simple: a concerned individual who (perhaps) knew that they were highly impulsive and/or prone to fits of rage could mitigate the damage they could cause by adding a “sudoku lock” to their firearm.

This would be similar to the “you must blow into a breathalyzer installed in your car before you can drive,” which is sometimes used as a restriction on habitual drunk drivers.

As shown in the figure, the trigger could be unlocked by simply solving the associated sudoku.

Fig. 1: The “sudoku unlock” will reduce the chance of an accidental or impulsive firearm discharge.

Conclusion:

This same system could also be used by extremely confident hunters to give their prey better odds.

PROS: Provides a built in “cooling off” period for someone who is briefly intensely angry, which should reduce the number of “road rage” shootings. (Unless those people get extremely good at sudoku-solving.)

CONS: Might actually increase the number of irresponsible firearm discharges if people are bored and start playing sudoku on a gun because, hey, it’s right there, why not.

Karmic balance: the new legal system concept to allow good deeds to balance evildoing in the correct ratio. The criminal justice reform that we need.

Background:

In most aspects of life, positive and negative elements balance out: if a person has an income of $1000, and expenses of $750, then they have a net income of ($100 – $750 = $250).

The Issue:

The only area where this does not seem to apply is in the commission of good / evil deeds.  Typically, a person is judged by their most recent style of deed-performing: e.g. “many past good deeds → one recent evil deed” is more harshly judged than “many past evil deeds → one recent good deed.”

Proposal:

Perhaps we can use a sort of “karmic balancing” system to encourage people to do good deeds to “bank up” goodwill for potential future evil deeds.

Although counterintuitive, this might have a positive effect on society, as people try to “save up” by performing good works for the community.

In order to ensure that the good / evil deeds were properly accounted for, we would need to assign each of them a numeric value (Figures 1 and 2).

Fig. 1: Rescuing a cat might reward the user with +46 “good deed” karma. This is a system that is frequently seen in video games, and is also a component of the TV series “The Good Place.”

Fig. 2: Performing a heist might result in –273 points. This could be balanced out by rescuing 5.93 cats (at +46 karma per cat).

Although this “karmic balance justice system” may sound outlandish at first, the civil legal system basically already operates in this fashion: if a person has $100,000, and someone sues them and wins $25,000, then the legal system is satisfied as soon as the fine is paid

A person is essentially “immune” to civil cases, fees, and various governmental fines as long as they have the ability to pay out. (For example, a very rich person can, in most jurisdictions, afford an unlimited number of parking tickets, essentially putting them above the law.)

The criminal justice system would probably also benefit from working in this fashion, since many trials could be skipped entirely. For example, if a person had a karma of +3825 and they committed a –714 karma vandalism, then the accused individual might just pay the karmic fine rather than going to trial. (So this is essentially an improved version of the plea bargain.)

Conclusion:

This is a good idea for legal system reform. Consult a constitutional scholar today to see what the best steps forward are for this plan! Don’t commit any crimes in the meantime, though, as there’s no guarantee that this system will be adopted in the immediate future.

PROS: Brings the criminal justice system in line with the civil justice system. Encourages individuals to do good deeds (even if for perhaps selfish motives).

CONS: Someone who had accidentally accumulated a huge amount of good deed points (e.g. by single-handedly saving everyone on a sinking ship) might decide to cash out their karmic points by going on a crime spree. This system has no defense against these corner cases, unfortunately.

Reclaim your personal time by getting all your phone notifications on the hour, every hour—and NOT at other times!

Background:

It’s easily possible to receive an overwhelming number of phone notifications these days. Typically, this is a mix of emails, text messages, multiple messaging apps, and the occasional demanding apps spamming you with notifications that “you earned 10% off your next order!”

The Issue:

It’s possible to silence some of these alerts, but sometimes you still want the alerts, you just wish they wouldn’t arrive so relentlessly.

Proposal:

The solution is extremely simple: add an “hourly notification” mode (Figure 1) that bundles up all the notifications that the phone would have sent you, and waits until the next “00” minute of the hour to send them to you.

Fig. 1: If a user activates “hourly notification mode” on their phone, all their notifications from 1:00–1:59 PM will arrive in a single batch at 2:00 PM.

It might be a little bit excessive to get a huge number of notifications at once, so these notifications can be bundled together by category. The user would get a single “text message” notification bubble, a single “email” bubble, and so on (Figure 2).

Fig. 2: The “hourly mode” notifications could also have a special style (here, purple with “1:00“ in the corner) to show that they are potentially not ultra-recent notifications, but were all part of the one o’ clock batch.

Conclusion:

A more notification-averse user could also potentially set alerts for every two hours, or twice a day, or once a week, or perhaps annually on Jan 1.

PROS: Reduces the stress that humans have subjected themselves to in the always-connected “information age” world.

CONS: The user interface for managing this system might be complicated. Should phone calls still ring at any time, or do they have to wait until the hour boundary? Can you still see text messages that arrive, or do you have to wait a full hour to reply? This could have a negative impact on your text-messaging conversational skills.

Throw that bamboo back scratcher in the trash where it belongs—the new back-scratching shirt has rendered it completely obsolete!

Background:

There are all manner of weird back-scratching products, like bamboo claws, mini rakes, and probably like, dinosaur teeth or something like that. But all of them require specific effort to use, are generally unwieldy, and are socially frowned upon in a workplace environment.

Proposal:

The solution is so simple: just integrate the functionality of a back scratcher with a normal shirt! A shirt could have dozens of bamboo / plastic / metal / etc. spikes on the inside (Figure 1), replicating the functionality of the now-obsolete standalone back scratcher.

Fig. 1: This shirt shows how some moderately-pointy spikes (presumably easily obtainable cheaply from a goth jewelry overstock supplier) could be placed inside a shirt to improve it.

Warning: the spikes should not be TOO spike-y, or else the user might end up creating their own wearable iron maiden. Please keep this in mind when prototyping.

Conclusion:

Throw away your dress shirts and casual-wear alike—this is the future of torso-based garmentry.

PROS: Improves the humble shirt (which has been almost completely ignored by the sartorial advances of the 20th and 21st centuries).

CONS: Just don’t get it caught in any spinning machinery, and you’ll be fine, OK?

Improve your corporate meeting skills with meeting role play cards, inspired by the bluffing games “Mafia” and “Werewolf.” Never have a boring and unproductive meeting again!

The Issue:

At many companies, large group meetings are a regular occurrence. However, sometimes meetings are unproductive. For example, it might be a situation where only a couple of people run the meeting (and everyone else spaces out), or the meeting participants might includes archetypes such as “jerk who interrupts people” or “yes-man who agrees to everything their boss says.”

Proposal:

It can be difficult for people to change their basic tendencies, but maybe the addition of a “meeting role-play” game would help in the situations described above.

This could be done by assigning people to “meeting roles” randomly: each participant is given a card with a “role” on it, such as:

  • Person who rambles on and on until they are interrupted.
  • Quiet person who never says anything unless specifically addressed.
  • “Consensus builder” who tries to solicit feedback from everyone.
  • Impatient individual who interrupts anyone after 10 seconds.
  • Person who over-explains every technical detail.
  • Skeptical engineer who expresses doubt about any technical proposal.

Many people already fit into one or more of these archetypes, but this card-based system will force people to try out other roles, rather than the one that most naturally suits them.

Ideally, people wouldn’t reveal their actual role, but would let their coworkers infer it from their actions. (Conceptually, this is like the multi-player bluffing game “Werewolf” or “Mafia,” in which players are randomly assigned secret roles to perform without giving away their role).

An alternative approach would be to assign required actions to meeting participants, rather than roles. In this proposal (Figure 1), a person entering a meeting might draw three cards that said, for example, 1) “Interrupt someone inappropriately,” 2) “Agree with a co-worker,” and 3) “Provide constructive negative feedback.”


Fig. 1: It could be the case that people get a single “role” card (e.g. “Yes Man” here), or perhaps multiple “action” cards (the other three cards shown here).

Conclusion:

To encourage people to perform these socially-transgressive actions (e.g. “Disagree with your boss!” or “Rudely say that an idea is bad!”), we will provide some incentive: if a person uses up all their required “meeting actions,” then they are allowed to eat one of the donuts that was, presumably, brought for the meeting.

Anyone who shamefully fails to perform their card-mandated meeting role will be denied donut privileges.

Someone might say “hey, why do some of these cards that suggest negative actions that will prevent a harmonious meeting?” The answer is that meeting participants need to be able to have a productive discussion despite human failings: it’s important to “inoculate” one’s coworkers so that they can productively handle socially-transgressive actions, rather than being shocked by them.

PROS: Could actually legitimately improve meetings!

CONS: Good luck figuring out what to do when you get the “interrupt the head of your company and say that their idea is terrible” card. Is that worth a donut?