Sometimes, you want to drink a beverage, but it’s too hot.
You could just wait for it to cool off naturally, but who has time for that!
And if you were drinking from an insulated thermos, this cooling-off process could take hours.
The basic idea is simple: an ultra-long curly straw that would give the liquid some extra time to cool down as it leaves the cup (Figure 1).
However, a standard curly straw will have a minimal cooling effect. Thus, an array of heat sinks are added to the straw, as shown in Figure 2.
Alternatively, a telescoping design could allow the enjoyment of both hot and cold beverages using the same straw (Figure 3).
Don’t drink from a cup or bowl like an animal—only use this fancy straw for your future beverage needs!
PROS: Cools liquid to the optimal temperature for maximum efficiency of consumption. If widespread distribution can be achieved, it will save millions of hours per year (worldwide) that otherwise would have been spent waiting for drinks to cool.
Do you own a crowded coffee shop? No? Well, you should remedy that, and then read on!
In large cities, coffee shops are often entirely occupied by people doing work on their laptops.
Coffee shops have come up with various strategies for dealing with the pros and cons of being a low-cost “co-working space,” but it’s often a problem for people who just want to sit down: a laptop-using individual with an external mouse and some notes can easily occupy an entire four-seat table, while only using one chair and ~50–75% of the actual table area.
There’s enough remaining room for two additional people to have coffee at that table without impacting the laptop user!
The easy solution is to have a set of “this seat / this part of the table is open, please feel free to use it!” signs at the front of the cafe (Figure 1).
A patron who only anticipates using 50% of a table could take one of these signs and put it on the unused section of their table (even if there isn’t room for a second laptop).
This would be really cheap to implement and doesn’t really have any downsides.
One objection is: “couldn’t patrons also accomplish this by asking if the laptop-user minds if they sit down?” Answer: yes, but that is irrelevant from the cafe owner’s perspective, since people tend to assume a no-tables-remaining cafe is FULL. Even if they “should” have just asked around, it still results in lost business for the cafe owner.
PROS: Could increase the effective number of seats in a cafe without requiring more space or furniture.
CONS: Maybe weirdos would use these signs as a way to try to lure other coffeeshop patrons into sharing a table with them, so they could then subject them to annoying and unwanted conversation.
In many office environments, communal coffee is brewed periodically. But it is difficult to tell how old the contents of the carafe are (or if it’s even coffee from the day before).
Fig 1: The classic coffee carafe. No bells or whistles. How barbaric!
The carafe should be able to easily tell you the following information:
How long since it was filled
How full it is
What temperature its contents are
The simplest proof-of-concept “smart carafe” would just have a small switch on the lid that would start a stopwatch on the side of the carafe. This would tell you when the lid was last opened, which would normally be a reasonably estimate for when the coffee was last made.
More complicated systems could use a floating sensor to determine the percentage filled (which would work even for liquids of other densities, in case you need a carafe full of liquid mercury for some reason) and a temperature sensor. Of course, a frosted glass window on the side of the carafe would also be sufficient for determining percent-fullness without any electronic gizmos.
Fig 2: The upgraded carafe. It’s been an hour and 24 minutes since this carafe was filled with a liquid of unknown type.
Your office should switch to the smart carafe for all future breakroom-liquid-containing needs.
PROS: The smart carafe upgrades the coffee-drinking experience from “satisfactory” to “transcendent.”
CONS: The carafe might be too smart. Did you ever see the Kubrick film 2001? Like that.