That's What I Call Spiced Ham: Volume One

The most innovative webcomic for quite some time. By some measures.

Archive for the ‘Raw Ideas’ Category

Treadmill on wheels

Saturday, 3 March, 2012 | Posted in Raw Ideas by David Morgan-Mar

You know how people exercise by running on treadmills? How about putting wheels on the bottom of a treadmill and connecting them to the treadmill belt, so they propel the treadmill.

Then you can go for a run for exercise, and actually travel somewhere at the same time!

Frictionless sports

Friday, 5 March, 2010 | Posted in Raw Ideas by David Morgan-Mar

While discussing a game of tennis two of us were playing this morning, we got into talking about the backspin and topspin making it trickier to hit the ball. Then someone proposed the idea: Tennis played on a frictionless surface!

Okay, this means you can’t run or anything, so you need to surround the court with walls that you can push off. You need to time your push so that you slide to where the ball will be in time for you to hit it. And then of course when you hit the ball it changes your momentum, so you end up sliding in a different direction until you hit another wall and push off again. It could probably work.

Then one of us had to go the step further and imagine it in 3 dimensions. Basically, you have a prolate spheroidal court in zero gravity, with each player starting at one of the foci. That way the first serve is guaranteed to pass near the receiving player after one bounce on any surface, and the player can return it. By this stage, both players have gained momentum from hitting the ball and can start bouncing off walls. A player who can hit the ball so it bounces off two (or maybe three) walls before the other player can reach it wins the point.

Another variant scores the game by the players’ momentum. If you ever push off a wall or hit the ball such that you don’t have enough speed to reach another wall within, say, 10 seconds, you lose the point.

There are lots of other variants you can build on these concepts.

2D glasses for 3D movies

Monday, 1 March, 2010 | Posted in Raw Ideas by David Morgan-Mar

So here’s the idea: Take two sets of 3D glasses and remove the left lens from one and the right lens from the other, and swap them into the other pair of glasses. So one pair now had two left lenses, and the other two right lenses.

Why would you want to do this? If you’re one of those people for whom the whole 3D movie experience is a bit meh, or you actually find it annoying or disorienting, you can still go to a 3D movie with your friends and wear your new 2D glasses. You now get the same image in each eye, exactly like a regular 2D movie! And without the double-vision effect of just watching the movie without glasses. So you can sit back and watch the movie in glorious 2D while your friends next to you watch in 3D.

Even better, you can successfully argue to the ticket sales counter that you are only watching half the movie, so you should only have to pay half price!

4-D Twister

Friday, 20 November, 2009 | Posted in Raw Ideas by David Morgan-Mar

Remember Twister, the game that ties you up in knots? What about a 3-D version, where instead of a mat on the floor with coloured circles, you have holographically projected coloured spheres suspended at various locations in mid-air? How cool would that be?

From here it’s just a small step to 4-dimensional Twister, which is where the real fun happens!

Traffic congestion smoothing

Thursday, 12 November, 2009 | Posted in Raw Ideas by David Morgan-Mar

We were discussing how unfair it is that sometimes you’ll get stuck in traffic for longer than seems reasonable, while other drivers in other lanes manage to creep ahead. Or how when traffic is bad some evil people will do sneaky things like using an inappropriate lane and then trying to cut in, to the frustration of the people doing the right thing and waiting patiently in the correct lane.

But on the other hand, maybe the person cutting in has spent hours in traffic already and actually deserves to be given an easier ride, while the people waiting have only been stuck for a really short time.

So we realised the answer is to have a big digital display on each car, which starts at 0 every time you set out on a trip. It counts the number of minutes and seconds you’ve spent sitting still in traffic. Then whenever a question of priority comes up, right of way is given to the car that’s been waiting for the longest.

Who gets to merge first? The person who’s had the most delayed trip so far! If there’s a queue of cars waiting at a blocked intersection, cars with large wait times are allowed to sneak up and cut in – as long as they don’t cut in front of anyone who has been waiting longer. Can’t get fairer than that!

This would smooth out travel times for everyone and make the roads fairer and less frustrating! Everyone wins!

A new kind of remote control: Mark II

Thursday, 9 July, 2009 | Posted in Raw Ideas by Andrew Shellshear

I have received some interesting feedback on the “remote control that simulates ads” idea, and I’ve come to realise that the idea wasn’t particularly well formed. Fortunately, the process of discussing it has inspired some much better ideas.

Most importantly, I realised that a pause button that simulates an ad break with a countdown timer is just silly. There’s no way I would respond to it in the way that I would a real ad break. In order for this technique to work, I need real ads. It might be possible for me to download ads from youtube or snaffle them from a DVR, but there’s quite a bit of inconvenience to that. No, what I really need is a free-to-air ad channel, one that shows advertising 24 hours a day. This would make it easy. When you hit pause, the DVD player pauses, switches to the ad channel, and switches back after three minutes (and, as before, refuses to pause for at least 15 minutes).

There are problems with this idea, of course. It would very likely start and end part way through an ad, and what if it was a good one? So the ads would have to be pretty short and repetitive, to minimise this issue. The other question is, which channel should be replaced by ads? In Australia, I think we can safely say channel 7 or 9, and if we could create a reality show of TV executives competing for the privilege of becoming the ad channel, so much the better.

More feedback is welcome. I think we’re really getting somewhere with this idea!

A new kind of remote control

Tuesday, 7 July, 2009 | Posted in Raw Ideas by Andrew Shellshear

I hate to say it, but I don’t mind TV ads. Sure, I never watch them, but they let me get up, do things (or channel flip), and get all the distracted energy out of my system. Then, because I still kinda want to watch whatever happens next, I go back to the TV.

My DVD watching experience is inferior. The additional convenience of allowing me to pause and unpause means that I pause, wander away, do something else for a while, and then an hour later don’t feel like watching the rest of whatever it was because it was up to a bit of humour based on excruciating embarassment (my very personal nemesis).

I have five or six movies that are partially watched in this way, and once they’re in this state, I don’t go back to them. They get stuck in limbo, because I don’t want to rewatch them from the top, and fast-forwarding means I might accidentally watch bits out of order. Also, I did stop watching for a reason, yes thank you David Brent, and I probably won’t get through a second time anyway.

What I want (yes, this is what society has degenerated to) is a different kind of remote control/DVD player. One possibility is to have a DVD player that simply puts ad breaks in the film every twenty minutes, consisting of two minutes of a timer counting down. It does not allow the movie to be paused.

Whoa! What kind of crazy dark ages wilt this bringeth? I might not even want an ad break! The movie might be awesome. I just want to pause when I’m watching a mediocre film, say a gross-out comedy, and I’m fidgety and hopped up on caffeine and greasy food. I wanna jump around like a loon for a few minutes, and sit back down again when the movie restarts, ready once more to watch someone getting kicked in the testicles while stepping in cow poop and being hit in the head by a large rock leading to them shouting “I’m alright!” before being run over by a tractor.

No, what I really want – neeeeeeeeed – is a remote control that creates a two minute ad break whenever I hit “pause” (with the countdown timer, sure, why not). Furthermore, it will refuse to pause if I’ve used the pause function in the last fifteen minutes. Thus will the ills of the world be solved, and I will finally finish watching my DVDs.

Except Fawlty Towers. Some experiences can’t be mitigated with technology.

Lift Enhancement

Wednesday, 14 January, 2009 | Posted in Raw Ideas by David Morgan-Mar

The lifts at our work can be annoyingly slow to get you where you want to go. One specific example behaviour seems particularly suboptimal:

When you are coming down from one of the upper floors to go out to the street to get lunch, there are usually several other people going out for lunch at the same time. So the lift can be full when it leaves the top floor, on its way down. People on every other floor in the building are also going to lunch at the same time, and of course pressing the lift call buttons. So as your full lift goes down, it stops at the next floor below, where the people waiting look inside, realise the lift is too full to take any more passengers, and decide to wait for the next one. Annoyingly often, this happens on every single floor until you reach the ground level. The result is that your trip down has taken significantly longer than it could have – for no purpose, because nobody else actually got on.

An obvious solution to this is to have the lifts automatically detect when they are full. When full, they only stop at floors desired by people inside the lift – they don’t stop at floors simply because someone on that floor is waiting for a lift. In the extreme case cited above, the lift would fill up at the top floor, and travel express to the ground floor without stopping. What’s more, because the lift reaches its destination faster, it empties out and can return to pick up more people at those intermediate floors faster too. Everyone wins!

So, the question is, why don’t lifts do this? One obvious answer is that it adds expense to the lift. Detecting the number of people, or load in the lift would presumably add a significant cost to the manufacture and maintenance. And it might not be all that reliable, skipping floors when there is still room for someone to squeeze in, or not skipping floors when it’s too full to fit anyone in. That could potentially be even more annoying.

This could be improved by putting some intelligence behind the decision to skip floors. But that adds even more expense. Then we realised that a lift full of people already has some intelligence in it.

What if there was a button in lifts labelled “Skip floors”? When you hold down this button, the lift doesn’t stop for call signals; it only stops at floors where people want to get off.

The immediate problem is that people would be jerks and abuse the button, using it to get to lunch 30 seconds faster even when nobody else is in the lift with them. Or would they? Some people would, no doubt, but maybe enough people would be socially responsible that the overall benefits and time saving outweigh the inefficiencies caused by jerks. You just need enough social pressure to make sure that people treat the button with respect and use it only when it makes sense.

How could you provide that social pressure? What about putting a camera in the lift, which shows the occupants on a monitor at each floor that is skipped when using the button? Some jerk can still use the button when alone in the lift, but everyone else waiting for a lift on the way will see who it is. That might just do the trick. Would you abuse the button knowing everyone could see you doing it?

Finally, we realised that this would work brilliantly in glass lifts – where you can see who is in the lift even without a camera.

So, to all lift manufacturers out there: Please put a “skip floors” button in your lifts, so we can try this out.

Infinite conga-space of monkeys

Thursday, 18 December, 2008 | Posted in Raw Ideas by David McLeish

We offer the following without commentary, except to say that the photo was taken on 20th October 2006.

Speaking of half-baked…

Saturday, 29 November, 2008 | Posted in Raw Ideas by David Morgan-Mar

A reader on the forums suggested this: Variety Bread.

Much like you can get variety cereal packs, you should be able to buy bread where every slice in the loaf is a random thickness and kind of bread. You might get white, you might get wholemeal, you might get farmhouse, you might get milk loaf. Random sandwiches!

Sounds good to us! We envision some sort of giant bread-slice-shuffling machine, similar to what’s used to randomise and package collectible game cards. In fact, running with this idea, you could have different rarity levels for the types of bread. In each loaf you’d get 15 common slices (white, wholemeal), 5 uncommon slices (sourdough, rye), and 1 rare slice (raisin bread, German pumpernickel). And maybe extra-rare “chase” slices, like marble-rye.

Holy cow, we could make a fortune doing this!