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Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category

Lift buttons

Tuesday, 10 November, 2009 | Posted in Bad Ideas by David Morgan-Mar

Coming back from buying lunch across the street today, we entered the lift and proceeded to go through the routine of pressing the buttons for floors 5, 6, and 7, since we each needed to return to our desks briefly and we are spread across those floors of our office building. We lamented the fact that the process of floor selection was so incredibly inefficient, requiring us to hit three separate buttons to indicate what floors we needed the lift to stop at.

DMc pondered the idea of having 128 separate buttons, each one wired to tell the lift to stop at a different possible combination of the 7 floors in the building. For example, button 74 might tell the lift that people want to get off at floors 2, 4, and 7. All you need to do is calculate the value of 21+23+26 to get the correct button.

And then we realised we could make this incredibly cool idea even simpler to use, if we just renumbered the floors, so instead of having floors 1 through 7, we have floors 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64. So all you have to do is add up the numbers of the desired destination floors, and press the button with the number corresponding to the sum!

Announcing Archive Binge

Monday, 31 August, 2009 | Posted in Good Ideas, News by David Morgan-Mar

A while back we had an idea that was so cool, we decided to fully bake it ourselves. After some beta testing, it’s now ready for launch.

First, the problem: There are lots of webcomics out there. And many of the best ones have been going for a long time, so have extensive archives. So if you look for cool new comics, you might find something like Wondermark, with over 500 strips, or Arthur, King of Time and Space, with nearly 2000 strips.

The standard way to catch up on these is an archive binge – spending hours or days trawling through the archive to catch up to the latest strip. This can be gruelling, takes a lot of time in big chunks, and you run the risk of losing your place when you inevitably need to stop to use the toilet, eat, or sleep. There must be a better way!

Archive Binge is a site which constructs custom RSS news feeds for webcomics. Not normal RSS feeds (which deliver the latest new comic a few times a week), but custom feeds which deliver strips from a webcomic’s archives, at a rate of 1, a few, up to 10 strips a day. So you can use your feed reader to keep track of the comic for you, read at a rate faster than the comic updates so you can catch up, but without investing hours at a time. And you can pause it if you go on vacation.

It’s like a digital video recorder for webcomics. Check it out. Tell us what you think.

Negative Currency

Wednesday, 19 August, 2009 | Posted in Bad Ideas by David Morgan-Mar

Here’s an idea we came up with over lunch: Negative currency.

As well as having coins and notes for various positive denominations of cents and dollars (or pence or pounds or euro, or whatever), also have them for negative amounts. So if you forget to bring cash to buy your lunch, the sandwich shop can just hand over notes and coins worth minus $3.70 (or whatever). You take them, put them in your pocket, and keep them nice and safe, just like regular currency.

Later, if a friend still owes you $2 for something and it seems like he’s never going to pay you back, you just go and give him a minus $2 coin! And – here’s a really cool thing – unlike regular currency, if you ever accidentally lose a negative coin or note, you win! It’s almost like finding regular money!

What a great idea! Something that enables monetary transactions in cases where you’d normally just be unable to do anything, and which doesn’t have the disadvantage of being a bummer when you accidentally lose it. We’re still trying to think of any unforeseen problems.

Introducing: Film Forensics

Friday, 24 July, 2009 | Posted in Good Ideas by Andrew Shellshear

Sometimes, one of our projects will start as fully baked and gradually make it’s way down to half-baked. Such is the case with my project Film Forensics.

The high-concept: It reviews flawed movies, and rewrites them to make them more awesome, whether that means making a credible twist for the latest M. Night Shyamalan film, adding a T-Rex to the latest romatic comedy or just cutting an hour out of the latest Transformers movie.

Because I am not a creativity-producing machine (unlike some Mezzacotta collaborators I could name), Film Forensics went enthusiastically for a while, and then fizzled. I update it once every few months at the moment. Still, it has a bunch of reviews I’m proud of (especially Snakes on a Plane).

Mr McLeish has written and posted a new review of Terminator: Salvation. Check it out!

Short-Attention-Span TV

Monday, 13 July, 2009 | Posted in Ideas by Andrew Coker

I hate ad-breaks in TV! What I’d really like to see is a dedicated channel that continually shows interesting tidbits of footage which can be enjoyed in 30-second or 1-minute chunks – perfect for swapping to during the ad-breaks of shows you are actually watching. A totally random assortment of cool snippets from nature documentaries, technology shows, owned/pwnd/FAIL videos from youtube, stand-up comedy acts, 3-d animation, music videos, laboratory demos, actual good and entertaining ads from around the world, stuff blowing up, travel documentaries, famous-moments-in-history/sport/news, old newsreel footage, movie trailers, reviews of upcoming video games… the list is endless! A few hours of new content each month added to the rotation would keep things fresh – all that’s needed given you are probably only going to watch this channel a few minutes at a time.

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.

Wigs made of fish

Tuesday, 17 March, 2009 | Posted in Bad Ideas by David Morgan-Mar

No further explanation needed.

Car ideas

Sunday, 8 March, 2009 | Posted in Bad Ideas by David Morgan-Mar
  1. When it rains lightly and variably, so the amount of rain on your car windscreen changes all the time, you have to keep fiddling with the wiper controls to ensure optimal clearance of rain from the screen, without having the wipers flapping and scraping the glass when it’s not really necessary. Why not remove the screen altogether, so it doesn’t get wet! You could have the windscreen retractable like the side door windows, and simply wind it down! You could even do this on a nice day just to enjoy the fresh air!
  2. Cars should be able to communicate with one another. You could put infrared receivers and transmitters on all cars, and send signals back and forth. Control signals. If the guy in front of you leaves his turn signal on, you can switch it off for him! If he’s driving stupidly and you want to yell abuse, wind down his window first so he can hear you! If his hip-hop music is too damn loud, turn it down!

Yes, I did a lot of driving today.

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.