Design ideas‎ > ‎


Random blatherings & half-formed thoughts. Sometimes more. A repository of possibilities, to be culled later.
Net neutrality. Foolish argument why I'm against it. Different position now, on my blog.
old: Against. Here's why.

Bikes should go on sidewalks, against traffic and thru red lights. Here's why.

Idea. Cheap, safe long-term city-wide rodent control.
Problem. We have a lot of mice and rats in urban areas such as Boston and New York. Pest control is expensive and uses poisons.
Possibilities: Natural extermination/pest control. There are virtually no mice or rats in certain areas of London (near Crystal Palace Park) or Bangalore, India. Why? Simply because the foxes in Crystal Palace Park and the stray dogs & crows (which are raptors or birds of prey) in Bangalore pretty much decimate the rodent population. The only rat I ever saw in Bangalore was the silhouette of the tail and the rear end of one flying away as the rest of it was in the maws of a flying crow. Kinda disgusting but cool. Unscientifically confirmed my hypothesis that Rentokil would go out of business if we brought this concept to the US.
Solution: have stray cats & crows in the city. Stray dogs can get dangerous and foxes don't seem to be a good solution for cities. They appear to be wild and stay away from humans unlike dogs. Cats appear to be a good solution: stray cats will thrive on the rodent population, won't attack people and self-regulate their population (more rodents, more cats; less rodents, less cats).

Idea. Ceiling-mounted clothes drying rack.
Problem. (Indoor) drying racks, used mostly in winter, in many parts of Europe, are fugly and take up floor space.
Solution. A rack that is suspended from the ceiling, and has a second rack 1' below the first that can be moved horizontally so that clothes suspended from the first rack are moved to a 45 degree angle? (Drawing would help here). The whole apparatus would be suspended by pulleys so that it can be lowered, clothes can be put on it, and it can be raised. Hot air rises, so this will use the hottest air in the house. Bonus. Put the entire apparatus under a ceiling fan so that the fan can be left running to dry the clothes when necessary.

Idea. Eliminate time-consuming clothespins.
Problem. Putting clothespins on clothes takes a lot of time. This is a common way to dry clothes in Europe and many other parts of the world. Americans tend to use dryers.
Solution. Use a three-string system to secure clothes in place. Clothes are suspended from the first string and the second and third strings are lowered and criss-cross the top of the clohes sothat they stay in place. Solves an annoying problem.

Idea. Ad-supported MBTA schedule displays and call-in system.
Problem. No schedules for city T (trains) or buses in Boston.
Solution. Ad-supported (the MBTA (T) is strapped for cash) video screens and call-in mobile numbers that provide this information. GPS on all trains and buses that locates them on maps (MASCO has this for the LMA buses).

Idea. Reuse printer paper, reduce wastage, save money and recycle.
Problem. A lot of printer paper is printed, used a few times and then thrown away.
More resilient paper that won't jam, a special ink that will completely fade away in a few weeks, and a collator bin that will take the used paper deposited into it (FIFO stack) and make it into a nice bundle of "new paper" that can be reused.

Idea. Reduce printer paper cost, print ads on them.
Problem. Most printer paper used in the office is for internal consumption (verify) and most of that thrown away soon after printing (verify).
Solution.  PaprSavr provides ad-supported printer paper. (1) Pre-printed ads in the margins or the back of the paper to help offset the cost of the paper? (2) Use regular printer paper, but print ads in the margins and original content (slightly scaled down) in the middle. All that's required is an intermediary printer driver that does this and re-prints it to the printer of the user's choice.

Ads are based on user's IP address/geographic location and possibly google search terms (too invasive?)

Why did Star Market pull out ads on the backs of receipts? Does this idea not work well?

Print command --> Choose printer --> PaprSavr --> press OK --> PaprSavr dialog box --> Which printer do you want you output on? (select an option here) --> PaprSavr goes online, gets ads, and then recomposes and prints the pages.

Idea. Eliminate glare from opposing traffic during night driving.
Problem. Glare from the headlights of cars in opposing traffic causes glare (high-contrast situtations) from which it takes the eye several seconds to recover. This is uncomfortable, leads to temporary "blindness" and is dangerous.
Solution. Wear monochrome LCD "sunglasses" (transparent) with a small mounted camera. They are completely transparent during regular lighting conditions. The camera constantly sees the scene in front of it and auto-tints just the right areas of the sunglasses with an array of LCD elements, effectively reducing the contrast range of the field in view. LCD elements can be rapidly cycled, with the difference between the on and off cycles being perceived as more or less shading (e.g. if 3 out of 4 cycles are "on", then the glasses are darker than if 1 out of 4 cycles are on; cycles have to quite rapid to provide this approximation).
Issues. LCDs have polarized filters that cause a decrease in the total amount of light transmitted through them. This might be a problem at night when the amount of visible light is low. Patents have been filed on such a device over 10 years ago, but the inventor seems to have done nothing else with the idea. LCDs can break in case of an accident and cause injury to the eye (use plastic-based LCDs or ePaper instead?).

Idea. Robotify ("Follow-me") your remote-control golf caddy.
Problem. Golf caddies are either the push-around kind or the remote-control kind. With the latter, one has to direct the cart. A simple add-on will make the cart follow the user automatically.
Solution. An add-on to major remote-control golf caddies. The user has a transmitter in his pocket (with on/off and  emergency stop buttons). The receiver, mounted on the caddy, senses the bearing and distance from the user and sends remote control messages to the caddy such as
  • left. signal is stronger to the left than to the right.
  • right. signal is stronger to the right than to the left.
  • faster. signal is weaker than a set strength.
  • slower. signal is stronger than a set strength.
  • stop. signal is much stronger than a set strength.
Advantage. The advantage of this solution is that it builds on top of an existing electro-mechanical device, making it easier to focus on just this one problem. Different versions may be needed for the various remote control golf-caddies in existence. Or perhaps a "universal" control.

Advantage. The caddies work in relatively easy terrain; they don't have to climb up and down sidewalks (usually), nor cross streets. Thus, this allows for a safe environment in which to sell and develop this product while working on a chassis and software that will work in more difficult territory.

Issues. Such a caddy already exists, but is about 4 times as expensive as regular remote control caddies and much more ungainly and ugly to look at. The advantage of our solution is that it leverages existing hardware and has a low cost (about $100-150 at the retailer). A good birthday or Valentine's day gift!

Idea. Free power for a boat or its appliances using a heat-exchanger.
Problem. Boats require power for their engines and their appliances (e.g. fridge). How can we reduce the power neded from the boat's engines?
Solution. Use a thermocline heat exchanger, i.e. a loooong loop of a conductive pipe that goes about 50-100ft down into the water. The temperature differential between the atmosphere and the sea water is used to derive power to offset the cost of the power needed from engines. For sailboats, this might be the only source of power used when under sail and not under outboard power.
Keep the heat exchanger clean; marine animals (e.g. barnacles) and snails will make a home on this stable surface, which will reduce its effciency. Solution. Periodic cleaning? Self-cleaning, i.e. the flex pipe can be run in a circle, cleaning it up periodically, automatically?

Snags. Prevent snagging from objects in the ocean/sea or on the sea floor.

Idea. Reduce drag on monohull craft by having the boat balance on a single hydrofoil with segway-like computer-controlled balance.
Problem. Need more speed, less drag.
Ideas. See the Hydroptère, a sailboat with a hydrofoil.

Idea. Txt spk ("Text Speak") to/from English Translator.
Problem. Txt spk is hard to decipher and with the advent of Twitter, unlikely to go away soon.
Solution. Use an automatic translator, built into your email or phone.

Here are two attempts to do this: and www.lingo2word.comA description (not great) of the problem is at

Text speak can be incomprehensible or at least quickly tiring for those who are not used to it. Software to convert txt spk to full words would make it easier to bridge the gap. Any takers?

As an example, the following,

"mns sm mdst xpnss" ?

Myb f y r wrtr, cld s hw mdst my b n djctv t dscrb yr xpnss, bt mst rt tks mny t mk r t th vry mnmm lrg ddctn f tm whn y r crtng nd NT gttng pd.

S...dn't qt yr dy jb!

could be translated to
Minus some modest expenses?

Maybe if you are a writer, could see how modest may be an adjective to describe your expenses, but most art takes money to make or at the very minimum large deduction for time when you are creating and NOT getting paid.

So... don't quit you day job!

Issues. Text speak isn't consistent and often needs the use of context for translations. The same word or letter may be used to mean different things in different contexts.