The Worst Ideas. Updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible ideas.

Category: UI / UX

Sitting down all day is bad for you! Instead, wriggle through the crawlspace under your house and possibly fall down the stairs in a mad dash to run between rooms of your house while playing this new insanely immersive simulation game! Also, it makes your house into a spaceship.

Background:

There are a few cell phone games that use real-world GPS data to control your in-game character.

The most well-known are probably the two games by Niantic, Pokemon Go and Ingress, in which you physically walk around in order to move your in-game character.

However, no one has yet implemented a smaller-scale version of this idea.

Proposal:

This proposal is for a simulation game that is played on a portable device (probably a cell phone) in which you are the pilot of a large crew-operated vehicle; perhaps a train, a 17th-century galleon, or a futuristic starship.

The vehicle will have several physically-separated “stations” that all need to be manned (by you!). For a galleon, this could include following: the wheel, the sails, an anchor, and the cannons.

In order to operate each station, you (the player) will have to physically run around your house to different locations. Your cell phone GPS will figure out where you are, and will give you the appropriate controls.

  • So if you want to operate the sails, you have to run upstairs to the “sails” station in the second floor hallway.
  • If you want to operate the cannons, you have to go to the “cannon” station in the kitchen, etc.

See Figure 1 for an example of a possible house that this game could be played in, and Figure 2 for an example of a spaceship-ification of the same floor plan.

plan-1-house.png

Fig. 1: A regular floor plan for a house. We will turn this into a spaceship; each different room is designated (by the player) as being a different crucial spaceship component (see Figure 2).

plan-2-spaceship.png

Fig. 2: We have overlaid a spaceship onto this one-story house. NASA guidelines strongly discourage the conversion of a 2-bedroom house into a spaceship, due to the unsuitable floor plan. See artist’s rendition of this architectural fiasco in Figure 3.

spaceship-artists-rendition.png

Fig. 3: Although this spaceship has a terrible layout and extremely poor atmospheric handling, it may be the best that could be done given the layout constraints (see Figure 2).

Addressing GPS issues

Realistically, GPS may not have the required resolution. It also has a hard time with elevation, so it might not be able to report whether you were on the first or second floor of a multi-story dwelling. It might be possible to use WiFi signal strength to fix this, but we also have a more low-tech version that should work.

Instead of using the GPS at all, we just draw a set of symbols that can be easily identified by the cell phone camera.

For example:

  • Draw a triangle on a plain piece of paper. Put that piece of paper in your laundry room. Now it’s the “engine room.”
  • Draw a circle on a piece of paper. Put it in your kitchen. Now it’s the “control room.”
  • Etc.

So when you travel to the correct room in your house, you briefly hold the cell phone camera up to the marked piece of paper, and the phone then knows which room you’re in.

Of course, someone could cheat by putting all the cards together on their desk, but that’s probably not worth worrying about.

We could also use proximity-sensing NFC-enabled cards to prevent having to use the camera, but this is a much less low-tech solution than drawing a triangle on a sheet of paper.

Bonus possibly actually-useful feature:

Instead of being totally frivolous, this game could actually incentivize you to perform useful real-world tasks! Useful tasks that involve walking around a home could include the following:

  • Replace your home’s fire alarm batteries
  • Find the emergency natural gas line shutoff (and the wrench you might need to close the valve)
  • Find the emergency water heater shutoff
  • Check your home for poor drainage around the foundation
  • Water your plants

More difficult tasks:

  • Water a lawn
  • Mow a lawn
  • Re-roof your house (this is the equivalent of taking your galleon into dry dock to scrape barnacles off the hull). (For advanced players only)

PROS: Brings new exercise opportunities to otherwise indolent game aficionados.

CONS: May be difficult to integrate the location-determining aspect without ruining the flow of the game. People would probably also trip and fall down the stairs while playing it.

The horrifying secret that APPLE, GOOGLE, and MICROSOFT don’t want you to know about laptop longevity! Stop being part of the “laptop rat race” with this new insane beverage-related tip. Tip number 5 will shock you!

Background:

Millions of laptops are destroyed every year by spilled drinks (Figure 1). Unfortunately, this is a difficult problem to address, because laptops and beverages are frequently in close proximity.

normal-laptop-and-water

spill

Fig. 1a (top) and 1b (bottom): You have probably either experienced this situation first-hand or observed it happen to someone else. If only there had been some warning ahead of time about the peril the laptop was in!

Proposal:

If the glass-full-of-liquid danger were more immediately obvious, many laptops could be saved from a thirst-quenching death—the laptop user would simply need to place the drink slightly farther away from the laptop than they normally would.

By adding a ring of laser emitters to the beverage container, the spill danger can be made obvious: the lasers will project a circular “spill danger zone” on the table, informing you of any imperiled electronics (Figure 2).

danger-zone

Fig. 2: The laser emitters on the top of the glass (shown as red triangles) project a “spill danger zone” region around the glass. You should move any sensitive electronics outside of this area.

An advanced model of this idea could also have an integrated camera: this would allow it to only project the “danger zone” markings if it actually detected an object in the spill area, instead of all the time (which might get annoying).

PROS: Saves your laptop from destruction!

CONS: The lasers might melt people’s eyeballs when you raise the glass to drink from it.

 

Become a sophisticated cinephile AND appreciate the finest movies that cinema has to offer in only ONE-NINTH the expected time, thanks to this bizarre invention! You will be the envy of your friends and countrymen.

Background:

There are hundreds of famous and excellent movies, but almost no one has seen them all!

It’s possible to laboriously go through the extensive backlog of classic movies, but with the current volume of media, this would be a major endeavor.

Proposal:

By splitting a screen into N segments (for this example, let’s say 9 segments), different sections of a single movie can be played simultaneously.

Audio would probably need to either be turned off or limited to a single screen at a time. Subtitles would be a requirement.

movie-nine-times

Fig 1: All nine sections of the movie will play at once, allowing the dedicated viewer to see every scene from a movie in a fraction of the expected time. Depicted: the 1977 Woody Allen movie “Annie Hall.”

So if a movie is 100 minutes long, the top-left screen (#1) would start at time 0:00, the next screen would start at 10:00, …, and the bottom-right screen (#9) would start at 80:00. Then the 90 minute movie could be viewed in its entirety in only 10 minutes!

movie-speedup

Fig 2: Look how much time you’ll save! You’ll be able to watch the entire director’s cut of Das Boot (3 hours and 29 minutes) in just over 23 minutes! That frees up 3 hours and 6 minutes in your day, which you can use to post arguments about the film online.

VERTIGO 1_modified_2_small_numbered.jpeg

Fig 3: This proof of concept shows what the simultaneous-watching system would look like for the famous 1958 Alfred Hitchcock film “Vertigo.”

Additional option:

Since movies invariably have scenes of both high and low intensity, it might be possible to adaptively set the screen timing so that only one dialog-heavy section was on screen at once. For example, one screen would show a complicated and plot-crucial scene that required viewer attention, while another showed a long establishing shot that could be mostly ignored in comparison.

PROS: Cinephiles will love it. You will appreciate movies in RECORD time now.

CONS: Probably would not work for certain types of movies with intricate or non-straightforward plots; for example, The Departed (2006) or Memento (2000).

Vanquish loneliness and existential dread with this one weird app that doesn’t exist (yet)

The issue:

Sometimes, it’s hard to keep in touch with your friends and family, especially if you live in different cities and time zones.

Proposal:

The solution is quite simple—an app that keeps track of when you last met up with, texted, called, or otherwise contacted your friends and family.

In fact, it could even be integrated directly into your messaging app and phone GPS, so the phone could automatically keep track of which relationships were being maintained. (Both your national government and companies like Google have more than enough information to do this already, but it’s unlikely to be a crowd-pleasing feature, so don’t expect it to show up on your phone any time soon. Fortunately, this still leaves the door open for an enterprising startup to create this program.)

The example program below (Figures 1 and 2) is called “FriendNeglectr” (if that gets trademarked, “Neglectly” and “FriendNeglect.io” are other popular startup-sounding names that could be employed).

friendneglectr-icon

Fig 1: The proposed FriendNeglectr icon.

friendneglectr-emphasis

Fig 2: Here, we see a list of several of your friends in FriendNeglectr, ordered by the time you last saw them. For example, you last met Dave (top) for coffee 4 months ago. But you haven’t seen Alfonso (bottom) in 1.5 years, so the bar is highlighted in red. 

Conclusion:

You should stay in contact with your friend Alfonso, even though the last time you saw him was in court (Fig. 2). Also, since this app doesn’t exist yet, you should develop it.

PROS: Helps you maintain important relationships that might otherwise be neglected due to time and distance.

CONS: Reminds you of the ubiquitous and inescapable surveillance of modern society, filling you with a chilling dread of a future “Orwell’s 1984”-esque world.

Never fall for a clickbait title again with this one INSANE museum tip! Your art appreciation teacher would hate it.

Background:

Museums are often large and weirdly laid out, and it’s frequently impossible to see the high points of culture without major hassle.

In contrast, amusement park rides are laid out with extreme care to provide an engaging experience the whole way through.

Specifically relevant to this proposal are “narrative” rides where a user gets into a vehicle and experiences a story of some kind. Examples:

  • “Haunted house” rides
  • Disney rides like “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,” or “It’s a Small World.”

Proposal:

We will combine the amusement park “narrative ride” with the contents of a museum (Fig. 1).

Advantages of experiencing the contents of a museum as a linear ride instead of an open “wander about freely” space:

  • Dawdlers are prevented from hogging the best Greek urn viewing locations.
  • The viewing experience is linear, and can thus be more easily crafted by the museum curator.
  • An audio guide can be synced up with the ride, so no separate “press this number” audio guide is required. Instead, the audio guide can come out of speakers in the vehicle or in the exhibition hall.

museum-amusement-park-ride.png

Fig 1: This “Pirates of the Caribbean”-style museum ride is both engaging and educational.

Conclusion:

You must demand that any future museums that you attend be presented in the format of a theme park ride.

PROS: Greatly increases cultural and educational opportunities.

CONS: People may fall into the river if they become too enamored of a specific piece of work and try to remain near it while the ride moves on.

Obsolete password requirements cost over 50 billion dollars in lost productivity per year—solve the problem forever with these new password requirements!

Background:

You’re probably familiar with web sites that have very particular password requirements:

  • “Your password must contain a number, capital letter, and special character.”
  • “Your password must contain the name of a Triple Crown-winning horse.”
  • “Your password cannot contain your username.”

The purpose of these requirements is usually to either:

  1. Require that the password not be instantly guessable by hackers
  2. Require that the password be specific to a particular web site. Although this is quite rare, it does exist. For example, a bank could require that “$” appear in a password four times, which would prevent you from re-using your other passwords. (This is the same principle used by colleges that have weird essay prompts, preventing an individual from re-using other essays.)

The issue:

There are relatively few variants of these requirements, and they are all extremely unimaginative.

For example, the password pa#ss@W0rd can probably be used on most sites—so when one of them gets hacked, your bank account will be imperiled!

Three proposals:

The following proposals are for more creative methods of enforcing unique passwords (which generally would not be usable between sites).


password-angular

Figure 1 / Proposal 1: Require that CURVED letters and ANGULAR letters alternate in the password. Very straightforward!

Font nerd bonus feature: See bonus figure A (at bottom) for more details about the degree to which this property depends on the specific font you are using.


password-symbols

Figure 2 / Proposal 2: Require that a password contain a number, letter, Chinese character (light blue), Devanagari syllable (purple) Greek letter (dark blue), and accented letter (orange). Those specific character sets are arbitrary, so different users could be given different language requirements. There is no shortage of options: there are ~32 character sets for currently-written languages in the current Unicode build plus approximately 100 historical scripts no longer in standard use.

Downside to this method: If you got really unlucky, your password might require the following: an Egyptian hieroglyph, Chinese obsolete seal-script character, Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform mark, and linear B symbol. Probably you should just register a new user account at that point. If you got incredibly unlucky, the site might even require a script that is not in Unicode yet (perhaps Maya glyphs). In that case, presumably you would have to draw (or carve) the appropriate Maya glyph and upload a picture with your cell phone camera.


password-line

Figure 3 / Proposal 3: Require that a password solve a certain type of visual puzzle. In this case, we require that a continuous line be drawn through all the symbols (this is shown as a yellow highlight).

Downside to this method: this puzzle would be extremely font-specific; the “p -> c” line and “c -> 6” line are a bit questionable even here.


Conclusion:

If you run a web site, you should change your obsolete password requirements immediately!

PROS: Makes password re-use between sites impossible.

CONS: Probably you’ll use a password manager and then it will get hacked and/or you’ll forget the master password.

futura

Bonus Fascinating Typeface Fun Fact Figure A: As a surprising feature of English typography, curved-and-non-curved letters (which are important to distinguish in the “curved vs angular” proposal in Figure 1) are consistent among nearly all non-handwriting fonts.

For example, a capital “M” is nearly always 4 straight lines, whereas a lower-case “m” is almost always two curved arches. The only counterexample I found in a non-exotic font was that a lower-case “j” is normally curved, but it is completely straight in the font “Futura.”  Futura is one of the few not-totally-a-gimmick fonts that defies the conservation-of-letter-curve.

You’ll never eat an ice cream cone again after learning this horrifying secret! Also: the top 5 flavors of ice cream from your childhood that are NO LONGER made!

The issue:

Sometimes, when you’re eating an ice cream out of a cone, you will suffer the indignity of having the ice cream drip onto yourself and/or the ground (see Fig. 1).

This is especially likely to occur if you are less than five years old.

This can be avoided by diligently rotating the cone to check for drips, but this is a labor-intensive process that is ripe for disruption through advanced in robotics and computer vision.

rotation-of-cone

Fig. 1: The ice cream cone looks safe (left), but if you rotate it 180º, it is revealed that the ice cream is about to drip onto you (right).

Proposal:

A glove lined with rollers and a set of tiny cameras can automatically rotate the ice cream cone in such a way that you will always be eating the ice cream sectors that are most likely to drip.

The glove is diagramed in Figure 2.

glove

Fig. 2: A glove with two motorized rollers to actually rotate the ice cream cone (highlighted in red) and a number of additional free-spinning rollers to allow the ice cream cone to spin freely. Not shown here is the computer vision component, which be integrated into the glove as miniature low-resolution cameras on the top of the index finger and thumb (to provide a 360° view of the ice cream under standard gripping conditions).

glove-with-cone

Fig. 3: The recommended glove-and-cone configuration for optimal application of the “ice cream glove.”

PROS: Prevents ice cream from dripping on you while you eat it. Saves mental energy that can be focused onto other tasks, such as promoting world peace.

CONS: Equipment malfunction may cause the rollers to spin out of control, “centrifuging” the ice cream scoop and flinging it everywhere.