Monday, 29 March 2010

Bio-impedance analysis clothing

Bio-impedance analysis is used to measure body fat percentage. It is done using special scales or a hand-held monitor. As such, the measurement is a deliberate activity. It also suffers from some inaccuracy as it measures only from foot to foot, or hand to hand. If a web of wires is built into clothing, the measurement could be automatic, and the measurement could cycle through measuring from different points to different points, giving a much more accurate reading.

The value of free time - using a dishwasher

I think it would be interesting to work out the value people place on their free time by looking at how much they are willing to spend on time saving devices such as a dishwasher. Look at the lifetime costs and time taken of hand washing dishes and using a dishwasher.

Preserving and sharing toys

I would like to see an online community with a mission of creating 3D representation of every toy ever made, and providing a (set of) digital environment(s) for them to interact. It has actually become fairly easy to create 3D models, with the rise of free 3D modelling tools and techniques using just a webcam.

Given the nature of many toys (and many computer games), the interactions between toys may tend towards violence. Imagine Action Man vs My Little Pony...

The anti-patent

I think it should become a more common activity for people to publish their ideas to limit what others are able to patent.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

It's all about: arrogance

Many situations, and almost all conflict, can be considered in terms of arrogance.

Making enemies

Not even the richest man in the world can afford to make enemies.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Online success

I have been thinking recently about what makes online companies successful. Here's the output of my musings:

Twitter = blogging + RSS + word limit + popularity

Facebook = personal web pages + email + popularity (Facebook is also closed, but I don't think protecting people's data is what drove people to Facebook or made it successful.

Google  = search + better algorithm + cleaner interface + popularity

Putting content online
  • That only you can see – Google Docs/Zoho
  • That only your (vetted) friends can see – Facebook
  • That only subscribers to you can see – Twitter
  • That everyone can see – Personal webpages/Blogs/Youtube/Forums

Access to content via
  • Just a normal web page
  • An account/reader

Are touchscreen tablet computers the ultimate childrens toy?

I think so. A waterproof, ruggedised (chewing-proof and drop-proof) tablet could be introduced to children from a very young age (before talking and walking). For the youngest, the screen displays colours, patterns and shapes, and responds to touch (via the touchscreen), sound (via a microphone) and movement (via a webcam and accelerometer). The software could "learn" the child's preferences, for example if the colour orange generates more input from the child then the software uses this colour more often.

As the child ages, the tablet can be switched to different modes. For the toddler, the tablet provides games (e.g. name the object), jigsaws, drawing. The colour be selected from a menu with big "buttons" that the child learns to understand.

For the older child, the tablet can revert to how and adult would use it, with a standard operating system, wifi, browser, learning applications, and games. One toy could last through all stages of development. And it's longevity would justify the cost.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Automating the measurement of food intake

Recording what you eat is painfully laborious. There's the pain of noting down what you've eaten, and then the pain of looking up its nutritional value. Unfortunately, automating this process is more difficult than the process is painful.

The ultimate solution is probably an always on video camera that records exactly what you see (this may well come for different reasons, once society has evolved to accept the privacy concerns) and records what you eat via object recognition. This is then automatically looked-up against food databases to give accurate nutrition information.

In the absence of this non-existant technology, what are the other options? A tiny accelerometer could be embedded in the jaw to give data on mastication as a proxy for how much you are eating (and talking, and chewing chewing gum, etc); a sensor could be embedded in the stomach to measure something (perhaps pH?); some kind of sensor in the oesophagus?

I think it is worthwhile having an input sensor in addition to a sensor that measures the impact on blood substrates. This way we can measure the impact of particular foods on blood substrates, and therefore determine what to eat.


Live your life by your own rules, but make sure these are congruent with the rules of society.

Monday, 15 March 2010


We need applications (web-based or desktop-based) to automate the extraction of our data from one cloud and then upload it to another. Say, for example, you want to move from Facebook to MySpace. You log into your Facebook account and then run the programme (in another tab of the browser if web-based or from your computer if desk-top based). All your contacts, personal description, hobbies, messages, etc are downloaded and then uploaded to your new MySpace account. It could even automate a message to your Facebook contacts saying "I've gone to MySpace, please join me!". Obviously there is some tweaking to do as the MySpace set-up differs. But much less than starting afresh.
Other examples: downloading all your emails, labels and contacts from your Gmail account; downloading your music preferences from Spotify or
Are there legal restrictions to doing this? Companies could perhaps tap into the open-source community to avoid this. Even if not, the website suffering the automated access would seek the block the access to stop users leaver their service. The applications would need to be continually updated to circumvent the counter-measures.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Inflation-proof bank account

I would like a bank account where the savings rate tracks inflation such that wealth is growing ever post tax:

interest rate = inflation / (1- tax rate) + margin

e.g. 5.1% = 3% / (1 - 40%) + 0.1%

Robot boxer/martial artist

Punchbags don't fight back; and when fighting with another person (at least during training) you don't tend to go "all out". It would be interesting to fight a robot boxer/martial artist. It could be programmed to pull its punches, but you would be free to hit it as hard as you could. Technology's not there yet though...

Automated book to movie

How clever would a computer need to be to make a book into a movie? The dialogue can be converted by speach synthesis; the visuals converted from the description (by looking up each word in a word-to-image databased). Until such a system became very advanced it would likely require human intervention remove errors that a computer wouldn't understand, and to edit a very long movie into a normal length one.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

What future technology am I afraid of?

I see most technological advancement as a good thing, so I thought I'd try to identify what future technology I am afraid of. So far, the only things I have come up with are:
  • people-monitoring technologies that will infringe privacy and facilitate a totalitarian state;
  • weapons (chemical, biological, nuclear, etc) that will cause great harm if in the wrong hands (note: most hands are the wrong hands);
  • robots - if they try to take over; and
  • virtual reality - if we create a virtual world so responsive to our needs that no-one wants to live in the real world, and civilisation crumbles.
Society adapts to accomodate new technologies, so we will adapt to these technological advancements (we already have CCTV without decent into totalitarianism, and we already have World of Warcraft without everyone being addicted to online games). However, there may come a point, particularly in these areas, where society cannot adapt sufficiently and our civilisation is undone.

Morning light bulb

It seems to me that daylight bulbs are not a good approximation of morning sunlight. Is that because morning sunlight has a different spectral range? Perhaps it would be possible to make a morning light bulb.

Powered exoskeleton with wings

Would it be possible for a man to fly like a bird with a powered exoskeleton with wings? (i.e. no propellor or jet propulsion)

Online identity management

Very near the top of my wishlist for tech companies to pull their finger out and actually do, is sort out online identity management. I avoid using, or trying out, new web services because of the hassle of registering (and I already use an online password manager that makes it easier).

Firstly, online password managers (e.g. Clipperz, LastPass, Passpack) need to go mainstream (e.g. be bought by Microsoft or Google), so that I can trust these services with my bank details (if they weren't secure enough, the big names wouldn't take the reputational risk). And with them, online form autofill services (e.g. LastPass).

Secondly, OpenID or an equivalent needs development and publicity (to get widespread adoption).

Alternate communications systems and data sets

I have come up with several ideas for communications services for communicating with people you don't know, drivers and anything you can name. A unifying feature of these, although to a lesser extent the "anything you can name" idea, is the dataset of communications recipients. For drivers the data set is well established: license plates numbers. There are also well established data sets for communicating with people you don't know: zip codes, street addresses, lists of companies, lists of charities, etc. The key to expanding this idea is identifying data sets and getting access to them.

Why I like Wikipedia

I think the reason I like Wikipedia, aside from it being free and having a good amount of information. Is the metadata and the context, which are partly delivered through links. For example, if I look up the Empire State Building, I don't just find out its height (the data), but am linked through to a comparison page and what buildings its record height was preceeded by and succeeded by. I am immediately immersed in the context of the subject.

It's all about:: risk management, performance management

Is risk management a subset of performance management, or is performance measurement a subset of risk management? In one sense, the risk of poor performance is but one of the many risks, therefore performance management is a subset of risk management. In another sense, risk management is just one task of many tasks that need to be undertaken, and which the performance of needs to be measured. In this sense risk management is a subset of performance measurement.

Either way round, both concepts are pretty all-encompasing.

Talking to the wall

I envisage an online communication site that allows public communication with anything: you can leave a message for anything you can name. For example if you want to leave a message for "the wall" you type in "the wall" into the To: field on the site and write a message in the Message: field (along with links, images, video, etc).

Messages can be anonymous, or users can generate an account.

Other users (or the same user) can post follow-on messages to each message.

The site can show all messages to "the wall", but would also provide contextual links to other message recipients e.g. "the Berlin wall" or "the wall in my basement".

Why would people use the site? To express themselves. To hide messages for people. To rant at a nameless bureaucrat or a bad driver. To communicate with a group of people who have not yet organised as a group.