Thursday, 17 February 2011

Toys that fire things

For some unfathomable reason, I was, the other day, thinking about the toys I used to play with as a child. In particular, a toy tank that fired a missile. I remember being upset that I'd lost the missile from the tank and hence the toy was useless. Why don't the manufacturers make the toys with mini waterpistols rather than firing a missile? That way there would be no lost fun from running out of ammunition, and much less risk of taking out an eye!

Moving blade vertical axis wind turbine

I remember reading that there are problems with efficiency of vertical axis wind turbines (I seem to remember this being because the return stroke is going into the wind). I wondered whether it would be possible to have on the arms of the turbine blades that can also move. Thus, on the return stroke the air can flow between the blades. The diagram below (a top down view) may explain (or may not!):

Random route generator

I was recently using my thrice-weekly runs to explore a new area and it occured to me that a personal GPS device would be able to calculate a perfect set of routes to get coverage of all the possible routes available when you first start running in a new area. Runners would be told turn left/turn right, just like drivers.

For areas you already know, a random route generator could be used to add variety. Additionally, the user would be able to mark certain stretches as "like" (e.g. a nice path down by a lake) and these be added in more often.

It also occurs to be that the same concept would useful for police patrols: to ensure full coverage; and to prevent criminals predicting where the police will be. The random routes for police could also be modified with crime data, so that hotspots are visited more often.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

To be the first

Simultaneous exchange booth

It has always troubled me slightly that for exchange transactions one might person might hand over the goods, then the recipient refuse to hand over the money. So I thought about how you might enforce transfer.

The diagram below is a top down view of what I have referred to as a simultaneous exchange booth. There are two boxes set in a wall. The boxes have a perspex hatch (in brown) that allows the trade partners to see what is being exchanged. The hatch can only be opened if both doors are shut, and both parties simultaneously depress the levers.

This mechanism also allows blind exchange: all you can see is what is being exchanged, not the person.

Identifying opportunity via the web

If people are looking for things and can't find them, that suggests an opportunity exists. Search engines and searchable product websites should be able to mine their search history data to look for common searches that had a poor quality or low volume of matches. Such searches are opportunities for new products, new services, new websites, etc.