#9: Deadline downcounter

A clock which allows you to enter some deadline time and then says ‘Two minutes until deadline’, ‘One minute to go’, ‘You are cutting things a bit fine now’, ‘Get a bloody move on’ and eventually ‘…ok, you are now officially late.’

The voice could range from relaxed and encouraging to frantic and hectoring (Think 1980’s Montego but without the velour upholstery).

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#8: Autonomous satellite vacuum

An attachment for a standard vacuum cleaner consisting of a small, simple robotic ‘mouse’. The mouse is connected to the cleaner by a light flexible, smallbore hose.

It is capable of moving itself about randomly on a floor surface using only tiny battery-powered motors and its small size means that. it can reach into corners and under furniture. The suction is provided by the main vacuum cleaner which remains stationary.

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Based on existing, low-cost robotic mouse toys, this device could be fitted with a timer and clean a small section of a floor each day without the owner’s intervention -and it can reach places the $300 Roomba fears to tread.

#6: Vertical access shopping trolley

A shopping trolley (or basket) which contains a fold-out step and allows small people to reach stuff they can’t get to on supermarket shelves (I’m constantly being asked by people to get them a packet of high-altitude cornflakes).

This would enable more stock to be accessible and make better use of expensive floor space. It might also allow extra pricing differentials/incentives: “Reach up for lower prices.”

If insurance companies stymie this, because they won’t allow shoppers to take on the dangerous task of climbing a step, then maybe some kind of vertical ‘magazine’ can be arranged, whereby products are fed in at the top and customers extract them at the bottom, automatically making available the next item. This would have the added advantage that products could be delivered to the shop in such feeder tubes…and the tubes themselves could announce to the stock control system when a tube was empty. In addition, the current danger of getting a glass jar of mayonnaise on the head would be eliminated.

#5: Stereo vision device for use on theme park rides

The central idea is that by enhancing stereo depth perception for users of these rides, their experience will be significantly intensified at very low additional cost.

Mobile phones now commonly incorporate cameraphones. Two such devices may be mounted on a spectacle frame with lenses positioned so as to roughly double the normal interocular distance. This has the effect of providing an intensified, 3-D view and a correspondingly heightened experience for thrillseeking ride customers.

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The spectacle frames might be made available in different or customisable colours, for example. Obviously a similar system might be designed using only prisms, but the use of mobile phones adds value to a purchase which has already been made and makes further use of universally loved and trusted technology. People will, we believe, regard this reuse as ‘cool.’

It may even be possible for a wearer to record their 3-D visual experience for playback (with sound) once the ride is over (assuming synchronisation can be achieved during replay).

Sunglasses manufacturers such as Oakley have already begun to develop all sorts of oddly-shaped, wrap-around glasses embodying electronics.

#4: An end to ironing

Long, long ago I used to iron clothing and so this idea seemed like a winner.

Imagine a shirt which is a flat sheet with a single zip (or the like) running around the outer edge The sheet could have its edge zipped up to form a 3-D shirt.

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For ironing purposes, a single press could deal with 100s of the damn things at a time -no more staring at the tv across the ironing board for hours waiting for the appearance of a good programme.

#2: Petcam

Where does your cat or dog go when out of the house? Strap a wireless webcam around their neck and your immediate vicinity (within range of your router) starts to accommodate a wildlife safari. Pipe the pictures to a big screen and get close-ups of midnight mousehunting, roadcrossing roulette etc. An inbuilt microphone adds extra excitement.

Now it seems that this has actually been implemented.

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#1: Ballcam

Here’s a typically crazy one to start. Create the ball’s view of a game of soccer by inserting some webcams in a subset of the 32 faces. Given enough bandwidth, and fast switching between camera outputs, the forward facing view could always be broadcast, even for a rapidly spinning ball.

You’d need to provide the switching mechanism with some reference by which to judge the forward direction (perhaps a simple layout of coloured lights around the ground would work). Otherwise, fitting accelerometers might be necessary, thus greatly adding to the complexity.

Making the whole thing robust enough to withstand the impacts involved in eg corner kicking would be a challenge. If players can stand heading an inswinger, after all, without obvious brain damage…ok, you’re probably right, damn silly idea.