The countryside is littered with shopping trolleys, dragged there by shoppers, vagrants and yobs. The whole process of shopping with these things is a nightmare anyway, for store owners and shoppers alike.
Until someone invents home delivery (!) and all those ugly supermarkets close in favour of underground warehouses, I thought it might be interesting to consider the global proliferation of trolleys problem. Here is an alternative to the coin-in-the-trolley deposit approach (since I can never remember to bring the right coin with me anyway).
Ice. Imagine a trolley which can be as large or small as your purchases require and which, when you have used it, just disappears. So why not just make the entire basket thing of ice? Answer: the cost is way too high…if we just reproduced existing designs, I reckon it would require removal of 4 MJ to cool water enough to generate a solid trolley in the existing design. So my suggestion would be to come up with a trolley ice mould which is sufficiently strong in design to carry the shopping, whilst minimising the material. Surely someone out there with a CAD system and some polymer engineering expertise could cut the required mass of ice by a factor of 10…or 100?
Maybe there’s a way to make a shell-like design which could be sprayed onto a standard former (ie fast) and still be sufficiently light and strong? It would have to run on detachable, ablative skids I guess, but at least the shopping would get home still chilled and you could have separate baskets which exactly fit your own car boot.
I’ve noticed that in particularly windy parts of the country, two traffic cones are used at a time, one purely being employed to hold the other one down in high winds. It occurred to me that it would be better to equip each cone with a moulded-in compartment into which water could be poured from the cone laying truck. The weight would allow each cone to stay securely in place in even the wildest weather.
When the roadworks have been completed (it does happen sometimes) a plug could be pulled before loading cones back aboard.
An alternative, involving no extra weight, would be for the base of each cone to incorporate an inverted aerofoil moulding which, as the wind rises, would suck it down harder onto the tarmac (a similar process to the ‘wings’ on F1 racers). This would also be a useful addition to the existing wheelie bin designs which routinely overturn in the wind, spilling household waste all over the pavement.
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).
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.
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.
For patriots in windless countries, I suggest that a hollow flagpole could be arranged with a fan at the bottom.
This would drive air upwards and allow it to exit through a column of small holes in the pole, parallel to the leading edge of the flag. The flag could thus fly successfully on even the calmest of days.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Imagine clothing that is multilayered. As you move, adjacent layers rub against each other and the friction results in a self heating effect.
The extra energy required to move about whilst wearing this kit could make it useful for eg training in cold conditions.
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.