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Inventors Wanted (Add To The Wishlist) 281

Posted by timothy
from the heat-seeking-love-missiles dept.
krugdm writes: "In his latest NYT column, David Pogue has a list of nine inventions that he'd like to see that are just awaiting inventors. The range from the silly MP3 Toothbrush to the potentially useful Microwave Plus+ that self programs. How much of this is possible?" Industrial designers, arise!
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Inventors Wanted (Add To The Wishlist)

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  • VR Porn ....

    to go where no geek has gone before
  • Tooth decay (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 29, 2002 @06:50PM (#3250202)
    The range from the silly MP3 Toothbrush

    Watch the cavity rate rise in America in a few years due to the toothbrush becoming illegal under the DMCA.
  • I'm still waiting for a PDA, mp3 player, graphing calculator, pager, cell phone, digital camera with lots and lots of memory and really low battery usage. Has to have a full color lcd too. Or whatever the GBA screen is made of. Has to have wireless net connection too.
    • Re:still waiting (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ArsonSmith (13997)
      This sounds like a great idea and I have seen some things close. They are expensive, although not comparitivly.

      Decent cell phone $100
      Decent pager $20
      Good PDA $400
      Good MP3Player $100
      graphing calculator $75
      Decent Digital Camera $300

      total $995

      if all this was put into one device and sold for around $1000 it would seem like it cost to much. The price point would not be to good. Although you may purchase all the above and spend the same amount for somereason spending ~$1000 on 5-10 devices "seems" better than on 1 doit it all device.

      I have 12 chickens, see my basket full of eggs.

  • NYT Registration (Score:2, Informative)

    by xuekgont (569648)
    Here's the article without the registration:
    Wish List: 9 Innovations in Search of Inventors

    By DAVID POGUE

    OU can say what you want about the bursting of the technology bubble (just not in front of the children). True, the Super Bowl lost some advertisers, 20-year-olds lost their beachfront condos, and investors lost their shirts. But for technology writers, it was a great time to be alive.

    These days, though, there seems to be a measurable deceleration in high-tech innovation. Sure, PC's are getting slightly faster, palmtops slightly brighter, and DVD players slightly cheaper, but where are the big, bold new ideas for consumer products? Where are the inventions on par with the pen scanner, the discount Web drugstore and the robot dog?

    Maybe industry executives just need a little inspiration. Here are some ideas for new products that should exist, but don't -- at least, not according to the exhaustive search conducted by my research staff (that is, my wife on Google). If you're an inventor, take these ideas with my blessings. I ask nothing in return but a smile, a firm handshake and 10 percent of the net.

    MICROWAVE PLUS+
    It's beginning to dawn on manufacturers that we need better ways of getting data from one source to another. The redundantly named VCR Plus+ feature, for example, simplifies programming your VCR by letting you plug in a code found in the newspaper TV listings.

    But even in 2002, frozen-food packages still bear ludicrously imprecise instructions like, "Heat at High for 3 to 7 minutes (ovens vary)."

    "3 to 7"? Let's get our act together! Microwaves equipped with Microwave Plus+ would have a tiny bar-code reader on the front panel. In half a second, this little eye would scan the cooking-information bar code that would appear on each package of food. The oven's software would adapt those instructions to accommodate its particular wattage and abilities. Everybody wins: The food and microwave makers see sales rise, emergency rooms see fewer burns, and consumers get perfectly cooked food.

    PUNCH-IT-UP ALARM CLOCK
    The modern clock radio can play CD's, wake up two people at different times, and even beam the current time onto the ceiling. So why do we have to set the time using the same controls cavemen used in the Stone Age?

    You still have to hold down slow, imprecise buttons that on most models go only forward in time. If you woke at 8 this morning, you can't reset the alarm for 7 a.m. tomorrow without fast-forwarding through 23 hours' worth of flickering numbers.

    Haven't these companies ever heard of a phone-style number keypad? We should be able to set the alarm for 8:45 just by tapping the 8, 4, and 5 keys in sequence. You'd save two minutes a night, which you could use for any number of activities, like sleeping.

    BLIND DATA
    The most excruciating aspect of being single in the city is the information void. There you sit on the subway, surreptitiously eyeing some attractive stranger, with no way of knowing if that person is single, sane, straight or solvent. For all you know, he or she doesn't speak your language, is heading at this moment to a new life overseas or has just dumped someone who looks exactly like you.

    Bluetooth, a new (and real) technology that wirelessly connects gadgets within 30 feet of each other, could eliminate this kind of agony. Like the Japanese Lovegety toy for teenagers, the Blind Data would be a tiny transmitter, worn on a key ring or pendant. But instead of beeping when just anyone of the opposite sex came nearby, the Blind Data would be a far more discerning gizmo. You would program it with the vital statistics of both you and the kind of soul mate you're seeking. When your transmitter vibrates, it means that somebody else's is vibrating, too. Somebody less than 30 feet away is looking for someone just like you.

    At the very least, you'll sit up straight and quit picking your teeth. You'll look around you to see who else is sitting up straight and looking around. If you don't like what you see, you just move on. And if you do decide to smile and introduce yourself, you've got one heck of a great conversation starter.

    TIVOCORDER
    A TiVo (news/quote) (a real product) can do a lot of things, from recording your favorite shows automatically to pausing live TV. Furthermore, it's always recording whatever is on the current channel, even if the TV itself is turned off. At any time, you can turn on the TV and rewind up to 45 minutes into the past to see what you've just missed.

    It's a tantalizing idea. Now suppose TiVo came out with a tiny, pen-shaped digital audio recorder. Once in your shirt pocket, it would continuously record the sound around you. At any time, while continuing to record, you could play back the last 20 minutes of whatever you've just heard: a co-worker's brilliant utterance, something you didn't quite catch on the car radio, or driving directions somebody rattled off too fast. (As on the real TiVo, it would continue recording even as it played back.)

    Because it would always be on, you would never worry about missing something important. And no family argument would ever again devolve into, "But you said . . . " and, "No, that's not what I said!"

    MP-TEETHBRUSH
    In the 90's, the hot new-product formula was to tack an MP3 music player onto some existing gizmo. We had MP3 cameras, MP3 phones, even MP3 watches.

    But they missed the MP3-playing toothbrush. At what other time would a little music be so welcome as during that boring hygiene moment?

    INTERCOM-PUTER
    Every year, more people buy second and even third computers, which they often connect as a network. How odd, then, that when husband and wife are both at their machines, they still communicate by yelling from one end of the house to the other.

    The Intercom-Puter would be an inexpensive U.S.B. intercom that connects to each computer and exploits your network wiring. Just push a button to talk ("Phone for you," "Have you seen my glasses?"). It would be quick, convenient and simpler than software-based intercom systems, which require microphone and speakers for each PC.

    FLUMAPPER.COM
    Young children are walking cotton swabs, and schools are the world's biggest Petri dishes. Your kindergartner comes home, feverish and miserable, and you have to listen to the doctor on the phone say: "Oh, yeah, that's going around. He'll have high fever for 24 hours, then two days of vomiting, with a little rash for another week."

    If the bugs are this identifiable, a little notice might be nice -- perhaps in the form of a Web site that tracks the various flu strains that float across the country. It would look like a national weather map. But it wouldn't just show you which states had flu cases, period, like the simplistic maps at Fluwatch.com and elsewhere. Instead, color-coded clouds would show you exactly which types of mini-epidemics are sweeping through. You'd know at a glance what's "going around," what symptoms you're in for and which kinds of places to avoid.

    This site wouldn't need banner ads. Subscriptions from wary, weary parents would be quite enough support.

    SNAPFLAT SCREEN
    Flat-panel screens are glorious but still expensive. As time goes on, we wind up having to buy more and more of them -- in palmtops, laptops, digital cameras, camcorders, PC's, and lately, car dashboards and television sets.

    Clearly, the world is waiting for the SnapFlat Screen: a detachable, interchangeable flat panel that you can move from gadget to gadget. After all, you use only one of these expensive machines at a time. At the end of the day, you can snap the screen onto your Web appliance to see how much money you've saved by buying one universal screen instead of six proprietary ones.

    THE I-PODULE
    The built-in hard drive of the iPod, Apple's tiny white-and-chrome music player, holds 10 gigabytes. That's enough for about 2,500 songs. When connected to a Macintosh, the iPod also acts as a standard hard drive, ideal for moving files between machines. But why stop there? "Tiny" and "capacious" are two words that don't come together very often. The iPod could be the heart of a new generation of storage-hungry gadgets.

    Imagine a digital camera with an iPod slot: you could take thousands of pictures without running out of film and slip the iPod into your computer to transfer them. Then you'd snap the iPod into a camcorder for capturing video, from there to your cellphone to send files or photos to a friend, and maybe even into a cash machine for a quick download of your statement.

    Just don't lose the thing.

    • I wonder if bypassing the registration like this is a violation of the DMCA....
      • no, but it is a violation of copyright... unless of course the poster got consent. suuuuuuuuuure he did.
    • MICROWAVE PLUS+

      It would be nice, but unfortunatly, it just isn't practical.

      Most modern microwaves have preprogrammed buttons for common generic food items (i.e. warm a muffin, defrost 1lb of meat, heat a cup of coffee, pop 1 bag of popcorn). These usually work reasonably well. Having these types of options for specific items, however, would be next to impossible. Since every microwave differs and every micro-meal differs, someone would have to test every possible micro-meal in every "Microwave +" microwave. The product wouldn't sell well unless it could handle a good portion of the microwaveable stuff out there. Go to your local grocery store's freezer someday and start counting products...it ain't pretty... ;) Not to mention the fact that other variables (crappy power, aging microwave ovens, even the temprature of the food before being cooked) would affect the "ideal" cooking time to enough of a degree to throw off any automated system.

      However...I suggest a compromise: a user-programmable microwave. Put a bigger LED display on there and let the user enter his or her favorite items into a list along with their cooking times. After you've cooked an item a few times, you know how long it will take in your microwave - so you program it in. When you want to cook it again, just select it from a menu or punch in a hotkey sequence, and off it goes!

      PUNCH-IT-UP ALARM CLOCK

      Again, a nice idea, but not likely to happen. Clock radios are cheap products (unless you wake up to a Bose WaveRadio or some such nonsensical item ;) ), and manufacturers have to cut costs to sell them cheap enough to compete. A ten-digit keypad, plus the two or three other controls to tell it what to adjust, would cost significantly more to design, implement, and manufacture than the two or three buttons most clock radios have now. If it was done, the model produced would cost more than similar models with three-button time setting systems. A few people would probably buy it for the convinence, but most would simply reach for the cheaper model sitting next to it. In any case, the time saving would be minimal. It takes me about 30 seconds to set my alarm clock to any time, not two minutes. If it "counts" too slowly for you when holding down the button, there's a very easy workaround: just hit the button once for each hour/minute you want to move. It's much faster than waiting for the clock to do it for you! ;)

      BLIND DATA

      This is a pretty clever idea! Privacy implications aside, it might actually be a workable and marketable item, especially in larger cities. (I doubt it would go over well in rural areas...when you can count the number of people you meet each day on your fingers and toes, you probably know most of 'em already ;) )

      TIVOCORDER

      This would be an interesting gadget, for sure! However, I think we're still a little ways away from the technology required to implement it (microphone, storage, simultaneous playback and recording from the same device without feedback or interference, and the power supply) in such a small package and make it affordable. Down the road, however, this could be very doable. Maybe we could even create a video version someday...now that would be a fun little toy! :)

      MP-TEETHBRUSH

      Cute, but redundant. Why not just wear your MP3 watch, cellphone, etc. into the bathroom with you? ;)

      INTERCOM-PUTER
      It would be quick, convenient and simpler than software-based intercom systems, which require microphone and speakers for each PC.

      Um...actually, it would be a USB-connected microphone and speaker with a software interface, unless someone figures out a way to make the USB port talk directly to the Ethernet port without stepping on normal network traffic... ;)

      Kind of an interesting idea, but there are so many other ways to implement a similar arrangement that don't require specialized hardware that it's hard to imagine it being very popular. What's wrong with ICQ? ;)

      FLUMAPPER.COM

      Could be very workable on a community level, but it would require a *lot* of coordination to be implemented on a larger scale. Kind of pointless, too...by the time there are enough cases to register, it's probably too late ;)

      SNAPFLAT SCREEN
      Not such a great idea, really. How could you come up with a single screen that attaches to all of those devices? Do you really want to wrestle with a Handycam and attached 14" TFT display, or surf the web via your laptop on a 2.5" camcorder LCD? How 'bout watching your new Lord of the Rings DVD on a tiny black and white Palm screen, or stuffing a 42" plasma display into your back pocket to look up phone numbers? There's a reason all those devices have proprietary displays; they were designed from the ground up to integrate with the products they are used on and fill the specific needs of those products.

      Flat-panel displays will come down in price, like any technological product. Just have patience... ;)

      THE I-PODULE

      Definatly the best idea on the list. However, development on high-capacity interchangeable storage media has been going on for some time, so I'd hardly call it new or in need of invention... ;)

      DennyK

      • It would be nice, but unfortunatly, it just isn't practical.

        Why not? The food would contain a heating code and it would be up to each microwave manufacturer to ensure that their microwave will heat the food to those specs. Some microwaves it might take 5 minutes and others only 3, but it is up to the microwave to determine how long it will take based on the heating info of the product.
      • >A ten-digit keypad, plus the two or three other controls to tell it what to adjust, would cost
        >significantly more to design, implement, and manufacture than the two or three buttons most
        >clock radios have now. If it was done, the model produced would cost more than similar models
        >with three-button time setting systems.

        Well, look at cheap wireline phones . . . $10 for a 10-digit keypad, lots of electronics, packaging, advertising, etc. So the keypad wouldn't really cost much at all. I think it's a great idea.
      • microwave (Score:2, Insightful)

        by AA0 (458703)
        I'm thinking that the microwave would be practical, but not the way you are thinking. You think that each product should have their own setting, but think of it as there are several thousand preprogrammed setting on the microwave when you buy it. Each product in the store then has a number on it, lets say 2854 cooking code, which could be 3:10 on 85% heat. The codes will always be in place, and would account for nearly every product, just enter a cooking code. Several products could use the same code.

        Of course, standards have to be in place. Each oven would have to adjust their time to the power of the oven compared to the standard oven used. If something has to be from frozen, then the codes have to change, but that should be put on the product label. It definitely would work.
      • Just a few notes on the Tivocorder. It would be very simple to have simultaneous playback and recording. Simply have the playback through an earpiece, and have the recording through something like a microphone clipped on the chest. And as for storage, simply use the I-Podule or other high-capacity unit. The iPod would actually be quite ideal, as its battery lasts the better part of a day, and the memory capacity means that the disk would only be active once every 20 minutes.
  • Half Bakery (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jeremi (14640) on Friday March 29, 2002 @06:54PM (#3250223) Homepage
    If you want a daily dose of half-baked inventions, check out The Half-Bakery [halfbakery.com]. It's an excellent site for the inventive/whimsical mind.
  • I have a Sony Dream Machine (ARV: $20) that someone gave me as a gift several years ago. It has two buttons to set the alarm: forward and backward. If you hold them down, they zoom through the time extremely fast. So if the alarm is set to 8:30, and you want to wake up at 8:15, you just hit the back button for a couple of seconds. This is all without the clutter of a numeric keypad. I've seen it on alarm clocks that dated back to the late 70's.

    I'm sure Bose or Bang and Olufsen has made a $300 clock that has a numeric keypad to set the time, but this method works equally as well, and it has the added benefit that mere mortals can afford it. :)
  • Writers? (Score:2, Funny)

    by conner_bw (120497)
    "But for technology writers, it was a great time to be alive."

    Apprently, it's *still* a great time for him, as a writer, to be alive too!

    MP-ASSPUMP: Firewire and USB enabled, who wouldn't want one of these !!! Hey New York Times, where's my paycheck?
  • by SandSpider (60727) on Friday March 29, 2002 @06:59PM (#3250240) Homepage Journal
    The Advantium [geappliances.com] oven from GE offers something similar. From GE's site:
    Finding and Using Recipes



    To find and use stored custom microwave recipes:

    1. Press the MICROWAVE/OVEN LIGHT button.
    2. Turn dial to RECIPE and press the dial to enter.
    3. CUSTOM#: and the categories you entered will appear.
    4. Turn dial to your recipe and press the dial to enter.
    5. Press the START/PAUSE button or the selector dial to start cooking.


    Not quite as easy as the VCR+ idea, but a step in that direction.
    Plus, it cooks with light! How retro-2001 of them.


    =Brian

  • This [usatoday.com] is only a small subset of what he's proposing, but it's more than just an idea.
  • can you imagine what kind of nightware ths coud cause?
    Oh no! there's a small epidemic at the school, keep jimmy home for a month.
    I'm a parent, I hate it when my kids are sick, but I recognize the fact that they must get sick.
    Sure, you got something thats killing people, yeah I want to know, but they already deal with that aw well as could be expected.
  • The "BLIND DATA" seems like a fun idea at first, but if you think for a moment: every time a good-looking gal/guy would step on the bus, the whole bus would start vibrating.
    • I believe this has already been done, at least in Japan. Search Google for something called a "lovegetty."

      Nifty idea IMHO, one of several applications for a larger technology you could call "personal area networking."
    • No actually the device he proposes only goes off if there is a match. Ie, the hot girl's would only go off if there was a guy who matched HER preferences on the bus as well.
    • It actually has been done. There was a segment on a Discovery Channel program about it a few months ago. You sat down at your computer and completed a personality profile. This was downloaded into the gizmo. Two gizmos would connect wirelessly, and give you a compatibility rating. The accuracy was hit and miss, as I recall.
  • Here's one.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rorschach1 (174480) on Friday March 29, 2002 @07:07PM (#3250282) Homepage
    I want a digital camera with integrated GPS and digital compass. When I get home from a trip, I should be able to download all of my images and see them as icons on a map, indicating where the picture was taken, in what direction, and at what time.
    • You should definately check out Confluence.org. Here's one of their great pictures : world map [orbitals.com].
    • by Raetsel (34442) on Friday March 29, 2002 @08:08PM (#3250560)

      90% of what you're asking for is available with the Nikon D1X and D1H models. Both are capable of recording data from a NMEA compliant GPS unit: The direction recording capability isn't there, and the mapping features you request aren't included with any software bundle I'm aware of. I'd think that, with a non-trivial amount of effort (and some simple [delorme.com], moderately complex [delorme.com], or downright expensive [autodesk.com] software), your goals are achievable.

    • Re:Here's one.... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by eyeball (17206) on Friday March 29, 2002 @08:31PM (#3250640) Journal
      I want a digital camera with integrated GPS and digital compass. When I get home from a trip, I should be able to download all of my images and see them as icons on a map, indicating where the picture was taken, in what direction, and at what time.

      I've thought of this before myself, and also imagined how cool it would be if it were possible to keep this information as meta data within the image's file itself. That way, a search engine like Google's Image Search could also index by location, time and direction. That way you could find any picture with a particular subject in it. Imagine being able to search for every picture taken of the World Trade Center. Eventually, given enough high resolution pictures and probably a little human intervention, there might even be a way to deconstruct the pictures, identify actual parts of buildings and landmarks, and reconstruct into a virtual world!
    • I want a digital camera with integrated GPS and digital compass. When I get home from a trip, I should be able to download all of my images and see them as icons on a map, indicating where the picture was taken, in what direction, and at what time.

      So short-sighted! We've just got to high-res, 3-D scan in the entire world, accurately simulate moving objects and light sources, and put it together in a big database. Then you simply indicate where, in what direction, and at what time you'd like the picture to be from, and you instantly have it. Cameras will no longer need expensive lenses, just GPS. And you won't even have to go on vacation! The benefits go on and on.
    • It's been done, just not on sale in N. America
      or anywhere outside Japan, yet.

      GPS integrated into ordinary cellphones (well ordinary for Japan means color, Java, midi, etc) is in stores now. One model has a good digital compass; a few programmer friends were salivating recently). This model actually doesn't have Java but does have 65K color, 16 voice midi, automatic time setting (?), an advanced email client, and support for a plugin camera.

      Check it out here [aushop-yokohama.com], the latest model (notice the compass in the upper left corner). The page is in Japanese, but it notes that this model is a step ahead of other GPS phones. It has a "heading up" feature that tells when you turn and it rotates the map 90 degrees so that it is pointing the way you are walking. The heading says, "The GPS mobile phone that comes yet closer to a car navigation system".

      I found the main page from Panasonic about it here [panasonic.co.jp] which is much more detailed. Some pages want Flash but if you follow the links you will see a lot more about the different functions. Hmmm maybe I better pick one up..

      Just read the PDF (again Japanese sorry) and it has yet more info.. the email client has 3d animated characters that make faces at you depending on the mail, and it plays games like soccer and there is a fishing game which lets you find a school of fish with the GPS at fishing holes all around Japan and then try to catch them. 102 grams, 132x176 pixels. Scared how much it's going to cost.
  • by GGardner (97375) on Friday March 29, 2002 @07:08PM (#3250287)
    He missed the one thing I want -- cheap clocks that set themselves. I've got cheap digital clocks in my VCR, TV, Microwave, coffee maker, etc. etc. Keeping them all set to the right time, especially when power is lost, is a real pain. They are never synchronized to each other, much less the right time. (Yes, my computers do run NTP, but that's another story).

    I've seen clock radios which know the time via WWV, but that's a bit expensive to put into all these appliances -- there's several different ways you could do this, but I want one that just works -- maybe a time signal could be broadcast over the power cables? It needn't add but a few pennies to the cost of the item, and would make my life tremendously easier.

    My cell phone sets its clock from the basestation automatically, and doesn't even have a way to manually set it. This is my favorite feature of my phone -- the time is always right.

    Can't we have this for appliances?
    • This scheme would unfortunately destroy an important indicator of technical prowess, because NOBODY'S VCR would ever flash "12:00" again. How could you more easily discern whether aunt Mabel/uncle Frank is scared of anything more electronic than a toaster, except by a quick peek at the VCR?
    • maybe a time signal could be broadcast over the power cables

      It's been years since I had a TV, VCR, or alarm clock that didn't sync itself. They are done via radio broadcast or embedded signal in TV broadcast. Having my microwave or clock on my stove grab it from the power grid would also be useful.

      For those who couldn't figure out why their VCR's were wrong in the valley a few years ago....here [reportercentral.com].

      • by fm6 (162816)
        It's been years since I had a TV, VCR, or alarm clock that didn't sync itself.
        What does a TV need to know what time it is?

        My VCR has the automatic-self-set feature, but it's rarely worked. I don't know whether its the signal screwup described in your link (given KTEH's budget woes, I doubt if they can keep anything fixed) or something weird in my cable system. Either it doesn't work, or doesn't handle DST right, or god knows what. But if I keep it in manual mode, it keeps good time, doesn't get screwed up by short power outages, and does handle DST correctly. Easier to leave it on manual and only deal with it after long power outages.

        Please note the word "cheap" in the message you responded to. I own a cheap WWV clock. Can't seem to acquire the signal.

        It's worth noting that Windows XP is the first OS to come preconfigured with time synchronization. Given the poor accuracy of most computer RTCs, you have to wonder why this took so long.

        • It's worth noting that Windows XP is the first OS to come preconfigured with time synchronization.

          Mac OS 8.6 had it several years ago.

          • I'm pretty sure Mac OS had the time sync option set to Off by default. I always turn it on (and enter a different sync server) so I can't remember if they changed the default to On in OS 9 or OS X.
            • Also, XP does rather more than just provide sync software. It's preconfigured to point to a Microsoft time server. Of course Apple does that too, and they deserve points for being the first system vendor to provide a server. On the other hand, Apple seems to be less anxious to have people actually use the server.

              Preconfiguration is not a small issue. It can be complicated, and if you're a good Netizen, you should be careful about what time servers you access. Then again, these rules seem to be widely ignored.

              Linux distros have always included NTP [udel.edu] software. Except that NTP configuring it is a bitch. This protocol is much more elaborate than most users need -- it supports a "multi-stratum" network of servers designed to minimize the load on individual servers and maximize accuracy (within a few milliseconds if client and server are on the same network, tens of milliseconds otherwise). That's rather more accuracy than I need -- I just want to keep my file times reasonably correct. After wasting a bit of time trying to make the NTP daemon work properly, I finally just had cron run ntpdate every four hours.

        • If you look at the microsoft Digital Rights Management Operating System patent you will see that one claim involves cryptographicly authenticated time. Don't be supprised when the next Microsoft operating system has no option for changing the date/time. It will be impossible.

          If you want to change the date or time on your computer you are obviously an Evil Hacker or an Evil Pirate.

          -
          • Jeez. OK, MS does a lot of evil things. But people really jump through hoops in order to attribute EVIL MOTIVES to every little thing they do. This time you've almost qualified for the Olympics -- or maybe the circus.

            Authentication is a useful part of any Internet protocol. That's how you prevent spoofing and unauthorized use of servers. (Authentication is already a part of existing time protocols [ohio-state.edu].) And authentication nowadays is always based on encryption. End of conspiracy theory.

            That being said, Microsoft DRM really sucks. It's badly engineered, and gives no thought to usability. No, wait, those are positive features, because they'll limit the technology's acceptance!

            • The XP feature that sets the clock via the internet isn't evil, but it seemed on topic to somethign that *is* evil. Amongst other things, it will require continous internet access to a "trusted time server" any time you have a "trusted application" loaded.

              As for "Authentication is already a part of existing time protocols". [ohio-state.edu] That authentication is to protect you from external attack. The Microsoft version of "autenticated time" is aimed at the legitimate owner of the computer. Big difference.

              Have you read the MS-DRM-OS patent? [uspto.gov] If you haven't, it's probably more evil than you realize. It cripples itself in all sorts of wonderful ways. It's nothing but a list of things it wont do, or blocks the user from doing.

              I really love how it's going to require a DRM-CPU too.

              -
              • Have you read the MS-DRM-OS patent? [uspto.gov] If you haven't, it's probably more evil than you realize. It cripples itself in all sorts of wonderful ways. It's nothing but a list of things it wont do, or blocks the user from doing.
                Cripples? Sounds like just another Sandbox Model [sun.com] to me. Or am I missing something?
    • I have a watch that sets itself to the second [rcprecision.com] at 1am every morning; unfortunately, when daylight savings time changes, I don't know how to set the damn thing.
    • I think a good idea would be for self-setting clocks would be to have a built-in speech-recognition system that could set the time. Imagine your clock being set by:
      • Your own voice - easy as pie
      • An announcer on the radio -- in your car or a clock radio - who the hell can set the car clock anyways??!
    • He missed the one thing I want -- cheap clocks that set themselves.

      DCF-77 (Deutscher Chronogramm Funksender, German Timesignal Transmitter) clocks have been around for years and years in Europe and they're cheap. You can get them in wristwatches and clocks and i remember there even being an ISA PC card for it years ago. You can get a DCF clock for as little as $10 here in the Netherlands.

      DCF is sent by radio at 77,5kHz from Zurich, Switzerland (if i'm not mistaken), about 1000 KM from here...
    • This is less expensive than you realize, and could probably be done today. I have a $20 alarm clock that sets itself to WWV, and I'm sure that the auto-set feature is only a small part of the total cost. I see no reason why it couldn't be included in just about any appliance.

    • My cell phone sets its clock from the basestation automatically, and doesn't even have a way to manually set it. This is my favorite feature of my phone -- the time is always right.

      Ironically, the basestation clock itself is set manually. It doesn't even automatically correct for daylight savings. I had a friend who works for a large cell phone provider. One day she had to be at work rediculously early in the morning. Why, I ask? Becasue someone has to update the main clock for daylight savings, she said! =)
    • Who cares? Why in heavens name do you want all your clocks perfectly synchronized? As long as you know the time within +/- 10 minutes, a little inaccuracy is not going to ruin your life. Go ahead and build GPS receivers in watches, cell phones, VCR and refrigerators for all I care. It's pointless.
    • There's certainly no excuse for a digital cellphone not to know what time it is. The cell networks are broadcasting digital signals anyway, and the phones are smart devices. Only some of the cellphone networks do that (which one do you have?) but I would hope that as newer standards are developed that they'd all support time. You probably won't get much better than 1/10 sec precision without doing more work than the network really needs, but even 1 second precision is enough for most applications. It'd also be nice if cellphones with datalinks to other computers can provide timesync.


      But if there's even *one* cellphone network in your area that broadcasts timesync, and if the protocols support receiving it without sending back reply packets, it should be pretty cheap to build a receiver that listens to it to incorporate in whatever device you want.

  • flumapper.com (Score:2, Informative)

    by 0xB (568582)
    Try the CDC [cdc.gov] (scroll down)

    Looks like I'm pretty safe this week.
  • I want two thigs: A Tivo for my radio (I timed it the other day. 14 minutes of actual program, 16 minutes of commercials in each half hour. Aaargh.), and an 'in-flight recorder' for my car. When some jerk cuts me off and I ram him, or some cop claims I didn't signal a turn, I'd like to have proof to back up my claims of innocence. Of course, it should have an 'erase' button just in case ...
    • and an 'in-flight recorder' for my car. When some jerk cuts me off and I ram him, or some cop claims I didn't signal a turn, I'd like to have proof to back up my claims of innocence. Of course, it should have an 'erase' button just in case ...

      I'd love to have a small camera looking forward out my windshield, kinda like what the cops have, but slightly different. Say, it only retains the last 15 minutes or so, and records for two minutes after an impact before automatically stopping. I can almost hear FOX already developing "World's Wildest Civilian Dash-Cam Videos."

      Of course, I still want complete control of the tape so I can erase it if it will show the accident is *my* fault. :-) I would never want some legally-mandated thing where the cops confiscate the media and hold it for the accident investigation before handing it over to the insurance company.

      As for a TiVo for radio, well, how would that work? You have no visual cues to know when to stop fast-forwarding. Other than that, though, I'd kinda enjoy being able to listen to the Stern show in 25 minutes while avoiding all the shitty commercials and zapping uninteresting/annoying guests. I can get through both episodes of his E! show in about 15 minutes without having to sit through any crappy "Girls Gone Wild XXVIII," "Playboy Mansion Parties," or "Make Your Cock Bigger With This Pill" commercials. :-)

      ~Philly
    • by brer_rabbit (195413) on Friday March 29, 2002 @09:30PM (#3250978) Journal
      I attempted this at my last (unnamed) company. We were doing music fingerprinting, which worked perfectly on compressed media (mp3, vorbis, real, windows media, etc etc).

      So we attempted to fingerprint radio broadcasts. It seemed simple in concept, a radio tivo like device wouldn't be too difficult: buffer some audio, fingerprint the stream, mark & cut beginning and ending of song (easy if you know track length), store to database.

      Unfortunately it failed miserably. The reason was the fingerprint didn't work on radio signals. Do you know what sort of signal chain radio puts most music through? It's ugly dynamic compression. This isn't compression like mp3, it's *dynamic* compression. The average radio station could probably get by playing 4 or 8 bit audio, the dynamic range is crap. They do this to keep their V/U meters peaked as much as they can, similar to how TV commercials are louder than the TV programs.

      anyway, it was a decent idea. I was hoping to make something that recorded all 20 songs most stations play, store them in a database, then when I'm driving I just pick the songs I want to hear. Sure, you might get some DJ talking over a bit of the intro/ending, but it beats listening to commercials.

  • my MP3-player/PDA/Cell Phone/Oven/Microwave/Refrigerator/Gaming Console/Toothbrush/All-in-one Knife/Machine Gun, that fits in the palm of my hand.
  • Bluetooth, a new (and real) technology that wirelessly connects gadgets within 30 feet of each other, could eliminate this kind of agony. Like the Japanese Lovegety toy for teenagers, the Blind Data would be a tiny transmitter, worn on a key ring or pendant. But instead of beeping when just anyone of the opposite sex came nearby, the Blind Data would be a far more discerning gizmo. You would program it with the vital statistics of both you and the kind of soul mate you're seeking. When your transmitter vibrates, it means that somebody else's is vibrating, too. Somebody less than 30 feet away is looking for someone just like you.

    The sequel to lovegety has already been done, kinda. [usatoday.com]

  • Joel Avrunin & Philip Weiss, students at cornell, have already invented the "perfect" alarm clock.
    Full details and plans can be found here [cornell.edu].
  • I want a wearable computer with face recognition software so that I will never have to worry about remembering names again!

  • Yeah, lets all get stupid inventions that waste our time and contribute nothing to the world...

    $$$We can all get rich!$$$

    MY LIST:

    1) Orbiting Solar Collectors/Solar Pumps that supply an virtually infinite amout of free energy to the world for the next 5-7 billion years.

    2) Matter Replication/Creation device that either creates matter directly out of energy (to the used in conjuction with the above) or else uses nanotechnology to fabricate things when supplied with component molecules.

    3) Safe Flying Personal Transportation that uses either next generation Spinning Disk (tm) technology, or just good old fashioned rotors. (incedentally, I mean safe as in "safe as a car". It doesn't have to be perfect, bust just good enough to let us all travel through the skies with reasonable minimal risk to ourselves and the world)
  • by MavEtJu (241979) <(gro.ujtevam) (ta) (todhsals)> on Friday March 29, 2002 @07:36PM (#3250410) Homepage
    All I want are simple things...

    ... microwaves without clocks on them, just a knob with the intensity and the time to cook (an analogue clock which does something for about three minutes, not a digital one which does 2:57 to the second)

    ... a phone on which I can call my friends, not a phone on which I can call my friends, play games, keep a diary, listen to music, read my email. Just a phone.

    ... an alarm clock which I can forgot to set so I will accidently sleep in one day. It happens sometimes, nothing you can do about it.

    Maybe it's just me, but I want to take care for my own stuff in my own pace. I want to come too late sometimes because I forgot to set the alarm. I want to be not reachable because I just want a day off. I want my food to be just a little too hot or too cold because I overcooked it or because I turned off the oven too early. And I want to feel bad when I forgot to tape my favourite show. And I want to feel happy when I find a friend who taped it.

    I'm not a robot, these things are part of life!

    • These things were part of life. I am glad I don't have to worry about many of these things any more. It gives me more time to go out. It makes cooking at the lake seem that much more exciting.

      I don't want to deal with going to work then going home spending 3 hours trying to get a meal to gether then find out my shows are not taped spend 4 hours finding out why then going to bed late and not wake up on time for the 7th day in a row just to get fired. (wow then I would want to do all these things just to fill the time)

      I would much rather be able to get the menial things out of the way so I can do the bigger things I have always wanted to do. I love getting home, zapping dinner in 5 minutes, grabbing my 3 hours of tv off my tivo in about an hour then doing something off the wall. I have built a Mame arcade cabinet, redid some networking in my house, built a work bench in my shop. working on my house. working on my cars.

      Several diffrent things that someone that had to spend all there time on the repetitive daily tasks would find anoying because the "interfer with there schedual" are the real things in life.

      I am not a robot
      I am not a robot
      I am not a robot

      ahhhh, damnit
      foreach ( 1 .. 100 ) {
      print "I am not a robot\n";
      }

      much better

    • I'm not a robot, these things are part of life!
      I agree, these are things that are part of life ten years ago. And further back in time people were late because weather was too hazardous to travel through, people would go to bed early because the sun went down and people would find joy in receiving a letter from a friend once every two weeks.

      And as new technology develops, a lot of these quirks of life are removed, but I assure you, new ones take their place. I may not forget to tape my favorite show because of a Tivo, but I may not be able to read my email because my ISP is having difficulties. My alarm clock may reduce the number of times I oversleep, but I may miss my video conference because my operating system is having one of those days.

      The introduction of new technologies is changing life, and I find it quite fun: my life is constantly changing because of it. It's pretty exciting (and still quite annoying), and I like it.

      I don't think I can put a value judgement on these changes in life, it's just different.
    • heh,

      We have a microwave like that (just two dials) at home. It was after I was doing a summer job at a research facility and no fewer than 3 scientists with doctorates were standing around poking at this god-awful microwave that it really became so obvious how a microwave should be. We did get it to cook, but it was one of those jobs where you have to press the time button, then the power button, then the go button.

      While we were looking for our new microwave, there was an one which had an LCD screen... and best of all, a "next", a "back" and a "favourites" button. On a freaking microwave!!!

      Needless to say, they did not get our custom.

  • Ok, I will never be able to make this, but if someone does I want a free one.

    I want a laptop that has the touchpad actually on the surface of the keys. The keys would have to be relatively tightly spaced from each other and have flat surfaces (though they somewhat do now) and some algorithm would have to account for the space between them. But, with a key next to my shift key, when held down, the thing turns on and I can't type but it becomes a trackpad. Could only be a few keys, or perhaps even all of them. Clicking and all that would be through taps and gestures as is the case now.

    Make me one, pweeze? :)
  • Your "Blind Data" suddenly starts vibrating. You look around, locate the girl that you think should be your match, walk up to her and say:

    My you-know-what started vibrating in my pants as soon as I saw you...

    Two days later, when you come out of coma, you painfuly realise that she was not the one with the other vibrating "thingie".
  • Alarm clocks that you can plus into a network... and they listen for an NTP broadcast, and sync to it.
  • If I understand correctly, the Cybiko already does something "blind data" like.
  • by Mattygfunk (517948) on Friday March 29, 2002 @08:53PM (#3250744) Homepage
    Ok this is clear promotion for my employer, but I think it is worth mentioning because we do some pretty interesting stuff for inventors.

    Firstly promoting inventions to industry is hard, really hard. A manufacturer is taking a gamble that your product will take off in the marketplace and convincing them to pick up your idea is not easy. This is where Royal [royalinventions.com.au] come in. We promote these ideas professionally and greatly increase the chances of future royalty incomes for the inventors. Have a look at the site for some of our successfully promoted ideas.

  • by skurk (78980)
    Anonymous Cowards shouldn't be allowed to post the first two minutes after a new article appears. No more wasting points moderating first posters down.

    -skurk
  • This news story [augustachronicle.com] describes a technology that vibrates a lollipop against the teeth... which gets transmitted to the inner ear, playing music. Pretty Neat. Combine that idea with a one of those vibrating head toothbrushes, and MP3, and you could blast plaque away with Metallica, just as Lars always intended. ;-)
  • Has anyone heard of a man named Viktor Schauberger [murray.net.au]? He was an Austrian forester scientist in the late 1800's. He died in the 50's. I've read several books about him, and although I am in no position to judge whether any of his ideas had any merit, I am inclined to feel that his work should be persued.

    He studied the shape of the vortex, he invented (all supposedly, of course) power generation devices, climate control devices, pipes that cleaned water, and it's said that the natzi's kidnapped him in WWII to have him build a flying saucer. Many think that he came damn close. He was a contemporary of the guy who's behind Biodynamic Faming, and Schauberger had a lot of research and ideas into agriculture, farming and composting. He had many interesting acomplishments in his time, and they called him the Water Wizard.

    The books I've read about him have inspired me and some day I hope to recreate some of his experiments. A search on amazon will find several books about him, all of which are good, and a search on google will find more than the measly link I've provided. I'm sure someone who reads german could find most of his original works.

    Anyway, the point is, maybe some of the most amazing inventions have already been surpressed once or twice (Tesla anyone?)

    Cheers, Joshua

  • Not only did this clock exist with a 10-key keypad, but it went one BETTER - it had *digital* tuning, and you could punch in the frequency to tune to. This was the only alarm clock I've ever seen (besides Bose) that combined digital tuning with a vacuum-fluorescent display instead of an unreadable LCD. 12 FM and 6 AM presets.

    It was made by GE in the 1970s and early 1980s; unfortunately, my drunk roommate destroyed mine when he broke it and tried to "fix" it. Greatest alarm clock ever built.

    Oh, and it was called the "Great Awakening."
  • a quick search at the US patent office:

    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1= PT O2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=/netahtml/search-adv.htm&r=25&p= 1&f=G&l=50&d=ft00&S1=(microwave+AND+barcode)&OS=mi crowave+and+barcode&RS=(microwave+AND+barcode)

    seems this already exists since sept 2000 (patent # 6,124,583 ) .. oh well
  • Sounds like a cool idea except for this part:

    At any time, while continuing to record, you could play back the last 20 minutes of whatever you've just heard: a co-worker's brilliant utterance, something you didn't quite catch on the car radio, or driving directions somebody rattled off too fast. (As on the real TiVo, it would continue recording even as it played back.)

    How could this audio device keep recording while playing back? It won't work. Here's why:

    On an actual Tivo the unit continues to record content from the cable/satelite/antenna while the viewer watches the show from the hard drive.

    On this "TIVOCORDER" it won't work that way. (Assuming the mic and speaker are both on the pen) If the user replays the audio from the pen while it is still recording, the pen will only record what is coming out of the speaker (and other backround noises but the speaker will make most of the noise.)

    So, there isn't anything to gain by having the unit continuely recording even while playing back messages.

    I know that it's a minor detail, but it is a Friday night and I'm here on Slashdot.

  • Someone, please explain this to me!

    When I'm microwaving something late at night, the beeper is waay to loud. It's got a clock, it knows it's 2 in the morning, why doesn't it silence the beeper?

    I thought the microwave that my parents got could solve the problem. It actually has a microphone. But, no, it doesn't use it to make sure the beep is an appropriate level - it uses it for a stupid voice recorder function. I mostly use it record sounds of small animals being microwaved (ribbit.... ribbit.... ribitribitribit!!) No! not actual animals!

    Ok, so my parent's microwave has an appointment reminder. So, one night we were sleeping in the kitchen (don't ask) and needed to wake up early to catch a plane. We thought we could finally use this. We entered the time (keypad entry '3' '3' '0' 'AM'), and the day, and then it asked us what kind of appointment it was. Why'd it need to know? Who cares. We pushed the button for "doctor's appointment". It then responded "alarm set for 2:45am". Somehow, it determined that 45 minutes was the time needed to drive across town, find a parking space, and walk to rest of the way to the doctors office. I suspect that it had different times for different events, but we were too tired to try to figure it out. We canceled it and set it again for 4:15.

    After my microwave is done, it'll beep every 2 minutes to remind me that my food is ready (it even says "food is done" - is that an undercooked chicken lawsuit waiting to happen?). But, as far as I can tell, it'll do this forever (my roommates haven't let me test this hypothesis yet). Even when my food is cold and dried out and totally unedible, it'll still beep. Maybe just beep a couple of times at 2 minute intervals, and then after it's cold, change to 20 minute intervals and leave the light on so I'll notice it when I'm good and ready.

    Makes me long for the old-style microwaves with a "time" dial and a "power" dial, a start button, and a single bell when it's done.
  • I've seen better ideas at the half bakery and this list sounds way too seinfeld-ish to take seriously, but lets take a look.

    MICROWAVE PLUS+

    Sounds good on the surface, but microwave ovens suck in general so giving an exact time like "3 minutes and 12 seconds" will still leave some cold spots on the food and really hot spots somewhere else. Customer reps would get nothing but angry phone calls. At least VCR+ can deliver the goods. Except when the show runs late, gets preempted, etc but those are exceptions and for the microwave its all fuzzy logic.

    PUNCH-IT-UP ALARM CLOCK

    Nice, I wouldn't mind, but manufacturers might not like to add 8 or so new buttons especially if it'll raise costs, which it most likely will. Be smart when you shop, make sure you have both up and down for hour and minute and you'll be fine. What Clocks really need is a long-life battery to keep the time after the power's been cut.

    BLIND DATA

    This is the worst idea. How many american adults are bold enough to go up to a stranger and suddenly sex them up? Japanese teen culture is a bit different than American adult culture. What incentive would attractive people who get hit on left and right have to get one of these? Sounds like technology to help a social problem. Nice, but who wants to be with a socially inept person? I doubt many american parents would even let their teens own one. The stigma of video dating and the personals are going to apply to this as well.

    Expect swingers and alt-culture types to pick this up. Though unless its incredibly cheap and considered a fad no one is going to pick it up.

    TIVOCORDER

    You would need to build an AMAZING microphone before this just delivered a lot of mumbling and static. You're also liable for all sorts of privacy no-no's. "Hey bob is recording our meeting on his pen!"

    MP-TEETHBRUSH

    Hehe. No comment.

    INTERCOM-PUTER

    This is stupid, I'm gonna blow money on some hardware when I can just 'net send' or IM. I can see it now, "Okay type in double-u double-u double-u yahoo dot com forward slash zee four..."

    FLUMAPPER.COM

    I don't think the author undertands how the flu works. Vaccinations are decided upon before any epidemic by their likelyhood of being the big bugs of the season by sampling sick people. When a patient has the flu that means he or she has any number of germs affecting them, not one that we can do a quick test for and shoot a vaccine over before school starts.

    The map would be nice, but what would you do with it? Make sure to wear latex gloves and wash your hands every period? Eventually someone is going to want names of who is sick with what, and that's going to be a big mess. There's already a rash map for this strange rash epidemic going on now. Doesn't seem to be helping much.

    SNAPFLAT SCREEN

    Well, they'll stay expensive forever if no one buys more than one little screen every so often for every device. I can't imagine this handling the wear and tear and the kids are going to kill each other over who gets the screen when they get back from school.

    THE I-PODULE

    Cool idea, but its an old one. Currently, PDAs are the swiss army knives of the digital world. I'd rather see a small 50-100 meg device plugging into everything from ATMs to Coke machines than a 20 gig monster acting like an external SCSI drive that fits in your pocket. Its not worth the price of a mini-hard drive when they should be coming with the data hungry devices you've paid for.

  • I don't want a microwave oven that goes strictly by time, whether I punch a time in or it reads the time off the package. I just want an oven that I put the food in, press the button, and it dings when the food is done.

    All of 'em seem to have hot and cold spots, even with a turntable. Can't they be made to distribute the microwaves more evenly?

    For defrosting, is there a wavelength of microwaves which is moderately absorbed by ice, and absorbed by water very little? Normal microwaves are more absorbed by liquid water than ice; the first part to thaw gets cooked while the rest stays frozen.

    (The FCC, of course, has say-so about what frequencies you can use. I suspect ovens use frequencies determined by other factors than what's best for cooking. Perhaps rules could be relaxed for ovens designed to keep the microwaves inside better?)

    Best of all would be if there was a way to sweep a beam of microwaves around the oven, and detect the temperature of the food in the beam. Concentrate the beam on the cold spots. Set a temperature, and it dings when the entire object is evenly heated to that temperature, without having to mess around with probes.

    Combine with a convection oven and maybe one of those GE "cooking with light" things to brown the surface if desired.
  • I understand his complaint about alarm clocks not having keypads. I don't really need one in my alarm clock. But I've noticed that most VCRs these days don't even let you punch in the start and stop recording times when setting the timer. (None of the last 3 VCRs I've bought allow it.) You have to use up and down arrows on the remote to select the recording times. It's completely stupid; it takes much longer to set the times, and there is an entire numeric keypad on the remote already! I assumed they started doing it to "dumb down" the process of setting the timer. But the VCR I had 10 years ago would let you just punch in the times using the numeric keypad, and it was much faster and easier in my opinion.
  • ...The Flying Car [viewaskew.com].

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