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Category: Ideas

The Driver’s Way helps drivers in Sierra Leone

The Driver’s Way helps drivers in Sierra Leone

In Sierra Leone, there is a step in learning to drive – playing a board game. The game is called The Driver’s Way and is a “Roll and Move” type game where players to roll traffic-light-themed dice and move model cars around a board.  The game aims to teach learners the rules of the road in a more entertaining way than standard textbooks.

Makes me wonder if there’s an opportunity for a board or teen-oriented video game like this for learners – even children to learn how to drive, walk, and bike in shared traffic spaces. Maybe it could be structured like the Oregon Trail or something quite fun.

Transparent LCD’s

Transparent LCD’s

LG OLED Signature T announced at CES it is going to be the first commercially available transparent TV. It definitely could add a lot to minimalist living spaces. Samsung, not to be outdone, introduced its micro-LED display technology which seems to deliver an even brighter, better image.

Transparent OLED and LCD screens have around for a while – in fact, you’re probably using one. People were making cool transparent panels by taking a standard backlit LCD, remove the LCD antiglare coating, do a little wiring, then put a lot of light behind it.

LG also has large transparent OLEG signage as well.

Personally, I don’t think just making a standard TV out of a transparent display is understanding what new things are possible with this technology. The Verge review even points out that the tv came with a movable backing screen that slid behind it to help it act more like a traditional TV – so why go transparent? I personally think this opens up a lot of new ideas for innovative new products and experiences instead of just being a minimalist TV.

To that point, the LG Dukebox showed up at CES 2024 and is one of the first devices to make use of a transparent LCD as part of the product design. It’s essentially a re-imagined jukebox. You get to see the internals of the system while the user interface is displayed on the transparent display.

While a good start, I can think of a number of interesting new products that simply COULDN’T really be made in other ways than using a transparent display. Those are the kinds of product ideas that I think are ripe for this kind of technology.

Genius: AI generated comic books

Genius: AI generated comic books

I gotta hand it to Nathan Truesdell. He has a whole line of AI based coloring books – that likely took him all of an afternoon to create. It’s highly likely it only took him an hour or two with some prompts to make the line art. He then probably worked with an online physical book publisher – who may even be printing them up on demand for him to avoid handling stock or shipping – and now sits back and watches the money roll in with pretty much zero effort.

He didn’t even bother to fix the 7 fingers and thumb.

Off-the-shelf electronic warfare

Off-the-shelf electronic warfare

LoRa (Long Range) radio uses little power and can communicate at up to three miles in urban areas and five miles or more in the open. Many drone operators now use a repeater, carried on another drone, to extend the reach

First-person view (FPV) drones are quickly becoming a key weapon in the Ukraine conflict. There is rapidly developing drone warfare involving thousands of drones every month. Both Russia and Ukraine have fielded jammers and drone guns firing radio waves to knock out drone communications.

Most recently a Russian group claims to have developed a ‘magic radio’ for FPVs which is highly resistant to jamming. A physicist with the handle DanielR evaluated the device minutely in a detailed Twitter thread. While the technology is not astounding, what is interesting is that the device uses cheap, off-the-shelf components.

Would you pay $48,000 for in-game content?

Would you pay $48,000 for in-game content?

It’s no secret that Star Citizen is a cash cow who’s development and loyal following has been nothing short of astounding. Driven by fans and that success, they’re now introduced an in-game content pack that’s even more mind boggling.

The Legatus Pack is the Cadillac of all Star Citizen ship packages; it includes every single ship in the game as well as all of their associated paint schemes. It also includes all of Star Citizen’s limited edition/special edition ships that are virtually impossible to buy otherwise. And it costs a whopping $48,000.

This seems like a brazen cash grab by the developers – but ironically the Legatus pack was inspired by the Star Citizen community itself. There was high demand for a package like this from several Star Citizen backers, many of whom utilize their ships across corporations (a guild) which include hundreds, if not thousands, of players. And these players spend money. LOTS of money.

The studio is a cash cow. It brought in $113 million in 2022 and $104 million in 2023. Most of this revenue comes from ship sales and from their ‘Intergalactic Aerospace’ event put on each year. The virtual convention held in game allows everyone to play the game for free and to fly most of the ships in the game for no additional cost. Star Citizen also features ship sales during the event, further incentivizing gamers to buy ships.

This brings up an amazing set of ideas. You now have conventions selling ships. In-game whales that have corporations/clans that might all pitch together to buy packages like this. It reminds me of the same real-world economics of vehicle fleets from rental cars to delivery services use. Could a person create a monthly subscription and ‘rent’ these ships out to their – or even other – guilds/guild members? It could be a fascinating way to make some side money running your own version of Hertz Rent-A-Ship for those that need some extra horsepower for particularly big cargo deal or big battle. Just don’t forget to buy the insurance – space ship windshields are expensive. 😀


Humane Pin launched

Humane Pin launched

[Update 1-10-2024: Things aren’t looking good. Humane layed off 4% of it’s workforce and the CTO has transitioned to an ‘advisor’ role before they have even shipped a single device (estimated March 2024)]

It looks like the Humane pin has finally launched at a relatively reasonable cost of $699. We finally have some details. I’m pretty sure it’s not a smartphone killer – Humane has definitely backed off from that original stance.

The translation feature is a really excellent usage and having a simple assistant that can let you check flight times and send text messages without pulling out your phone is pretty slick. But I’m not sure about a lot of the rest. Needing a $20 monthly subscription and not tethering with your existing phone plan is a troubling extra expense.

Having to interact with it with talking will definitely make it a bit awkward in social and public situations. I bet it would have problems at a dinner party or louder venue. Gesture recognition is a finicky technology (especially in strange lighting conditions, if you’re wearing gloves, etc), so if there are any issues there it could be very frustrating and you can only do so much with simple gestures.

The screen projection looks limited to high contrast basic information. You certainly won’t be reading lots of text – which is problematic if you want to read text messages instead of having them read aloud to you (and everyone else around you). I certainly wouldn’t want everyone to hear what people are texting me; but maybe they’ll allow blue tooth headphone tethering.

I think the biggest issue is that it didn’t live up to the hype. Almost all of these things can be done with your average smart phone – albeit with a little more fiddling. The AI just isn’t really delivering a unique enough set of features to live up to the promise of the device. It really seems to just be giving you a more vocal interface – which I’m not sure is enough of a selling point. The reality is people likely do not want to be talking to their devices in public. I could easily see the iWatch or smart phones integrating some of these features though.

The one thing is does do is make me start thinking of how we interact with our technology very differently. How would a truly smart AI assistant be like to interact with? What would a really functional assistant like this operate like? I’m glad someone is trying this out. Even if it’s not successful, it’s going to breed a lot of new ideas.

The reddit chat on the device seems to mirror a lot of the concerns. Also, it seems they only have about 100,000 interested folks sign up to purchase one. I’m one of those people who signed up, but it required no deposit/etc so it’s uncertain how many actual buyers there will be.

Final thought: The way you tap it makes me think immediately of Star Trek communicator badges. I bet it’s not long before someone mods one.


Creating really cool camp stove fire

Creating really cool camp stove fire

Hoshizora Camping demonstrates a cool way of making your camp stove super cool. He first angles the holes in the secondary combustion layer and then adds a fire ring to an ordinary, boring camp stove. With some tweaking, the flame coming out of your stove will be tornadoed into a cool braid-like effect. I like how he shows how he experiments with different configurations to get the best effects.

I think this would be a great way to add a luxury touch to your camp stove and give you something cool to watch at the end of a long day of hiking or climbing.

Listening to the ancient past

Listening to the ancient past

Equator AI created a video series that answers the question of what ancient languages sounded like. They even tackle some purely reconstructed proto-languages like Indo-European that was re-built from later derived (but documented) Indo-European languages.

The first video demonstrates Old Norse, Latin, Old English, Proto-Celtic, Phoenician, Hittite, and Akkadian. I can affirm the Latin is understandable but has an interesting accent. We do actually have some idea of how things were pronounced in Latin, because ancient documents exist that gave pronunciation guides or even (in a mirror of modern grammar Nazi’s) complained about common pronunciation errors.

This second video shows off Proto-Indo-European, Sabaic, Sanskrit, Aramaic (bonus points for the video character looking like Jesus), Sumerian, Old Chinese, Ge’ez, and Gothic.

Since it is all AI generated, it seems like it would be an interesting way of adding authentic language pronunciation to games about the past. Imagine playing Civilization and having each of the ancient leaders speaking their actual languages.

If you like this, maybe give learning Latin a try.


Mondo Croquet and Mad Hatter Party

Mondo Croquet and Mad Hatter Party

I ran across these guys in the park when I moved here 20 years ago. It looked like a Mad Hatter dinner party, so I pulled over. There were all these strange folks dressed in wacky clothes and playing croquet with bowling balls and sledgehammers. I watched for a bit and enjoyed talking and learning about these folks playing something they called Mondo Croquet.

Mondo Croquet is regular croquet, but with bowling balls and sledgehammers. I noticed that they had a small pile of cracked open bowling balls, so it’s definitely a contact sport. It is also carried out with players wearing costumes and stylings of a late 1800’s English lawn or mad hatter style party.

It was started by Stephen Peters in 1997. Read more here in The Oregonian.

Anyway, they’ll be having their FREE annual 2023 Mondo Croquet World Championships and Mad Hatter Picnic this Sunday, July 30, 2023 from noon–4pm in the north park blocks.

Pull on your British Lawn Whites, your Ham Sammmich costume, your Spock ears or perhaps just your sunglasses and get ready to smack some balls.

What to bring?

  • something cold to drink
  • a chair to set a spell
  • a snack to share with the Mad Hatter Picnic

If you have one, a sledgehammer is handy, but we come equipped with enough hammers and bowling balls so no worries. In fact, you can just come and watch if you’d like.

We do suggest you can turbo-up your fun by dressing appropriately, or appropriately inappropriate. Need some suggestions? Check out past photos: