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Inventors Wanted (Add To The Wishlist)

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the heat-seeking-love-missiles dept.

Science 281

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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I'm still waiting for.... (2, Offtopic)

unformed (225214) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250200)

VR Porn ....

to go where no geek has gone before

Re:I'm still waiting for.... (2)

conner_bw (120497) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250281)

VR Sex exists if 3D is not a prerequiste to the presentation of a perceptible, artificial, virtually real environment.

http://www.sexuality.org/l/incoming/vrsex.html

PERVERT.

Re:I'm still waiting for.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250286)

Way ahead of you.

8 [hackcanada.com]
Telepresence Bi-Autoerotic Intercourse

Re:I'm still waiting for.... (1)

Adhoc (132137) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250429)

Are you sure that 'go' and 'gone' are the words you were looking for?

Tooth decay (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#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.

Re:Tooth decay (1)

freeze128 (544774) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250212)

I would be more worried about the music causing my fillings to come loose...

Re:Tooth decay (1)

WhiteKnight07 (521975) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250237)

I don't think it would be that different from using a vibrating toothbrush.

Re:Tooth decay (0, Troll)

Drakin (415182) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250284)

That wasn't a toothbrush you were useing that vibrates...

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250207)

fp

Science (1)

dextr0us (565556) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250210)

mp3 toothbrush sounds a little quirky, but you knever know! Who'd think that every wired home would need an internet enabled fridge either? oh, i'm the only one? whoops...

First Post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250211)

is that on the list?

still waiting (2)

Apreche (239272) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250213)

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 (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250290)

If you have wireless connection, you wouldn't need memory (!= don't want). What you have described is in use in Japan. Not sure about the pda part.

Re:still waiting (1)

Tessera (551890) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250319)

The GBA screen? You mean, a piece of black construction paper? Not unless you want to be modding your PDA screen [portablemonopoly.com] ...

NYT Registration (2, Informative)

xuekgont (569648) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250214)

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.

Re:NYT Registration (2, Funny)

WhiteKnight07 (521975) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250226)

I wonder if bypassing the registration like this is a violation of the DMCA....

Re:NYT Registration (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250266)

Hmm what about posts giving out free accounts then? funny funny stupid stupid ...

Uhh (1)

L3WKW4RM (228924) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250219)

Didn't he just invent them?

Re:Uhh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250283)

Yes. Cold fusion. OMG, i just invented cold fusion! wow!

Half Bakery (5, Funny)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250223)

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.

reinventing the wheel (1, Interesting)

Macblaster (94623) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250227)

I'd like to see real hoverboards, enough with the 2 wheel segways, i wont be happy until the wheel is obsolite

I want my MP3 toothbrush! (1)

Corvaith (538529) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250230)

I bet you could convince more kids to brush if, say, you had a toothbrush that played the Barney theme song while you were brushing.

Yes, it sounds dumb, and I doubt it'd be too successful with grown-ups, but kids are a completely different ball game.

Re:I want my MP3 toothbrush! (1)

stipe42 (305620) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250285)

They already have those. It's not playing an mp3, but it plays the Barney themesong (or some other noxious dreck) for two minutes. Then the kid knows it's time to stop brushing.

stipe42

Re:I want my MP3 toothbrush! (1)

Bowfinger (559430) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250310)

I bet you could convince more kids to brush if, say, you had a toothbrush that played the Barney theme song while you were brushing.

Yeah, but after about a week, the parents wouldn't let them use it.

Now that I think about it though, that's just as well, because the RIAA would demand a quarter every time you picked it up. Then they'd go to Congress and whine that Brushster was costing them $3 gazillion in toothbrush revenue, and they'd sue Colgate for not installing SSSCA/CPDTPA/WBATUTW* technology in their toothpaste.

*Whatever Bogus Acronym They're Using This Week

Re:I want my MP3 toothbrush! (3, Funny)

BlindSpot (512363) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250347)

I bet you could convince more kids to brush if, say, you had a toothbrush that played the Barney theme song while you were brushing.

This has been done, more-or-less. Not sure if it's an only-in-Canada thing, but Colgate makes a tube of toothpaste with Barney on it that chimes our a whiney electronic version of Yankee Doodle whenever the lid is opened. My mom runs a dayhome and one of the kids keeps one of these things here.

I do not expect this product to last long on the market. For one thing, you can't shut it off! If you open it by mistake or something you're forced to listen to 70 seconds of this thing. It drives you nuts fast.

Yes, the kids do like it, but they like it too much - all the other kids kept trying to fool with it. At least the music makes it easy to catch them. :-)

Here's the worst part:

One morning I go into the bathroom to get ready for classes, and I become aware of this very high-pitched ringing. After determining it wasn't my ears, I started listening around for it.

I figured it might be air in the plumbing, so I bent down to listen to the sink. As I honed in on the sound, to my horror I realized it wasn't a sustained ring but in fact a series of very short, distinct beeps. Then I saw the Barney toothpaste, and sure enough, the thing was malfunctioning and emitting these beeps non-stop.

It took a very hard *WHACK* against the counter to get it to shut up. The thing is tucked away in a drawer now. It even started beeping once again but another whack seems to have shut it up for good - I hope.

Be careful what you wish for...

Re: "Punch-It-Up Alarm Clock" -- Already Exists (2)

SlashChick (544252) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250231)

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. :)

What About.... (1)

LadyGuardian (568469) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250236)

The new-and-improved DMCA or whatever they are calling it nowadays? You know, the one where not all comsumers are eye-patch wearing, parrot shouldering pirates...

The day this is invented: hell will freeze, pigs will fly, the leafs will win the cup, and I'll subscribe to slashdot ^_^

Writers? (2, Funny)

conner_bw (120497) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250238)

"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?

sonic mp3's (1)

stackdump (553408) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250239)

what could make the toothbrush cool is a sonic toothbrush that uses your favorite mp3, and plays through you head line a "bone phone" type device 42 5F 4B

Not quite Microwave Plus, but... (3, Informative)

SandSpider (60727) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250240)

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

Re:Not quite Microwave Plus, but... (1)

sarcast (515179) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250317)

I have one of these beauties...great piece of engineering, I'm sure it could probably do my taxes. Entering in information is not as easy as it seems, but it works well enough for the few times you have to use the dial to actually program something in. Another great feature of the microwave is that it can sense the humidity in the air within the microwave and stop cooking when it is to the point that you specify.

Re:Not quite Microwave Plus, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250416)

A lot of microwaves have these now, including our Panasonic, but they don't always work that great. In the early '90s, there was a big deal about "fuzzy logic" microwaves, but in the time since, the control loop seems to have boiled down to "wait for minimum time for preset to elapse, poll humidity sensor, wait for maximum time to elapse if humidity sensor doesn't trigger."

Maybe some of the high-end models still use a more sophisticated algorithm. What they really need is a microphone combined with the humidity sensor, so your popcorn will come out *perfect* every time. :)

The single most important invention to mankind (0, Funny)

Mr Thinly Sliced (73041) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250243)

It has to be the sausage egg and chips machine that can churn out portions of our god-endorsed national diet every 5 seconds.

Imagine how this would revolutionise modern food process management as we see it today.

You walk into a food-store and say 'I'd like something thats convincingly healthly whilst still having the fat content of a small car' - they go sure

CLUNK CLUNK

Out pops the sausage egg and chip life saving meal.

Stupendous.

BLIND DATA already invented...sorta. (2)

curunir (98273) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250247)

This [usatoday.com] is only a small subset of what he's proposing, but it's more than just an idea.

BSR Cooking (1)

clarkgoble (241742) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250250)

Remember those light switches that were computer controlled back in the Apple II days? I think that the x-10 folks sell them now. But I refuse to purchase anything from anyone who advertises like they do. Anyway, how hard *would* it be to have a stove, microwave, etc. controlled by those? VCR's and the like can already be controlled by recording the IR stuff. But I think setting things up so you can send an email and start the cooking before you get home would be great.

iPodule (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250251)

The most interesting one of these was his suggestion to use the iPod as a digital camera/video/other storage device: "The iPod could be the heart of a new generation of storage-hungry gadgets."

A sensible suggestion, and something Apple is probably working on.

Re:iPodule (1)

stipe42 (305620) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250315)

That was the stupidist of the suggestions. The solution to 'I wish my digital camera had as much storage as an iPod' is not to plug the iPod into the camera, it's to put a 10GB drive into the camera.

There is even already a standard for doing that: they're called laptop hard drives. I think that it would be nice (but not particularly innovative) if a standard was created for those laptop hard drives so they could be simply swapped between portable devices (mp3 players, cameras, etc) the way flash ram is right now.

stipe42

Hmmm. Lets see.... (1, Troll)

MeNeXT (200840) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250252)

A FUD detector for Microsoft employees....


Oh no... thats useless...everything they say is FUD.

Re:Hmmm. Lets see.... (1)

czardonic (526710) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250418)

How about a 'karma whoring, completely pointless and offtopic Microsoft bashing Slashdot post' detector.

It could be called. . .

Re:Hmmm. Lets see.... (0)

Luke Marsden (313446) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250439)

(-1, Really bad joke)

Unlawful recording of people (1)

randomtangent (444213) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250256)

INAL but I don't think you can just record everything for your own privet playback with out first informing those being recorded. I might be wrong and you just can't use the recording for some things. Though I always thought this was part of why security cameras were video only.

Timing is everything ... (1)

Bowfinger (559430) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250261)

It's funny how things have changed. A couple of years ago, he could have turned that list into nine IPOs. Now all he gets is a byline.

I think there's a t-shirt in there somewhere.

Speaking O' T-shirts. (1)

Alkaiser (114022) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250480)

What about those clothes from "The Diamond Age". The ones with all the nanomachines in them that get out stains. Now that'd be worth paying for.

I must admit... (1)

Kaypro (35263) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250263)

I must admit that most of these ideas are pretty good. I mean the microwave plus+ idea is soooo obvious. The alarm clock idea I've had myself for a loooong time. And the tivocorder is good as long as someone can design a mic that doesn't record static when it scratches against the inside of your pocket (yeah i tried doing this with my MP3 player). I predict some of these will probably come to reality. Definitely the alarm clock and hopefully the microwave plus+

Just me .02 for the day.

quick /.ers, a new career. (0, Redundant)

sinserve (455889) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250264)

Those who can invent, do it.
Those who can't, become patent lawyers ;-)

--

are these ideas patented? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250267)

no matter how lame sounding these may be, the writer could easily get patents for these and trick inventors into creating this stuff.

RealDoll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250268)

The best invention of the late 20th century, but it doesn't get it's due credit.

Re:RealDoll (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250388)

www.realdoll.com bitches

Useless post. (1)

Geekonomical (461622) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250270)

Get a life guys. If you have nothing post, I have a suggestion: DON'T Post anything.

...Modded down already....

Re:Useless post. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250352)

uuh..then why did you post ? IDIOT.

Just so you know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250274)

I've made precise descriptions of the invention Cringely mentions and have filed for proper patents for them. Since his column isn't fully descriptive of the devices I doubt the USPTO will find them to be sufficient "prior art". Thanks, Cringely!

Greatest over looked invention of the 20th century (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250275)

How about something more useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250277)

A TV were the volume goes down (or off) when ads come on?

Something that sends a shock down a phone wire to anyone trying to sell you something over the phone?

Something that will order a pizza for you...

A toilet seat that lowers itself...

Beer that brews itelf..

flumapper (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250278)

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.

Already invented!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250279)

Sheesh. My parents had a numeric keypad on their alarm clock. could set the time, the alarm time, the radio frequency..

The blind data already was invented in Japan where people with similar interests would start beeping if they met someone compatable near by according to their preferences.

intercom=puter.. as far as I know, sensible people will use something like icq to talk to each other on the computer even in the house rather than yell across the house.. I don't know what incompetents he think still yell.

BLIND DATA (2)

InsaneCreator (209742) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250280)

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.

Re:BLIND DATA (2)

John Miles (108215) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250298)

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."

Re:BLIND DATA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250361)

Read the article - the author mentioned this device.

Re:BLIND DATA (2)

nebby (11637) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250469)

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.

Here's one.... (5, Interesting)

Rorschach1 (174480) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250282)

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.

Re:Here's one.... (1)

nucal (561664) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250330)

Great idea ... you could also add cell capability and have real time downloads as you take the photos.

Re:Here's one.... (2)

Viking Coder (102287) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250425)

You should definately check out Confluence.org. Here's one of their great pictures : world map [orbitals.com] .

Cheap clocks that set themselves (5, Interesting)

GGardner (97375) | more than 12 years ago | (#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?

Re:Cheap clocks that set themselves (1)

Papyrus (226791) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250322)

-- maybe a time signal could be broadcast over the power cables?



I think it already is - the last couple of VCR's I've bought set their clocks themselves once you have plugged them into the electrical outlet. I thought they did this via a signal sent across the power grid. Am I mistaken about that?


Re:Cheap clocks that set themselves (1)

Glint (74289) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250363)

There are some clocks and radios that do this, too. My assumption was that there was an atomic clock time transmitted via radio to these things, but I could be wrong. Check in the Sharper Image catalog and you'll probably find some.
- Adam

Re:Cheap clocks that set themselves (2)

Mr_Person (162211) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250382)

I think it already is - the last couple of VCR's I've bought set their clocks themselves once you have plugged them into the electrical outlet. I thought they did this via a signal sent across the power grid. Am I mistaken about that?
Actually, I think that it gets off a TV signal. According to the manual on my new VCR it looks for a local PBS station and apparently the time signal is encoded in that. Unfortunately for me our local PBS station must have be on a weird channel, because 8 wasn't on the list to choose from, so I didn't get to see it work.

Re:Cheap clocks that set themselves (2)

abischof (255) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250404)

Am I mistaken about that?

Yes. Actually, the time-signal is sent as part of the TV-signal, typically by your local PBS station [reportercentral.com] .

Clock via teletext (1)

Misagon (1135) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250417)

My VCR sets its clock from the Teletext signal of the first channel it has been tuned to. I guess you live in Europe and get Teletext. I dont know about the US and NTSC though. Here, many TV channels have a "teletext" signal which is a very simple hypertext system that has been around since 1975. (At least the docs I've read about it are that old) Each page of text shows a clock on the top of the page. When I press the "clock" button on my remote control, it shows the teletext clock. If the channel doesnt have any teletext signal, I can not get a clock to appear on that channel. You find a page by typing its number on the remote control. All pages are transmitted continously during the vertical blank. Each page consists of 24 lines of 40 characters. Six lines of text are transmitted each frame on six scanlines.

Re:Cheap clocks that set themselves (1)

beta21 (88000) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250334)

This is such a good diea. My BSD machine synchs and I can have it broadcast ntp packets on the IR port.

All my appliances read this and set the clocks.

My whole house could be synched to within milliseconds of the RIGHT time.

"Blinking twelve syndrome" (3, Funny)

No Such Agency (136681) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250345)

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?

Re:Cheap clocks that set themselves (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250355)

No we can not have this...

Because Grandma House always has to have blinking numbers on the VCR...

Re:Cheap clocks that set themselves (3, Informative)

cnkeller (181482) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250364)

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] .

Re:Cheap clocks that set themselves (1)

kawaichan (527006) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250370)

We had this for a while now, I've seen an alarm clock type clock (haha) that syncs with the atomic clock automatically without subscription nor internet connection. I think it uses radio to sync up the time

Does the US government boardcast the atomic time in airwaves? if so this might work

Re:Cheap clocks that set themselves (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250459)

The difference is that the US time broadcasts are only available via shortwave (WWV/WWVB/WWVH), which doesn't work so well built into an appliance. Apparently Europe has another broadcast standard that sends the time over VHF, somewhere around the FM radio band. The ntpd site has some sad things to say about the accuracy of these radio clocks (only good to a second or three), but they're good enough for home appliances.

In the US, I think we're just going to wait for GPS clock receivers to get cheaper.

Re:Cheap clocks that set themselves (2)

dattaway (3088) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250379)

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.

Re:Cheap clocks that set themselves (1)

Bowfinger (559430) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250386)

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.

Once in-home networks become common, look for a WWV-driven time server to set all your clocks. This could probably be a service provided through your broadband provider, the time signal sent via PBS stations, or even a little WWV receiver with an NTP server and an Ethernet port. It becomes yet another reason to plug your appliances and electronics devices into a LAN.

Sounds a little goofy, I know, but once an internal NIC is cheap enough, you no longer need a killer app to justify networked appliances. You just need a few little benefits that are nice to have.

Re:Cheap clocks that set themselves (1)

BenjyD (316700) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250420)

There's a radio signal that's broadcasts the exact time that some alarm clocks use: the UK one is at Rugby [npl.co.uk] , but there are equivalents worldwide.

Re:Cheap clocks that set themselves (2)

mclearn (86140) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250452)

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??!

Re:Cheap clocks that set themselves (0)

mobets (101759) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250475)

It's a perfect aplcation for Blue Tooth. All you need is one device that gets the time (Digital Cable box), and every thing else in range would relay it around.

flumapper.com (2, Informative)

0xB (568582) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250292)

Try the CDC [cdc.gov] (scroll down)

Looks like I'm pretty safe this week.

Re:flumapper.com (1)

carm$y$ (532675) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250335)

I always look for new viruses here [symantec.com] .

Remote user shocker... (1)

gleam_mn (226101) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250308)

I just want a device that hooks to my phone that allows me to administer a shock to the person on the other end of the line.

"So lets get this straight... you opened an attachment on an email from someone you don't know and then ignored the virus scanner notice that it was infected and opened it anyway... hold please." *ZZAAAAAAAAPPPPPP!!*

I think they'd sell like crazy, I can imagine the advertisements already...

"Train users in HALF the time... also works on Telemarketers!"

I promise I wouldn't abuse it... too much!

Okay... (1)

redhatbox (569534) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250316)


I *really* do hate to nitpick here, but the story title really is misleading (and, unfortunately, made me think about those God-awful "inventor assistance" infomercials). This guy isn't looking for inventors per se, although some engineers might be nice.

You know, guys and gals to actually produce something tangible from the concepts he's come up with (err... invented). This is more like a job listing for the engineering types of Menlo Park (a la Edison-esque).

Non-techies just don't get it (1)

Ozan (176854) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250325)

MICROWAVE PLUS+
The reason why the cooking instructions are so vaguely is that although ovens may have the same amount of watts the food can heat up different depending on various conditions.
Cooking is fun! I would never ever demand a turn-key-solution for one of my life essentials!
PUNCH-IT-UP ALARM CLOCK
Already exists
BLIND DATA
Hey, another way to find a relationship! Silly, everyone knows that the chemistry between two persons can not be expressed in "vital statistics". What about a "courage device" that gives a geek some balls to approach a woman?
TIVOCORDER
Hmm, what would other persons think if every word they say may be stored?
MP-TEETHBRUSH
Yah
INTERCOM-PUTER
Microsoft Netmeeting?
FLUMAPPER.COM
As if there is only one kind of germs at one place at a time. I have survived kindergarten. The greatest invention would be jail for parents who refuse to immunize their kids against measles.
SNAPFLAT SCREEN
This things still weigh pounds. Who shall carry them with the whole time?
THE I-PODULE
Now this isn't bad at all. The devices just would need a plug for it.

Re:Non-techies just don't get it (0, Funny)

October_30th (531777) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250372)

What about a "courage device" that gives a geek some balls to approach a woman?

Now that's a REALLY old invention.

It's called alcohol.

Radio Tivo and automobile in-flight recorder (2)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250327)

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 ...

Re:Radio Tivo and automobile in-flight recorder (1)

nucal (561664) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250340)

I timed it the other day. 14 minutes of actual program, 16 minutes of commercials in each half hour. Aaargh

You must be listening to Howard Stern ....

Re:Radio Tivo and automobile in-flight recorder (1)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250402)

Nope. Local talk station KFI in the mornings. They're all about as bad, however.

Re:Radio Tivo and automobile in-flight recorder (2)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250423)

Try National Public Radio, it works for me.

Still waiting for... (2)

LiquidPC (306414) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250333)

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.

Blind Data? (2)

imadork (226897) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250341)

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]

The Ultimate Alarm Clock (2)

bihoy (100694) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250368)

Joel Avrunin & Philip Weiss, students at cornell, have already invented the "perfect" alarm clock.
Full details and plans can be found here [cornell.edu] .

My Wanted Invention (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250381)

I want a wearable computer with face recognition software so that I will never have to worry about remembering names again!

Idiots... (2)

gnovos (447128) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250391)

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)

Spreading good ideas and innovations (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3250393)

Some companies keep ideas about technical advancements secret under Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). Whenever you are asked to signed one before learning or implementing an idea, some people justify the NDAs by reasons such as "maximizing future profit" and/or "balancing research costs".

The tactical reasons behind NDAs are to make a genuinely good idea impossible or harder to implement by competitors. Sometimes even the employees and stock-holders in the company are not given details about the idea.

That is, to me, surprising, as secrecy breed suspection, false or too high expectations, and potential ruin the general public's trust in the said company. It also causes delays in adaption and sharing of new knowledge and make other researchers waste their time on solving an already solved problem.

In the 1970s and 1980s, at XEROX Parc, scientists shared most of their ideas openly with visitors. Real innovations flourished.

A more recent example is the algorithm in the most popular search engine on the Internet, Google. It is not kept secret, but published. (google after Pagerank).

Publish your ideas openly (as real sciences), and let anyone comment and criticize them. Perhaps one of them eventually will lead to innovation.

Ole

Inventors wanted with K.I.S.S. mentality (4, Interesting)

MavEtJu (241979) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250410)

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!

Virtual Inventions (1)

CrazyDuke (529195) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250445)

Hey. wait. I thought all you needed to patent an invention was the general idea. You know, like hyperlinking, a compression algorithm, turning a playing card to the side during a game or what not... Or, even just patenting the general concept, without having to have an actual invention to show for it.

Oh, wait, you have to be a corp with a huge bandwagon of lawyers, "financially support" a few polititions, and maybe "convince" a few "friends" in the patent office to do that, my bad.

*waits for someone to mod him up, then for the next person to mod him back down again 5 minutes later, again*

I could invent two items if I had a 3d engine (1)

CrazyJim0 (324487) | more than 12 years ago | (#3250477)

#1: Martial arts video game where you use your body as input for the game.

#2: True Artificial Intelligence
www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/~sager/ai

But so far, I can't understand Microsoft's DirectX SDK, and I can't compile Crystal Space for DJGPP. With being poor and depressed its hard to stay focused on things that will revolutionize the world though.
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