8/26/2011

Inventions Waiting to be Invented

Doesn't everyone maintain a mental list of things they'd invent, if only they possessed the necessary time/skills/resources?  The difference is that I've accepted that I'm never going to possess the necessary time/skills/resources to invent any of the things on my list.   So here it is, the things I'd invent if I could, presented in hopes that someone will invent these things for me so that I can then buy them!
  1. Sunglasses with built-in earbuds.  What two things can't fashionable people do without?  Answer: Designer sunglasses and iPods.  (I'm omitting adopted children and little dogs for the moment.)  Can you imagine the convenience of combining the two?  The technology isn't there yet to deliver low cost, high quality wireless sound, but once it is, would love to see someone imbed earbuds in the tips of sunglasses.  Want to listen to your music? Put your sunglasses on.  Want to take them out?  Simply remove your glasses.  How easy - and how suave - would that be?  And imagine the profit to be made ... bet you could charge $100s for the combo, which would probably only cost $10-20 to manufacture.
  2. Sunglass LCD Displays.  Speaking of sunglasses-based utilities, wouldn't it be nice if those wireless phone earbuds (like Bluetooth) could be equipped with a laser projection device capable of projecting info about incoming calls onto the inside lens of your glasses/sunglasses?  That way you could use your Bluetooth without having to sacrifice the ability to screen incoming calls.
  3. Pop-up visual barriers to conceal traffic accidents.  This one would be a great boon for the public good.  You don't have to live in a major metro area for long before realizing the major cause of traffic slowdowns isn't accidents - it's people slowing down to LOOK at the accidents.  We humans are unapologetic voyeurs when it comes to death and mayhem.  So here's a simple fix: why not equip police/fire response units with big screens that can be erected to conceal the accident from passing traffic?  I'm picturing pop-up screen that fold into a small space but automatically "pop open" - a la those screens that people use on their car windsheilds to keep their cars cool - to create a barrier.  Yes, keeping the screen steady in the event of wind poses a technical challenge, but have to believe the company that invents a useable, storable solution would instantly receive contracts from every municipality in the U.S., who would quickly realize how much cheaper the screens are than building new overpasses, lanes, or roads!
  4. Car Cooling Fans.  Speaking of those screens that people use to keep their cars cool while sitting in the sun ... why are we still using screens to try to keep our cars cool while sitting in the sun?  How hard would it be for the car companies to invent some sort of battery-powered fan that could be triggered by an iPhone app & ensure that your car has cooled by the time you step into it?
  5. Mobile offices.  With "working from home" becoming the latest trend in business, folks need to be able to maintain connectivity with their offices without having to remain chained to a computer at home.  Which leads me to the conclusion that the time has come for cars equipped with mobile office packages.  I picture a "mobile office" as including, at a minimum: (1) 2-3 power ports, for charging multiple electronic devices; (2) a retractable desk for in-car computer work; (3) more in-car storage for papers/files.   Of course I'm not talking about actually working on your computer as you're driving.  Even if you could figure out a way to accomplish this without removing your eyes from the road, anything that removes your attention from the road is sheer stupidity.  But a nice mobile office package would definitely allow folks more mobility during the work day.
  6. Online school.  As we draw closer to the day when computers become ubiquitous - as necessary to life as cars and refrigerators - think it's time to give serious consideration to a radical change in the way we deliver mandatory public education.  As a teacher, some of our greatest challenges include: (1) engaging students in learning and (2) differentiating content to accomodate different levels of ability/ cognitive speed/ maturity.  Meanwhile, as a society, some of our greatest challenges include: (1) delivering education to at risk populations; (2) maintaining teacher quality across the spectrum (especially in urban/rural areas); (3) providing an educational experience that equips students to cope with 21st century challenges; and (4) keeping public education affordable.  One potential solution: harness the power of online instruction.  I'm not talking about online teaching/training as it's done now - a combination of virtual lectures + skill drills.  Rather, I'm proposing a revolution in online teaching, combining the very best instruction delivered by the very best instructors (if freed from necessity of hiring teachers based on quantity, school systems could focus on teacher quality), high-quality video (clips from top quality productions: National Geographic, Imax, etc.), high-engagement interactive response (skill drills modelled after video games), interactive instruction (including the "telemarker" technology that sportscasters use to superimpose drawn lines/arrows onto on-screen images), blogs, podcasts, wikis, and virtual classrooms to create lessons that engage on a variety of different levels.  Now, infuse this product with teaching best practices, to include ample use of active learning, differentiated instruction, practice, critical thinking, and reteaching guided by error analysis (software capable of analyzing wrong answers and figuring out WHY they are wrong; then providing targeted remediation).  Then top the whole product with End of Course summative assessments (that's "tests" for you laymen) which students MUST pass in order to get their high school diploma - or, if that isn't enough of a carrot, require a high school diploma before issuing a drivers license, and watch as our public education system shifts from in-school to home-based instruction.  Yes, I realize there are many technical, political and social challenges involved in an online school delivery model.  But I think that evolution in this general direction is inevitable, and there is money to be made by companies willing/able to position themselves to service this niche. 
  7. Better beach chair.  Every summer as I lug the equivalent of a 50lb manpack down to the beach with me just so I can enjoy a few mod cons along with sunshine and the sound of surf, I swear that one day I'm going to invent a "better beach chair" that will incorporate much of what I carry into a single, portable unit.  What I mean, of course, is that I don't understand why someone ELSE hasn't invented the chair I want, so that I can buy one.  In my imagination, a "better beach chair" incorporates the following features:
    1. retractable canopy for instant shade
    2. portable fan - to generate a bit of a breeze in the event of a really hot day
    3. small, retractable table
    4. small cooler capable of holding 3-4 sodas & snacks - preferably under the seat of the chair so that if cool air escapes, it escapes up through the seat
    5. drink holder
    6. book holder
    7. waterproof, sandproof, lockable storage for electronics: cameras, ipod, watch, money
    8. imbedded music speakers
    9. pillow/headrest
    10. portable - ideally carried via backpack-type straps



  

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