Sitting here in the heart of Silicon Valley, with Apple on one side of me and Hewlett-Packard on the other, and all sorts of start-ups where you least expect them, I wonder why nobody’s coming up with the technological gadgets that I want, that I’d buy, that I’d fund if I were rolling in dough like some of my stock option-laced friends.
Bear in mind that these aren’t futuristic fantasies. These could really be done if there were inventors out there as cranky as I am.
Let’s break these down into categories:
Automotive Electronics. I’ve written about horrific visions of cars’ electronic sensors, but I can envision some value there as well. You know that scrolling billboard on Times Square? I want a miniature version of that installed right above my rear license plate. On my dashboard, I want to be able to use a virtual keyboard – the kind they now have with fancy GPS systems – to broadcast a message to the person behind me. For driver safety, most of these would be preconfigured.
For instance, if I pressed “B,” the message would appear, “Your blinker is on.” If I pressed “H,” the message would appear, “Your high beams are on.” If I pressed “G,” the message would appear, “GET OFF MY ASS!”
Retailing. You know what drives me crazy about going to the supermarket? I have a shopping list. The store has the items. But the items never appear on the list in the same order as they appear in the store. I’m always running back and forth because I’m in cleaning supplies but I forgot pasta. And worse, every single store, even among the same chain, is different. I want an application that lets me input my shopping list into my smartphone and have it automatically order itself based on the location of the items in the store. That would be cool. (I talked to an entrepreneur this week who’s actually working on something like this; this is my way of being encouraging.)
Health Care. Manufacturers are making tremendous strides in health care-related processors, so I suspect it won’t be long before we’ll have chip implants that monitor our blood pressure, breathing, and other vital signs. Once they’re linked to our doctor’s office, we may never have to go there in person again.
However, I believe we should harness these monitoring devices for more common situations, ensuring that they can both send and receive data and internetworking the hell out of them. For instance, when there’s a screaming child on an airplane or in a movie theatre, an implant in the parents should be able to sense the rising blood pressure of the people around them. The higher the blood pressure of the surrounding people, the stronger the electric shock that’s delivered to the parents. I’m confident this will diminish the level of apathy among clueless parents.
Office Productivity. With the increasing popularity of audioconferencing, it’s now possible for monotonous managers not just to bore people in the same building – they can now bore people in multiple time zones on multiple continents. It would be a true public service if someone created a plug-in for PowerPoint that monitored what everyone in an audioconference was doing when they were supposed to be listening, popping up a little roster (anonymous, of course) revealing what was going on with the other participants.
It would read:
3 people in your meeting are playing computer games
2 are making calls on their other line
2 sound like they’re taking notes, but are really making shopping lists
2 are texting each other about how boring you are
1 of these people is your boss
This would goose the presenter into being a tad more interesting.
I’m sure with time, I could come up with a whole lot more of these life-enhancing applications. I bequeath them to the entrepreneurs and the venture capitalists of the world with my blessing. The only compensation I need is the knowledge that I’ve helped make the world a better place.
Note from the author: Middle Age Cranky at 100: Fine Whines & Muddled Memories, a compilation of my first 100 columns, is now available as an e-book at Smashwords and other digital bookstores.