Archive for January, 2017

#1,026 – Sole Mate

The other day I wrote about Chuck McMarthy, an aspiring actor who had started a people walking service.  For $7 per mile you’d have yourself a friend for hire.  Or a therapist.  Or a security guard.

This got me thinking.  What other walking themed ideas might there be? How else can we put our bi-pedals to the mettle when the going gets tough?

What I came up with was a concept for a new hiking themed dating service known as Sole Mate.

I know, I know.  But just hear me out.

Dating is hard.  It’s expensive.  People are flaky.  If the first date feels awkward or forced there’s not going to be a second date.

So why not do something fun in a low pressure setting?  Something that’s free.  Something that you wouldn’t mind doing alone if you happened to get stood up.

That’s where hiking comes in.  It’s the absolute perfect first date.  Walk and talk at a gingerly pace to get to know your love interest.  Explore a cave or ancient ruins to add in an element of adventure.  Drop some knowledge on rock formations or various species of flora and fauna to show how smart you are.  Instead of constantly asking, “what did you just say?” over the roar of a crowded bar, ask, “how did that get like that?” or “why is that shaped liked that?”

What I’m imagining then is dating service in the spirit of How About We or It’s Just Lunch.  A service tailored towards busy working professionals who can spare an hour or two, here or there for a date, but who don’t want to commit to a long sit-down dinner with a total stranger.  Users could use the platform to seek hiking partners at locations that are convenient to them or the service could even host hikes at one specific location.  Imagine if you will, going on a hike and having a picnic for two waiting for you at the top of the mountain.  Or hiking one way and then taking a romantic sunset horse-back ride back to where you started from.  Conversely, there could even be group hikes if people would prefer an even more laid back atmosphere for meeting multiple people or just making friends with other like-minded singles.

The one drawback to this concept are the safety concerns. Is it really the best idea to follow a total stranger into the wilderness?  To get around that fear Sole Mate would vet all participants ahead of time and then adapt an Uber like rating system so that as time goes on hikers can evaluate one another and leave feedback for future daters on everything from conversation skills to walking pace.

Sure there are already a ton of other dating sites from Tinder and Bumble to Match and eHarmony.  Does the world really need another one?  In a word: yes.  After all, when it comes to dating, it’s always a good idea to put your best foot forward.

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Is a hiking dating service the Greatest Idea Ever?

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One of the calls to action that I made the other day in my post about the Resist Movement was that everyone, regardless of whether you identify as a Republican or Democrat or Independent, should strive to get more involved in politics so that we can elect better representatives and put pressure on those already in office to talk some sense into Trump.  Well, now there’s a quick and easy way for us to do just that thanks to a new app that thoroughly streamlines the political process.

The app is known as Countable, presumably short for accountable, although a more fitting name would have been Pester, because pestering your local representative is exactly what you’ll be doing.  First, the app connects to your Facebook profile in order to determine where you live and who your elected representatives are.  It then shows you what’s on their agenda, informs you about the issue, and enables you to contact them to give your opinion.

As Wired describes:

“[Countable] shows you the next piece of legislation your representatives are expected to vote on, with a short summary of the bill and a list of pros and cons. You can click ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ to automatically send an e-mail to your representatives, or you can ‘skip’ it. You can also click on the bill’s name to pull up more details, including voting activity, costs, links to media coverage, and the full text of the bill.”

In addition, the app also keep tracks of voting records so that you can follow along and see if your representatives are actually voting the way that you want them to.  If they’re not, you’ll know that the time has come to vote someone else into office.

The gripe about politics that we hear most often is that it’s too hard to get involved.  The most common refrain of all is: if you want more people to vote, make it easier to vote.  Similarly, if you want more people to get involved in applying pressure to politicians, make it easier to apply pressure.  Countable does that, and much more.

What’s great about this app is how easy it is to use, not just for voters, but for government officials as well as it doesn’t require them to do anything differently.  There’s no special software to download or install.  No change to existing protocols.  The only difference is the volume of feedback that they’ll now be receiving.

The time has come to RESIST!  And we now have an app that makes it easy to do just that.  No.  More.  Excuses.

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Is Countable the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,024 – RESIST!

It used to be that organized crime operated in the shadows.  The Dark Web, an invite only second version of the Internet, was frequented by hackers, human traffickers, sex offenders, and weapons dealers.  Now the tables have turned with reputable scientists operating in the shadows, carrying on their important work through rogue social media accounts in light of a government ban on communicating with the public.  First we had alternative facts.  Now we have alternative Twitter handles.  Welcome to our Orwellian present where the Dystopian future predicted by science fiction is now our reality.

As frustrating/infuriating/maddening Trump’s executive actions have been so far, it’s encouraging to know that people aren’t taking this assault to our pillars of democracy lying down.  On the heels of an overwhelmingly successful Women’s March, there are now further protests planned including a Scientists March designed to counter Trump’s communications ban.

The ban, designed to prevent scientists from speaking out against the Dakota Access Pipeline project, has already spurred the creation of alternative social media accounts.  Such as the alternative twitter account for the National Park Service (@altusnatparkservice) which exclaimed: “You can take our official Twitter account but you’ll never take our free time!”

In addition to taking to social media, some scientists are also planning far more drastic actions, such as running for public office.  There’s even a newly formed organization, called 314 action in honor of Pi, which is designed to help aspiring scientists turned politicians connect with donors and raise awareness for their campaigns.

Ideally there should be a separation of science and state the way there’s a separation of church and state.  But since that’s not happening and politicians like President Trump are meddling in scientific affairs, there’s a real need now for scientists to get actively involved in politics as well in order to fight back.  To protect their right to freely publish their unbiased findings to the public.  To protect their right to peer review.  To protect the sanctity of the data that they have already collected so that it can’t be destroyed by a government that disagrees with the results.  Which is exactly what almost happened last week.

It may sound like the plot of a Tom Clancy novel, but last week while references to climate change were being taken down from the White House website, climate change scientists were busy downloading their data onto European servers so that it couldn’t be deleted.  That is a drastic action to undertake at the 11th hour.  The kind of action that you only take when you realize that an all-out war against science and the truth is actively being waged.

A similar war is already taking place with journalists finding themselves firmly on the front lines, desperately trying to protect their reputations as Trump continuously undermines their credibility with claims that they are spreading fake news.  Now scientists find themselves on the front lines of a second front, desperately trying to restore balance to the Force as Darth President tries to silence them.

As these ideological wars continue, I fear what may be lost in the process.  Consider if you will, the case of famed Soviet engineer, inventor, and science fiction writer, Genrich Altshuller, who was imprisoned by Joseph Stalin and forced to slave away for several years in a prison camp where he faced countless hours of torture.  How many scientific breakthroughs were lost to history because Altshuller and his fellow scientists were imprisoned or murdered by those who feared opposing points of view?  How many will be lost to history if Trump and his supporters continue to silence the voices of our modern day scientists?

The time has come to put aside politics.  To put aside our personal opinions and biases.  The time has come to solely deal only in facts.  For this is no longer about being a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent.  This is now about protecting our future from those who wish to rob us, and our children, and our children’s children, of it.  Standing on the sidelines isn’t going to cut it.  Idly sitting by and hoping that others will take action for us isn’t going to cut it.  Every single one of us needs to step up and do what’s right.  We need to volunteer at the grassroots level to get better alternatives elected at the mid term elections.  We need to call our local lawmakers and put pressure on the congressional members of the GOP to oppose Trump.  We need to speak up whenever we see injustice happening in our local community.  And above all else we need to stand with our scientists and journalists and support their noble endeavor.

These are scary times and they’re only going to get scarier if we do nothing.  For evil to prevail all that is needed is for good men to do nothing.  We can’t let that happen.  We won’t. The time has come to RESIST!

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Science is under attack.  The time has come to RESIST!


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By now we’re all familiar with the concept of the Internet of Things; of Smart Homes and smart devices that communicate with one another and with us to make our lives easier and more efficient   Think of the Nest Thermostat or the Amazon Echo.

Enchanted Objects, pioneered by serial entrepreneur and inventor David Rose of the M.I.T. Media Lab, are a variation on that theme, turning ordinary dumb objects such as umbrellas, garbage cans, and picture frames into enchanted ones that almost seem to come alive as if by magic.  The dumb object isn’t just becoming smart.  It’s also becoming enchanted; imbued with a certain desirable quality that makes you relate to it, empathize with it, emote because of it.

Chief among this new wave of Enchanted Objects is the aesthetically pleasing Ambient Orb, a crystal ball of sorts that displays information via color coding.  What the Orb does is remind you, ever so subtly, of some key information that you’re interested in obtaining.  It does this by glowing and changing color when conditions warrant it.  Let’s say, for example, that you want to know how the stock market is doing but actively watching your stock portfolio is stressing you out and driving you crazy.  With the Ambient Orb a quick glance will let you know if the market is up or down, allowing you to continue going about your business or alerting you to the fact that urgent action is needed.  For an added fee you can even customize the orb to let you know about the performance of specific stocks or of your entire portfolio.  Otherwise the default setting will be to the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Ultimately, the appeal of the Orb is that it is unobtrusive.  It makes no demands of you or of your attention span.  There are no numbers to look at.  No buttons to push.  No dials to turn.  It’s perfect for one thing, and one thing only: finding out pertinent information from a quick glance.  It’s color-only display is what cognitive psychologists call pre-attentive processing. Non-distracting. Non-interuptive.

What kind of information?  Well, that’s entirely up to you.  If you’re a surfer you might want an Orb that glows when the waves are at their peak.  If you’re an allergy sufferer you might want to know when the pollen count is highest.  If you have to commute to work you might want to know the traffic conditions before you leave your house.  If you’re the manager of a sales desk you might want to know how your team is doing at the moment.

The only problem with the Orb is that it is only capable of being programmed for one task at a time.  So if you want to be informed about multiple things you’d need multiple orbs, which will run you $150 a pop.

That seems like a small price to pay though for the convenience of glance-ability.  For the convenience of knowing exactly what you want to know at a moment’s notice.  In today’s millennial driven culture of instant gratification the Ambient Orb is the absolute perfect side kick.  Always on, always ready, never in the way.

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Is the Ambient Orb the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Want to go for a walk or hike but don’t have anyone to go with?  Afraid to walk alone at night through a sketchy park?  Looking for a cheap way to stay in shape without having to go to the gym?  Well, you might want to hire The People Walker.

Chuck McCarthy thought about becoming a dog walker but decided that he didn’t want to be constantly picking up shit.  So instead he decided to become a people walker and just deal with people’s shit.  Part therapist, part personal trainer, part friend-for-hire, McCarthy’s services are a one stop shop for the lonely, disenfranchised, and downtrodden.  Or for people just in need of someone to hold them accountable when it comes to working out.  Which is pretty much everyone.

As someone who has started a hiking club I can understand the appeal in wanting to walk with others.  Don’t get me wrong.  Hiking or walking alone has its benefits.  You can make your own schedule, set your own pace, find a relaxing spot to catch up on some reading, or just collect your thoughts.  But at the same time, hiking with someone else is appealing as well.  Probably even more so.  You have someone to talk to, someone to bounce ideas off of.  When you come across an epic photo-op you have a willing photographer to take your picture.  And in the event that you get attacked by a rattlesnake you have backup.

If you want that backup to come courtesy of McCarthy it’ll cost you $7 per mile.  Most walks typically last for 2 or 3 miles.  On average McCarthy does about 8 walks per week, rotating between repeat customers and one-off trips.  However, his social calendar is about to completely fill up thanks to his new found fame.  Business is booming so much that he’s had to train additional walkers to cover all the ground and is now looking into expanding his service into a full fledged business.

According to the Guardian:

“McCarthy, bemused and excited by the attention, is considering crowdfunding to hire techies to design an Uber-style app. In addition to ensuring proximity – he wants to stay local and on foot, not drive across town, let alone fly thousands of miles – the app would let walkers and clients rate each other for personability and walking speed. The latter is a key point for walkers since a slow pace, say two miles an hour, yields $14, versus $28 for a brisk four miles an hour.”

Personally, I hope that business continues to boom and that McCarthy, an aspiring actor by day, does wind up pursuing walking as a full-time career.  Because, if there ever is an Uber like service for walking, I’d be all over that.  Although, if there ever is a rattlesnake attack you’re on your own.


Is walking people the Greatest Idea Ever?

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The key thing to remember about CES is that most of the products on display aren’t even going to be commercially viable anytime soon.  It’s the land of prototypes and demos, the place where companies go to test the waters for new products before diving headfirst into costly development.  Most likely, the gadgets and gizmos garnering hype and generating buzz will be hitting store shelves in 2018 or 2019, if at all.

Considering that we’re dealing with products a year or more down the road I’d like to take this time to unveil my own wish list of technologies that are not out yet.  Some of these may be Sci-Fi pie in the sky, so far-fetched as to not even be realistic considerations at all.  Others may actually already be in development or at the very least may be technologically possible within the next few years.

With that in mind here’s a quick look at the technologies that I wish we had:

  •  Artery blockage detection – why do we just wait around for a heart attack to strike suddenly?  Why don’t we just invent a way to know at any given time the exact percentage that our arteries are blocked.  Wouldn’t you want to know right now if you were at 73% or 85% or 94%?
  • A way to accurately measure our own pain and share a quantifiable pain number with a doctor.
  • A tinder for friendships app.
  • A book converter that lets you scan a hardcover book and find options to download a digital version of it.
  • Cell phones that work anywhere, even underground in the subway.  It’s shocking to me that in today’s day and age we still have to ask “can you hear me now?” or say things like, “I may lose you because I’m about to head into an elevator”.  At no point should our location matter.
  • A “Web TV” app so that you can flip through websites as easily as flipping through cable TV channels.
  • Drones that are completely silent and don’t buzz at all.
  • A Pokemon Go style app for finding historical figures at National Parks.
  • A smart will that decides how to divide up our possessions after we pass.
  • Secure online voting in political elections.
  • Desktop icons that come alive like GIFs.
  • Sports video game rosters that update in real time in conjunction with real life transactions.
  • A tricorder like device to scan your health.
  • Selective memory erasing so that you can heal drug addicts or rehabilitate violent criminals. (This is reportedly in the works)
  • A way to convert ocean water into drinkable water.
  • A way to manipulate the weather so that it can rain on demand in drought stricken areas.
  • As Bill Maher recently pointed out, printing that occurs automatically.  Why do we have to push a button to get a pop-up window with more options.  You should be able to just hit one button and do a quick print.
  • An anti-social social media site that aims to motivate or inspire you; only you can see the contents as it won’t be shareable.
  • Universal Remote control for all your electronics and connected home devices.
  • A way that you can hear anyone’s voice – a celebrity, your mother, your girlfriend, etc. reading a book to you via Audible instead of just the voice it comes recorded with.
  • Voice mailboxes that live in the cloud.  It should be impossible to reach someone’s cell phone and be unable to leave a message because their voicemail is full.
  • Ubiquitous wireless charging so that no matter where you are or what device you’re using you never have to worry about your battery dying.
  • A way to cancel out unwanted ambient sounds when watching TV so that you can watch NBA games without the gut wrenching annoyance of sneakers constantly squeaking on the sweat dripped hardwood floors.
  • Come to think of it a way to cancel out any unwanted sounds any where.
  • A “that show is back from commercial” alert when watching TV so that if you change the channel you’ll know exactly when it’s time to return to the last channel you were watching without having to miss anything.
  • A notification light on the Amazon Echo that alerts you to the fact that Alexa is always on, listening, and recording your conversations even when she’s “asleep”.
  • Instead of carrying around a library card, credit card, debit card, driver’s license, Costco card, food shopping card, AAA discount card, insurance card, etc. you’d instead have one universal card that could link to any service you’re affiliated with.
  • Smart cars that monitor how tired we are and won’t start if our alertness levels are too low.
  • The most advanced pen ever created.  One capable of acting as a writing utensil or a tablet stylus at the same time.  Beyond Ink has the right idea with a pen that includes a phone charger and flash drive but let’s not stop there.  Let’s also make a pen that can respond to voice commands so that we can dictate notes to it or use it to control our smart homes.
  • A location within a location locator so that you can find your friends at a crowded concert.
  • A Universal Language Translator.
  • A way to record and play back our dreams; in addition, a way to then add all of our dreams to an international database for further study.
  • A way to fall asleep instantaneously or to re-charge while awake; the human equivalent of charging a cell phone.
  • A re-wind button for when you are listening to the radio in case you missed something that was just said.
  • A DVR for the radio so that if you prefer you can listen to day time sports talk show hosts during your drive home if you don’t like the guys on air during your drive home.
  • Smart shopping carts at the supermarket that return themselves to the rack when you’re done so that you don’t have to walk them back yourself.
  • A way to set your DVR for shows on Netflix so that when a new season of your favorite show is added you’ll just have it automatically show up in your DVR queue.
  • A sun tan lotion pill that coats your entire body evenly so that you don’t miss any spots as you would when applying by hand (this is reportedly in development).
  • A way to regrow your teeth so that you don’t have to worry about cavities anymore (also allegedly already in the works using stem cells).
  • A way to remove the who viewed your profile feature from LinkedIN.
  • A way to add filters to your Facebook feed so that you don’t have to see posts about politics or a sporting event if you don’t want to.
  • A mood ring that would help you identify whether or not somebody nearby has feelings for you.
  • A pill that will negate the need for you to use the bathroom; perfect to take before going to bed or before embarking on a long road trip.
  • A hiking stick with a life form detector to let you know if you are close to any snakes or predators.
  • An ocean floor deep sea exploration vehicle like the one from SeaQuest DSV.
  • Underwater cities.
  • A cell phone case that lights up when you are near free Wi-Fi.
  • Smog eating drones that clean the skies for us.
  • A way to always know how busy it is somewhere else, so you could know, for example, if there are any parking spots at the hiking trail head before going all the way there.
  • And last but not least, anything and everything from Back to the Future, especially hover boards, flying cars, and a flux capacitor!

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How likely is it that we’ll see any of the items on my wish list come to fruition?


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This past week, as I reflected back on my time at CES, I began to wonder if there was a truly game changing technology on display.  Something that could drastically alter the way that corporations conduct their business while also changing the way that consumers interact with their possessions.

Intel’s Compute Card could be that technology by allowing people to upgrade the specs on their electronic devices as easily as swapping in a new battery.

As Ars Technica put it:

“Intel mostly missed the boat on smartphones, but the company is trying to establish a firm foothold in the ever-broadening marketplace for connected appliances and other smart things. Intel’s latest effort in this arena is its new ‘Compute Card,’ a small 94.5mm by 55mm by 5mm slab that includes a CPU and GPU, RAM, storage, and wireless connectivity.

The thinking with the Compute Card is to separate the smarts of various computers and appliances—all-in-ones, smart TVs, fridges, digital kiosks or signage screens, commercial equipment—from the rest of the hardware. You might want to keep a TV around for the better part of a decade, but the processing hardware inside it could start to feel slow three or four years in. With the Compute Card, one could simply eject the old card and slide in a new one instead of replacing the whole thing.”

The hope is that the Compute Card will be able to make it so that your tech won’t become obsolete within a few years of ownership.  That could make a real difference for lower or middle class families who can’t afford to be early adopters on the latest tech or to constantly be trading up.

Intel expects the card to be available in mid 2017 as they are currently working with manufacturers on designs.  According to CNET, Intel is, “currently exploring the best way to use it, [working with partners] including HP, Dell, Lenovo, Sharp, Seneca, DTx, InFocus, TabletKiosk and Pasuntech.”

Personally, I love this concept but wonder if it will always be able to keep up.  What would happen when the latest TVs don’t just run faster or have sharper images but can also do more such as project holographic images to viewers?  At some point it’s probably inevitable that you’d have to buy a new TV anyway.  But until that day comes Intel’s Compute Card might just do the trick.

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